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The Intellectual Freedom Round Table (IFRT) provides a forum for the discussion of activities, programs, and problems in intellectual freedom of libraries and librarians.

The IFRT Members Community group is the central hub for discussion, library and events. It is visible to all ALA members but only IFRT members can participate in the conversation.

Reverse Engineering Radical Empathy

  • 1.  Reverse Engineering Radical Empathy

    Posted May 10, 2022 09:34 PM
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    The idea of reverse engineering the concepts of "Radical Empathy" is where we take the essential goal from a given concept and then show how it is used elsewhere. Used, past tense.

    It could be argued that the actions that the ALA took in times past represented --and continue to represent-- radical empathy.  It is a radical act of empathy to allow another to disagree and this essence is repeated throughout the annals of ALA's work borne of resolutions and member actions. The many resolutions, position papers, and declarations one might find all represent the building blocks of our organization and its role as an advocate.

    Without the need to deny anything that is happening in society today, we need to understand that ultimately advocacy is not about the rights of any one particular group of people but the rights of all people. True inclusion is the absence of exclusion. It is not that we want to promote the book "Mein Kampf" but that we want people to be able to see what Hitler himself said, thought, and/or believed. Everything else is heresy. It is not so much about right and wrong, good and bad, but for the means for these things to work themselves out.

    [Attachment] Draft 11: Radical Empathy Report from the Intellectual Freedom and Social Justice Working Group



    14. How should libraries and library workers respond to concerns about owning or using a resource by a problematic author? 

    Library workers recognize that full, confidential, and unrestricted access to information is essential to intellectual freedom. Reading, listening, and viewing are individual, private matters. Anyone is free to select or reject materials for themselves. However, the freedom of others to read or inquire, even of problematic authors, should not be restricted.

    Selection and use of library resources does not mean endorsement of views expressed in those materials. It also does not mean an endorsement of the actions or views of their creator. The existence of a particular viewpoint or author in the collection is a reflection of the library's policy of intellectual freedom. It is not an endorsement of that particular point of view or person.

    Library users are an important part of the selection process. Requests from users, regardless of problematic labels, are often considered when libraries make material selections.

    "Best practices in collection development assert that materials should not be excluded from a collection solely because the content or its creator may be considered offensive or controversial. Refusing to select resources due to potential controversy is considered censorship, as is withdrawing resources for that reason." -"Diverse Collections: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights"

    Alec McFarlane
    New Image Associates - Construction Consultants