Research Article


Expressing Intellectual Freedom: A Content Analysis of Catholic Library World from 1980 to 2015


Megan E. Welsh

Assistant Professor, Interdisciplinary Arts & Humanities Librarian

Norlin Library

University of Colorado Boulder

Boulder, Colorado, United States of America



Received: 24 June 2016   Accepted: 22 Oct. 2016   



cc-ca_logo_xl 2016 Welsh. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative CommonsAttributionNoncommercialShare Alike License 4.0 International (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly attributed, not used for commercial purposes, and, if transformed, the resulting work is redistributed under the same or similar license to this one.





Objective – Professional librarians have varying values relating to the topic of intellectual freedom that may or may not align with the American Library Association’s (ALA) policies defining professional expectations on the topic. The personally held values and beliefs of Roman Catholic librarians and those working in libraries affiliated with Roman Catholicism are worthy of study to determine how personal religious values may translate into professional practice. The objective of this paper is to ascertain how frequently and in what context the topics of intellectual freedom and censorship were expressed in articles published in Catholic Library World (CLW), the professional journal of the Catholic Library Association (CLA) from 1980 to 2015. Published content on these topics can be used as evidence to determine how this population discusses the concept of intellectual freedom.


Methods – Articles relevant to these topics were retrieved from the American Theological Library Association Catholic Periodical and Literature Index (ATLA CPLI) and Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts (LISTA) databases by conducting keyword searches using the terms “intellectual freedom” and censorship. Each retrieved publication was analyzed by counting the number of times the phrase “intellectual freedom” and the root censor* occurred. Through a deep reading of each publication, statements containing these search terms were then coded as positive, negative, or neutral, establishing a context for each occurrence.


Results – The majority of published content supported intellectual freedom and opposed censorship. Negative content typically occurred in publications about children or school libraries. Additionally, CLW contributors did express a certain level of conflict between personally held religious values and professional values.


Conclusions – This study adds to the limited research available on the intersection of personally held religious values and professional values. Further research is needed to gain a better understanding of the conflict between values amongst Catholic librarians, librarians of other faith traditions, and librarians in general.





The American Library Association (ALA) has published a Code of Ethics (COE) for professional librarians, as well as many other policy documents and interpretations of these policies, enumerating the role of librarians and the rights of library users, which librarians are entrusted to support. The various documents that outline professional standards for librarians, including the COE, can be found in the ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Manual (IFM). This corpus establishes the concept of intellectual freedom (IF) as a central theme in the profession and promotes the protection of IF as a primary role for librarians, stating that “[t]he freedom of expression guaranteed by the First Amendment and the corollary to that freedom, the freedom to read, are uniquely fulfilled by the library” (Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association, 1974, p. viii). In addition to the professional ethics outlined in these documents, librarians bring their own personal experiences and values to work. Celeste West, a key figure of the “social responsibility movement” in American libraries in the 1960s “argued that it was not possible for librarians to take apolitical, nonaligned positions in their professional work” (Samek, 2001, p. 1). In other words, librarians cannot always be objective professionally. Personal experiences, values, and beliefs influence a librarian’s professional work. The question this paper raises is: In relation to the concept of IF, how does a librarian’s personal bias present itself in their professional work?


The personally held values and beliefs of Roman Catholic librarians and those working in libraries affiliated with Catholicism are worthy of study to determine how personal religious values may translate into professional practice. Roman Catholic librarians may be influenced by the Church to which they belong, especially based on a history of institutionalized support of censorship. This support is exemplified by the ecclesiastically sanctioned Index Librorum Prohibitorum (Index of Forbidden Books) which banned the reading of certain works without approval from the Church and through publication practices that require authors to get permission from the Church before publishing books (Burke, 1952; Betten, 1932). One way in which this population and their attitudes towards IF can be studied is by analyzing their expression of personal and professional values through their writing. This study is a content analysis of articles published in Catholic Library World (CLW), the journal of the Catholic Library Association (CLA), between 1980 and 2015, focusing on the concept of IF, a topic influenced by personal values and rife with various levels of support among professional librarians.


