November 17, 2016

Support for Natalya Sharina

Martyn Wade via
Nov 16
to ifla-l

Dear Colleagues

You may recall that IFLA has made a number of statements regarding Natalya Sharina – a Russian Librarian who is accused of inciting hatred by having “extremist” books on the shelves of the Library of Ukrainian Literature in Moscow. Donna Scheeder, IFLA President, has also written to the Russian authorities expressing our concerns. (See,, After being held under house arrest for over a year her trial has now commenced. (See this report on the BBC News website for more information:

Amnesty International have also raised concerns over the case against Natalya Sharina, calling her a prisoner of conscience. They are asking for supporters to write appeals to the Russian Prosecutor General and Chairman of the Investigation Committee of the Russian Federation. For more information see the Amnesty website at

IFLA remain concerned over the unnecessary and disproportionate treatment of Natalya and continue to be in touch with her lawyer and to monitor the situation.


Martyn Wade

June 8, 2016

New from ALA: Journal of Intellectual Freedom and Privacy

ALA’s OIF has begun publication of a new journal, the Journal of Intellectual Freedom and Privacy (JIFP). It replaces and expands the Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom (NIF).

The table of contents is here.

You will notice an article by yours truly, which is about SRRT’s Alternatives in Print Task Force, the attention to media monopoly issues in the 80s and 90s, and a related 2007 report from the IFC “Subcommittee on the Impact of Media Concentration on Libraries.”

Additionally, in the review section there is a review of the recent Library Juice Press publication, Where are all the Librarians of Color? The Experiences of People of Color in Academia.

We’re proud to be a part of this first issue of JIFP, and we look forward to seeing future issues.

May 20, 2016

IFLA-FAIFE statement on the continuing detention of the Director of the Library of Ukrainian Literature

Message from Martyn Wade, IFLA-FAIFE chair. (IFLA is the International Federation of Library Organizations, and FAIFE is its Committee on Freedom of Access to Information and Freedom of Expression.)

Dear Colleagues,

In November IFLA issued a statement expressing strong concern over the targeting of the Library of Ukrainian Literature in Moscow by the police, and the arrest and house detention of its Director Natalya Sharina. Natalya was charged on suspicion of inciting hatred or animosity toward a social group. IFLA believed that this action was disproportionate and unnecessary, and called for the issue to be resolved in a calm manner without further escalation.

Since then Natalya has been charged with gross embezzlement and she remains under house arrest.

IFLA believes that libraries and librarians have a key role in supporting human rights, including freedom of access to information and freedom of expression, and an attack on libraries or librarians is an attack on democracy and culture. It remains of the view that the treatment of the Library of Ukrainian Literature, and its staff – and in particular Natalya Sharina – is completely disproportionate and unnecessary.

Donna Scheeder, President of IFLA, has now written to the Chairman of the Investigation Committee of the Russian Federation, and the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation on behalf of IFLA calling for Natalya to be released from house arrest, and for the cessation of all legal action.

IFLA-FAIFE has also issued a further statement on the position of Natalya Sharina which can be found at

Amnesty International is also continuing to campaign for Natalya Sharina’s release and has issued an Urgent Action report which can be downloaded in English, French or Spanish from The Update includes the addresses of the Chairman of the Investigation Committee and the Prosecutor General.

Martyn Wade
Chair, FAIFE

March 8, 2016

Library Juice Press Handbook of Intellectual Freedom wins the Eli M. Oboler Award

“The Library Juice Press Handbook of Intellectual Freedom” named 2016 Eli M. Oboler Award winner

Tue, 03/08/2016

Shumeca Pickett
Administrative Assistant
Office for Intellectual Freedom

The Intellectual Freedom Round Table has announced the winner of the 2016 Eli M. Oboler Memorial Award, which recognizes the best published work in the area of intellectual freedom. The 2016 award goes to The Library Juice Press Handbook of Intellectual Freedom, edited by Mark Alfino and Laura Koltutsky. The publisher is the Library Juice Press.

