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HxLibraries – Library Neutrality as Public Service in Liberal Democratic Governance

Virtual April 21, 2022 at 4:00 pm ET Public Event

Logo for HxLibraries CommunityHxLibraries Community Event – Library Neutrality as Public Service in Liberal Democratic Governance: Theoretical and Practical Understandings from Political Science and Urban Planning

There is a growing and active debate in the library world 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 presentation by Michael Dudley, University of Winnipeg, and John Wright, University of Calgary, 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 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, iterative 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.

About the Speakers:

  • HxLibraries Symposium Headshot - Michael Dudley

    Michael Dudley is the librarian for political science, history and urban studies at the University of Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada. With master’s degrees in city planning and library and information studies, he worked for 11 years as a research associate for the UW’s Institute of Urban Studies and served as the Editorial Chair for Plan Canada magazine (the official publication of the Canadian Institute of Planners) from 2011-2013. He edited the 2013 ALA editions book Public Libraries and Resilient Cities and has contributed a number of articles to the Canadian Journal of Academic Librarianship.

  • HxLibraries Symposium Headshot - John Wright

    John Wright came to Libraries and Cultural Resources at the University of Calgary in 2007. He has filled several roles there including Directory of Arts and Culture, Interim Director of the University of Calgary Press, and work in content development and liaison services. He is currently Director of the Business Library and Political Science and Public Policy Librarian. Before coming to Calgary, John was a policy analyst for the Canadian Parliament, Elections Canada, and the federal public service.  He has also worked as a government documents librarian and a sessional instructor for Political Studies at Queen’s University. He has an MLIS from Western Universities, an MA in Russian and East European Studies from Carleton University, and a BA in History from the University of Toronto.

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Heterodox events are public conversations among academics and experts on a focused topic that offer an opportunity to showcase our values in action, and provide timely discussion of pressing topics. We are currently hosting regular virtual events in addition to periodic live events. Nearly all events, virtual or live, will be recorded and posted on our YouTube channel following the event.


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