Pieces of Pico: Saving Intellectual Freedom in the Public School Library

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It thus becomes essential, to preserve the intellectual freedom of public school students and librarians, and in turn the intellectual freedom of all citizens educated in public schools, that the curricular and extracurricular capacities of the school library remain distinct, and the latter afforded an appropriately broader range of constitutional protection. Justice Brennan in Pico did not mistakenly fail to distinguish the school library from the community library; rather, he correctly recognized that the school and community libraries share objectives that are exclusive of the shared educational mission of the school classroom and school library. School librarians who eschew this similarity in favor of the curricular model risk surrendering any “pieces” of Pico-inspired intellectual freedom that might yet remain in the school library after ALA. This article contends, therefore, that school librarians must be vigilant in their policies and practices to maintain the school library as a forum for free, vigorous and voluntary student exploration, and to safeguard the school library against utter usurpation by curricular demands.

Part II of this article explored the peculiar history of the school library, demonstrating the origin, historian development, and continuing importance of its dual mission. Part III reviews the case law of intellectual freedom in the modern public library, particularly with reference to Pico and the key Supreme Court decisions, Brown v. Louisana and ALA, that preceded and followed Pico. In light of the investigations of Parts II and III, Part IV of this article analyzes the legal and policy implications of school librarians’ adoption of a curricular self-image. Considering Internet filtering as a case in point, the article ultimately suggests that the curricular image needlessly jeopardizes the intellectual freedom of both students and school librarians, recognized in Pico, and that to preserve that freedom – the remaining pieces of Pico -- the librarians must preserve a distinction between the curricular and extracurricular capacities of the public school library. Part V concludes.


Originally published in 2005 by Brigham Young University Education and Law Journal.

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