In recognizing The Library Juice Press Handbook of Intellectual Freedom, the Oboler Award selection committee said it believed that the book was an enormous contribution to the existing literature and indispensable to a thorough discussion of the subject of intellectual freedom. The book looks at intellectual freedom from a wider range of theoretical perspectives and in connection with a wider range of cultural topics, under the premise that “thought and action about intellectual freedom needs to be informed by a broader and more complex range of topics and theoretical reflection than it typically has been.” The 21 articles focus on topics including threats to intellectual freedom, academic freedom, the arts, the internet, censorship along with connections to contemporary social issues and institutions, and historical and cultural theories.

The Eli M. Oboler Memorial Award, which consists of $500 and a certificate, is presented for the best published work in the area of intellectual freedom. The award was named for Eli M. Oboler, the extensively published Idaho State University librarian known as a champion of intellectual freedom who demanded the dismantling of all barriers to freedom of expression. The award has been offered biennially since 1986.

The award will be presented at the IFRT Award Reception & Member Social at the ALA Annual Conference in Orlando in June.

The Intellectual Freedom Round Table is now accepting nominations for the 2018 Eli M. Oboler Memorial Award.

The Intellectual Freedom Round Table (IFRT) provides a forum for the discussion of activities, programs, and problems in intellectual freedom of libraries and librarians; serves as a channel of communications on intellectual freedom matters; promotes a greater opportunity for involvement among the members of the ALA in defense of intellectual freedom; promotes a greater feeling of responsibility in the implementation of ALA policies on intellectual freedom.

December 9, 2015

Review of the Library Juice Press Handbook of Intellectual Freedom

A review of our Handbook of Intellectual Freedom was just published on the website of ADBS, the main library association in France. The review, by Joachim Schöpfel, is in French, but Google translate makes it fairly readable in English. The book is very timely in the French context, as the reviewer points out. We’re very happy to see this connection to our colleagues in France.

April 27, 2015

CPJ releases annual assessment of press freedom worldwide

CPJ releases annual assessment of press freedom worldwide

New York, April 27, 2015 – Terrorist groups and the governments who purport to fight them have made recent years the most dangerous period to be a journalist, the Committee to Protect Journalists found in its annual global assessment of press freedom, Attacks on the Press, released today. Some journalists are kidnapped or killed by militant groups while others are surveiled, censored, or imprisoned by governments seeking to respond to that threat, real or perceived.

Attacks on the Press is a collection of essays by regional experts and CPJ staff that examines the array of challenges journalists face. The 2015 edition features a foreword by CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, a member of CPJ’s board of directors.

“Journalists are being caught in a terror dynamic, in which they are threatened by non-state actors who target them and governments that restrict civil liberties including press freedom in the name of fighting terror,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “Attacks on the Press surveys this new landscape, providing insights into the myriad threats- from surveillance and self-censorship to violence and imprisonment-that make this the most deadly and dangerous period for journalists in recent history.”

Non-state actors, including criminal organizations and violent political groups, pose a significant threat to journalists as well as a challenge to press freedom advocates and news organizations. In places like Mexico and Paraguay, trafficking organizations are the primary threat. One essay examines how in 2014 journalists became props in propaganda films, reflecting a global trend in the documentation of violence by the perpetrators. Another essay looks at how journalists cope with continuous risks to their well-being.

Further essays examine how governments abuse anti-terror and national security laws to silence criticism. Ethiopia, one of the world’s worst jailers of journalists, has charged most of the journalists behind bars with promoting terrorism. Egypt under President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi uses a similar technique; the country recently sentenced three reporters to life in prison because of alleged connections to the Muslim Brotherhood. In fact, across the Middle East, the Internet is treated as an enemy, as leaders are all too aware of its power in galvanizing anti-government movements.

In Europe, journalists must contend with limitations in the name of privacy, a rise in right-wing extremism, and homegrown terrorists such as those who murdered eight journalists at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. As in the U.S., a focus on national security forces journalists to think and act like spies to protect their sources, as CPJ Staff Technologist Tom Lowenthal writes.

