Intellectual Freedom in New Zealand Public Libraries: An exploration of the variables that affect library workers’ understanding and application of intellectual freedom in the library
Research Problem: The study aimed to ascertain New Zealand public library workers’ understanding of the principles of intellectual freedom and whether or not these principles were applied in practice. Furthermore the study sought to explore the variables that affect the attitudes and behaviours of public library workers towards intellectual freedom. Methodology: The research project used a quantitative framework employing a cross-sectional design to investigate the attitudes and behaviours of New Zealand library staff toward intellectual freedom via online self-completion questionnaires. The sample population was drawn from professional email lists NZLibs, PUBSIG-l and Te Rōpū Whakahau. Results: The 172 completed surveys revealed that respondents generally agreed with the principles of intellectual freedom that the library associations promote. However their commitment to these principles is often tested by the obligation that they feel towards library stakeholders. The results indicate that experience, education, the employer and the library association all play some role in shaping the professional attitudes and behaviours of individuals towards intellectual freedom. Implications: The results of the study suggest that more needs to do be done in regards to the education of library staff and the public on the importance of intellectual freedom within a democratic society. A stronger sense of professional identity needs to be cultivated amongst library workers to ensure they have the confidence to stand behind their professional ideals in the face of opposition. Furthermore survey results suggest that employers need to place a higher priority on both training and awareness regarding the principle of intellectual freedom within the library.