June 19, 2014

Happy 75th anniversary of the Library Bill of Rights!

Today we are pleased to commemorate the 75th anniversary of ALA’s adoption of the Library Bill of Rights on June 19, 1939 at the ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco. The document – which is the basis for the work of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom – was created in the wake of several incidents of banning The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck in the late 1930s. It also was inspired by the rising tide of totalitarianism around the world.

The first iteration of  the Library Bill of Rights was a statement by the head of the Des Moines, Iowa, Public Library, Forrest Spaulding. It was adopted as policy by that library on November 21, 1938. Much of the wording remained the same for ALA’s version, although it was more universal.

Since its initial adoption, the Library Bill of Rights has been amended four times.  There are also over 20 official interpretations on issues ranging from Meeting Rooms to Labeling and Ratings Systems.  Many of these interpretations have Q&As associated with them to assist library boards and administrators adapt the policies to their specific circumstances.

To honor the Library Bill of Rights, take some time to read it and consider its meaning and relevance lo these many decades later.  And if you’re on social media, share this post!

June 17, 2014

IFAction News Roundup, June 8 – 14, 2014

The Office for Intellectual Freedom sponsors IFAction, an email list for those who would like updated information on news affecting intellectual freedom, censorship, privacy, access to information, and more. Click here to subscribe to this list. For an archive of all list postings since 1996, visit the IF Action archive. Below is a sample of articles from June 8 – June 14, 2014.

 

Filtering, Censorship, Whistle blowing, Free Press, and Free Speech Articles  

Free Speech or Illegal Threats? Justices Could Say

[Pensacola] Florida School Cancels Reading Program Over Cory Doctorow Book

Al Gore: Snowden not a traitor

Iraq tries to censor social media to disrupt ISIS communication, but its success is limited

Tech company, free speech groups to protect websites under attack 

 

Access, the Digital Divide, Net Neutrality, and Intellectual Property Protection Articles 

FCC Chief Plans Action on Wi-Fi in Schools

Removing Barriers to Competitive Community Broadband

Appeals Court Rules Digital Library Doesn’t Violate Copyright Law

How Do You Know The Public Domain Is In Trouble? It Requires A 52-Page Handbook To Determine If Something Is Public Domain

Verizon Says It Wants to Kill Net Neutrality to Help Blind, Deaf, and Disabled People

 

Privacy, Surveillance, Hacking, and Cybersecurity Articles    

Google’s New All-Seeing Satellites Have Huge Potential—For Good and Evil

Gmail Bug Could Have Exposed Every User’s Address

After Heartbleed, We’re Overreacting to Bugs That Aren’t a Big Deal

Mathematicians Urge Colleagues To Refuse To Work For The NSA

Because after all, it is not information that wants to be free, it’s us [TED Talk: Keren Elazari]

June 12, 2014

Black Caucus of the ALA statement on “The Speaker” sponsorship

In response to several requests to elaborate on the Black Caucus of the ALA’s (BCALA) decision to cosponsor the upcoming ALA Conference program, “Speaking about the Speaker,” BCALA president Jerome Offord, Jr. wrote an open letter to the library community detailing the organization’s reasoning.  Here’s a key excerpt from the letter:

“As our governance structure permits, a proposal was submitted to the Executive Board requesting that BCALA collaborate on this project. The conversation began with those members who were present during the first iteration of this issue. The Executive Board debated the pros and the cons, talked about the historical decision regarding this film in the past, and questioned why we should collaborate in this venture. One member clearly reflected that this film, and the possible showing of it in the past, sent a blowing ripple through ALA at the time. In order to truly understand the history behind this, you must remember, this was in 1977. Times have changed and the BCALA Executive Board felt it was time for us to discuss this political hot button.”

You can read the full letter here: TheSpeaker_PR_BCALA.  Our thanks to BCALA for their support of this program!

June 4, 2014

IFAction News Roundup, May 25-31, 2014

The Office for Intellectual Freedom sponsors IFAction, an email list for those who would like updated information on news affecting intellectual freedom, censorship, privacy, access to information, and more. Click here to subscribe to this list. For an archive of all list postings since 1996, visit the IF Action archive. Below is a sample of articles from May 25 – May 31, 2014.