Literature Review


Although the ALA has not officially accepted a definition of “intellectual freedom” (Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association, Magi, T. J., & Garnar, M., 2015b), the unofficial definition described in the first edition of the IFM published in 1974 states that IF is “the right of any person to believe whatever he wants on any subject, and to express his beliefs or ideas in whatever way he thinks appropriate” and also includes “the right of unrestricted access to all information and ideas regardless of the medium of communication used” (p. vii). This definition identifies two major principles inherent to the concept of IF: the freedom of expression and the freedom to access information. ALA policy documents, especially the Library Bill of Rights (LBR) and the Freedom to Read Statement, explain the nuances of these freedoms, emphasizing the importance of accessing materials that provide a variety of viewpoints on all sides of an issue and protecting information from the threat of censorship, especially based on “doctrinal disapproval” (Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association, Magi, T. J., & Garnar, M., 2015a, p. 15). Censorship, which can be defined as “the suppression of ideas and information that certain persons—individuals, groups or government officials—find objectionable or dangerous,” (ALA, 2016a) directly inhibits access to information and, therefore, intellectual freedom.


Although these association-wide documents exist to promote IF, the ALA itself and not all librarians have defended the principles of IF over the years. A History of ALA Policy on Intellectual Freedom (2015) details the variety of instances where the association and the profession in general wavered on its position on censorship (see “Chapter 1 ALA and Intellectual Freedom: A Historical Overview”). For example, the same year that the LBR was adopted in 1939, John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath was banned in libraries throughout the country (Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association et al., 2015b). Additionally, only two library systems, Chicago Public Library and Des Moines Public Library, had policies protecting IF before the LBR was adopted (Latham, 2009; Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association et al., 2015b). The 1960s pushed the role of librarians as advocates for social justice, instead of simply maintaining a neutral position on social issues (Samek, 2001; Robbins, 1996). The role of religiously affiliated librarians is currently addressed on a webpage entitled “Religion in America” (ALA, 2016c). In this document, the ALA (2016c) clearly states that the rights of library employees “to self expression including religious expression are more restricted than those of the general public for the simple reason that they are employed for a purpose” (n.p.). It also refers to the COE and states that librarians cannot “refuse to answer questions on the basis of individual conscience” (ALA, 2016c, n.p.). This discussion about the role of librarians persists, emphasizing the various degrees of support for IF that exist across the profession and which are based on various personal and professional values.


The intersection of personally held religious values and professional values relating to the topic of IF has been the subject of a small number of previous studies. The majority of these studies examine Christian values broadly without focusing on any single Christian denomination, nor do they cover non-Christian faith traditions. For example, Gregory A. Smith edited a book of essays entitled Christian Librarianship: Essays on the Integration of Faith and Profession (2002) in addition to writing an article about IF and Bible college libraries (2004) in which he states that IF “is probably the greatest point of tension for evangelical Christians in the library profession” (p. 242). Craighton Hippenhammer summarized the findings of a survey in which he asked evangelical Christian college librarians about policies, the LBR, and challenges to collections. The majority of respondents fully or mostly supported the LBR, and responses showed that libraries with policies retain more challenged materials than those without: however, only half of all respondents had a written policy regarding challenged materials. Scott Kaihoi (2015) conducted an online survey of 123 Christian librarians regarding their viewpoints on professional ethical standards represented in the LBR in an effort to “discover the extent to which Christian librarians perceive conflict between the ethics of their Christian worldview and the ethics that underlie the LBR” (p. 52). Kaihoi (2015) concluded that the majority of Christian librarians generally support the LBR, and, therefore, its ethical propositions, but the majority of respondents also indicated that they did not always adhere to it, most notably when viewpoints expressed by authors conflicted with values of the library community. Additionally, “only a minority of respondents indicated that their personal views and professional decisions conflicted with the principles found in the LBR” (Kaihoi, 2015, p. 49) while the majority of respondents also approved of limiting access to some materials, such as pornographic content, thus indicating a contradiction between stated values and actual practice. Kaihoi’s (2015) study indicates general, yet not absolute, support for principles of IF amongst Christian librarians.  


