Gordon Baldwin, in this issue of Library Trends, examines the Library Bill of Rights from the perspective of a first amendment legal scholar and finds it lacking in legal protection for librarians and library users. While his discussion is a provocative one, this finding comes as no surprise to the library profession. A response to Baldwin's discussion might take many directions, given the various points that he raises, but the essential question is, "What is the value of the Library Bill of Rights?"
To answer this question, it is useful to begin with the recognition that the Library Bill of Rights does not stand alone. Its appearance, in professional practice, is often in conjunction with a library's collection development policy. Therefore, this discussion will begin with the subject of materials selection policies, as these are commonly referred to in school settings.
To look at the value of the Library Bill of Rights within a school environment, it is necessary to begin with another professional statement, "The School Library Bill of Rights." The American Association of School Librarians (AASL), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), adopted the School Library Bill of Rights in 1955. It was adopted by the ALA Council in the same year.' Later revised by AASL in 1969, the School Library Bill of Rights affirmed a belief in the Library Bill of Rights, while focusing specifically on intellectual freedom needs from a school library media standpoint (see Appendix A).
In the twentieth century, school library media program development has been guided by the profession's national guidelines. National guidelines developed after 1955 were examined to determine whether the Library Bill of Rights or the School Library Bill of Rights was referenced and the context in which either was included.
AASL (1960) published the profession's first national guidelines to include the School Library Bill of Rights in Stand arcs for School Library Programs. These guidelines listed the School Library Bill of Rights as first among basic principles to guide the selection of books and other materials for school library media center collections. They emphasized that not only librarians but also school administrators, as well as classroom and special teachers, should endorse and apply School Library Bill of Rights principles.
Nine years later, AASL joined with the National Education Association's Department of Audiovisual Instruction (1969) to issue Standards for School Media Programs, which looked more specifically at basic policies in the selection of library media center materials. The importance of a written selection policy statement that affirmed such American freedoms as those described in the Library Bill of Rights and the School Library Bill of Rights for the school and the school district was stressed. The 1969 guidelines stressed the importance of adoption by the school board as well as endorsement by educators including the library media specialist. Then, in 1975, AASL, with the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT, 1975), published Media Programs: District and School . Like the 1969 guidelines, it emphasized the importance of the selection policy as a means of reflecting and supporting intellectual freedom principles described in the Library Bill of Rights and the School Library Bill of Rights.
Discussions about whether a School Library Bill of Rights was still needed began after a 1967 revision of the Library Bill of Rights included a statement about age that read: "The rights of an individual to the use of a library should not be denied or abridged because of his age, race, religion, national origins or social or political views" (ALA, 1996, p. 13). Shortly after the publication of the 1975 national guidelines, the matter was settled when the AASL Board formally withdrew the School Library Bill of Rights as an official document. Although officially withdrawn by AASL and ALA, it still appears with some regularity in materials selection policies, for it speaks so directly to selection concerns facing school library media specialists.
In place of the School Library Bill of Rights, a full ten years later, a school-oriented interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights was issued called "Access to Resources and Services in the School Library Media Program: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights (AASL)" (ALA, 1996, pp. 41,42). The most recently published national guidelines, again published jointly by the AASL and the AECT (1988) and titled Information Power: Guidelines for School Library Media Programs, added this 1986 ALA council interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights from a school perspective. While Baldwin does not mention Library Bill of Rights interpretations, there are over a dozen interpretations developed by ALA's Intellectual Freedom Committee that, like the Library Bill of Rights, have been adopted by the ALA council. The interpretations provide directed practical advice designed to guide professional practice on a day-to-day basis. These provide insight into some questions raised by Baldwin about the vague or broad statements of the Library Bill of Rights when they are interpreted literally (see Appendix B).
In addition to national school library media guidelines, the Intellectual Freedom Manual (American Library Association, 1996) also provides guidance urging the inclusion of the Library Bill of Rights in materials selection policies. Another ALA publication of help to public school educators and administrators, Censorship and Selection: Issues and Answers for Schools (Reichman, 1993), urges similar uses of the Library Bill of Rights. …