Your Name and Title:

Michael Dudley

Library, School, or Organization Name:

University of Winnipeg

Co-Presenter Name(s):

John Wright, University of Calgary

Area of the World from Which You Will Present:


Language in Which You Will Present:


Target Audience(s):

Public libraries

Short Session Description (one line):

This session presents a new and more robust articulation of library neutrality premised on principles drawn from political science and urban planning, in order to better-position libraries to respond to community conflict over content, events and programming.

Full Session Description (as long as you would like):

There is an ongoing, polarizing debate in the library profession and scholarship regarding the perceived incompatibility between library neutrality (embedded in the profession through the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights), and social justice goals. This article asserts that the growing antipathy on the part of some library practitioners and scholars towards neutrality and intellectual freedom is owed at least in part to the profession and scholarship having never articulated an adequate definition of what is meant by neutrality. As a result, the profession lacks a theoretical framework situating the library and library staff as political actors within a multicultural and largely urban society. We argue that such a framework may be drawn from the literatures of political science and urban planning. By positioning libraries and library workers within the context of liberal-democratic institutions – as is the case for urban planners in their theoretical literature – LIS theory can find more durable foundations for its core values. Stressing planning’s commitments to the participation of multiple publics, to dialogue, mediation and to consensus-building through liberal institutions, we develop a multidimensional understanding of neutrality premised on values, stakeholders, processes and goals which we then apply to these planning modes. Finally, we propose a model of “Communicative Librarianship” as best exemplifying these four dimensions of neutrality and their attendant democratic commitments, as a path forward to addressing controversies concerning collections, events and spaces.

Websites / URLs Associated with Your Session:

Based on paper recently published in the Journal of Intellectual Freedom & Privacy:


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