Boone County Public Library – A Place for Everyone

Amy Beckham Foster has been the Scheben Branch Manager since 2011.  Prior to joining the staff of Boone County Public Library she was a law librarian working in law firms and in academia, most recently as Head of Public Services at the University of Kentucky College of Law Library.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble,and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
United States Constitution – First Amendment

For the public library, as an institution, there is perhaps no idea held in higher regard than that of free speech. Free speech is a necessary activity for a democracy to function and libraries have always been places where people can educate themselves so they can be active participants in the democracy. Whether ensuring that our collections are diverse both in content, and in format or ensuring that groups with a wide range of views feel welcome to use our facilities, the principle of free speech is the bedrock of all libraries. Boone County Public Library is no exception. When the framers of the United States Constitution first ratified these profound words as part of the Bill of Rights, free speech had been a prevailing principle of American society. And, ironically, it was the French philosopher, Voltaire, who best summarized these ideas when he said, “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

As a group of professionals, the staff of Boone County Public Library takes pride in ensuring that members of the community, regardless of their economic status, race, religion or political views feel welcome to use our facilities.  And, while we do not endorse the views of the groups who choose to meet at our facilities nor as individuals do we always agree with the views of each particular group, as an institution, Boone County Public Library strives to maintain an environment that is clean, safe and conducive to intellectual discourse and the free flow of ideas.    We are committed to insuring that the Library remains a bastion of free speech in a democratic society.

Here in Boone County, this commitment to free speech was put to the test when a group, which by some was viewed as controversial, chose to use our facility as a meeting location.  When members of the public and the media began to question the group’s use of the Library, we were able to explain that public libraries are just that, public and open to everyone.   Whether a church group holding a bible study or a political party holding a monthly meeting, if the conditions of the Library’s Meeting Room Policy http://www.bcpl.org/media/pdf/library/meeting-room-policy.pdf are met and our Code of Conduct http://www.bcpl.org/media/pdf/library/library-code-of-conduct.pdf  is followed, everyone is welcome.

To further ensure that a wide range of ideas are represented, our collections encompass various points of view, including resources which reflect current conditions and trends and which, in some instances, may be viewed by some as controversial http://www.bcpl.org/media/pdf/library/collection-development-policy.pdf.

To that end, as our community becomes more diverse it is important that the Library remains a place where information on a wide range of subjects and viewpoints may be found.  Whether it’s Fifty Shades of Grey or the next work by a controversial political figure, Boone County Public Library strives to represent the values of the community while at the same time allowing for the inclusion of diverse ideas.

Finally, the Library has available on its website resources for the public related to equality, diversity and tolerance http://www.bcpl.org/info/subject-guides/equality/.  And, as always, the staff of  Boone County Public Library remains committed to connecting you with the books you love, the information you need, and the world you live in.

 

 

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