 

Filtering, Censorship, Whistle blowing, Free Press, and Free Speech Articles  

House Approves Amendment To Protect Journalists From Revealing Sources

Appeals Court Reaffirms The Public Has The Right To Record The Police, Except For All The Times When It Doesn’t

Facebook may soon open up for kids under-13 with parental supervision

U. of Oregon’s New Academic-Freedom Policy Protects Students and Staff

NSA Releases Snowden Email, Says He Raised No Concerns About Spying

 

Access, the Digital Divide, Net Neutrality, and Intellectual Property Protection Articles

How to Build a Kinder Web for the Transgender Community

Court Approves F.C.C. Plan to Subsidize Rural Broadband Service

3 must-knows about teachers and copyright

Skype to get ‘real-time’ translator

5 ways Maya Angelou influenced education

 

Privacy, Surveillance, Hacking, and Cybersecurity Articles    

Germany Mulls Arbitration for Web ‘Right to Be Forgotten’

Could our behaviour be turned into a password?

Google will take requests to scrub embarrassing search results. But it won’t help U.S. users.

Yoder: Agencies seizing emails is ‘much worse’ than NSA spying 

59% of U.S. Internet Users Know Smart Devices Can Collect Information About Their Personal Activities

June 4, 2014

Banned Books Week 2014 celebrates graphic novels

The American Library Association (ALA), with the national Banned Books Week planning committee, today announced that this year’s celebration of the freedom to read will emphasize a thematic focus on comics and graphic novels.   This year’s Banned Books Week, Sept. 21 – 27, will shine a light on this still misunderstood form of storytelling and will celebrate the value of graphic novels to readers from all walks of life through the work performed by Banned Books Week sponsors and individual librarians, retailers and readers from all over the world.

“This year we spotlight graphic novels because, despite their serious literary merit and popularity as a genre, they are often subject to censorship,” said Judith Platt, chair of the Banned Books Week National Committee.

Recently, the acclaimed memoir “Fun Home” by Alison Bechdel, has been the flashpoint in a university funding controversy in South Carolina, while last year “Persepolis,” by Marjane Satrapi, faced an attempted ban in the Chicago Public Schools.  Graphic novels continually show up on the American Library Association’s (ALA)  Top 10 list of Frequently Challenged Books.  The ALA released its current list in April and includes Dav Pilkey’s “Captain Underpants” at the top spot and Jeff Smith’s series “Bone” arriving at #10.

“Once again the ALA is delighted to be part of a coalition to make the public aware that books are still being banned and challenged around the country,” said ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom Director Barbara Jones. “Banned Books Week will serve as an opportunity for libraries, authors, booksellers, publishers, educators, and many other stakeholders to continue their efforts to safeguard the freedom to read.”

Banned Books Week celebrates the Freedom to Read by encouraging readouts, displays, and community activities designed to raise awareness of the ongoing threats of censorship that continue to occur.  Bannedbooksweek.org is a hub for information about how individuals and institutions can become involved in celebrating this important event.  The website also includes resources and activities provided by event sponsors.

Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, American Library Association, American Society of Journalists and Authors, Association of American Publishers, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Freedom to Read Foundation, National Association of College Stores, National Coalition Against Censorship, National Council of Teachers of English, PEN American Center, and Project Censored.

To learn more about Banned Books Week, or how you can get involved, please visit www.ala.org/bbooks orwww.bannedbooksweek.org.

June 3, 2014

Zoia Horn and Dorothy Broderick on “The Speaker”

Continuing our look at the 1977 film The Speaker and the controversy surrounding it, we call your attention to opinions from two key players: Dorothy Broderick and Zoia Horn.  The two women, both fierce and celebrated defenders of “intellectual freedom” as a concept, had remarkably disparate views on the film, its message, and its utility.

Broderick, the legendary librarian, educator, and co-founder of VOYA Magazine, wrote a memorable opinion piece, “Son of Speaker,” for the October 1977 American Libraries.  The article provides good background on some of the issues that helped create the context for the controversy around the film, and an explanation for her advocacy in favor of it. A key quote from her:

We cannot, as an Association devoted to the dissemination of all ideas, be so unsophisticated as to equate defending a racist’s right to speak with being a racist.  It is the right to be heard that is all important, and not the quality of the ideas.  We cannot allow ourselves to lose sight of the fact that suppression of one unpopular opinion opens the door to suppression of all unpopular opinions. Nor can we afford to forget that every major improvement in society—including the civil rights movement—began as an unpopular minority opinion.  Most of all, out of total self-interest, we should remember that each voice silenced contributes to the possibility of our own voices being silenced.

AL printed this along with eight other compelling letters under the heading “Other Voices, Other Views.”  Thanks to the ALA Library for posting these pages and to AL for permission to do so.