The combination of threats poses an array of safety concerns for journalists. Conflict in Syria has reshaped the rules for covering conflict, as Janine di Giovanni writes. Many of those covering Syria are in fact covering their first war. Freelancers make up an increasing percentage of journalists killed for their work, leading CPJ and a coalition of press freedom organizations and media outlets to advocate for better global standards for protecting them and the local journalists on whom they rely.

The book is rounded out by essays on the different forms of censorship-wielded by governments and non-state actors-in Hong Kong, India, Libya, Russia, South Africa, Turkey, Ukraine, and West Africa during the Ebola epidemic.

Attacks on the Press was first published in 1986. The 2015 print edition is published by Bloomberg Press, an imprint of Wiley, and is available for purchase.

Note to Editors:

Attacks on the Press is available in English and select essays are available in Arabic, Chinese, French, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish.

For social media, CPJ suggests using the hashtag #AttacksOnPress.

On April 21, CPJ released a segment of Attacks on the Press, the 10 Most Censored Countries worldwide, a ranking of where the news media is most restricted by state control.

CPJ is an independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide.
Media contact:

Samantha Libby
Advocacy Officer
Tel. +1 212-300-9007

Ashley Parent
Communications Associate
Tel. +1 212 300 9032

April 11, 2015

Islamophobic ALA Banned Books Week Poster


Thus far I’ve seen little in the way of active controversy over this ill-advised ALA poster celebrating 2015’s Banned Books Week. There were a couple of messages recently on the SRRT email discussion list, which brought this to my attention. Clearly, the image links suppression of information with the religion of Islam, depicting a woman whose eyes are showing through her niqab. No one denies that there is suppression of information in a number of countries where Islam is the national religion, but this image implies an identity between the religion and the practice of censorship. I think most of us can think of some American muslims who would take offense at that. Perhaps they are even members of the American Library Association.

I’m surprised that ALA actually put this poster up for sale.

January 7, 2015

Statement from French library associations on the Charlie Hebdo attack

Statement from the ABF (Association des Bibliothécaires de France) and the ACIM (Association pour la coopération des professionnels de l’information musicale) on the attack at the Charlie Hebdo offices…

The ABF and the ACIM always take a position against censorship.

Today, January 7, 2015, a new low was reached: the assassination of those who bring a different voice, in the name of an unjustifiable and extreme ideology, and in a country that prides itself on having freedom of expression for all.

The ABF and ACIM gives their full support to the Charlie Hebdo team.

They reaffirm the importance of a free press, but also of libraries where it is possible to access all forms of expression, which counters intolerance and censorship while encouraging respect of others and coexistence.

Original statement in French…

November 25, 2014

IFLA Internet Manifesto 2014

IFLA approved its first Internet Manifesto in 2002. This provided an early recognition of the vital role that the Internet plays in the work of library and information services, and ensuring that individuals and groups have free access to information and can freely express themselves.

The world has changed significantly since 2002 both physically and digitally, and we now have a greater experience and understanding of the role of the Internet and digital resources in our services, and in developing connected societies where individuals have the skills that they need to exploit the opportunities that technologies can bring. We also have a greater understanding of the threats that can be posed through the Internet including the impact on human rights of inappropriate monitoring and surveillance, and from criminal activity.

See: Internet Manifesto 2014

This update to the Internet Manifesto reflects this experience and reinforces the vital role of library and information services in ensuring equitable access to the Internet and its services in support of freedom of access to information and freedom of expression.

Martyn Wade
Chair, FAIFE

The Internet Manifesto 2014 was endorsed by the IFLA Governing Board in August 2014.

The FAIFE Committee will review the IFLA/UNESCO Internet Manifesto Guidelines in the coming months, in light of the Internet Manifesto 2014.

September 8, 2014

Message from Patrick Keilty on the Salaita dismissal

Dear Colleagues,

Some of you may have heard about the recent controversy surrounding Professor Steven Salaita, who was dismissed from his tenured faculty position by the Chancellor and Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, for controversial statements he made on Twitter.

I am writing to ask you to consider signing a petition of LIS practitioners and scholars in support of Professor Salaita’s intellectual freedom and freedom of speech.

The American Association of University Professors lays out the facts of the case in their letter to the Chancellor.

