ALA Virtual Conference 2020

Intellectual Freedom at #ALAVirtual2020

When I realized Nadine Strossen, former president of the American Civil Liberties Union, would be a speaker, I was super excited! Strossen led the ACLU from 1991 until 2008, and is currently a professor at New York Law School. The program, titled “Intellectual Freedom, Hate Speech, the First Amendment, and You” took on the nuances of the First Amendment and its relation to the 2018 ALA Meeting Room interpretation. 


Strossen and co-host Peter Coyl, Director of the Montclair (NJ) Public Library, noted that the freedom of speech encompasses all speech, but  that allowing a group to use a library’s space, or having a book on its shelves, is not an endorsement. The current meeting room statement is one of inclusivity on a non-discriminatory basis.


In my current role, this doesn’t come into my day-to-day work often – I don’t have a room to share with different groups or patrons. But when I was managing a branch, we routinely fielded requests to use our programming space. In our case, our programming schedule didn’t permit us to rent the room out, but I know that’s not the case for many libraries. This program, while not too intensive, gave enough of the basics to help participants think through the many roles the First Amendment plays in our daily work, including those meeting room requests.


In these strange, and difficult times, the programs I’ve attended on day 1 at ALA Virtual are asking tough questions. And honestly, most of them don’t have answers. But if this was what day 1 had in store, I’m ready for day 2!

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