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School librarians’ intellectual freedom attitudes and practices

Sarah McNicol (Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK)

New Library World

ISSN: 0307-4803

Article publication date: 9 May 2016




The purpose of this paper is to investigate the most significant censorship issues faced by UK school librarians today and to determine what factors influence attitudes towards these issues.


A questionnaire was designed, closely based on that used for a previous survey of UK librarians in 2004. It was distributed online and 96 responses were received.


Overall, respondents were more likely to express support for intellectual freedom in theory than in practice. Statements that prompted the strongest pro-censorship responses related to access issues, namely, labelling and filtering. A number of librarians place significant emphasis on their personal ability, or right, to determine whether or not resources are included in the collection. There was evidence of a difference in practical application depending on whether librarians worked with pre-school children or were members of professional associations.

Research limitations/implications

The findings suggest a need for further research into the role of professional associations in supporting school librarians faced by censorship issues, especially those who support the youngest students.


The findings suggest that while school librarians hold strong pro-intellectual freedom views, they may need additional support to put these into practice. School librarians are undoubtedly in a challenging position, often being solo workers; they need support to find ways to uphold professional intellectual freedom principles within a school setting.



McNicol, S. (2016), "School librarians’ intellectual freedom attitudes and practices", New Library World, Vol. 117 No. 5/6, pp. 329-342.



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