diverse voices and information control #mdd2013

On November 8 and 9 Media Democracy Days were happening at Vancouver Public Library (& The Cinematheque), and I headed into the city to see what was happening. One of the events was a keynote by Elizabeth Denham and showing of the movie Terms & Conditions May Apply, which I blogged about for the Info Policy Committee.

But there was other stuff happening there too. I attended a couple of workshops on Friday, one about podcasting (which was a little less in-depth than I wanted, but did turn me onto Revolutions Per Minute so still a win) and one analyzing media framing with a couple of educators from The Cinematheque. That was fun because it was like being back in journalism school, figuring out what was going on with values of newsworthiness and why we need a variety of views for the health of our informed citizenry. Good intellectual freedom times.

On Saturday there was a keynote by Jennifer David about the creation of the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, which again was really good for talking about the importance of having a plurality of voices so everyone can see themselves in their media. Clear parallels for libraries there, especially in the whole idea of giving people the tools and training to create their own media, which libraries can be an even more public version of. That’s why people get excited about makerspaces and things, right? So that people who aren’t represented in corporate visions of society can be creating their visions regardless of how much money they have individually to spend.

And then there was a great panel on Information Control in Canada. It was about Access to Information Requests and how that works and is prevented from working in B.C. and Canada. This followed on from Elizabeth Denham’s keynote from the night before, but from the perspective of people who are seeking transparency from our public institutions. Myron Groover was on this panel discussing how information control at Library and Archives Canada as epitomized by the chilling code of conduct is a problem (he kindly put his talk up on his blog: part 1 & part 2).

Myron’s talk was probably most relevant for librarians and other information professionals in the audience, but I think it was an important message to push out beyond the library bubble. And I definitely think he’s right in that our profession should be pushing for better policies to protect the intellectual freedoms of their workers.

I would like to see more institutions – especially publicly funded institutions – adopting proactive policies explicitly defending intellectual freedom among their employees. In other words we need to see a collective embracing, if you will, of the belief that Canadians are wise enough – and important enough – for their voices to be heard.

This is what we want for our citizens and I support the idea that we can be trusted to think for ourselves and even talk with other people about their ideas, but we need the opportunity.

Libraries are places to encourage that opportunity for diversity. Reserving talk about ideals for only the people with power in our society is antithetical to the idea of the librarianly goals of informed citizenry, and we should always be suspicious of those kinds of ideas. Privacy is great for individuals but transparency should be a goal for our public institutions so we get as many points of view as we can out there.

(If you’re interested in another writer who talks about intellectual freedom within libraries-as-workplaces I totally recommend The Library Loon, who is awesome. Her series of posts on silencing, librarianship and gender has made me think carefully about how organizational culture expresses itself and influences a lot of how I deal with my workplace.)

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