ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Round Table (IFRT) will hold elections for its 2021 Executive Board from March 8 – April 7. Each ALA member will receive a ballot via email listing the candidates running for the positions of president, treasurer, director at large, and councilor.
Those members who have been nominated to IFRT’s Executive Board are: Crystal Schimpf, Steve Norman, Peter Coyl, Amanda Vazquez, Johana Orellana Cabrera, Kristin Green, Jennifer Steele, Sarah Hartman-Caverly, and Rhonda Evans.
To help you know these IFRT Executive Board nominees a little bit better, we have reached out to each candidate and asked:
- What part of your involvement in IFRT do you enjoy the most?
- What should every person know about intellectual freedom?
- What is the last banned book you have read, and why did you select it?
Read her or his answers below, along with each candidate’s biography.
Steve Norman has served as director of the Belfast (ME) Free Library since 2001. Before that, he was the Director at the Auburn (ME) Public Library and the Waupun (WI) Public Library and the Head of Reference at the St. Joseph (MO) Public Library. Norman has a degree in English from Macalester College and a master’s in Library Studies from the University of Chicago. He is the Treasurer of IFRT; have been IFRT Treasurer and Secretary; and have worked on several IFRT committees. Currently, Norman is a Trustee of the LeRoy Merritt Humanitarian Fund.
1. I have especially enjoyed my work with awards committees and the Membership Committee. Being part of officially recognizing exemplary achievements with awards has been very satisfying. Also, the Membership Committee’s work has helped to keep IFRT the vital group it is now (which is also a tribute to IFRT’s recent leadership).
2. Intellectual freedom is always a struggle. It is not easy. Heretics must be allowed to speak. Today’s heresy could be tomorrow’s conventional wisdom—and vice versa. As it turns out, Copernicus was right that the Earth revolves around the sun!
3. Often, I have chosen a book to read just because I wanted to read a good book. Then, after reading the book, I am surprised to see that it is on the list of frequently challenged books. That has happened with A Handmaid’s Tale, The Things They Carried, Ender’s Game, To Kill a Mockingbird, and others. Powerful ideas have the power to offend. “A truly great library has something in it to offend everyone.”
Rhonda Evans is the Assistant Chief Librarian at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. She supports the management of the Research and Reference Division’s diverse collections, which include books, periodicals, microforms, maps, and databases that focus on people of African descent throughout the world. She provides assistance to researchers in person and remotely through reference work, class instruction, and other outreach activities. Prior to joining the Schomburg Center in 2019, she served as the Electronic Resources Librarian for the Research Libraries at The New York Public Library, where she provided reference and instruction on the Libraries’ over 500 databases. Prior to earning her MLIS she was a practicing attorney, specializing in tort law. Rhonda is a proud former American Library Association Spectrum Scholar and Association of Research Libraries Initiative to Recruit a Diverse Workforce Scholar.
1. I truly enjoy being part of IFRT’s membership committee. Committee participation has allowed me to meet members of the profession from across the country that share my interests in intellectual freedom. The committee also shares the same desire to increase professional involvement in the important issues that IFRT fights for. I enjoy working with the other committee members to come up with ideas that will bring members together and working to create a strong community within the library profession that is actively involved in issues such as privacy, the 1st Amendment, and censorship.
2. I believe something that every person should know about intellectual freedom is that it is intrinsically tied to access. In the recent past IFRT addressed the important issue of access to physical library spaces, but we also need to address access to online spaces and information. With the vast amount of information on the Internet there are a number of barriers that must be broken, specifically addressing the digital divide, which includes issues of information poverty and disability rights. I believe that IFRT, in addition to privacy, 1st Amendment, and censorship issues, should do everything we can to support universal broadband.
3. I recently re-read Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. I chose it because, not only is it my favorite work by Toni Morrison, but also because of the beauty of the writing and the mix of history and African American folklore. Re-reading this novel reminds me how important the IFRT banned books initiative is, it would be a travesty to withhold Toni Morrison from the world!
Jennifer Steele is an Assistant Professor of Library and Information Science at the University of Southern Mississippi. Prior to this position, she served as an Adjunct Instructor of Library Science at Kent State University, Adjunct Instructor of Communication and Electronic Resources/Reference and Instruction Librarian at Mississippi College. Steele is a member of Beta Phi Mu International Library and Information Studies Honor Society, and received her undergraduate education at the University of Montevallo. She received both a Master of Library and Information Studies and Ph.D in Communication and Information Sciences from the University of Alabama. Steele is a member of the Alabama Library Association, American Library Association, Association for Library and Information Science Education, and Association of College and Research Libraries.
1. Getting to meet so many incredible colleagues from across the country and discussing important issues related to intellectual freedom is what I enjoy most about being involved in IFRT!
2. Every person should know what an important issue intellectual freedom is and how being exposed to a variety of different viewpoints, even if they are different from our own, can enrich our society.
3. The last banned book I read was To Kill A Mockingbird. It has always been a favorite, and every so often I feel the need to go back and revisit it!
