Theory & Practice of Intellectual Freedom in Libraries


This course begins by looking at various theories of free speech and intellectual freedom from a philosophical perspective (e.g., John Stuart Mill, John Rawls, Joel Feinberg, Stanley Fish, Cass Sunstein, etc.). It considers the historical development of the legal right to free speech and intellectual freedom in the United States and Canada, with an emphasis on the different legal traditions and precedents that frame discussion of these topics. Attention is paid to some of the reasons for the exceptionalism of First Amendment free-speech rights in the United States compared to international practice in such countries as Germany, France, and South Africa.

The second half of the course explores the application of intellectual freedom to libraries, focusing on the nature of censorship challenges, including, but not limited to, such thorny issues as hate speech, pornography, and intelligent design.