On the other side: Zoia Horn, 1977-1978 Intellectual Freedom Committee chair (whom Judith Krug once referred to as “the first librarian who spent time in jail for a value of our profession”).  Zoia’s daughter, Catherine Marrion, wrote to ALA upon hearing of “Speaking about The Speaker” and asked that we bring attention to her mother’s account of the matter, as recorded in her 1995 autobiography, Zoia!  Ms. Marrion agreed to let us quote her email:

My mother is 96 years old and in failing health so will not be able to attend, but she would be happy for you to … link to her book on openlibrary.org and specifically to the chapter titled “Intellectual Freedom Committee (pages 199 -224), which deals almost exclusively with the making of “The Speaker” and the subsequent fallout. …

Zoia was a new member of the Intellectual Freedom Committee in 1976 and she describes with considerable dismay the lack of consultation in the creation of the film. Her account of this event sources committee minutes, meeting notes, correspondence and recollection of conversations with committee members and others.

My mother’s career was devoted in large measure to issues of intellectual freedom and the right to know. In 1970 she went to jail rather than compromise these principles. The California Library Association has an annual Intellectual Freedom Award in her honour, and she has many other awards. Zoia’s opposition to “The Speaker” and to the undemocratic and non-consultative way in which it was produced is a piece of my mother’s history, but of course it is a part of American library history…

We strongly encourage you to check out both of these great women’s perspectives, and to add your own in the blog comments or elsewhere.

For the full rundown of available resources on The Speaker, see the ALA Library pathfinder.

May 30, 2014

Barbara Jones article on “The Speaker” program

American Libraries magazine blog The Scoop has uploaded the article penned by OIF Executive Director Barbara Jones announcing the conference program on The Speaker.

I was a student at Columbia University’s School of Library Service at the time, and my professors advocated on both sides of the issue. …  Recently, I was warned by members who attended that meeting not to bring up the controversy ever again. But some participants and a new generation of librarians want to revisit the film, and they have agreed to discuss it at the 2014 ALA Annual Conference and Exhibition in Las Vegas.

Due to publishing deadlines, the article was written prior to the program’s announcement and ensuing discussion. Still, it’s relevant to the conversation and worth a read.

It also has been added to the “Contemporary Coverage” section of the ALA Library’s pathfinder.

May 28, 2014

Resources for “The Speaker” program

The ALA Library has very helpfully put together a pathfinder of resources relevant to the ongoing discussion around “Speaking About ‘The Speaker,’” the upcoming IFC/AAP program at ALA Annual Conference.

Included in the pathfinder: the link to the film and the accompanying discussion guide, a film chronology, a bibliography of articles about the film and the controversy surrounding it, uploads of several historical American Libraries magazine articles (reprinted with permission of AL magazine), and links to recent articles about the upcoming program.

A key document is the full 1978 statement from 25 ALA members, endorsed by the Black Caucus of the ALA, presented at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in opposition to the film and ALA’s sponsorship of it.

This pathfinder is a work in progress: if you have other articles or links you would like included in the finders guide, please contact Valerie Hawkins at library@ala.org.

May 27, 2014

Read A Banned Book at the Banned Books Virtual Read-Out at ALA’s Annual Conference in Las Vegas, NV

Banned Books Video Read-Out

What do To Kill a Mockingbird, The Call of the Wild, and The Grapes of Wrath, have in common? Though they are all critical literary representations of our history, each of these texts has been banned or challenged because of their compelling and provocative depictions of real life. Show your support of these and thousands of other banned books – such as the Diary of Anne Frank, Where the Wild Things Are, and the Harry Potter series – by reading an excerpt from your favorite banned book at ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas.

On Saturday, June 28 and Sunday, June 29, from 9am to 5pm, SAGE and ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom invite you to the Banned Books Readout Booth, where you can read a short passage from your favorite banned book and then speak from the heart about why that book matters to you. Readings will be video recorded and will be featured on the Banned Books Week YouTube channel during Banned Books Week, September 21-27, 2014. The booth will be located at the entrance to the exhibit hall (look out for a red carpet and cameras). We strongly encourage you to bring your own copy of the book, but some books will be available for your reading. RSVP now to make an appointment and avoid waiting in line.

Not sure which book to choose? Check out the list of most challenged titles of 2013, the list of Banned Books that Shaped America, or other frequently challenged books.

**Go the extra mile! If after reading from the book, you don’t mind parting with it, we encourage you to leave it on our donation shelves. All contributed books will be given to local libraries and learning institutions.

For more information, please contact Camille Gamboa, PR and public affairs manager at SAGE Publications, Inc. (camille.gamboa@sagepub.com) and  Nanette Perez, program officer at ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (nperez@ala.org).

