Exhibit: ALA and Intellectual Freedom

The ALA Archives is excited to display materials on intellectual freedom at the ALA Annual Conference this year! This exhibit will run from Friday afternoon through Sunday morning by the ALA members lounge, near the exhibit hall. However, we know that not everyone will get a chance to view the exhibit or look at the documents as carefully as they would like. This blog post will give you a chance to enjoy the exhibit materials remotely, and perhaps even see documents that didn’t make it into the case. Click on the images to view the documents closer or to access the full version of the item.

While censorship and book bans are currently on the rise, the fight against censorship and restrictions to information is an old one. Intellectual and academic freedom became a particular concern for the American Library Association in 1939, after ALA adopted the Library Bill of Rights. This document has figured prominently in ensuing discussions of the relationship between America’s libraries, librarians, and the concept of intellectual freedom.

Since the adoption of the Library Bill of Rights, ALA staff and members have been dedicated to defending and promoting intellectual freedom. Their commitment is demonstrated through the establishment ALA units and organizations with the mission to champion the freedom to read. This includes the Intellectual Freedom Committee in 1940, Office for Intellectual Freedom in 1967, Intellectual Freedom Round Table in 1973, and the incorporation of the Freedom to Read Foundation by ALA members in 1969.

This exhibit celebrates ALA’s history of fighting censorship, books bans and challenges, and the defense of the First Amendment by displaying documents, photographs, and publications preserved in the ALA Archives.


The Library's Bill of Rights
The Library’s Bill of Rights, 1944

The 1939 version of the Library Bill of Rights with an amendment from Council at the bottom from 1944. The original Library Bill of Rights was written by Forrest Spaulding for the Des Moines Public Library in 1938 and then adopted by ALA in 1939. Although the Library Bill of Rights covers a variety of duties and responsibilities for America’s libraries and librarians, some of the document’s most powerful statements speak directly to the preservation of intellectual freedom.


The Freedom to Read statement
The Freedom to Read, May 1953

Disturbed by a “trend toward the restriction of the free trade in ideas,” the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee and American Book Publishers Council planned a conference in Westchester, New York, on the Freedom to Read with librarians, publishers, and the public. It produced the landmark statement, “The Freedom to Read,” which opens with, “The Freedom to Read is essential to our democracy. It is under attack.”


Photograph of people sitting at tables in discussion
American Heritage Project, Oct. 1954
Photographs of four people sitting at a desk
American Heritage Project, Oct. 1954

Photographs from training sessions in Mississippi of the ALA’s American Heritage Project. The Project was a national adult education program focused on reading about a shared American heritage and community discussion, which promoted intellectual freedom through critical thinking and open conversations.


The school library bill of rights
School Library Bill of Rights, 1955

An adaptation of the Library Bill of Rights for school libraries, created by the American Association of School Librarians and endorsed by Council in 1955. One of the responsibilities of school libraries was, “To provide materials representative of the many religious, ethnic, and cultural groups and their contributions to our American heritage.”


Document listing responsibilities of the Office for Intellectual Freedom with handwritten notes.
Responsibilities of Intellectual Freedom Office, Dec. 9, 1965

A draft of the responsibilities assigned to the Office for Intellectual Freedom and a job description for its director before OIF’s establishment, written by Samray Smith, Staff Liaison of the Intellectual Freedom Committee, for ALA Executive Director David Clift. Handwritten annotations can be seen on the document, likely comments from Clift.


Contact sheet with images of Judith Krug and Bob Hale.
Judith Krug Interview, 1973

Contact sheet of photographs taken of Judith Krug, director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom, and Bob Hale, Midwest Editor of the NBC Today Show. Hale interviewed Krug two days after ALA filed a petition before the U.S. Supreme Court seeking a rehearing on its decisions about obscenity in Miller v. California.


Letter from Phillip Immroth to Roger Funk
J. Phillip Immroth Letter, August 30, 1973

Letter on the beginnings of the Intellectual Freedom Round Table from J. Phillip Immroth, a founder of the IFRT, to Roger Funk, assistant director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom. Immroth declares to Funk that, “We got letterhead, that means that we are real.”


Letter from Allan Marshall to Judith Krug
American Booksellers Association Letter, July 7, 1982

Letter from Allan Marshall, of the American Booksellers Association, to Judith Krug, director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom, about ABA’s successful Banned Books exhibit and inviting OIF to cosponsor the first Banned Books Week in 1982.


Hand colored poster that reads "Caution This Library Contains Dangerous Books! Read at your own risk!"
Caution This Library Contains Dangerous Books! Sept. 1983

Hand colored Banned Books Week poster from September 1983. Since the start of Banned Books Week in 1982, the Office for Intellectual Freedom has received numerous requests for posters, packets, and press kits from libraries across the country to bring awareness to banned and challenged books.


Freedom to Read Foundation Roll of Honor Award
Carrie C. Robinson – Freedom to Read Foundation Roll of Honor Award, 1991

Freedom to Read Foundation Roll of Honor Award given to Carrie C. Robinson. She was a founding trustee of FTRF, member of ALA and the Black Caucus of ALA, and a founder of the Alabama Association of School Librarians. She is also known for fighting racial discrimination in filing a complaint against the Alabama State Department of Education in 1969.


Two individuals holding an award plaque
John Swan Posthumously Given the Immroth Award, 1994

Photograph of an individual receiving the Intellectual Freedom Round Table’s John Phillip Immroth Memorial Award on behalf of John Swan. Swan was nominated by Sue Kamm before his death in 1994. He was a former chair and beloved member of IFRT, known for spirited discussions and “never losing sight of his goal—to protect and defend intellectual freedom.”


Man standing at a banned books display
Banned and Challenged Books Exhibit, 1994

Mark Goniwiecha displaying a Banned and Challenged Books exhibit at the 4th Annual Conference of the Pacific Islands Association of Libraries and Archives at Tamuning, Guam.


Text of a speech with handwritten notes
“The First Amendment: Perspectives on the Freedom of Speech,” Judith Krug, Oct. 10, 1996

A speech written and delivered by Judith Krug, director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom, for the South Central Research Library Council in Binghamton, New York, on October 10, 1996. In a thank you letter to Krug for the speech, Susan Frey, Special Programs Manager of SCRLC, states, “We all need to be reminded now and again of the beliefs that are at the core of our profession.” Please note that the Archives’ copy of the speech is incomplete and pages are missing.


Books Challenged or Banned in 2002-2003
Books Challenged or Banned in 2002-2003 by Robert P. Doyle

An annotated bibliography by Robert P. Doyle for the 2003 Banned Books Week of books challenged, restricted, removed, or banned between 2002-2003 as reported in the Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom. On the first page, Doyle notes that, “this bibliography is incomplete because many prohibitions against free speech and expression remain undocumented.”

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