Intellectual Freedom Opportunities at the AASL National Conference

The 2017 AASL National Conference will be held in Phoenix, Arizona, from November 9-11, 2017. The conference theme is “Beyond the Horizon,” and the biggest buzz is around the introduction of AASL’s new learning standards and program guidelines. Attending an AASL National Conference is a magical experience for school librarians. At our conference, we are not competing for attention with public or academic librarians; every preconference, session, tour, and exhibitor is focused on us!

Intellectual Freedom & the New Standards

As a longtime intellectual freedom advocate, I am intensely interested to learn how intellectual freedom will be embedded in the new learning standards and program guidelines. The September/October 2017 Knowledge Quest article written by Marcia Mardis, chair of  the AASL Standards and Guidelines Editorial Board, affirms one of our profession’s core values: “Intellectual freedom is every learner’s right” (Mardis). This strong statement, from the board that created the new standards, builds on learners’ responsibilities in the 2007 standards, which expected students to “Respect the principles of intellectual freedom” (AASL Standards for the 21st-Century Learner).  Ethical use of information and the principles of intellectual freedom were present in the Standards for the 21stCentury Learner, but teaching students about library and personal privacy was not. With the increased emphasis on use of student data in schools and the escalating risk to personal privacy, I am confident that student privacy will be emphasized in the new standards.

Intellectual Freedom-Related Conference Sessions

With the expectation of school librarians’ continuing role in protecting students’ intellectual freedom and teaching about privacy, how can AASL members increase their knowledge and strategies in these areas? The upcoming AASL National Conference has multiple opportunities including:

Extending Your Intellectual Freedom Professional Development

After the conference, or if you are unable to attend the conference, there are other opportunities to learn about intellectual freedom and student privacy. These include:

  • The Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) elearning webinars on intellectual freedom topics. Watch webinars live or on demand.
  • Twice a year as a member perquisite, the Freedom to Read Foundation presents free webinars on topics such as emerging intellectual freedom issues. FTRF membership information
  • The Intellectual Freedom News, the free weekly compilation of intellectual freedom news covering a wide spectrum of topics, including challenges/censorship, privacy, Net Neutrality, access to information, and a global IF news roundup.
  • Subscribe to OIF’s Intellectual Freedom Blog. Kate Lectenberg, a former high school teacher, middle school librarian, and now doctoral student, is one of OIF’s regular bloggers. Her recent blog “Back to School with Political Talk” is a sample of the insightful commentary found on the site.
  • Visit ALA’s Intellectual Freedom advocacy resources webpage, which includes links to the Code of Ethics, the Library Bill or Rights, and resources on current IF issues.
  • The Choose Privacy Week website contains a treasure trove of resources for school librarians looking for information on student privacy. Check out the “Resources” section of the website for the “Students and Minors” link.

Final Thoughts

Whether you attend the 2017 AASL National Conference in Phoenix or not, carefully review the new standards for references to intellectual freedom, privacy, and ethics. Make the effort to learn as much as you can about current intellectual freedom and privacy issues, so that you’ll be able to prepare your students for their role as citizens in a democratic society.


AASL. “Standards for the 21st-Century Learner.”  Print Promotion Flyer. 2007.

Mardis, Marcia A. “On the Horizon: New Standards to Dawn at AASL 2017.”  Knowledge Quest. 46 (1): 51. (accessed September 5, 2017).


AASL 2017 National Conference graphics used with permission from AASL.

Linksvayer, Luke. “Intellectual Freedom Fighter. June 15, 2011. Used under Public Domain Dedication.



Author: Helen Adams

A former school librarian in Wisconsin, Helen Adams is an online senior lecturer for Antioch University-Seattle in the areas of intellectual freedom, privacy, library ethics, and copyright. A member of the AASL Knowledge Quest Advisory Board, the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee, and a KQ blogger, she is the author of Protecting Intellectual Freedom and Privacy in Your School Library (Libraries Unlimited, 2013) and contributor to The Many Faces of School Library Leadership (2nd edition, Libraries Unlimited, 2017). Email:

Categories: Blog Topics, Intellectual Freedom

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