Editor’s note: The following statement was approved by the ACRL Board of Directors on February 23, 2017. The Board wishes to acknowledge the ACRL Research and Scholarly Environment Committee’s input and work in drafting the statement.
As the higher education organization for librarians, the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) is dedicated to the advancement of learning and to the transformation of scholarship. ACRL is unwavering in its long-standing commitment to promoting the free exchange of different viewpoints and ensuring privacy and confidentiality in academic libraries. In the spirit of previous statements, ACRL reaffirms its dedication to its core values: visionary leadership; transformation, new ideas, and global perspectives; exemplary service to members; diversity, integrity, and transparency; continuous learning; responsible stewardship of resources; the values of higher education; and intellectual freedom. One of ACRL’s objectives is that “librarians accelerate the transition to more open and equitable systems of scholarship.” Recent actions from the new Executive Branch agencies have cast the realization of this goal into jeopardy, and they run counter to the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights and Core Values of Librarianship. These values are essential to academic advancement across the institutions we serve in the United States and abroad.
Agency orders to cease communication with the public – as well as a directive calling for the submission of EPA publications to administration review – had to be walked back in response to public outcry, but they set worrisome examples. These federal agencies are taxpayer-supported, and their outputs for public consumption and understanding are an essential service to everyone. Actions that silence scientists and other specialists employed by these agencies set dangerous precedents for fair and open, democratic governance and hinder the advancement of scientific knowledge by restricting the dissemination of research.
Privileging political viewpoints, rather than facts, erodes our country’s values of democracy, liberty, and equality. Limiting the ability of scientists and other educators to communicate with the public jeopardizes the creation of new knowledge. It is critical to maintain open communication from the government to the public, especially to support efforts to enfranchise disadvantaged and underrepresented populations, who rely on access to publicly available resources to make economic and health decisions. If these restrictive acts go unchallenged, we potentially set in motion an era of complacency that could devolve into acceptance of suppression and a mindset that discourages civic engagement and undermines the principles of democracy, which rely on an engaged population.
ACRL considers it an ethical and professional responsibility to challenge attempts to call into question the validity of facts simply because they run counter to the establishment’s agenda, or to subvert access to information.