How can understanding past conflicts inform our ability to understand current issues? How should libraries and librarians grapple with uncomfortable history, unpopular ideas, and inflammatory speakers and programs in the 21st century?
To help us deal with those questions, the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee and the Association of American Publishers will present a program on the controversial ALA-produced 1977 film “The Speaker … A Film About Freedom” at the 2014 Annual Conference in Las Vegas. In addition, there will be two screenings of the film prior to the program as part of the “Now Showing at ALA” film series. The program, “Speaking about ‘The Speaker,’” is co-sponsored by the Black Caucus of the ALA and the Library History Round Table. For additional information about the program, read the press release.
In addition to the screenings, OIF has posted the film online for the first time, thanks to the ALA Archives at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It can be viewed on YouTube. Additionally, the 1977 Discussion Guide that was included with the film is available as a PDF on the ALA Conference Scheduler. Also posted are several pages from the American Libraries July/August 1977 cover story that provide an excellent overview of the Detroit conference.
The program will take place from 1 – 2:30 p.m. on Monday, June 30, in room N253 of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC). The film screenings will be at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 29, and at 8 a.m. on Monday, June 30, in LVCC room N242. Both screenings will be followed by a moderated audience discussion.
In advance of the program, we will be posting additional thoughts and resources here on OIF Blog about the historical context of the film, why IFC and OIF thought it important to have this discussion in 2014, and to address other concerns that have been voiced since the program’s conception. We welcome your voices in the comments and on your blogs or other social media outlets.
OIF is well aware of the hard feelings – and even pain – the film and its controversy brought to many members of the association. It’s our belief that a thoughtful reflection of the film and the controversy by those who were there, as well as those who have studied and otherwise considered the issues, can help ALA members, particularly those who are newer members, as we continue to discuss often difficult issues within the association.