Meet the 2019 Intellectual Freedom Bloggers!

Intellectual Freedom Issues, Office for Intellectual Freedom

By: Kristin Pekoll, OIF Assistant Director

Eager and willing to start 2019 with trending news about book challenges, intriguing interviews of authors and librarians and authoritative content from the a broad range of library fields, the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) is pleased to introduce ten new bloggers in addition to five strong voices who continue to share thought provoking original content about a core value of the librarian profession.

The Intellectual Freedom Blog’s purpose is to educate and encourage discussions about intellectual freedom principles and promote the value of libraries, librarians, and professional membership in the American Library Association (ALA). The blog is managed and edited by staff of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) to raise awareness of time-sensitive news, issues in the field, upcoming events, helpful resources, and the work of members.


Here are the 2019 Intellectual Freedom Bloggers:

(and just to shake things up, I’ve listed them in reverse alphabetical order!)

Tess WilsonTess Wilson is an Outreach Librarian at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, and a trainer with The Mentoring Partnership of Southwestern Pennsylvania. Her writing can be found on the YALSA and OIF blogs, on VIDA Reviews, and at Made in PGH. She was a 2018 ALA Emerging Leader, a PaLA Leadership Academy participant, and a Library Freedom Institute participant. She collects everything from big dictionaries to small rocks. Find her on Twitter @tesskwg.
Brian WatsonBrian M. Watson is a historian of the book and sexuality, and works as a pre-professional archivist at the Kinsey Institute. They are especially interested in histories of privacy, censorship, and queer theory. After receiving a History and English BA, they received a MA in History and Culture from Drew University and are currently pursuing a MLIS in Archives and Digital Humanities at Indiana University Bloomington. Their first book, Annals of Pornographie: How Porn Became Bad resulted in an appearance on Conan O’Brien and elsewhere, and they are currently working on histories of post-war sexuality until the Reagan & AIDS and another on the history of nonmonogamy. They work as a pre-professional graduate assistant at IUB’s Scholarly Communications department and also as a volunteer moderator and podcast host for the world’s largest academic history forum, AskHistorians. Find them on twitter @HistoryOfPorn.
Rebecca SlocumRebecca Slocum has worked in education as a teacher and library consultant for the last five years and is a recent MLIS graduate student from the University of North Texas. She is interested in issues involving intellectual freedom, censorship and collection development in school libraries. In her spare time, Rebecca enjoys reading, writing, running and roaming the world. Currently, she stays at home caring for her son and writes at her blog, The Dewey Decimator. Find her on Twitter @bcslocum.
Ross SempekRoss Sempek is a recent MLIS graduate as well as a volunteer for the Multnomah County Library System in the beautiful state of Oregon. As a makerspace program assistant, he facilitates a weekly gaming club for local teens. He comes from a blue-collar family that values art, literature, and an even consideration for all world-views. This informs his passion for intellectual freedom, which he considers to be the bedrock for blooming to one’s fullest potential. It defines this country’s unique freedoms and allows an unfettered fulfillment of one’s purpose in life. When he is not actively championing librarianship, he loves lounging with his cat, cycling, and doing crossword puzzles – He’s even written a handful of puzzles himself.
Robert SarwarkRobert M. Sarwark is a librarian at the Art Institute of Atlanta and a 2018-2019 Visiting Fellow in Publishing History at Harvard University’s Houghton Library. His scholarly interests include historical and contemporary censorship, with a particular focus on the (now-defunct) Catholic Index of Forbidden Books. He is originally from Chicago and enjoys dogs, pizza, and writing bios in the third person. Find him on Twitter @RobSarwark.
Lisa RandLisa M. Rand is the youth services coordinator at Boyertown Community Library in southeastern Pennsylvania, a role that carries a special interest in protecting youth access to diverse programs and materials. She exercises her commitment to equity and access for everyone by serving on the Intellectual Freedom Committee of the Pennsylvania Library Association. Lisa developed a passion for Constitutional Law and First Amendment issues while at Simmons College, and continued her studies at the New School in New York City. Whenever possible she travels, visiting libraries and walking in the footsteps of favorite fictional characters. Find her on Twitter @lisa_m_rand.
Vicky Ludas OrlofskyVicky Ludas Orlofsky has been the Instruction & Scholarly Communication Librarian at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ, for more than five years. She has long had a personal and professional interest in issues of copyright, user privacy and intellectual freedom, which has informed her approach to instruction and reference. She lives in New Jersey with her family, and in her spare time, such as it is, enjoys bakeries, reading, and bullet journaling.
Allyson MowerAllyson Mower, MA, MLIS is head of Scholarly Communication & Copyright at the University of Utah Marriott Library. She’s very curious about curiosity, what drives people to uncover information, and how libraries of all types create demand for knowledge. As a tenured faculty member, she researches the history of academic freedom — a kind of intellectual freedom — and the history of authorship and scholarly communication at the institution. She provides the U of U community and the general public with information, tools and services related to both copyright and publishing. Allyson was a Library Journal Mover & Shaker in 2008, was nominated as a 2012 Society for Scholarly Publishing Emerging Leader, and served as the U of U Academic Senate President in 2014. Find her on Twitter @allysonmower.
Katherine MercerA Latina native of Los Angeles, California, Katherine J. Mercer is proud in recently becoming a local to the Lone Star State as one of the literacy coordinators for the Dallas Public Library. After receiving her B.A in English literature from Humboldt State, then immediately choosing to travel the world for a few years while working odd end jobs, she has landed some stability in an economy that allows her the freedom to blossom in her career and life. While in Texas, Katherine has come to love and appreciate the vast cultural differences the community has to offer, including the southern hospitality, affordable living expenses, intense changes in traffic patterns, and the delicious slow-cooked brisket. She misses the beach rat life, but gets by knowing it will always be right where she left it. Follow her @KATxLA.
Lisa Hoover is a public services librarian at Clarkson University and an adjunct professor in criminal justice at SUNY Canton. In addition to her MLS, Lisa holds a JD and an MA in political science. She began her career as an editor and then manager for a local news organization, adjunct teaching in her “spare time.” She teaches courses in criminal procedure, criminal law and constitutional law. She is passionate about First Amendment issues. She recently began her career as a librarian, starting at Clarkson University in June 2017, teaching information literacy sessions and offering reference services. Lisa and her husband Lee live in Norwood, New York, with their cats Hercules and Pandora, and pug-mix Alexstrasza (Alex). Find her on Twitter @LisaHoover01.
Rebecca HillRebecca Hill is a freelance writer who writes on libraries, literacy, science education and other topics for a variety of online and national magazines. Currently she writes a science education column for VOYA magazine. She hold a MLS from Indiana University Purdue University and JD from Valparaiso University. Her interest in intellectual freedom has been peaked by the increase in technology via artificial intelligence and social media. Currently she serves on the Indiana Library Federation Board of Directors and the Purdue University Libraries Dean’s Council. She is also on the Library Board of Trustees for her local library. A long time advocate of libraries, reading, writing and all things words are her passion.
Jamie GregoryJamie M. Gregory is a National Board Certified Teacher in Library Media working in her 6th year as a school librarian at James F. Byrnes High School in Duncan, SC. Previously she taught high school English and French for 8 years. Her academic interests include book censorship and academic freedom in K-12 schools, inquiry-based learning, information literacy, and literacy in high school classrooms. She is an active member of the South Carolina Association of School Librarians serving as the 2019-2020 Chair of the South Carolina Book Award committees. When she is not reading or researching, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two sons cooking, traveling, playing board games, and going to Iron Maiden concerts. Find her on Twitter @gregorjm.
Ned DavisNed Davis has been Executive Director of the Friends & Foundation of the Rochester Public Library since 2010. He was recently honored with the New York Library Association’s ‘Intellectual Freedom Award’ in recognition of his effort to make connections, clear obstacles and find resources allowing the Library to host lively discussions, big thoughts, diverse stories, colorful people and ideas that stretch boundaries. In his non-spare time he also plays several musical instruments of and with varying degrees of difficulty and skill.
Tommy Vinh BuiTommy Vinh Bui is a paragraph-peddler hailing from the bonnie barrios of Pacoima. He has an assortment of lugubrious-sounding degrees and was a Peace Corps volunteer in a dusty and distant land long ago. Tommy has an unswerving interest in intellectual freedom and his fingertips and keyboard reflect this. He may have impulse control problems.
Kelly BilzKelly Bilz is a graduate student from Kentucky pursuing her MLIS with a specialization in academic libraries. She works in her university’s Special Collections as well as the local history department of a public library. Kelly first heard about intellectual freedom in her Information in Society course and has spent the time since arguing with her friends about intellectual freedom in algorithms, ethics, and institutional integrity. Because she is passionate about history and the cultural record, Kelly is interested in how intellectual freedom affects access to genealogical records and ethical collecting practices in archives. In her free time, Kelly enjoys listening to podcasts (especially Ear Hustle) and watching old movies (like Lady from Shanghai). Find her on LinkedIn.


Kristin PekollKristin Pekoll is the Assistant Director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom and is the first contact for support to librarians and educators who are experience censorship. Kristin communicates with state library associations on current book challenges and publications that deal with censorship, privacy, ethics, and internet filtering. She organizes online education and training on the freedom to read and how to navigate reconsideration requests and media relations. Kristin started her career as a youth librarian in West Bend, Wisconsin where she experienced a book challenge to over eighty YA LGBTQ books. This summer she will be publishing her first book with ALA Editions titled Beyond Banned Books: Defending Intellectual Freedom throughout Your Library. In her free time she enjoys watching the Green Bay Packers and working on jigsaw puzzles. Find her on Twitter @kpekoll.

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