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




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.


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Author Biography

Megan E. Welsh, University of Colorado Boulder

Assistant Professor, Interdisciplinary Arts & Humanities Librarian




How to Cite

Welsh, M. E. (2016). Expressing Intellectual Freedom: A Content Analysis of Catholic Library World from 1980 to 2015. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 11(4).



Research Articles