The Merritt Fund

Intellectual Freedom Round Table, LeRoy C. Merritt Humanitarian Fund

Since 1970, the LeRoy C. Merritt Humanitarian Fund has provided support—monetary as well as personal—to librarians who have been denied employment rights or discriminated against on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, race, color, creed, religion, age, disability, or place of national origin; or have been denied employment rights because of defense of intellectual freedom: that is, threatened with loss of employment or discharged because of their stand for the cause of intellectual freedom, including promotion of freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and the freedom of librarians to select items for their collections from all the world’s written and recorded information.  The Merritt Fund was established as a special trust in memory of LeRoy C. Merritt to provide direct financial aid to librarians faced with denial of these rights.

The Merritt Fund has made a huge difference for many people who have found themselves in difficult employment and defense of intellectual freedom situations.

Merritt Fund

Karla Shafer served as director of the Hooper (Nebr.) Public Library for six and a half years before a controversy erupted in 2010 over the English classes she taught to immigrants in a nearby town on her days off. She resigned her position when the work environment became untenable. Three months later, her unemployment benefits were canceled, following an appeal from the city.

With money running out and few other options available to her, Karla turned to the Leroy C. Merritt Humanitarian Fund for assistance. The Fund gave Karla $5,000 to help pay her overdue bills and legal expenses. “What I perceived as harassment and punishment would have truly destroyed me had it not been for the Merritt Fund,” Shafer said. “It is still hard to describe the emotional suffering of those months.”

In 2011, Karla moved to Omaha and accepted a part-time library position. “It is very evident there comes a time for many of us when we need others – even strangers – to say ‘Here, I’ll help you. That could have been me!”

IFRT is a major supporter of the Merritt Fund. We encourage all IFRT members to go to the Merritt Fund donation page to support this worthy fund.  The Merritt Fund is supported solely by donations and contributions from concerned groups and individuals. Contributions to the Merritt Fund are not tax-exempt, because they are used to give direct aid to individuals without reference to Internal Revenue Service requirements regarding tax-exempt organizations. Hence, contributions do not qualify as personal tax deductions for donors.

In addition to IFRT’s Merritt Fund Support Committee, the Merritt Fund is managed by trustees elected every year. The LeRoy C. Merritt Humanitarian Fund elections have just taken place and the 2021 trustees are Sara Dallas, Robert P. Holley (newly elected), Steve Norman, and Julia Warga. Trustees meet to confidentially review applications and manage the Fund. Contributors to the Fund during the previous fiscal year and through April 30 of the election year are considered members of the Fund and are eligible to vote in the annual election of trustees.

Your support of the Merritt Fund is essential to librarians in need.

Composed by the Ma’Lis Wendt, Chair of the Intellectual Freedom Round Table Merritt Fund Support Committee. Follow us on Twitter @IFRT_ALA.

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