Between 1967 and 1974, a number of librarians came together to push for change in the American Library Association. They soon prompted a majority of the profession to examine their role in the dissemination and preservation of culture and to ask basic questions about the terrain that the profession defends. A particular concern was the limitations to intellectual freedom (if any) that might arise in the pursuit of other perhaps equally worthy goals. The questions raised by this advocacy group were based on a relatively new concept of librarianly social responsibility that was partly an outgrowth of the civil rights and antiwar agitation of the period and partly a continuation of the proud traditions of the alternative press movement in the United States. The resulting dissension and turmoil exposed an inherent discrepancy not only between the rhetoric of ideals within the profession and the reality of practice but between librarians as agents of change--librarians' having a social agenda--and professional "neutrality" or the provision of information for all sides without taking sides. These conflicts have never been resolved. The reader will find in this book a fully researched presentation of the years of ferment and political infighting that brought the issues into such sharp focus.
Toni Samek is a professor and chair of the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alberta. A convener of the Canadian Library Association's Advisory Committee on Intellectual Freedom and a two term member of the Canadian university academic freedom and tenure committee, she is on the Advisory Board of the new Centre for Free Expression at Ryerson University and lives in St. Albert.