Act Now: Operation 451

Advocacy, Freedom to Read Foundation, Intellectual Freedom Issues, Library Bill of Rights

By: Jill Brown

Librarians Sarah Houghton and Andy Woodworth recently launched an independent special project, Operation 451, which directly addresses several of the core principles of librarianship.

451 was created by Sarah Houghton and Andy Woodworth
Operation 451 was created by Sarah Houghton and Andy Woodworth

Houghton and Woodworth described Operation 451 as “a symbolic affirmation of our librarian values of knowledge, service of others, and free expression of ideas. It stands in direct opposition to the forces of intolerance and ignorance that seek to divide neighbors, communities, and the country.”

You may be wondering about the significance of the number 451…

“451 was purposefully chosen because of its popular cultural significance, a nod to the great novel by Ray Bradbury, ‘Fahrenheit 451,'” said Houghton and Woodworth. “Call it luck, fate, or serendipity, but we noticed that that individual numbers matched up with the fourth and fifth articles of the Library Bill of Rights and the First Amendment to the Constitution. These were the values that we want to promote.”

  • Article 4 of the Library Bill of Rights: Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.
  • Article 5 of the Library Bill of Rights: A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.
  • First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

How can you take part in Operation 451?

You don’t need to travel. Project organizers Houghton and Woodworth ask that you pledge the following:

  • Work toward increasing information access, especially for vulnerable populations
  • Establish your library as a place for everyone in the community, no matter who they are
  • Ensure and expand the right of free speech, particularly for minorities’ voices and opinions

When is Operation 451 happening?

NOW — and running until Jan. 20. Houghton and Woodworth encourage you to 

Note: Any profits made from the sale of pins will be used to offset costs for the website; any profits beyond that will be donated to the Freedom to Read Foundation.

Jill BrownJill Brown is the director at Millington (Mich.) Arbela District Library. Originating from a background of fighting for physical freedoms while running a shelter for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, Brown has since turned her efforts to intellectual freedom as she transitioned into the public library world. A graduate of Wayne State University’s School of Library and Information Science, Brown has continued the good fight during her years as a rural Michigan library director. Her interests include self-censorship, collection development practices in public libraries, and banned books. Brown sees all of life as an adventure, but especially enjoys the kind that gets her into the outdoors: hiking and biking. Evidence of Brown’s passion for intellectual freedom can be seen in the cover of “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury which she has tattooed on her right leg. She can be reached at

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