IRFT Member Spotlight – Dorcas Hand

Intellectual Freedom Committee, Intellectual Freedom Round Table

Dorcas Hand is a retired school librarian who faced a few materials challenges during her career, but none that reached the level of current events. She currently holds a seat on the board of the Freedom to Read Foundation and serves as the Retired Members Round Table liaison to the ALA Committee on Library Advocacy (COLA). Dorcas co-chairs the COLA Ecosystem Initiative Subcommittee and is the ALA Chapter Councilor for Texas. She is one of the coordinators of the Texas Library Association Intellectual Freedom Helpline which supports Texas librarians who need moral and resource support around intellectual freedom questions and/or challenges. (Note: The Helpline does not replace any of the work of OIF, rather it provides a state-level lens.) Retirement could not have come at a better time, freeing up Dorcas to continue to serve the profession in many vital ways.

Dorcas Hand

1. What made you want to be a part of the IFRT?

Like most librarians, I have experienced challenges over my career. Now that I am retired, I have time to actually focus on the work required to sustain the essential freedoms to read, write, speak and think. And we are certainly beset by an organized effort that attacks intellectual freedom from many directions simultaneously. IFRT is a core committee of ALA, one that every librarian should join and work to support. I have been a member for years, but mostly a lurker until recently. The work of defending the Freedom to Read requires the thoughtful work of many, and I’m among that throng. I’m happy to contribute here and elsewhere, including through my involvement in the Freedom to Read Foundation and the Texas Library Association.

2.  What is your favorite part about being in IFRT?

Most of all, IFRT is here and ready NOW when it is needed, as it has been in the past. Our work today continues to make an impact as we move into a future in which we confront the autocratic censorship efforts in play. There are so many other IFRT members who focus their efforts here. By nature, I have always worked on many levels so I contribute to IFRT through my work in Texas and my work on the FTRF Board. My work in the ALA COLA Ecosystem Initiative reminds me often that our stand for intellectual freedom and against censorship is one that all types of libraries share, and IFRT is one place where we can all come together to work with common purpose. I appreciate the community that is IFRT, the amazing leadership I have observed here over my years on Council, and the ongoing development of new resources and mutual support systems for our colleagues on the front lines, whether or not they have yet had the foresight to join IFRT.

3.  Have you joined any IFRT programs lately? What was your favorite?

I love keeping up with the Top 10 Most Challenged Books each year. Celebrating Banned Books Week is a way to remind the world that books unite us. The Intellectual Freedom Manual is a basic resource for all librarians; I always have had a copy handy. The 50th Anniversary of the Freedom to Read was a standout event. It is so important that we celebrate the past work of IFRT at the same time as we raise awareness and advocacy for the current extreme challenges librarians are facing today.

4.  If you could meet your favorite banned book character, who would you meet and why?

I feel like I did meet Winston Smith in Houston’s (TX) Alley Theater presentation of 1984, the play adapted from the Orwell novel (1949). Spare and stark in setting, the presentation continues to haunt me often as it reminds me of how important the work of IFRT and the IF community is. I had not read the book in many years, but  while watching the play, I was up close and personal with a society that we need to prevent even as it seems to edge closer each day. Winston certainly figured that out. I have a vivid imagination, but this adaptation to the live stage reminded me viscerally why I read and why I care so passionately that everyone is able to read freely and widely in order to learn about and participate in this amazing and complex world we live in.

Composed by the Intellectual Freedom Round Table Publications and Communications Committee. Follow us on Twitter @IFRT_ALA.

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