Dean, University Libraries University of Maryland College Park, Maryland
Higher education must be accountable for empowering the voices of marginalized groups on campus. The concept of free speech has become a paradoxical constitutional principle and issue on campus. Given the recent protests against institutional racism and white supremacy, academic libraries have several questions to consider regarding their existing and potential roles as spaces of advocacy and in issues concerning free speech and neutrality. It is important that librarians have an opportunity to strategize about discussions with library and campus administrators, and partners on and off campus. Having talking points and options ready for practical action is key to ensuring the library’s strategic input and involvement in enabling productive and proactive actions. This panel will feature presenters with experience in balancing issues of library advocacy and free speech in academic libraries. Invited panelists will be both librarians and campus administrators or faculty who are knowledgeable about issues and topics currently contributing to the larger conversations happening on campuses regarding library neutrality, libraries as spaces of advocacy and the complications surrounding these challenges. By exploring these issues, it is our intention that this panel will offer best practices about how libraries can provide a space for engaging in candid discussion, which supports meaningful change. Topics this panel may address include: * The manners in which academic and research libraries grapple with the question of “free-speech” on campus * The adequate levels or degrees of involvement of academic libraries in conversations/debates surrounding limits on expression on campus. * The role and responsibilities of the library in facilitating debates on “free speech” * Ideas for creating a healthy free speech venue/location on campus * Academic libraries’ claim of supporting academic freedom and their traditional stance as neutral entities in moments of controversy. To what extent are our policies balancing the various freedoms guaranteed by the 1st Amendment and, in that, amplifying the voices of people traditionally in positions of power, especially those of white, cis-gendered, men.
Identify challenges with free speech and perceived neutrality within your library in the context of your campus’ culture and climate.
Learn about resources, tools, and best practices to navigate complicated conversations with library and campus administration regarding DEI principles and free speech initiatives and programs.
Better understand how the concept of neutrality affects the ways academic librarians perceive themselves and their decisions regarding free speech and advocacy.