Blogger Intellectual Freedom Committee

Wish You Were Here…ALA Annual 2018

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: 

Spotlight search light shining a bright yellow beam

  • 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.


This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: V. Outreach and Advocacy and VII. Professionalism and Professional Development.


  1. Gary Hondel

    I read the statement and there’s no confusion or misunderstanding. It’s clear to me (as it is to many others) that the ALA is giving in to overly sensitive, popular hype. The award has been given away since 1954, as I understand it, and just now, all of a sudden, it’s “insensitive?” Maybe you should have thought of that decades ago. Now it just appears disingenuous and an attempt to appease opposing forces that are imagined. I promise you, most of the reasonable world does not have a problem with the award being named after Laura Ingalls Wilder. To think that you all deal in knowledge for a living yet are behaving with such unreasonable irrationality. This organization has become willing slaves to its emotions.

  2. Mindy schriver

    The fact that Wilder’ writings do not reflect your core values, but drag queen story hour does, tells me all I need to know about the ALA.

  3. Barbara

    I can see that America’s libraries are rapidly becoming “no-go zones” for Christians. I am deeply offended at the attempt to sully one of my lifelong heroes, Laura Ingalls Wilder. I have read all of her books over and over, first, as a child, and then with my own three sons and now my grandchildren are enjoying her books as well as the tv series. You make yourselves ridiculous by slandering this great woman and then inviting people to bring their innocent children to see perverted men dressed as prostitutes, all in one article. Disgusting.

    1. ALSC Intellectual Freedom committee Post author

      I’m sorry you have interpreted the name change as an attempt to sully the Wilder legacy. I re-read “Little House on the Prairie” last week. I think anyone would agree that times change, social mores change, sensitivities change. What makes a good reading experience for one generation may or may not appeal to future readers. Today’s American population is much more diverse and public institutions have evolved to be more inclusive in outlook. Your grandchildren may well still enjoy the Wilder books. However, there are many children who would feel hurt by the way Native Americans are depicted or, alternatively, who would not understand that the racist attitudes displayed, though historically accurate, are now outdated. But that is all really beside the point, because only the name of the award has been changed. Her books and their legacy are still available for all to read. Meanwhile, the new title reflects the values of the award in a timeless way.
      As for Drag Queen Storytime, my understanding is that the parents who bring their children know what the program is before they arrive and believe that exposure to different types of people will help them to develop empathy and to be less judgmental.

    2. Cathy DePalma

      I agree, libraries are obviously becoming a “no-go zone” for Christians, for all children. What a disgrace to expose children to all of the non-sense about “drag queens” for a liberal sickening agenda that exists to destroy what is left of any moral sense in our Country. Keep it out of libraries, and away from our children. Anyone who knowingly brings a child to any of these types of things should have more sense than this. I will not bring my children to any libraries with this circus going on, that is for certain, and contrary to the ALSC comment below, these are not “judgmental” opinions or lacking “empathy”, just common decency and common sense.

  4. Gary Hondel

    In the misguided attempt to make libraries inclusive, the ALSC is succeeding in accomplishing the opposite. They’re making libraries EXCLUSIVE. They can throw whatever nonsensical excuse at their actions they want, like, changing the name of the Wilder Award because of politically incorrect references within the pages of her books. However, it’s clear that they’re catering to a few in society who can’t handle history as it was and want to erase it (as if that’s possible). If you don’t see things the way they do then you aren’t welcome. They won’t accept my statement or any other opposition to their decisions. They won’t acknowledge fault. In fact, they’ll fight the notion with every angry bone in their body. It’s who they are. They’re slaves to their emotions and given to flights of popular, social hype.

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