You can also see a letter of concern from the American Historical Association, and another letter from the American Anthropological Association.

Brian Leiter, a constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago, outlines the constitutional ramifications of UIUC’s decision.

As of this writing, eleven departments at UIUC have taken votes of no confidence in the Chancellor, a national conference held at UIUC has been canceled, and countless speakers have pulled out of speaking engagements at UIUC. Thousands of scholars have signed petitions in support of Professor Salaita, including discipline-specific petitions. You can find one petition of scholars here.

I ask you to please consider signing the petition of LIS practitioners and scholars.

Thank you.

All best,

Patrick Keilty
Assistant Professor
Faculty of Information
University of Toronto

August 7, 2014

U.S. sought to edit the historical record of a court proceeding

This news from the Electronic Freedom Foundation:

UNSEALED: The US Sought Permission To Change The Historical Record Of A Public Court Proceeding

A few weeks ago we fought a battle for transparency in our flagship NSA spying case, Jewel v. NSA. But, ironically, we weren’t able to tell you anything about it until now.

On June 6, the court held a long hearing in Jewel in a crowded, open courtroom, widely covered by the press. We were even on the local TV news on two stations. At the end, the Judge ordered both sides to request a transcript since he ordered us to do additional briefing. But when it was over, the government secretly, and surprisingly sought permission to “remove” classified information from the transcript, and even indicated that it wanted to do so secretly, so the public could never even know that they had done so.


Letter from Don Lash to NYPL on one-sided “controversial” labeling of Israel/Palestine studies

Letter from Don Lash to New York Public Library President, on one-sided “controversial” labeling of books on Israel/Palestine:

Dear President Marx,

I previously communicated with your office in an e-mail on August 5, during which I expressed concern that access to important work by the prominent academic historian Ilan Pappe was restricted to a non-circulating research collection and could only be viewed by appointment. It was also given a “trigger warning” in the form of a categorization as “controversial literature.” I informed you that I had made an offer through AskNYPL to arrange donation of copies of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine to circulate. I have since received a response, and I was pleased that this offer was accepted.

My remaining concern is over the fact that the Dorot Jewish Division, the research collection that as of now has the only copy of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, is permitted to to characterize work critical of Zionism and Israel as “controversial,” a designation that is not used for pro-Israel, anti-Palestinian literature in its collection or elsewhere in the NYPL catalog. The designation is used for a range of historical and political works beyond those of Pappe. More troublingly, in effect such works are associated with other literature given trigger warnings by the collection, most notably virulently anti-Semitic literature and Holocaust denial literature. The implicit suggestion is that these categories are somehow akin, which is not only offensive but indefensible on the merits. In addition to the content-based stigmatization of one perspective on the history of Palestine/Israel, the trigger warning is a disservice to students and scholars, who may be misled by the characterization into thinking the work is of dubious quality. This is particularly likely when access is restricted and library patrons would have to make an extraordinary effort even to see the work.
I suggest that you or a designee look at how the collection is applying these trigger warnings, what criteria is used, and whether the effect of this practice is to privilege work promoting one viewpoint and disadvantage work promoting others. While these practices appear to be limited to the Dorot collection, I think this matter affects the integrity of NYPL as a whole.

Thank you for your careful consideration of this matter.

Don Lash

July 15, 2014

Zoia Horn has passed on

I have just learned that Zoia Horn died on July 12th. She has been an inspiration to me from the time I was in library school in the late 90s. I was inspired by her memoirs and later by her personally when I visited her Berkeley. (I have just found out that her memoirs, ZOIA! Memoirs of Zoia Horn, Battler for the People’s Right to Know, are online in full text at

This announcement of her 2002 Jackie Eubanks Memorial Award goes into some nice biographical detail. Besides the Jackie Eubanks Award, which was given by the Alternatives in Print Task Force of SRRT, she also received the 2002 Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award, given by the UIUC GSLIS. Here is part of the announcement of that award:

Thirty years ago, when Zoia Horn was subpoenaed to appear at the trial of the “Harrisburg Seven,” she refused to testify, was found in contempt of court, and jailed for three weeks. This jail sentence effectively ended her library career, but she used her information skills in her work for both the Center for Investigative Reporting and DataCenter, both of Oakland, CA. She has also remained active in intellectual freedom issues over the years, chairing the Intellectual Freedom Committees of ALA, New Jersey Library Association, and the California Library Association, sponsoring resolutions affirming the confidentiality of the relationship between libraries and their users. In 1986, Horn brought her Right to Know project from DataCenter to ALA, who then formed the Coalition on Government Information, a group of about 50 organizations that are interested in stemming the trend toward less public access to government information.

