Sarah Burchart is an Information Resources Technical Specialist at ICPSR, a social science data archive at the University of Michigan, where she finds and adds citations of related publications to the ICPSR Bibliography of Data-Related Literature. She has previously worked in both public and academic libraries and currently serves as a volunteer on IFRT committees and the New Member Round Table’s Endnotes Committee. Sarah has been a member of ALA since 2015.
1. What made you want to be a part of the IFRT?
Encouraging the access to information and knowledge has been something I valued in librarianship ever since starting school for my MLIS in 2015. Because of that interest, I knew I should learn more about the intellectual freedom discussions within ALA and became a member of the roundtable not long after. There is beauty in truth, and I believe the process of reaching the truth is easier and more edifying for everyone involved when we can do so in the spirit of free expression, environments that are safe for inquiry, and good-faith dialogue that affirms our common humanity even through important disagreements. In our current social climate, we’re seeing the relevance of intellectual freedom ethics emerge in places we might have considered relatively detached from such discussions, like library boards or school boards. It’s important to offer a robust case for intellectual freedom and why it’s relevant to librarians and information professionals of all kinds.
2. What is your favorite part about being involved in IFRT?
The news roundups offered on the OIF blog are incredibly valuable in providing practical examples of intellectual freedom cases both in and outside of LIS spheres. I’m also grateful to gain insight from discussions on ALA Connect and see increased focus on member engagement opportunities for the future.
3. Have you joined any IFRT programs recently? What was your favorite?
The first all-membership gathering of 2021 was great for getting to see other members and hear about what they would like out of the roundtable. I look forward to the next gathering coming up soon! It is also an honor to take a more active role as I began volunteering on both the Membership Promotion Committee and John Phillip Immroth Memorial Award Committee this past summer. Even though I am still fairly early on in my career, it’s great to know there’s a place for me to contribute within IFRT – and I hope this encourages other early-career librarians and MLIS students to join and consider volunteering, too!
4. If you could meet your favorite banned book character, who would you meet and why?
Meg Murry of A Wrinkle in Time and its associated works within Madeleine L’Engle’s canon – my love for speculative fiction combines together with the comfort my younger self received from reading about a girl protagonist my age who also grappled with insecurity and anxiety about belonging. L’Engle doesn’t shy away from Meg being flawed but instead includes her flaws as a key component in a battle of cosmic forces. It’s a good reminder of how even our smaller, non-famous courses of everyday action and care can contribute change. Maybe adult scientist/mathematician Meg would be able to teach me more about concepts of space-time, too!
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.