This exploration of the connection between the
library and the broader socio-political sphere in which it
functions is based on a keynote presentation originally
given at the BOBCATSSS Conference in Lyons, January
2016. The freedom to seek and receive information and
ideas in a secure and private environment is identified as
the way in which the library contributes to intellectual
freedom. Historical examples of radical thinkers who had
or did not have this kind of access can be identified. The
contribution of libraries is seldom overtly radical, but by
offering access to content in a protected environment,
libraries nurture potential political activists and leaders.
A connection between libraries and democratic activity,
which cannot necessarily be thought of as causal, can be
observed, and even in non-democratic states the library
can still make its own unobtrusive contribution.