Raizel Liebler

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This article examines the three major Supreme Court cases, Brown, Pico, and American Library Association, which span a period of almost 30 years and address the appropriate role of libraries and the activities allowed within library premises. The scope of the cases includes the legality of silent protests in libraries, the removal of print materials from libraries, and implementing filters for Internet content. These cases exemplify the important struggle over the larger role of libraries in society. The Court has attempted to walk a fine line between viewing libraries as purveyors of high culture and dangerous places. An uncertainty about the role of libraries runs throughout the Supreme Court opinions as well as the court opinions that have come after these important rulings. These views of libraries by the courts have had a strong effect on patrons by limiting the information options of patrons, including school library books and public library Internet access. The views of the courts have also forced librarians to act in accordance with the Supreme Court's views of their appropriate role. This article argues that the Supreme Court's views are frequently based on a limited understanding of libraries, which fails to recognize that libraries and the services they provide fall within the scope of a public forum. The lack of government understanding of the role of libraries and librarians can have extensive implications for institutions, their employees, and the public.

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Northern Illinois University Law Review

Suggested Citation

Raizel Liebler, Institutions of Learning or Havens for Illegal Activities: How the Supreme Court Views Libraries, 25 N. Ill. U. L. Rev. 1 (2004).

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