The California Library Association gives an annual Intellectual Freedom Award named in her honor.

When someone dies, I always find it less tragic when that person has lived to a ripe old age and had a full life. Zoia was 96 years old when she passed on. That is old; she did not die before her time. I want to take this occasion to honor and celebrate her life.

One last link – this article from the Berkeley Daily Planet in 2004: Zoia Horn Takes Pride in Provoking.

Zoia, thank you for all that you did.

(The photo above taken by me at the protest of the SF Marriott during the 2001 ALA conference. It was an informational picket for the workers who were fighting for a contract.)

June 19, 2014

Piracy: Leakages from Modernity

Piracy: Leakages from Modernity

Editors: Martin Fredriksson and James Arvanitakis
Price: $40.00
Published: July 2014
ISBN: 978-1-936117-59-8
Printed on acid-free paper

Available on Amazon

“Piracy” is a concept that seems everywhere in the contemporary world. From the big screen with the dashing Jack Sparrow, to the dangers off the coast of Somalia; from the claims by the Motion Picture Association of America that piracy funds terrorism, to the political impact of pirate parties in countries like Sweden and Germany. While the spread of piracy provokes responses from the shipping and copyright industries, the reverse is also true: for every new development in capitalist technologies, some sort of “piracy” moment emerges.

This is maybe most obvious in the current ideologisation of Internet piracy where the rapid spread of so called Pirate Parties is developing into a kind of global political movement. While the pirates of Somalia seem a long way removed from Internet pirates illegally downloading the latest music hit or, it is the assertion of this book that such developments indicate a complex interplay between capital flows and relations, late modernity, property rights and spaces of contestation. That is, piracy seems to emerge at specific nodes in capitalist relations that create both blockages and leaks between different social actors.

These various aspects of piracy form the focus for this book, entitled Piracy: Leakages from Modernity. It is meant to be a collection of texts that takes a broad perspective on piracy and attempts to capture the multidimensional impacts of piracy on capitalist society today. The book is edited by James Arvanitakis at the University of Western Sydney and Martin Fredriksson at Linköping University, Sweden.

Table of Contents

List of Acronyms

Martin Fredriksson and James Arvanitakis

Part I – Ontology

The Pirate Imaginary and the Potential of the Authorial Pirate
James Meese

To Name a Thief: Constructing the Deviant Pirate
Virginia Crisp

“You Can’t Change Our Ancestors Without Our Permission”: Cultural Perspectives on Biopiracy
Daniel F. Robinson, Danielle Drozdzewski and Louise Kiddell

Piratical Community and the Digital Age: The Structural Racialization of Piracy in European Law and Culture
Sonja Schillings

Part II – Politics

Modernity, Law and the Violence of Piracy, Property and the State
Sean Johnson Andrews

‘Pirates’ in EU’s (Semi)Peripheries: A Comparative Case Study on the Perceptions of Poles and Greeks on Digital File-sharing
Yiannis Mylonas

The IPR GPR: The Emergence of a Global Prohibition Regime to Regulate Intellectual Property Infringement
Lucas Logan

BitTorrent: Stealing or Sharing Culture? A Discussion of the Pirate Bay Case and the Documentaries ‘Steal this Film’ I & II
Ekin Gündüz Özdemírcí

The Internet Between Politics and the Political: The Birth of the Pirate Party
Mariacristina Sciannamblo

Cultural Resistance or Corporate Assistance: Disenchanting the Anti-Capitalist Myth of Digital Piracy
You Jie