The attitudes toward IF held by Roman Catholic librarians in the United States (as opposed to those of the broader Christian librarian community) are specifically examined in only one published study. Working as a part of an ad hoc committee of the Midwest Unit of the Catholic Library Association (CLA) approved to investigate censorship and published as her graduate thesis, Sr. Maureen Kehoe (1977) conducted a study “to determine the attitudes of members of the Midwest Unit of Catholic Library Association toward intellectual freedom and censorship” (p. 3). CLA did not have an official policy on IF, and Kehoe concluded that measuring the views of CLA members, especially in light of the degree to which members professed support for ALA policy documents, could help the organization develop an IF policy (Kehoe, 1977, p. 9). The Constitutions and Bylaws of CLA at the time (as cited in Kehoe, 1977, p.7) stated that the “object of the organization (CLA) is the promotion of Catholic principles.” This emphasis on the promotion of Catholic principles coupled with the lack of official CLA policy and contrasted with the concept of IF outlined in the, then recently published, IFM created a potential climate of conflicting ethical standards.


Kehoe (1977) distributed questionnaires asking participants about their familiarity with and the degree to which they agreed with the LBR, Freedom to Read Statement, and the School Library Bill of Rights. Kehoe also asked participants if they had collection development and challenged materials policies, attempting to ascertain the degree to which participants had applied principles of IF in a practical manner. Kehoe (1977) concluded that most respondents “agreed with the basic principle to include in libraries materials on all sides of controversial issues . . .” (p. 3). Additionally, the majority of respondents also agreed that materials should not be “removed from libraries because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval” (p. 138). Overall, CLA members of the Midwest Unit were supportive of principles of IF, especially the principle of access.


In addition to the self-reported data gathered through the studies cited above detailing what librarians think about IF and how they say they act, evidence of librarian attitudes toward IF can be gathered in additional ways. These include 1) collecting anecdotal evidence of the practice of librarianship (how do librarians act in specific situations?), 2) reviewing institutional policies (what policies or statements of faith have been developed to guide the practice of librarians?), and 3) analyzing publications (what are librarians saying when they write about their personal and professional values?). In this final method, a content analysis, the researcher identifies specific words relevant to the construct of intellectual freedom that provide contextual evidence and insight into what librarians feel value in expressing. The remainder of this paper focuses on the third method through an analysis of content published in Catholic Library World (CLW) over a 35-year timeframe. CLW is the official publication of the CLA, the national professional association that represents those affiliated with Catholic libraries. The first issue of CLW was published in 1929 and continues to be published currently as a quarterly journal containing articles “focusing on all aspects of librarianship, especially as it relates to Catholicism and Catholic Studies” (Catholic Library Association, n.d.) and book reviews. CLW is ideal for analysis based on its prominence as the singular official journal representing this demographic. It is also ideal due to the lack of previous research about the demographic of Catholic librarians and those affiliated with Catholic libraries who may express both personally held religious values and professional values of librarianship through the written contributions published through the journal itself.




This study attempts to ascertain how CLW contributors have expressed their views on IF through articles published in the journal. Two research questions guided the course of this study:


  1. What are the frequency and context of the terms “intellectual freedom” and “censorship” in articles about those topics published in Catholic Library World?
  2. What do these patterns indicate about the attitudes of CLW authors towards intellectual freedom and censorship?


Research Methods


CLW articles published from 1980 to 2015 were retrieved by searching for the keywords “intellectual freedom” and censorship separately in the American Theological Library Association Catholic Periodical and Literature Index (ATLA CPLI) and Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts (LISTA) databases. The phrase “intellectual freedom” is the overarching principle that is analyzed. Censorship was also chosen as a keyword term since the reaction to censorship is the foundation of the concept of IF (Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association, 1974), and it is also a term that frequently appears across library science literature. This set of articles represents what is readily available for those looking for information in CLW on IF and the related concept of censorship. Although using these terms does not cover all aspects of IF, it is a logical place to start a review of how CLW contributors express their views on these issues.


