Unearthing the Library’s Value: Is Neutrality Possible?

Sponsored by University of Toronto Press

Recorded on 07/13/2020
Posted in The Authority File

Episode 140

Last November, the Citrus County Commission in Florida denied its library funding for a digital subscription to the New York Times. One commissioner cited the paper as “fake news.” 1 While libraries are commonly perceived as impartial providers of information, they often face contestations—geography, funding, politics—that impact a library’s holdings and role in its community.

Dr. Toni Samek of the University of Alberta understands the myriad of ways libraries can face opposition. In the foreword of her co-edited volume, Minds Alive: Libraries and Archives Now, Tami Oliphant and Ali Shiri lay out the various forces obstructing libraries. Dr. Samek explains: “Of course they’re contested entities and commodities … We have concerns about access, about sustainability, about preservation that affect and often determine the content, the media, and technology housed within these cultural institutions and memory institutions.”

In this second episode, Dr. Samek discusses the library’s task in representing the public sphere, and interrogates whether libraries can truly be seen as neutral spaces. “The library is there to provide as many perspectives as possible to foster that Jeffersonian principle of the informed citizenry, but there are reasons why we may not be able to provide 360 degrees of opinion … There’s blind-spots about who’s on staff and what kinds of collections, programs, and services have historically been put forth.”

About the guest:

Toni Samek
Professor, School of Library and Information Studies
University of Alberta

Listen to the rest of the series: