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Freedom and controversy visit the library


Special to The Dispatch



To most people, the public library evokes images of quiet halls, mountains of books and studious librarians. But libraries can also be the setting for raucous controversy, especially relating to freedom of speech and the First Amendment. Libraries and the First Amendment, a new exhibit at the Columbus Public Library provided by the Chicago-based McCormick Freedom Project, explores the library''s role in enabling and protecting First Amendment freedoms. 


Libraries provide access to information about countless subjects to widely diverse audiences, making occasional controversy almost inevitable. Heated confrontations may occur when public libraries provide information about controversial subjects, allow access to potentially objectionable information, or permit polarizing groups to use their facilities for meetings. 


The exhibit gets to the bottom of these issues by examining timeless and relevant topics that speak to all Americans. Designed by the McCormick Freedom Project, the interactive exhibit examines themes of censorship, access to information, protecting youth and granting meeting space to controversial groups.  


The local library is always looking for new ways to bring value to its patrons and the community. The partnership with the Freedom Project to bring the current the exhibit here is one more way to engage library visitors in a broader American dialogue. 


In addition to the main exhibit at the Columbus Public Library at 314 Seventh St. N., a companion Web exhibit,, invites online viewers to explore specific controversies, vote on key issues and add their voice to a larger, national discussion. 


"Libraries and the First Amendment illustrates the importance and relevance of the First Amendment in our daily lives," said Nathan Richie, director of exhibits and programs, McCormick Freedom Project. "This exhibit was designed to spark discussions on the role libraries play in our communities and the impact they have on our freedoms." 


The library''s new hours are 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. 




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