Public Librarians in the Hot Seat? Moral Injury in the Post-Truth Era

Josephine K. Hazelton-Boyle, Michael J. Hazelton-Boyle

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate


This paper examines the ethical considerations surrounding intellectual freedom and social responsibility in public libraries (i.e., municipal and public school libraries) in the post-truth era. While libraries serve a crucial role in fostering an informed democracy, recent events have put public libraries, and front-line librarians themselves, in the “hot seat.” This paper examines the implications of recent campaigns for book bans, considerations around public libraries purchasing harmful and anti-science information, as well as political efforts to restrict the types of information public librarians are able to share with the public. Public librarians are professionally trained to value the role libraries serve as an information institution in a democracy; however, we argue that the contemporary ethical dilemmas public librarians face inflicts moral injury and may actively harm the identity central to public librarians’ motivation to serve their communities. The paper concludes with a sobering discussion of how these ethical dilemmas in public libraries might serve as a cautionary tale for bureaucrats working on the front-lines of public service in the post-truth era.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPublic Integrity
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Libraries
  • censorship
  • ethics
  • front-line bureaucrats
  • moral injury


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