INTELLECTUAL FREEDOM, LIBRARIES AND DEMOCRACY
Paul Sturges will explore the spectrum of opinion on the idea of intellectual freedom, first suggesting that it can seen as an essential aspect of human autonomy and liberty, only exceeded in importance only by the right to life. This is the view set out in the American Declaration of Independence (1776), which describes ‘Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ as inalienable rights. He will, however, acknowledge that not all cultures share this view of intellectual freedom, many subordinating it to communal and religious values. These divided perspectives on intellectual freedom make the institutions that foster access to information, rational debate and the sharing of ideas absolutely essential to human existence, and to democracy in particular. Libraries, along with the range of public forums that permit access through oral, print, graphic, broadcast and electronic communication are key contributors to access. The precise nature of the library contribution is easy either to dismiss or exaggerate, but this presentation will set out to offer a reasoned statement of just what can be expected of libraries as institutions of freedom and contributors to democracy.
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