 

May 27, 2014

LHRT statement on “Speaking About ‘The Speaker’” co-sponsorship

In response to some questions about the upcoming “Speaking About The Speaker at the 2014 ALA Annual Conference, the Library History Round Table Executive Committee has made this statement about their decision to co-sponsor the program:

LHRT Executive Committee Statement re. OIF The Speaker Conference Program

The Library History Round Table (LHRT)’s decision to co-sponsor the Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF)’s conference program on The Speaker has met with consternation from some members of ALA Council and the Social Responsibility Round Table (SRRT). Since no one from Council or SRRT has contacted LHRT officers to discuss their concerns, the LHRT Executive Committee has authorized OIF to publish this statement on its blog, which all concerned parties may access.

Today, ALA positions itself as a champion of civil liberties and diversity. For example, in the past decade Council has passed resolutions in support of immigrant rights (Midwinter 2007), same-sex marriage (Annual 2009), and universal health care (Annual 2009). Yet the association and some of its leaders were not always at the forefront of human rights advocacy. Decades of tortuous debate were sometimes required in order for ALA to evolve toward the ideals that seem so natural to us now. Nowhere is this truer than in the cases of intellectual freedom and race relations.

The Speaker and the controversy it caused are nearly forty years old. Yet we face some of the same issues today. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are nearly one thousand hate groups operating in the United States. They request meeting rooms in libraries and other public spaces, including a Ku Klux Klan rally planned last year at Gettysburg National Military Park.  The intended purpose of The Speaker was to invite librarians to examine the limits of their own commitment to intellectual freedom. Such an exercise remains worthwhile.

More importantly, LHRT is concerned that the rising generation of librarians has little inkling of the struggle of African Americans and other persons of color to be welcomed, heard, and respected with our profession. For example, many are unaware of Melvil Dewey’s anti-Semitism; ALA’s acquiescence to “local custom” when holding conferences in segregated cities; and yes, the fierce debate between the Intellectual Freedom Committee and the Black Caucus regarding the production and screening of The Speaker. In criticizing the program, one Council member stated that there is no point to showing a film which “so few of the current members of ALA were even involved with.” LHRT’s position is just the opposite—that we must expose and educate members about these matters precisely because many of today’s librarians have no knowledge of them. LHRT respects colleagues who remember The Speaker as an ugly chapter in ALA’s past. Yet they are not the only constituency to be considered. LHRT passionately believes that each generation has the right—and the obligation—to learn about such events and make sense of them on their own. Those who were children or even unborn in 1977 deserve the opportunity to see and learn about The Speaker, and use it to strengthen their professional philosophy and practice.

In co-sponsoring a panel discussion about The Speaker, LHRT does not seek to garner attendees through “sensationalism,” “stir up unnecessary controversy,” or “reopen old wounds” as has been charged. Our membership includes retirees and several former presidents of ALA who may have painful memories of those days. We care fervently about inclusiveness. During the planning stage, we requested that OIF invite former LHRT chair Mark McCallon, who has undertaken rigorous scholarly research on the topic, to join the panel in hopes that he would introduce the audience to the disputes surrounding the film. The involvement of the Black Caucus heartens us as well. We are confident that the OIF has assembled a panel that will raise awareness of at least some of The Speaker’s complexities. We hope that attendees will bring questions to the event and share their personal reflections. We shall continue to support ALA’s efforts to offer programs that critically examine the profession’s history.

This past week, a historic court decision in Pennsylvania reminded us that simply because an activity “causes discomfort in some does not make its prohibition constitutional.”[1] In a similar vein, LHRT believes that The Speaker and other artifacts of ALA’s history, however agonizing, deserve to be known and discussed.

Bernadette A. Lear

LHRT Chair, 2013-2014

BAL19@psu.edu

 

Endorsed unanimously by the Library History Round Table Executive Committee:

Dominique Daniel, Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect

Ellen Pozzi, Secretary-Treasurer

Julia Skinner, Member-at-Large

Cindy Welch, Member-at-Large

Mark McCallon, Past-Chair

Eric Novotny, Incoming Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect

Nancy Dupree, Incoming Secretary-Treasurer-Elect

Suzanne Stauffer, Incoming Member-at-Large



[1] Hon. John E. Jones, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Whitewood v. Wolf, Memorandum Opinion, May 20, 2014, pg. 38. See http://www.aclupa.org/files/8714/0061/1059/WHITEWOOD_OPINION.pdf.

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