Vol. 4 (2024)

Practitioner self-censorship in Scotland’s secondary school libraries: A digital mixed methods study

Beulah Lowry
Robert Gordon University

Published 2024-06-27


  • Collection develoment,
  • Graphic novels,
  • Intellectual freedom,
  • Scotland,
  • Secondary school libraries,
  • Self-censorship
  • ...More

How to Cite

Lowry, B. (2024). Practitioner self-censorship in Scotland’s secondary school libraries: A digital mixed methods study. Reflective Professional, 4. https://doi.org/10.48525/rp-2024-id157


Purpose: The aim of this study was to explore the issues of self-censorship and challenge preparedness in Scottish secondary school libraries. It was undertaken in response to a recent consultation on intellectual freedom conducted by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), and a literature gap peculiar to the devolved nations of the United Kingdom.

Methodology: Internet-mediated digital mixed methods were used, following an explanatory sequential approach and using the controversial graphic novel format as a gateway to the investigation. The quantitative phase centred upon an online questionnaire disseminated among secondary school library staff throughout Scotland, and the qualitative phase comprised three semi-structured follow-up interviews shaped by emergent themes from the literature and questionnaire.

Findings: Practitioner self-censorship does exist in Scotland’s school libraries. Its nature and scope broadly accord with the findings of other studies conducted within and outwith the UK. Promisingly, theoretical agreement with intellectual freedom principles is widespread; limited time and budget are the main barriers to best practice. Despite minimal formal collection defence training, many practitioners perceive their support systems and professional skills to be adequate.

Key recommendation: CILIP and the School Library Association (SLA) should produce fully localised, sector-specific strategies for challenge preparedness.