The terms “intellectual freedom” and censorship were searched without selecting a specified field to search (e.g. Subject Term or Author-Supplied Keywords), representing a broad keyword search. The date range for this study was chosen based on accessible journal issues in each database. ATLA-CPLI indexes CLW from 1980 to the present and, while LISTA indexes some articles from 1966 to the present, its indexing is more limited between 1966 and 1980. Searching was limited to the same timeframe, 1980 through 2015, in each database for the purpose of being consistent. The author searched these databases in February 2016 and PDFs of the articles were acquired either through the databases or via interlibrary loan.


Retrievals from both databases contained some overlap as well as some articles unique to only one of the databases. In order to have as comprehensive of a view of the journal as possible, articles retrieved from each database were analyzed. Figure 1 details the number of total publications retrieved. The keyword censorship retrieved 28 publications initially, almost twice as many as the 15 publications retrieved by searching “intellectual freedom.”



Figure 1

Number of publications retrieved with the search terms "intellectual freedom," censorship in CLW, 1980–2015



Figure 2

Number of instances of "intellectual freedom" or censor* found in retrieved CLW publications between 1980–2015



The sample of publications analyzed further in this study includes 24 from ATLA-CPLI and 14 from LISTA. Both articles (constituting full length journal articles and short columns) and book reviews (since some reviews offered opinions about IF) were retrieved. There were 23 articles and 15 reviews, totaling 38 publications in all. Duplicated articles (numbering six in all) retrieved from searches in both databases were not counted twice. Upon retrieval, two full-text word searches were conducted within each publication. First, the publications were searched for the phrase “intellectual freedom” and then each was searched for the root word censor* (allowing for variations such as “censorship” and “censors” to be retrieved). To determine the frequency of the occurrence of these terms, some publications were searched electronically and the occurrence tallied and others, without optical character recognition (OCR), were searched manually and terms were counted as the articles were read. Typically publications searched manually were those published prior to 2004 and requested through interlibrary loan. In addition to the title of the publication, date of publication, and some additional metadata, the frequency of each term was recorded in a spreadsheet. Occurrences of the search terms found in the title of the article, works cited, or URLs were not included in the recorded count. Figure 2 indicates the total number of coded statements containing “intellectual freedom” or censor* found in the CLW publications retrieved for this content analysis.


The sentence in which the term occurred was transcribed and recorded in the spreadsheet, chronicling the context in which the term was found. The sentence was coded as either positive (in support of IF or opposing censorship), negative (opposing IF or supporting censorship), or neutral (neither supporting nor opposing IF or censorship). An example of a statement coded as positive is “Intellectual freedom is not only a value but a right” (Ladwig & Archer, 2010, p. 284). This next example proposes a certain degree of censorship, therefore, negatively reflecting IF: “What we need, then, is ‘responsible censorship’ which allows for the needs and rights of the young adult and yet allows for the rights and responsibilities of the adult” (Hodges, 1982, p. 399). Neutral statements typically state facts instead of judgment and represent organization names. This is a fact-based example: “There are some books which are provided that parents are apt to censor” (Ballard, 1983, p. 321). A deep reading of each article generated an understanding of broader themes within the article and also allowed individual sentences to be placed in a broader context to be coded more accurately.  



Figure 3

Context of statements including the term "intellectual freedom" in CLW, 1980–2015.



Figure 4

Context of statements including the term censor* in CLW, 1980–2015.





As seen in Figure 1, few articles or book reviews were published on the topic of IF and censorship in the 1990s. Almost an equal number were published in the 1980s (20 publications) and from 2002 to 2015 (22 publications); however, only one publication, a book review of the IFM was published in the 1990s. More research is needed to determine a possible cause for this lull in publishing on these topics. Also evident is the fact that more publications treated the subject of censorship than intellectual freedom.


The full-text search of each publication indicated a total of 94 instances of the phrase “intellectual freedom” and 202 instances of censor*. Figures 3 and 4 indicate the context of the statements in which the terms “intellectual freedom” and censor* occurred, respectively. In each case, the total number of negative representations of IF and pro-censorship statements were the minority viewpoint expressed in these CLW articles and reviews.


