Do New Zealand public library workers self-censor controversial library materials? - An exploration of their knowledge and views on the promotion of intellectual freedom in the library
The first objective of this study is to investigate how much knowledge public library workers have of the role of libraries in upholding intellectual freedom. Secondly, to establish whether, and for what reasons library workers would opt to self-censor in the face of controversial library materials. Lastly, to determine whether library workers require further information and training in order to achieve the professional anti-censorship standards as promoted by LIANZA. I used a qualitative methodology to collect data and conducted nine interviews with library workers from public libraries situated in the central North Island. They were asked to share their views on twelve books - selected for their controversial content - to determine which, if any, self-censorship actions they would take in respect of each individual title. They were asked to give reasons for self-censorship actions. They were also asked to share their knowledge of intellectual freedom in libraries. The key findings for the first objective were that all the participants were familiar with the concept of intellectual freedom in libraries, but none of them were aware of the content of the LIANZA statement or their own library’s policy. Almost all the participants relied heavily on their management for information in this regard, even if the information is conveyed informally. Secondly, the participants often selected self-censorship actions, with the main reasons being a personal distaste of the item or fear of offending library users. Lastly almost all the participants said that they felt sufficiently informed on intellectual freedom in libraries and required no further training.