Crystal Schimpf is Senior Consultant for Public Library Leadership Development at the Colorado State Library, where she provides training and support for public library trustees, directors, and staff. She is a member of the Colorado Association of Libraries (CAL) Intellectual Freedom Committee, and is coordinator for the Trustee Track at the CAL annual conference. She is currently the chair of the ALA Libraries Transform Communities Engagement Grant Committee, and is past chair of the ALA Learning Round Table. She earned her MLIS from San José State University in 2007.
1. As a relatively new member to IFRT, I have appreciated the warm welcome to attend executive committee meetings. I’m also inspired by the energy and enthusiasm of IFRT members to create opportunities to connect. In my experience, ALA round tables offer a great opportunity to engage with fellow professionals on important topics, which is why I chose to get involved with IFRT.
2. When speaking to public library boards about the importance of intellectual freedom, I draw the connection between free speech, freedom to read, and our democratic society. But I actually think the most important thing for us to remember is that intellectual freedom is an idea created by people, and that it is not immutable. We must be willing to look at how the concept of intellectual freedom relates to library work today, and think carefully about how library policy influences our work into the future.
3. Maybe I shouldn’t share this, but I don’t tend to read a lot of banned books. When it comes to intellectual freedom, I’m more likely to be caught reading up about patron privacy, censorship, free speech, and library policies. That said, I did recently get into Shirley Jackson’s short story The Lottery (1948) thanks to a program at the Denver Public Library, and it turns out that story has faced numerous challenges, even being banned in South Africa.
Kristin Green is Reference and Instruction Librarian at Penn State University Libraries, Scranton Campus. Prior to this position, she served as that library’s Interim Head Librarian, Reference and Instruction Librarian, Social Sciences at the State University of New York, College at Geneseo, and as a Graduate Student Assistant at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Green received her undergraduate education at Ramapo College of New Jersey and a master’s in Information and Library Science at the State University of New York at Buffalo. She is a member of the Games and Gaming Round Table, the Graphic Novel and Comics Round Table, the Intellectual Freedom Round Table, the Library Instruction Round Table, the Reference and User Services Association, the Association of College and Research Libraries, the Pennsylvania Library Association, Beta Phi Mu (Beta Delta Chapter), and the American Library Association.
1. I’ve only just begun participating in IFRT committees in the last six months and every experience I’ve had so far has been very positive. I especially enjoy being part of the Bylaws and Organization committee that works to ensure guiding documents accurately reflect the work processes conducted within the IFRT.
2. Intellectual freedom is easier to defend where it exists, rather than to obtain where it doesn’t. Thus we should not take for granted the intellectual freedom we have and defend it with all our will lest it be eroded away from us.
3. Having a toddler, the last banned book I read was Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? that was “accidentally” banned by the Texas Board of Education in 2010 because the author, Bill Martin Jr., shared the same name as author, Bill Martin, who wrote Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation. Of course, Bill Martin’s works should not be banned either but that’s another story altogether.
Johana Orellana Cabrera
Johana Orellana Cabrera is the Adult Services Librarian at North Richland Hills (TX) Library. She was born and raised in El Salvador. Orellana Cabrera earned a B.A. in English in 2010 and an MLIS in 2012 from the University of North Texas. Orellana Cabera is a 2011 ALA Spectrum Scholar and a 2015 ALA Emerging Leader. She is currently serving a second term as an ALA Councilor-at-Large. Orellana Cabrera is a member of REFORMA, the Texas Library Association, the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association, and the American Library Association.
In her spare time, Johana tries to read or cook vegetarian meals. She is a homebody by nature, preferring to stay home with her pets while finding new hobbies.
1. I enjoy being a member of IFRT though not an active volunteer at the moment. I was active in the Intellectual Freedom Committee as a member from 2015-2019 and contributed to many Q&A’s, Library Bill of Rights interpretations, and even conference presentations. I have also served as an ALA Councilor since 2015 and my second term will expire this year. I love reading and collecting the Journal of Intellectual Freedom and Privacy since it’s inaugural volume. I share the intellectual freedom newsletter with other ALA Councilors on a weekly basis. I am a firm believer in the work and efforts of IFRT and am thrilled for the opportunity to serve the Round Table in any way I can.
2. Intellectual freedom is the right that every person can view, receive, and give information and ideas. Every person should know that intellectual freedom can easily be taken for granted and if we, as a community, are to be intentional about protecting it for everyone we must be willing to openly allow others to have that same freedom to express, share, and receive even when we do not agree with them. However, we must vigilant that it is for all the people, not just some people. Only in recent history people of color did not have the same rights as white people in this country, one was of intellectual freedom by denying access to the same schools, libraries, and public buildings. This is still an issue for this country. A prime example is last year’s “Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping,” issued by the White House prohibiting federal employees, contractors, and grant recipients from discussing race theory and diversity training. By prohibiting discussion and education on race, racism, and diversity the intellectual freedom of all these employees and the citizens they serve is restricted.
3. It was not the last book I read, but one that has reemerged in recent months in the news – The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. As a teen I could not find books that mirrored my experiences as an immigrant or my own racial and ethnic identity. The fact that this book has been banned and a school taken to court to have the book removed from their classrooms speaks volumes to the need for having literature that provides multiple perspectives of life experiences for young people.
