Brexit. The rise of Austria’s Freedom Party, France’s Front National, Netherlands’ Party for Freedom. Anti-immigrant movements in Italy and Hungary.
In the United States, following a campaign in which the winning candidate called many Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists, threatened to jail a political opponent, and vowed to make it easier to sue the media, many fear that a nativist, nationalist, even authoritarian movement has returned to our shores.
I said, “returned.” In preparing for a webinar called “ALA’s Essentials in Intellectual Freedom,” I was reading about the creation of librarianship’s core document: the Library Bill of Rights. The first version was drafted in 1938 by Forrest Spaulding, then director of the Des Moines Public Library. It was occasioned by, and intended to speak out against, the “growing intolerance, suppression of free speech and censorship affecting the rights of minorities and individuals.”
A year later, that revised document was adopted by the American Library Association. It has become the most enduring and fundamental statement of our professional values.
As I’ve been exploring the landscape of intellectual freedom this year, I think the Library Bill of Rights is worth another and closer look. To that end, I’m pleased to offer this free download to a handy pocket version of the Library Bill of Rights, and the Freedom to Read Statement. Print out as many copies as you like, and hand it out to as many people as you can.
I’m also excited to offer this teaser for an upcoming new product: the Library Bill of Rights poster. Suitable for framing, it will be available from the ALA Store in late December. I would like to see it proudly displayed in every library board room in the nation. Every departing board member should get one for his or her home.
It’s hard to know if the heated rhetoric of a raucous political campaign will translate once again into the turmoil that followed the late 1930s. But it’s clear that the Freedom to Read Foundation, and its willingness to stand up for the values that ground and define us, will be needed in the years to come. If you just got a renewal notice, please consider rounding that up. When you get a letter from us talking about a donation opportunity – think about what’s at stake.
And thank you for standing with us.
Jamie LaRue, Director
Freedom to Read Foundation &
The Office for Intellectual Freedom