Five stars, best books and King County Libraries’ commitment to intellectual freedom

Library Journal recently announced its 2018 Star Libraries as rated by the Library Journal Index of Public Library Services.

The King County Library System (KCLS) was among 7,361 public libraries rated for the 2018 Index and one of 257 to receive a Three‐, Four‐ or Five‐Star rating, which designates overall excellence across five service measures. In the category Libraries with Annual Expenditures Exceeding $30 million, KCLS was one of only five libraries nationally to receive five stars, gaining one star between 2017 and 2018.

We are pleased to be named a Five Star Library, which recognizes the quality services KCLS provides to the community. A star rating not only means the library delivers a strong return on public investment, it also reflects the value patrons throughout King County place on their libraries.

Throughout the year, this column has covered a variety of topics, including the values that guide our work at KCLS: knowledge, diversity, equity and inclusion. Another fundamental value of public libraries, Intellectual Freedom, is the principle that all members of the community should have free and equal access to ideas and information without restriction.

The American Library Association (ALA), whose members include public, private and academic libraries has long considered Intellectual Freedom as central to democracy and an essential library mission. Intellectual Freedom is inextricably linked to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech. Last November, ALA proudly marked the 50th year of its Office for Intellectual Freedom.

The dangers of censorship to a free society have been often‐repeated throughout history. Countries all over the world affirm the principles of Intellectual Freedom and the United Nations deems it a basic human right. Article 19 of its Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Finally, as we think about all that awaits discovery at libraries, it is a great time to let you know about KCLS’ Best Books for 2018. The list includes 100 books in the categories Fiction, Nonfiction, Teens and Children’s that have been vetted by 255 librarians and staff. The Best Books list is a much‐loved, highly‐anticipated tradition at KCLS; be sure to check it out on www.kcls.org/bestbooks.

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