Amanda Vazquez is Assistant Director of Dubuque County (IA) Library District. Prior to this position, she served as Director of the Orange City (IA) Public Library. Vazquez received her Master of Library and Information Science from San José State University in 2019. She is a member of the American Library Association and the Iowa Library Association.
1. I enjoy participating in IFRT because I can see some of the good work going on within ALA and can stay informed about how IF issues are being considered and handled by the larger organization. I also appreciate interacting with other members of IFRT who bring valuable insights and context to our discussions.
2. Intellectual freedom is a core value of librarianship which can be easily infringed upon by well-intentioned individuals and understanding IF, beyond newsworthy book challenges, is an important responsibility of our profession.
3. The last banned book I read was Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, and I read it as part of a book club. We selected it as part of a several-month effort to read books by non-white authors.
Sarah is a Reference and Instruction Librarian at Thun Library, Penn State Berks, where she liaises with the Engineering, Business and Computing division, the Flemming Creativity, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Development Center, and Berks Launchbox. With her colleagues, Sarah was awarded the 2020 ACRL CLS Innovation in College Librarianship Award for the Discovery Lab, a student-centered project integrating curated browsing collections, pop-up instruction, and library-as-place.
Sarah’s research examines the compatibility of human and machine autonomy from the perspective of intellectual freedom, with publications and presentations focused on privacy, learning analytics, and information warfare. She is co-developer of the Digital Shred Privacy Literacy Toolkit and four-part Penn State Berks Privacy Workshop Series, available as Creative Commons-licensed open educational resources.
In addition to her service with the IFRT Education, Publications, and Executive Committees, Sarah is an OIF Intellectual Freedom blogger for 2020 and 2021, and co-founder and -moderator of the Heterodox Academy HxLibraries community. She is also active in institutional service, including on Berks campus student success and sustainability teams, and as a past co-chair of Penn State University Libraries Research Committee.
Prior to her current appointment, Sarah was an instructional librarian, library systems administrator, e-resources manager, and serialist in community college and small liberal arts college libraries. Sarah earned her MS(LIS) and MSIS from Drexel University in 2011, and BA Anthropology with a minor in urban studies and concentration in Africana studies from Haverford College in 2007. Outside of the library, Sarah is a certified master gardener and practicing permaculturist, stewarding an edible landscape and caring for a flock of spoiled chickens and hives of ornery bees with her husband, Will.
1) My favorite part of serving with IFRT is also the hardest part: grappling with really tough questions about the freedom of expression and privacy. Is advocating for the freedom to read and free expression the same as endorsing or amplifying viewpoints that others find objectionable or dangerous? What are the risks and benefits of collecting and using patron data – including for public health contact tracing? I value the thoughts and experiences of my peers and the publics we serve, but remain convinced that intellectual freedom should remain a first order principle for libraries – if only because there are so few other organizations dedicated to defending it.
2) Everyone person should know that there’s no you without intellectual freedom. Without the ability to freely question, seek and interpret information, your ability to form your own thoughts, values, beliefs, and even identity is compromised. Privacy is also necessary to intellectual freedom, because having our intellectual and creative processes subject to monitoring makes us more likely to conform to accepted paths of inquiry and ways of knowing. Without intellectual freedom, it is much harder to get to the truth – both the capital-T Truth, and the truth of one’s own identity.
3) The last banned book I read was Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. Romantic dramas are a guilty pleasure of mine, and I wanted to challenge myself by reading this classic work of Russian literature. But the scene that really delighted me had nothing to do with the human drama – it was the mowing scene, when Levin joins the workers to scythe in the field. I have a naturalized yard with pocket meadows that I cultivate by scything, and I loved seeing the sheer pleasure of that technique represented in literature.
Peter Coyl is an experienced library director skilled in personnel management, program planning, evaluation, budgeting, and finance. With over 15 years of experience in Libraries, he is able to assist patrons from diverse backgrounds with all their library and information needs. Coyl is passionate about encouraging learning through reading and developing the community through outreach and collaborative programs. He has presented at both state and national Library conferences. Coyl has been interviewed in print and radio regarding library issues. He is able to motivate, train and encourage staff.
Coyl is the Director of the Montclair (NJ) Public Library. Prior to that position, he was employed at the Dallas Public Library. Coyl received a masters in Library and Information Science from Drexel University in 2010. His interests include administration and management, copyright, diversity, human resources, intellectual freedom, librarianship, privacy, professional development, public programs, and public services.
1. I enjoy the robust discussion with colleagues about issues around intellectual freedom. I always find the variety of perspectives and experiences allow me to always be learning.
2. Intellectual freedom is a key part of social justice –it is not at odds with it. It can strengthen and amplify voices that otherwise might not be heard.
3. I re-read And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell because it came up in a conversation and I needed to remember the story!
Composed by the Intellectual Freedom Round Table Publications & Communications Committee. Follow us on Twitter @IFRT_ALA.
Laren Anderson has worked most recently at Lipscomb University, in Nashville, where he was an adjunct reference librarian. He has also worked as a Curriculum Materials Collection (CMC) intern at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody Library. Laren recently received his Master of Information from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
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.