IFRT Votes! Meet the Candidates

Advocacy, Intellectual Freedom News, Professional Development

The Intellectual Freedom Round Table will hold elections for chair-elect, treasurer, and directors-at-large (2) this spring! Members are invited to meet the candidates with a virtual event on February 9th and by reading the candidate biographies below. More information about the responsibilities of each office can be found in the IFRT Handbook. Kudos to the IFRT Nominating Committee for recruiting this robust slate of candidates for 2023!

Meet the Candidates Event

Be an informed ALA elections voter and join us for the virtual IFRT Meet the Candidates Event on Thursday, February 9th 4pm CT. You will have the opportunity to learn more about and ask questions of the candidates running for: Chair-Elect, Treasurer, and Directors-at-Large (2). Register via Zoom to receive a confirmation email with connection details for the event.

Candidate Biographies

Chair-Elect

Vote for one of three candidates:

Michael Blackwell

Michael Blackwell is Director of St. Mary’s County Library (Maryland). He has maintained an interest in Intellectual Freedom issues throughout his professional career but became especially engaged from 2016 through 2019 when he worked with the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom and the Maryland Library Association to fight challenges to the library’s collection, programming, and meeting room use, including an effort to amend state law to seize control of the library board. He serves on the Intellectual Freedom Round Table (IFRT) to give back for the support he received, to help others who face challenges, and to support the freedom to read. He has served as Chair of the IFRT Oboler Awards Committee, on the Communications Committee, as a guest blogger, and as a Director-at-Large. Michael is also interested in library architecture, serving as co-chair of the CORE Architecture for Public Libraries Committee, and in library digital content issues, serving as past Chair of the Ebooks Interest Group and the on the Joint Digital Content Working Group.

Johannah Genett

Johannah Genett has been an active member for IFRT for the past 3 years. She was the chair of the Membership Committee in 2020-1 when this committee piloted free IFRT membership for library students, resulting in 150 new IFRT members. That year, this committee also hosted the First All Member Gathering of IFRT. She was the chair of the Immroth Committee in 2021-2 and that committee succeeded in greatly increasing the number of nominees for this award. She is currently the chair of the Programs & Events committee, planning two virtual events for the coming year. She is also  a committee associate on the Intellectual Freedom Committee. Johannah is the deputy director of support services for Hennepin County Library overseeing the library’s collection, IT, and learning & development. In this role, she regularly oversees book and website challenges and she speaks on the topic of censorship to various community groups.

Jennifer Coffey Griswold

My name is Jennifer Griswold, I am the Director of the Pflugerville Public Library in Pflugerville, Texas. I am running for the Chair Elect for the Intellectual Freedom Round Table.   

I have worked for Pflugerville since 2006 as the Reference Librarian, Assistant Director, and for the past six years, Library Director. I have a background in news research, and I have a B.A. in English from St. Edwards University, and a Master of Science in Information from the University of Texas.

I was the 2018 Texas Librarian of the Year and am a current member of the Texas Library Association Queers and Allies Roundtable; the ALA Social Responsibilities Roundtable, the Freedom to Read Foundation Board of Trustees, the ALA Intellectual Freedom Roundtable, the Texans for the Right to Read, and the staff liaison for the Pflugerville Equity Commission.

Recently, many of our colleagues have been censored, threatened, bullied and in some cases, fired for providing access to ideas and experiences of historically marginalized groups. 

How can we as a nation attain compassion and empathy for our fellow humans, if the experiences of select populations are erased? How can we have a free exchange, or even a conversation, if only certain voices are allowed to be heard?

We in the information professions need to band together to combat censorship right now. We cannot wait until it directly impacts us.  It is time to gather our forces, lobby our stakeholders, book publishers, distributors, colleagues, and our supporters and make our voices heard. 

We need to take to social media, create media campaigns, and organize protests against censorship.  We need to educate, organize and support each other, and fight back against these attacks on our basic civil liberties. We need to stop being passive and stand-up to the politicians, hate groups, and those individuals who have an agenda bent on only allowing only one point of view to exist.

Ignoring it will not make it stop, hiding from it won’t make it go away, and if we each wait until our own libraries are directly impacted, it will be too late.

By working with the IFRT I hope to help create a visible and effective campaign against censorship, educate librarians, and give them resources to aid them in the fight, and to create a workable plan of action to support our colleagues and our profession going forward.

Treasurer

Vote for one of four candidates:

Steph Barnaby

Steph Barnaby is the IDEAS (Information Delivery & Access Services) Librarian at Northeastern University Library in Boston, Massachusetts. Steph has served IFRT as a director at large as well on the Publications & Communications, Membership Promotion, Programming & Events, Coalition Building, Bylaws & Organization Oboler Award, and the Educational Advisory Special committees. She received her Masters’ in Library and Information Science at San Jose State University’s School of Information in 2018. She previously worked at the Fineman & Pappas Law Libraries at Boston University’s School of Law as the Evening Library Supervisor. She loves books, vegan comfort food, traveling, meeting new people, coffee, music, and Doctor Who.