Figure 3 indicates that, when intellectual freedom was discussed by name, the majority of the time (60%) the author indicated support for the concept. Only 3% of statements were unsupportive of intellectual freedom; however, Figure 4 indicates that 15% of the statements containing the word censor* promoted censorship, a principle antithetical to the concept of intellectual freedom. This higher percentage of negative statements could support Kaihoi’s (2015) findings that, in theory, Christian librarians are supportive of intellectual freedom in general, yet, in practice, librarians are willing to limit access to some controversial materials.


Figures 5 and 6 highlight the context of statements over time, demonstrating the expression of more support for intellectual freedom and less support for censorship over the course of the timeframe of this study. All three statements containing “intellectual freedom” coded as negative were published in the 1980s. However, almost an equal number of positive statements were published between 1980 and 1990 (27 positive statements) and also over a longer, more recent, timeframe between 2000 and 2015 (28 positive statements). Graphing statements containing censor* over time shows that CLW contributors have also expressed less support of censorship between 1980 and 2015. There were 22 pro-censorship statements in the 1980s involving the term censor* compared with only 8 statements supporting censorship from 2000 to 2010 (in fact, throughout all of the 21st century). Although the language surrounding censorship is less negative, it has also become more neutral. About double the number of neutral statements (47) compared to positive statements (23) were published from 2000 to 2015.



Figure 5

Context of statements including the term "intellectual freedom" in CLW, 1980–2015.



Figure 6

Context of statements including the term censor* in CLW, 1980–2015.



In addition to the coded data gathered, some noteworthy themes emerged through a deep reading of the content. Especially of note are the CLW articles that helped to facilitate a discussion between the CLW authors and their audience. In the 1980s, pre-press copies of articles on controversial topics were distributed to select readers, whose responses were published alongside the main article, thus encouraging discourse around the topic. There were five of these articles published from 1983 to 1989 relating to IF which were analyzed in this study. Themes occurring in them were the difference between censorship and selection, professional responsibility, self-censorship, policy development, the idea that the best offense against censorship is a good defense, censorship online, personal values, and ethics in general. The majority of statements in these articles were positive, though some comments from select readers were negative.


Across all articles and reviews retrieved, statements about intellectual freedom and censorship occurred most in articles discussing school libraries (see Figure 7). In fact, of the statements coded by setting, most statements in general dealt with school libraries. The popularity of discussing IF, censorship, and their relationship to school libraries in CLW aligns with the fact that, according to statistics published by the Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association (2016b), more challenges to materials occurred in a school or school library setting compared with any other setting, including public and academic libraries between 2000 and 2009 (n.p.). It is not surprising that, since the majority of challenges occur in school or school library settings, content published in CLW would mirror that trend.


The three most frequently discussed themes occurring across CLW articles dealing with intellectual freedom and censorship were 1) the importance of policy development, 2) the use and recommendation of professional guides (such as the IFM), and 3) the influence of personal values on professional work.



Figure 7

Context of statements based on library setting discussed in each article in CLW, 1980–2015.



Thirteen publications focused primarily on policy development. The majority of these articles highlighted the need for selection and challenged materials policies, the problems that can arise when policies are not implemented, and suggested resources to help develop policies. Kamm’s (1988) article detailed a program to defuse censorship by prioritizing the development of IF related policies, emphasizing their importance in combating challenges, and developing a PR campaign to educate stakeholders. The author also suggested relying on a professional network for support when challenges do arise. Her well-articulated argument in support of policy development, operating under the guiding philosophy of “the best offense is a good defense” (p. 176), garnered much praise and agreement among advanced copy readers.


