COLORADO SPRINGS — “Access to information during [the] Soviet Union, that was rather controlled and censored. And I'm happy that in this country of mine, that I call my home, that it's different.”
Teona Shainidze-Krebs brings a unique perspective to her new position as the Chief Librarian and CEO for the Pikes Peak Library District.
She was a child in the Republic of Georgia when the Soviet Union dissolved.
Her home is now the United States and the mission of her career with the library is about intellectual freedom.
“Our goal and objective is to make sure that individuals have access to information that they choose,” said Shainidze-Krebs
She is well aware of recent statistics from the American Library Association showing more than 1,200 cases in 2022 of people wanting books either banned or restricted at libraries.
The number is close to double the previous year.
She first points out that the same principle supporting unrestricted access to books in the United States is also a foundation of free speech.
“They have that right, that they can express their dislikes about certain items in our collection,” said Shainidze-Krebs.
When someone challenges one of the nearly 250,000 books in the Pikes Peak Library District collection there is a protocol for review.
It is rare for a book to be removed from circulation.
Jenny Pierce leads the district's book selection team.
She said, “Part of our policy is that we don't make a selection to get something or not get something based on what we think the reaction would be. “
The most limiting factor in book selection is budget.
Book choices are influenced by popularity, recommendations from publishers, reviews, and requests from library patrons.
The selections team tries to acquire material that entertains, appeals to diverse personal interests, and offers ways to explore different ideas.
They're [selection team] probably buying something that they may not agree with. And as well as something that they do,” said Pierce.
The selection librarians try to set aside personal opinions.
There are books they personally likely will not read that others will want to borrow from the library.
“Public libraries are a marketplace of ideas,” said Pierce.
That's all intellectual freedom,” said said Shainidze-Krebs, “What I might find offensive, it won't be offensive to you.”
There is also the right to choose whether or not you want to read it.