James G. Neal

Jim Neal is University Librarian Emeritus at Columbia University, and served as Vice President for Information Services during 2010-14.  Previously he was Dean of University Libraries at Indiana University and Johns Hopkins. He has extensive experience in all aspects of intellectual freedom, including many terms on the board of the Freedom to Read Foundation. Over his 50 years of work in libraries, he has remained a vocal and energetic advocate for intellectual freedom in libraries, universities and communities. He fought in the 1980s against the FBI efforts to gather circulation records about our international students. I was an early advocate for open access to research. He worked on the successful battle to set aside the Computer Decency Act.

He traveled around the US after 9/11 speaking and consulting on how libraries should manage the response to the USAPATRIOT Act. He has worked for over two decades with FTRF on banned books and censorship, on intellectual freedom and new technologies, on intellectual freedom and professional education, on expanding threats to privacy, and on the need to bring social and racial justice into the intellectual freedom agenda. He is the recipient of the FTRF Roll of Honor Award and the NYLA Intellectual Freedom Award. He is an Honorary Member of the American Library Association.

Jim Neal has extensive experience serving on boards and committees nationally and internationally. He was 2017-18 President of the American Library Association, and has served as chair and on the board of many library organizations. He was a member of the OCLC Board of Trustees during 2010-2021, also serving on their finance and investment committee.  He is a member of ALA’s Endowment Trustees.  He was ALA Treasurer during 2010-2013, and has served as treasurer and on the budget committees of many library organizations. He has been very active in the divisions and round tables of ALA. He was recently appointed by the White House to a five-year term on the National Museum and Libraries Services Board.

For a detailed bio, go to http://www.columbia.edu/~jneal.

Dr. Jennifer Steele 

Dr. Jennifer Steele is an Assistant Professor in the School of Library and Information Science at The University of Southern Mississippi. She earned both her MLIS degree and her Ph.D. in Communication and Information Sciences from The University of Alabama. Her research focuses on intellectual freedom, censorship, and information access.

Dr. Steele is an active member of the Intellectual Freedom Round Table. She is currently serving as IFRT Treasurer, and previously served as Chair of IFRT’s Program Committee. Other IFRT service includes the Coalition Building Committee, the John Phillip Immroth Memorial Award Committee, the Nominating Committee, the Education Advisory Special Committee, and IFRT’s Liaison to the Planning and Budget Committee. 

Stacy R.J. Tomaszewski

Stacy Tomaszewski is the Electronic Resources Librarian at Alameda County Library.  She previously worked at the San Jose Public Library and Hawaii Pacific University Libraries, and was a long-time librarian at the Hawaii State Public Library System. She got her MLIS from The University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Directors-at-Large

Vote for two of four candidates:

Kristin Pekoll

Kristin Pekoll is a former YA librarian from Wisconsin. For eight years she provided professional and emotional support to library workers experiencing bans and challenges as the assistant director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. She is the author of Beyond Banned Books: Defending Intellectual Freedom throughout Your Library published by ALA Editions in 2019. Currently she works with the Illinois Library Association as their Conference and Continuing Education Manager. https://www.linkedin.com/in/kristinpekoll 

Cynthia Dudenhoffer

Cynthia Dudenhoffer is an Associate Teaching Professor in the School of Information Science and Learning Technologies at the University of Missouri.   She has served as MO Library Association President, receiving the Gerald Hodges Chapter Award for IF work in 2021.  She previously served in a variety of rolls within RUSA and ACRL. She currently provides IF and privacy training for academic and public libraries.

Sam Jack

Sam Jack is the adult services librarian at Newton Public Library in Newton, Kansas. He is a member of the IFRT’s Publications and Communications Committee, and was part of the 2022 ALA Emerging Leaders team that created the Intellectual Freedom Syllabus for the IFRT. Outside of the library world, Sam enjoys writing poetry and singing opera and classical choral music.

Pilar Martinez

Pilar Martinez is the Chief Executive Officer of the award-winning Edmonton Public Library, where she is responsible for leading 650 staff and managing a $69M operating budget. Never settling for the status-quo, Pilar is passionate about service excellence and is continually striving for improvement. She has championed numerous innovative services, including community-led and digital initiatives, such as 3-D printing.  Pilar has a broad base of experience in executive leadership including advocacy, strategic planning and change leadership. She holds a MLIS from the University of Alberta, a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in English from Acadia University and is a Certified Corporate Director (ICD.D). Pilar is highly engaged with the community, serving on several boards nation-wide, including the Urban Libraries Council, OCLC Board of Trustees, the Public Lending Rights Commission, and as an Adjunct Professor for the University of Alberta’s School of Library and Information Studies. She has served on the Working Group of the Centre for Free Expression for several years and is passionate about advocating for the fundamental value of intellectual freedom.  Pilar has received several honours including the CLA/Ken Haycock Award for promoting librarianship, the Library Association of Alberta’s President’s Award in 2016 for her contributions to the library field and the Distinguished Alumni Award by the Library and Information Studies Alumni Association in 2018.

Composed by the Intellectual Freedom Round Table Publications and Communications Committee

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