The use of professional guides and resources was promoted in both articles and book reviews. Three reviews (Weathers, 1993; Cuseo, 2002; Manz, 2011) and one column detailing new ALA publications (“From ALA editions,” 2006) recommended the use of the IFM, and five additional reviews referred readers to books dealing with censorship and intellectual freedom in school (Cuseo, 2003; Manz, 2009a; Sirvint, 2015), academic (Manz, 2009b), and public libraries (Bagley, 2012). Many articles cited advice published by the Office for Intellectual Freedom and some even reprinted recommendations from organizations that promote IF. For example, to accompany the text of her article, Hunter (1982) reprinted the “Checklist for Survival against Censorship” (p. 288)  which had been compiled by the Intellectual Freedom Committee of the Michigan Association for Media in Education and “Guidelines for Writing a Materials Selection Policy” (p. 289) prepared by the Intellectual Freedom Committee of Ohio Association of School Libraries. The inclusion of these recommendations not only encourage the use of these aids, but also indicates just how many professional organizations and texts exist to serve as professional resources.




The most interesting theme to note is the indication of ethical conflict between personally held values and professional values that some CLW contributors expressed. One author stated that it can be difficult to develop fail-safe guidelines to prevent censorship “[b]ecause individual attitudes, beliefs, and values guide actions . . .” (Rehring, 1982, p. 277). In another article, a CLW contributor stated that fulfilling her professional commitment is a “difficult matter” because she has problems “melding together the Christian philosophy of our school and the intellectual freedom of our students” (Hodges, 1982, p. 399). This testifies to the struggle some librarians face in balancing values contrary to those held in the library profession. Adams (2010) acknowledged this potential conflict in a more recently published article, stating: “It may be difficult for Catholic school librarians with strong personal religious beliefs to set aside their religious convictions while selecting books” (p. 114). She stresses the importance of the COE in guiding professional practice, especially in avoiding self-censorship due to personal bias. Self-reflection can also be used as a way to minimize bias. Pierson (1987) promotes thinking critically and asking “ourselves whether we are indeed as objective as we like to think!" (Pierson, 1987, p. 120).


The variety of opinions about how librarians should act according to their values is exemplified in one article in which the author raises a hypothetical case about a young patron requesting a copy of a book about how to kill oneself (Swan, 1988). Reaction from librarians varied from providing the book as requested without any other course of action to providing the book with provisions including taking the patron’s information to contact his parents, violating his intellectual freedom by not valuing his privacy. Through his example, Swan (1988) demonstrates that, despite a straightforward COE, librarians also have “decision-making roles as ethical, sympathetic human beings” (p. 272), and our professional goals are realized in the "real world of compromise and ambiguity" (p. 273). Personal values may inspire concern and a need to protect, motivating that librarian to refuse access to the title, withholding information and, therefore, compromising the patron’s intellectual freedom. Sr. Therese Marie echoed this motivation to guide and protect library users, and she encouraged all librarians to be “thusly motivated, not just those of us who happen to be Catholic, or a Religious” (Ballard, 1983, p. 322). Even as some CLW contributors express support for IF and against censorship, there is still an undertone of a desire to guide users and base intellectual freedom decisions on their own personal judgment. For example, Sr. Joanne Korn wrote first that “Intellectual freedom is so important to our basic freedoms,” indicating support for the concept (Catano & Hsu, 1989, p. 267). However, she goes on to say that “It is vital that we librarians allow ourselves the freedom to provide materials for our students which we, according to our consciences, feel should be made available to them,” indicating a level of subjectivity in providing access (Catano & Hsu, 1989, p. 267).


In addition to individual librarians functioning as a protector and guide in the acquisition of information, the Roman Catholic Church can also be seen as a protector more generally. In an article discussing the moral authority of the Roman Catholic Church manifested through the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (a list of banned books, authors, and topics maintained by the Church from the 16th century until 1966), J. Parker Ladwig, one of the two authors of the article, rationalized the history of Church censorship. Ladwig (2010) defended the Index Librorum Prohibitorum stating that since books and the ideas within them may be harmful to morals and truth, it is the role of the Church, having moral authority, to protect and guide readers (p. 281). The moral authority of the Church trumps the Constitution (including the First Amendment) and the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, two documents frequently cited as ensuring intellectual freedom as a fundamental American right specifically and a global human right in general. If the Church is viewed as having ultimate moral authority, this adds another level of complexity to the struggle some Catholic librarians face in both practicing their religion and their profession. Catholic librarians may minimize the importance of professional documents such as the LBR and COE, in protecting the intellectual freedom of library users and, instead, prioritize church teaching antithetical to intellectual freedom as defined by the profession. Whether because of the moral authority of the Church, the philosophy of a religious school, or the personal values of individual librarians, the content analyzed in this study indicates that the path to supporting intellectual freedom is not always clear for some librarians.


