Due Process
February 4, 2009

I’ve been thinking a lot about library challenges lately, and I’ve decided that it’s not just about making the right decision in upholding library policy, it’s also essential that we do our best to make sure that all parties involved in the challenge feel validated throughout the process.  I had this sort of epiphany last weekend, during a conversation with a fellow library student about the difficulties inherent in deftly handling a challenge.  The ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Manual insists that all library policies must, among other essential elements, be “accompanied by an appeal mechanism, even if that mechanism is informal” (p. 374).

My cohort, in our conversation last weekend, emphasized this exact point.  It is essential for us to offer—even recommend—the “appeal mechanism” to the party that is voicing the challenge, for, even if their challenge is not ultimately accepted by the library, we validate their status as a library patron by asking for their input and participation in the great due process from which library policy springs.

When dealing, especially face-to-face, with a challenge that fairly clearly seeks actions that violate library policy, it is easy to grow unresponsive or even defensive toward the challenger.  Yet, if we keep in mind the importance of the “appeal mechanism” and encourage the challenger to take part in the due process that they, as a library patron, are entitled to, I have a hunch that the entire challenge process might unfold a bit more smoothly.