An Historical and Future Perspective of IFRT

Intellectual Freedom Round Table

By: guest contributor Wanda Mae Huffaker, Intellectual Freedom Round Table chair-elect

I’ve been contemplating my involvement in ALA this year as the effects of Covid-19 have concerned all of us. Not the least of which is the cancellation of ALA Annual 2020. This is in the midst of organizational revisions that are yet to be finalized or accepted. Our libraries are closed, many of us have worked from home, the tasks have changed, some worry about their jobs. Working on an ALA committee may seem like such a superfluous task to add to life right now, in the scheme of things.

Looking back at 1973

On June 28, the first organizational meeting of IFRT was held. John Philip Immroth was the first chair. At Midwinter in 1974 they were following what they referred to as the “June 1973 obscenity decisions of the Supreme court”, which we now know as Miller vs. California. And ALA asked all round tables to donate ten percent of their income to ALA. 

I read with extreme jealousy the announcement in the May 1974 Report that the Wednesday evening program for annual was to be Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, “Freedom of the Press: Triumph at Watergate”.  But the IFRT report of August 1974 reported that for many the biggest disappointment of the week was their no-show. They were assigned to the House Judiciary Committee hearings on impeachment and could not leave until the committee recessed. Then a power failure at Newark Airport rerouted and backed up planes at LaGuardia and Washington. They described it as forces of nature conspiring against them.

On a positive note, IFRT met for less than its scheduled 14 hours. It ended its one year anniversary as the largest round table with 1150 members. And decided in the absence of a realistic estimate of overhead expenses of ALA and feeling that such a decision should go before the IFRT membership, and in view of staff services provided, the executive board recommended that a $500 donation be given to ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom for services rendered.

The Future

Intellectual Freedom Round Table

It is interesting to think about which cases, causes and decisions we give our attention to today and that will be textbook in the future.  The events of this year that cause our conference to be cancelled are epic and will be written about, movies will be made, and we will talk about them for years, certainly as a force of nature. And then, just as now, as we look at our finances, ask for realistic answers from ALA. . 

This will end, libraries will open, books will be banned, and WE WILL MOVE FORWARD with all it entails and find something the membership can accept. IFRT is a grassroots organization, ordinary people as the main body of an organization. We will be solving all of our problems in our libraries, in our organizations, in ALA and in this round table in new ways, because we have new problems, and we have to. Give what you can, learn what you don’t know, invest in something you believe in. Join a committee, this is a perfect year for it.

Wanda Mae Huffaker

Wanda Mae Huffaker is a librarian for Salt Lake County, Utah. She is the chair-elect for ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Round Table and former chair for the Utah Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee. She knits, crochets, hangs with her grandchildren, and researches family history. And of course, she reads banned books. 

The Intellectual Freedom Round Table (IFRT) provides a forum for the discussion of activities, programs and problems in intellectual freedom of libraries and librarians; serves as a channel of communications on intellectual freedom matters; promotes a greater opportunity for involvement among the members of the ALA in defense of intellectual freedom; promotes a greater feeling of responsibility in the implementation of ALA policies on intellectual freedom. 

Follow us on Twitter @IFRT_ALA.

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