The American Library Assn. is under fire for a new policy that will allow hate groups to meet in their facilities.
Technically, the library group adopted an interpretation revision to its Library Bill of Rights that states that libraries should allow hate groups to use their facilities for meetings.
In a news release posted on its website last week, the ALA specifically cites hate groups as organizations that should be allowed access to public libraries.
“If a library allows charities, non-profits, and sports organizations to discuss their activities in library meeting rooms,” the organization wrote, “then the library cannot exclude religious, social, civic, partisan political or hate groups from discussing their activities in the same facilities.”
The ALA has consistently stated that hate speech is protected by the 1st Amendment. In a section on its website that addresses hate speech and hate crime, the organization notes, “Libraries should comply with the ideals and legal requirements of the First Amendment. We make room for offensive, bigoted, and biased speech in the libraries if that speech is simply that: just speech.”
The group, does, however, draw a distinction between hate speech and “hateful conduct.”
“Hateful conduct is not tolerated in the library and must be addressed as a behavioral issue or a violation of a library’s Code of Conduct,” the ALA writes. “We cannot limit speech on the basis of its content alone, but we can address inappropriate or illegal behavior.”
The ALA’s interpretation revision drew fire from Twitter users who were disappointed by the group’s decision.
Free speech does not protect people from the consequences of their words. If you choose to espouse hate speech then a consequence of that should be that libraries do not have to grant you a platform. There are plenty of other places they can go.— Natalie the Feral Raccoon Librarian (@InkyLibrarian) July 9, 2018
ALA recently updated their interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights around meeting rooms to state that if we allow "charities, non-profits, and sports" orgs that we "cannot exclude...hate groups." This milquetoast hands-off garbage centrism in pursuit of "neutrality" sucks.— Tyler Vachon (@tylervachoff) July 9, 2018
So catching up on this ALA Council...— Assumed to have lived (@OpOnions) July 9, 2018
Hate speech has no place in a library or just society, that that’s not obvious to the council is clear and upsetting
When white supremacists are given a space in your library, you signal that every group/person they target is not welcome
Yeah it's complex. I realize that there may be situations where letting the Nazis reserve a room could be prudent but specifically calling them out in this interpretation document seems bold in a direction that I find worrisome.— jessamyn west (@jessamyn) July 10, 2018
This is a perversion of our professional commitment to intellectual freedom, granting license to some library users to terrorize and exclude others. No one can be permitted in the library to disseminate the message that some in their community are subhuman.— John Overholt (@john_overholt) July 10, 2018
James LaRue, the director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, defended the organization’s decision in a series of replies to Twitter users.
All that interpretation did (around hate speech) is cite the law, Ryan. We do have to follow it, and this one protects more than it injures.— James LaRue (@jaslar) July 9, 2018
Right now, that's the only legal solution. But most library meeting room uses BUILD community. Are we so afraid of hate speech that we'd give up all the rest?— James LaRue (@jaslar) July 9, 2018