Limitations and Future Research


Intellectual freedom is a broad concept, with access and expression as two of its main components and many related principles (including privacy and an opposition to censorship). The words identified as the subject of this content analysis (“intellectual freedom” and censor*) adequately represent the construct of expressions of intellectual freedom, making this a valid method of inquiry to evaluate CLW contributors’ written values through their expressions on the subject. Yet, this study focused on IF in a broad sense and only one of its related principles—the opposition to censorship. Yet, finding support or disagreement with the concept of IF goes beyond searching only two phrases. Many other words representative of the concept could be used to gather additional information about the values expressed by CLW contributors. Such keywords could include access, expression, ban*, prohibit*, privacy, challenge, and obscen*. The need to search for other words in the text is reinforced by the fact that not all retrieved content contained the words “intellectual freedom” or censor*, despite still being about these topics. In these articles, Browne & Hanson (1982) and Fein (1985) used words such as challenge and confidentiality to express their positions on IF. Other articles that do not contain those terms and that were not retrieved based on the database search may also include a discussion of IF and censorship and could provide a more comprehensive view on how those topics are represented in CLW. Additionally, the coding of the statements containing “intellectual freedom” and censor* was completed solely by the author. Although this was conducted as objectively as possible, other researchers may code some statements differently.


It is significant to note that not all articles that are potentially relevant are indexed and accessible electronically in the two databases used in this study. Analog research led to the discovery of an article entitled “Censorship: A Selective Bibliography” published in April 1980 by Donald F. Schubert. The article itself contains both “intellectual freedom” and censor*. The topic of the article is certainly relevant to this study, yet it was not indexed and was therefore not accessible in either database. This discovery suggests that deep reading of CLW articles is necessary for future content analyses.


Further study could include a content analysis of other journals in the field of librarianship during this same timeframe. Although the findings of this content analysis are consistent with the findings of the survey that Kehoe (1977) conducted, indicating general support among Catholic librarians for intellectual freedom, more research must be conducted to determine if the ethical concerns raised through CLW contributor comments represent issues specific to Catholic librarians or if they are representative of librarians more broadly. Frequency and context of intellectual freedom and its related principles could be compared to content published in CLW during this same period, especially to investigate how Catholic writings compare to writings of those who are not Catholic. Additionally, since the majority of research has been conducted on Christian librarians in general, further research should be conducted on the intersection of professional values and the values of specific Christian denominations and other faith traditions. Also interesting to research would be the distribution of publications on the topic in other journals, especially to determine if fewer retrievals occurred in the 1990s as they did in CLW.




This content analysis based on the research interest of how personal and professional values intersect finds that positive, anti-censorship, and neutral statements about intellectual freedom and censorship greatly outnumber the negative, pro-censorship ones, indicating a general expression of support for intellectual freedom amongst CLW contributors between 1980 and 2015. More research is needed to determine 1) why so few articles were published on IF and censorship in the 1990s, 2) the frequency and context of the occurrence of other terms besides “intellectual freedom” and censor* related to the concept of intellectual freedom, 3) the history of how IF and its related principles have been represented in CLW since its first publication in 1929, and 4) how the content of CLW relating to intellectual freedom mirrors the content found on the topic in other professional journals. Finally, the published evidence of the struggle between balancing personal and professional values that some CLW authors expressed confirms the need for further research on how personally held religious values of librarians influence their professional values and practice. A librarian is not only composed of their professional identity and ethics but also a combination of all of their personal experiences, values, and beliefs, making the practical application of intellectual freedom an interesting topic of study.




The author wishes to thank Ian Burke for his contributions and advice in the development and review of this manuscript.




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