New Orleans in June: stifling heat outside, sweater weather inside, and another ALA Annual Conference successfully navigated in possibly the longest convention hall in the country. For those who had to miss it this year, here are some of the highlights from an ALSC intellectual freedom angle:
- No doubt you have heard that the ALSC Board voted unanimously to change the name of the Wilder Award to the “Children’s Literature Legacy Award”. Unfortunately, there has been quite a bit of confusion and misinformation circulating about this decision. It is well worth your time to read the entire ALSC Statement about its decision, and to follow up with the blogpost by Jamie LaRue, Director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom, here. The title of the award now aligns more closely with one of ALSC’s core values, inclusiveness, and should not be interpreted as an attempt to censor Wilder’s books.
- Concerned about information literacy? At a panel discussion about “Fake News”, it was suggested that when a person cannot tell whether information is true, they are functionally illiterate. This was a good reminder about the importance of putting information literacy front and center in our libraries’ missions – and including our young patrons in the effort.
- Interested in bringing Drag Queen Storytime to your library? ALSC Committee Members received tips for optimizing success from library pioneers who have already done it. We also had the chance to meet a Drag Queen who talked about the value of offering this program, including fostering empathy, tolerance, creativity, imagination and fun. Drag Queen Story Hour is a non-profit and you can find out more at its homepage.
- What do you know about the Freedom to Read Foundation? The FTRF is basically the legal arm of the ALA. It supports libraries and librarians in defending the First Amendment, often directly participating in freedom of speech and of the press cases. Now would be a great time to consider joining! Join FTRF.
- The Board of Trustees of the FTRF held its annual meeting the day prior to the start of the ALA Conference. Legal Counsel, Theresa Chmara, reported that in the case of Noah Gonzalez, et al. v. Diane Douglas, after years of decisions and appeals, a federal judge struck down an Arizona state ban on Mexican-American studies in high schools. According to the judge, the state violated students’ constitutional rights “because both enactment and enforcement were motivated by racial animus”. Attorneys’ fees were awarded to the plaintiffs. Just days later, the Tucson Unified School District school board decided not to re-implement the previously successful Mexican-American Studies program, saying that its new “Culturally Relevant Curriculum” is essentially equivalent. Read more.
- Worried you might be asked to, or want to, disinvite a speaker? Wondering whether you must allow certain groups to use your library spaces? You’re in luck. The ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee just revised three interpretations of the Library Bill of Rights regarding Library Initiated Programs, Meeting Rooms, and Services to People with Disabilities. Find them here. The IFC also wrote a Q & A for “Responding to & Preparing for Controversial Programs and Speakers”. Q & A Link.
- And finally, ALSC’s IF Committee was pleased to learn that two documents it has worked on are scheduled to be made available for downloading. Look for “Kids, Know Your Rights” and “Parents, Know Your Kid’s Rights” soon. We will share details when they become available.
Betsy Boyce Brainerd, J.D., M.L.I.S., is a Co-Chair of the ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee, and works as an Early Literacy and Family Place Librarian for the Arapahoe Libraries in Centennial, CO.
Post Note: I wrote this piece last week. Soon afterward, the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee came under fire because language included in the new Meeting Rooms interpretation appeared to place hate speech in the same category as other types of constitutionally protected speech. Legally, it is. But, the question raised is whether the ALA can mention hate speech as protected speech while making clear that the ALA itself does not condone or endorse hate speech. In an effort to address the concerns, Julia Warga, the new Chair of the ALA IFC, has confirmed that the IFC will begin work on revising the Meeting Rooms: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights.