Freedom to read still reigns—April 24, 2009
The library world lost a great person this past week with the passing of Judith Krug, director of the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom and the executive director of the Freedom to Read Foundation. Krug held these positions for 40 years and was a celebrity among librarians. Krug’s job and passion was “promoting and protecting a precious First Amendment right: the freedom to read” as an editorial in the New York Times stated.
Krug was instrumental in supporting librarians and educating lawmakers on the role public libraries play in providing access to information. She is quoted as saying, “We do this by making sure libraries have information and ideas across the spectrum of social and political thought, so people can choose what they want to read or view or listen to. Some users find materials in their local library collection to be untrue, offensive, harmful or even dangerous. But libraries serve the information needs of all of the people in the community — not just the loudest, not just the most powerful, not even just the majority. Libraries serve everyone.”
Krug’s work is an inspiration to many of us in the library field. My library career began as a student worker in the Calvin T. Ryan library at the University of Nebraska-Kearney. My supervisor and mentor taught me to appreciate the diversity of information and variety of questions that our library patrons were asking. To this day, the best part of my job is not knowing what the next person who walks in our door might ask me. Just as a doctor, lawyer or other professional treats your inquiries with objectivity and confidentiality, so does your librarian.
At our last Hastings Public Library Board meeting, the Board voted on a recommendation to keep the book It’s Not the Stork in the children’s non-fiction section. We had received a request to move it to a parenting or adult section of the library due to its treatment of sex education information. Following the Board’s policy, a community committee met to discuss the request. The committee reached their recommendation, and the Board confirmed it, after much discussion and review of the educational value of the book. It is the library’s role in sex education, as in other matters, to provide a variety of viewpoints and information and to thereby allow you to choose the material appropriate for you and your family.
The ALA’s Freedom to Read Statement begins “The freedom to read is essential to our democracy.” I am pleased to know that as the library world mourns our public champion of that statement, the processes we have in place to review and discuss our library materials are still relevant and working.
As always, I invite you to email, call or stop by and talk with me about your ideas for the library and the library collection.