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Libraries targeted by allegations of bias

By Suvia Li April 7, 2022

Inseo Kim Art

As people become increasingly divided due to their political stances, libraries are seen as a tranquil collection of publications supposedly free of controversy. Unfortunately, some libraries are being accused of having political biases, spawning questions over the true nature and purpose of libraries in the age of modern civilization. At their core, libraries serve as transparent archives of humankind’s intellectual history and should make an effort to preserve an infinitude of media, granting the public full liberty to browse whatever it pleases.


Although public libraries are funded by taxes, librarians are given complete discretion to select the media available in their collections. Therefore, it is possible for librarians to express bias by only including content for particular sociopolitical sentiments in alignment with personal beliefs, neglecting certain ideologies.


Contrarily, a completely unbiased, neutral library would showcase a wide range of opinions and authors, and media of contrasting political beliefs would have equal influence. Neutrality is thought to necessitate impartiality—but given that people are subjective, this varies in definition depending on who the mediator of opinions is, making the pursuit of scholastic neutrality a paradoxical one.


For example, a library that strives to showcase politically progressive viewpoints may congratulate itself for neutrality because it featured untraditional perspectives, while others may see it as too liberal. Consequently, libraries that reflect the political ideologies of the surrounding community can easily be seen as neutral by that community when in truth, are only showcasing one side of the spectrum.


Neutrality is thought to necessitate impartiality—but given that people are subjective, this varies in definition depending on who the mediator of opinions is, making the pursuit of scholastic neutrality a paradoxical one.

“Libraries should have a baseline to prevent problematic literature such as offensive content from being shelved, but political views should not be censored,” Sophomore Rayan Sengupta said.


Neutrality’s ambiguous nature can be observed in present issues. At Flagler Palm Coast High School in Florida, school board members aggressively opposed LGBTQ+ and anti-racism-themed books from appearing on school shelves. Their efforts, combined with Florida’s House Bill 1557—which limits sexual orientation and gender identity discussions in school—attempted to censor such information from reaching students. Proponents of the bill wanted to provide students with a neutral education by distancing them from ideas they believe to be radical. However, many students disagreed—on March 3, hundreds of students walked out to protest its library exclusion as well as the statewide bill, condemning the latter for singling out perspectives in educational institutions.


Despite uncertainties over library inclusivity, deliberately blocking certain content runs the risk of polarization for youth who are beginning to form their own ideas of the world. In a 2007 poll by the American Library Association, 78% of teens ages 12 to 18 reported frequently borrowing books and media from public libraries. If collections only offer information supporting a single political agenda, young people who rely on the library as a chief source of knowledge could develop a skewed view of the world. By expressing political bias, librarians are not only betraying the public trust but are also acting against their function as an intermediary between individual needs for information and records containing that information.


Even though neutrality is difficult to fully attain, libraries can still aim toward it when actively pushing for change in current affairs. By keeping their selections updated with diverse content related to ongoing matters, including viewpoints that curators may personally disagree with, libraries can provide patrons with a more holistic depiction of human history while still retaining the availability of distinct views.


“When I go to the library, the political books I see are diverse and include views from both parties. Although book censorship does not affect me personally, librarians should not succumb to personal biases. Public institutions as influential as libraries should include more political views so people can make their own decisions,” Sophomore Alana Shin said.


By expressing political bias, librarians are not only betraying the public trust but are also acting against their function as an intermediary between individual needs for information and records containing that information.

If libraries can steer back to open inclusivity, they would adopt another purpose that transcends their original design: becoming a major catalyst in ridding modern society of polarization by letting readers examine different outlooks and form their own judgments.


 

About the Contributors

Suvia Li

Artist & Staff Writer


Suvia Li is a sophomore at Leland High school. She is a staff writer and artist for The Charger Account. During her free time, she enjoys cooking, eating, and listening to music.










Inseo Kim

Artist


Inseo Kim is a sophomore at Leland High School and an artist for The Charger Account. She doodles and listens to music whenever she gets the chance. In her free time, she makes origami hearts and takes care of her marimos.

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