Part III – Practices

The Justification of Piracy: Differences in Conceptualization and Argumentation Between Active Uploaders and Other File-sharers
Jonas Andersson and Stefan Larsson

Set the Fox to Watch the Geese: Voluntary IP Regimes in Piratical File-sharing Communities
Balázs Bodó

Pirate Economies and the Production of Smooth Spaces
Pavlos Hatzopoulos and Nelli Kambouri

The Collaborative Production of Amateur Subtitles for Pirated TV shows in Brazil
Vanessa Mendes Moreira De Sa

After Piracy: Reflections of Industrial Designers in Taiwan on Sustainable Innovation
Yi-Chieh Jessica Lin

Piracy is Normal, Piracy is Boring: Systemic Disruption as Everyday Life
Francesca da Rimini and Jonathan Marshall

An Epilogue – Privacy is Theft: On Anonymous Experiences, Infrastructural Politics and Accidental Encounters
Ned Rossiter and Soenke Zehle

Author biographies

June 1, 2014

Commentary on The Speaker – Al Kagan, Pat Schuman, Mitch Freedman

The SRRT discussion list has been alive recently with comments – objections, to be accurate – to ALA’s decision to present a screening and discussion of the controversial 1977 film, The Speaker. Here is a sampling of some of the better ones, from Al Kagan, Pat Schuman, and Mitch Freedman, followed by a link to a good resource for further study of this, put together by the ALA Library.


On Wed, May 21, 2014 at 7:39 AM, Kagan, Al wrote:

I find it outrageous that the film is coming back to haunt us. Most of the the key players of that time have died, but there still are a few people around who could contextualize the serious outrage that this caused with passion. I am surprised that the Black Caucus would co-sponsor it. One of the presenters is Bob Wedgeworth. He played a key role in the production and hid the real intent from almost everyone of what was going on. The debacle overshadowed everything else in Eric Moon’s presidency. Here is a short excerpt from my forthcoming book:

Major Owens said that it revealed a “secret agenda of racism,” and E. J. Josey asked members “to support the humanity of black people.”[i] Sandy Berman circulated a statement that was signed by sixty-five prominent librarians. It read in part,

WE ARE ASHAMED AND DISGUSTED. The American Library Association has produced a film, The Speaker, that purports to deal with intellectual freedom and the First Amendment. It does not. Instead, it distorts and confounds the First Amendment. But even worse than this intellectual dishonesty is the film’s wanton assault upon Black people. In effect, it says: “Blacks are irrational. Blacks are unprincipled. Blacks must be ‘protected’ by Whites. And Blacks may indeed be less than fully human.”[ii]

Bill Eshelman, editor of Wilson Library Journal, put it this way:

…The decision to make the ‘liberals’ the villains who wish to prohibit the free speech of the “reactionary” is very strange and flies in the face of the facts of American, if not ALA history…It makes one question whether the IFC knows who the real enemies of the First Amendment are.”[iii]

[i] Kister, 343.

[ii] Sanford Berman, “E.J. and Me: Twenty Years of Correspondence and Agitation,” in E.J. Josey: An Activist Librarian, ed. Ismail Abdullahi (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 1992), 72.

[iii] Eshelman, 254. See also Donnarae MacCann, ed., Social Responsibility in Librarianship: Essays on Equality (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1989), 7-8.


Pat Schuman wrote:

Actually there are at least three Past-Presidents — Mitch Freedman, Betty Turock, and myself who are very much alive and very much around and can offer context. John Berry, who is also very much present at ALA, reported extensively on the issue.

