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Roll of Honor
Lucille C. Thomas2007 recipient - Past President, Brooklyn Public Library
Judith F. Krug1995 recipient (deceased) - FTRF Executive Director from 1969 founding to 2009

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Read the latest news about FTRF and the First Amendment in Libraries and engage with thoughtful opinions from leaders in our community on The FTRF Blog. If you are interested in writing for the blog, please email Jonathan Kelley at


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Newly Revealed Records Detail 2013 Decision to Remove Persepolis from CPS Classrooms

Posted By Jonathan M. Kelley, Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Cross-posted to the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom blog. 

During the week of March 11, 2013, directives were issued by administrators at Chicago Public Schools’ Fullerton school network and Lane Tech High School to remove Marjane Sartrapi’s acclaimed graphic novel Persepolis from school libraries and classrooms on the grounds that the book contained inappropriate language and images.

The directive to remove Persepolis from CPS’ libraries and classrooms became public after students at Lane Tech alerted their colleagues in the school’s journalism program. Bloggers and critics publicized the directive and the apparent effort to ban the book from CPS classrooms and students took to the streets to protest the book’s removal. As the protests mounted, CPS administrators slowly backtracked on the initial directive; CPS Chief Barbara Byrd Bennett eventually issued a letter denying that there was any effort to ban the book and limiting the directive to remove Persepolis to 7th grade classrooms.

ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom and the Freedom to Read Foundation were involved from the beginning, supporting the students and organizations that sought to keep the book in CPS classrooms, publicly protesting the apparent censorship of a critically praised work of literature, and seeking information about the events leading up to the decision to remove the book. In response to a FTRF Freedom of Information Act request that asked for all correspondence and electronic communications related to the decision to remove Persepolis from CPS classrooms, we only received the directives and letters that had already been publicly disclosed, and a copy of the agenda for the chief of schools meeting on March 11, 2013.  That document contained no information at all about Persepolis or the decision to remove or recall the book. We remained in the dark about who had filed the initial complaint about Persepolis and who had made the decision to remove the book from CPS classrooms.

Then Jarrett Dapier, an intrepid MLIS candidate at the University of Illinois’ Graduate School of Library and Information Science, filed his own FOIA request in order to gather materials for his paper on school censorship. And in December 2014, CPS provided Dapier with the emails and correspondence we – and other organizations – were​ told did not exist in 2013.

Ben Joravsky of the Chicago Reader has already written about the contents of the emails. With the permission of Mr. Dapier, we are now sharing the actual emails and correspondence – which reveal that, contrary to CPS’ public statements in 2013, there was in fact an effort to remove Persepolis from all schools and libraries in CPS. The emails detail the initial complaint, the decision to remove the book, and the eventual modification of the original directive to remove the book from CPS classrooms and libraries. (It’s important to note that Persepolis remained in school libraries only because a strong reconsideration policy – CPS Policy 604.7 – prevented its removal without sufficient review and due process.) The emails are an object lesson in casual censorship, the ability of one person to pass judgment on a work of literature, and the chaotic decision-making that occurs when a school system fails to have policies in place to address demands to censor classroom materials.

Our thanks to Mr. Dapier for his initiative and perseverance in obtaining these public records.

Tags:  Chicago Public Schools  FOIA  Office for Intellectual Freedom  Persepolis 

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Remembering David Cohen, 1909-2015

Posted By Jonathan M. Kelley, Thursday, February 12, 2015

The library world lost a true giant last week with the passing of David Cohen on Thursday, February 5. David received the FTRF Roll of Honor Award in 2005, just one of his many, many accolades honoring a career that spanned eight decades.

According to David's friend, Rocco Staino, David's family has requested that donations in his name be made to the Freedom to Read Foundation. We are deeply honored by this. If you would like to make such a donation, please do so here.  

We have created a special page to honor David here.  It includes photos, a list of honors and awards, and the text of his Roll of Honor citation.  If you know of anything we can add, please let us know in the comments of this post or by contacting Jonathan Kelley at Also, we'd love to read your memories of David in the comments.

From FTRF Executive Director Barbara Jones:
In the 1970s, fresh out of library school, I wanted to get involved with ALA. Intellectual freedom was my choice for focus. Then at NYU, I called David Cohen to ask how to get involved in IFRT. Within a couple of days, I was on the ballot to run for Secretary and the rest is history. David was generous like that.


From FTRF Program Officer Jonathan Kelley:

My most vivid memory of David Cohen was sitting backstage with him in 2005 as he waited to receive his Roll of Honor Award. Also waiting with us was then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama. Senator Obama went out of his way to congratulate David on his award, and they chatted for a bit. Later, during his keynote address, the senator prefaced his remarks by commenting on how impressed he was by the 96-year-old.

I will also always remember his powerful dedication to the LeRoy C. Merritt Humanitarian Fund, including spearheading the Intellectual Freedom Round Table's ongoing committee to support the Merritt Fund.

From the OIF/FTRF 30th Anniversary Roll of Honor Book (1999):

To many of his peers and colleagues, David is known as "Mr. Intellectual Freedom." His commitment to the principles have governed his professional career, as well as his personal life. He is one of the founders of the Long Island Coalition Against Censorship, and through this organization and many other means, he has worked unstintingly to make his beliefs a reality.




Tags:  David Cohen  EMIERT  IFRT  in memoriam  NYLA  Roll of Honor 

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FTRF at ALA Midwinter 2015 - good times, great work

Posted By Jonathan M. Kelley, Monday, February 02, 2015

The blizzard that struck Chicago this weekend did not chill the spirits of FTRF members, trustees, and new friends at the 2015 Midwinter Meeting. 

This morning, FTRF president Julius C. Jefferson, Jr. presented the Foundation's biannual Report to ALA Council and gave an overview of the litigation, education, and organization building efforts of the Foundation.  The written report is available here.

On Saturday, legendary comic creator Jeff Smith gave a humorous, impassioned talk about his artistic journey and the experience of having BONE challenged in schools and libraries. It was at once FTRF's 9th annual Midwinter author event, and the second successful reception connected to FTRF45.  We have some photos of the event on our Facebook page.

On Thursday, prior to the Board Meeting, the trustees and liaisons sat down to look at the progress of FTRF's current Strategic Plan and make suggestions about how to continue its implementation in the five areas of awareness, litigation, education, engagement, and capacity building. The ideas generated will be compiled and posted to our website in the coming weeks. 

Thanks to everyone who connected with us over the past days - and we look forward to seeing many more of you at the ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco!

Tags:  ALA Midwinter Meeting  FTRF45  Jeff Smith  Julius Jefferson  strategic plan 

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8 things to know about tonight's Jeff Smith event in Chicago

Posted By Jonathan M. Kelley, Saturday, January 31, 2015

Tonight's FTRF author event in Chicago, featuring Jeff Smith of BONE fame, promises to be terrific. Here are 8 things you absolutely need to know:

  1. Tickets are still available. Get yours here. While there's no physical ticket, your name will be on the list at the door.
  2. If you don't get your ticket in advance, you should still be able to pay at the door. However, there's no guarantee - so better to be safe than sorry!
  3. How to get there: 
  4. Refreshments, including wine and beer, are included in the ticket price
  5. Sequence of events:
    • 7:00 p.m. - doors open, reception begins
    • 7:45 p.m. - program featuring Jeff Smith
    • 8:30 p.m. - book signing and more reception
    • 9:00 p.m. - doors close
  6. Books: Complimentary galleys of the upcoming BONE: Out of Boneville, Tribute Edition will be available for all attendees. Additionally, a limited number of the original BONE: Out of Boneville hardcover copy will be available onsite, with an optional donation fee requested. Attendees are welcome to bring their own copies of Jeff's books to be signed.  Our thanks to Scholastic for their support of this event!
  7. Our program will take place immediately after the University of Illinois' Downs Award reception at the Hilton. Again, Roosevelt is a short two-block walk from the Hilton.
  8. It looks like there may be some snow tonight, so plan accordingly!

Tags:  ALA Midwinter Meeting  Bone  FTRF45  Jeff Smith  Roosevelt University 

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#FTRF45 continues in Chicago Jan. 31 with Jeff Smith

Posted By Jonathan M. Kelley, Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Those in the Chicago area - and attendees of ALA's 2015 Midwinter Meeting - are cordially invited to the Freedom to Read Foundation's 9th Annual Banned/Challenged Author Event and Fundraiser.  This year's special guest is Jeff Smith, creator of the BONE series.

BONE has been among the most frequently challenged books of the past few years, and Smith has been a strong advocate for the freedom to read, particularly in the comic and graphic novel world. 

For information on tickets, and to learn more, visit You can also RSVP on Facebook.

Our thanks to Roosevelt University and Scholastic for their support of this event!

Tags:  banned books  Chicago  comic books  FTRF45  Midwinter Meeting 

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