It is disturbing that even the current press release announcing the film’s showings and the program already indicates a bias by saying:

“Many ALA members objected to the film’s subject matter and the process by which the film was produced. ”

WRONG. What many of us who voted against ALA distributing the Speaker objected to was the poor manner in which the “the subject matter” was treated –for example, the racist stereotyping of the characters, and the false dichotomy of the film ( if you are upset by racist comments you must be for censorship). No one suggested destroying the film. Personally, I opposed giving it ALA’s imprint, not because it dealt with inviting a racist speaker, but the WAY it dealt with the reactions. Many others were also appalled, including the President and the President-elect at the time (Eric Moon and Clara Jones) as well as future President and founder of the ALA Black Caucus EJ Josey. Clara, by the way, was the first African American to direct a major public library ( Detroit) and the first to become President of AL A. A vote against ALA putting its imprimatur on the the film was not a vote for suppressing or destroying it. Our votes were no more for “censorship,” than American Libraries rejecting an article, or ALA Publishing deciding to reject a book that did not meet its standards. The Speaker was poorly conceived and poorly executed. We did not want it to be the representation of our Associations view of intellectual freedom to the world. The marketplace obviously agreed — only a few hundred copues were sold.

Of course, in those days we were often bludgeoned with cries of censorship when we discussed to racism and sexism in children’s books, objected to sexist language, etc. We can only hope that the discussion does not deteriorate once more into a meaningless, but very destructive, hurtful–and false– “intellectual freedom vs. social responsibility debate.”

Deidre may be right. Ignoring this turn of events may be the best course of action. Members can judge for themselves how bad the film looks now, and how it must have looked in the context if the mid -seventies ( barely a decade after ALA itself desegrated its Chapters).



Mitch Freedman:

As Pat indicated, I too was appalled by The Speaker.

It was a warped and bad idea that never should have seen the light of day. But once ALA paid for it–which purportedly made it beyond reproach & criticism–trying to get it put away because of its overall defectiveness was targeted as “censorship”.

As ALA Honorary Member designate, Patricia Glass Schuman indicates below, discarding a book that turned out to be unworthy of addition to the library collection is what we call collection development, not censorship.

The movie was sooooo bad.

One of its joys that permanently stuck in my mind was that the African-American who had dark skin was portrayed as a “bad” guy (a censor) and the “good” guy was a very light-skinned African-American. That little piece of its reality was one of the reasons I opposed it.

Judith Krug, the head of the Intellectual Freedom Office and a bosom buddy of Nat Hentoff’s got the whole intellectual freedom community to defend her egregious error, i.e. the release of the movie. Of course Hentoff went after any opponents of the film as betrayers of ALA, intellectual freedom and the First Amendment.

I ask you, if you buy a DVD or a book that turns out to be a piece of crap when you read or preview it, what do you do? Put it in the trash because its lousy, or publicize and disseminate it so you can’t be called a censor.

A great example from real life:

A really sweet guy and director of a rural Minnesota library system ordered a few copies of the Illustrated Report of the Presidential Commission on Obscenity and Pornography. When the books came in, he realized that they were published by the like of PlugLust, a San Diego porn house, and that the report was an excuse for publishing all of the pornographic photos. The funny part of the story is that he put the books in a drawer in his desk. He woke up in the middle of the night terrified that he might die before the morning and people would find the books in his desk and would think he was a librarian who not so secretly kept a stash of porn in his desk.

The next day when he discarded them permanently because they were a wholly unintended horrible mistake, the same advocates for The Speaker would accuse him of censorship–at least if they were consistent.

If instead it was okay to dump it because it was a terrible mistake, then rather than being censorship it was reconsideration of what was a mistake.

Well, folks, all opposition to The Speaker was tarred with the censorship brush.

And all of its defenders were front line freedom fighters defending the First Amendment who fought the repressive librarian censors.

I see no difference between the two cases: the porn books honestly ordered and honestly thrown out because it turned out their selection and purchase were a terrible mistake; and the case of The Speaker which was created with–I trust–good intentions, but which turned out to be a divisive, degrading and dishonest movie.

Sadly because it had IFC’s imprimatur it became the cause of the intellectual freedom establishment.

I’ll fight censors, but when something is crap, it’s my job to not compound the mistake by keeping the item in the library for fear of being called a censor.

E.J. Josey the foremost African-American of librarianship for all time, fought The Speaker with his heart and soul.

That the Black Caucus is bringing it back must have E.J.’s spirit weeping the bitterest of tears.

mitch freedman, ALA President, 2002-2003?


For further reference:

Pathfinder of resources on The Speaker compiled by the ALA Library: