Gift giving is part of the tradition of the holiday season, whether you celebrate St. Nicholas Day, Christmas, Hanukkah, Milad un Nabi, or Kwanzaa. If you support the freedom to read and access information in libraries in all formats, consider giving your friends and family non-traditional intellectual freedom-themed gifts. Here are a few ideas:
Increase diverse books in library collections: Read Jenna Grodzicki’s recent blog post “We Need Diverse Books More Than Ever.” Enable children to see their faces and lives reflected in the books in the libraries they use. In a family or friend’s name, make a donation to your local school or public library to help them expand the diversity of their collections.
Little Free Libraries: The first little free library was created in 2009 in Hudson, Wisconsin, in memory of Todd Bols’s mother, a teacher and avid reader (LFL, History). The idea caught fire, and by November 2016, number 50,000 was installed at a homeless shelter in Santa Ana, California (LFL, “Big Milestone). Read my December 2015 blog about Little Free Libraries, and give the gift of reading to children and adults in your neighborhood.
Leroy C. Merritt Humanitarian Fund: In this season of giving, consider helping librarians who have risked their careers and whose employment has been threatened because they defended the principles of intellectual freedom. Read the story of a Nebraska librarian who got in trouble for teaching English classes to immigrants on her own time and how the Merritt Fund assisted her. To learn more, view a brief video about how the Fund works. To make a donation, call 800-545-2433, ext. 4226. A donation of any amount will make a difference.
The Journal of Intellectual Freedom & Privacy: Want your gift to educate the recipient? Give a subscription to this online journal that debuted in May 2016 as an “expansion” of The Journal of Intellectual Freedom, a print magazine published from 1952-2015. As privacy becomes a greater priority in libraries, it is being interwoven in the new journal’s content. Barbara Jones and James LaRue, former and current Office for Intellectual Freedom executive directors respectively, expressed their vision for the new publication: “We hope the journal will grow in content, coverage, and complexity based on readers’ input and needs” (JIFP 2016). Published quarterly, the cost is $75.00. Subscribe here or call 800-545-2433, extension 4225.
Freedom to Read Foundation (FTRF) membership: One of the FTRF’s purposes is “Protecting the public’s right to access information and materials in the nation’s libraries” (FTRF). Preserve students’ right to read in school libraries by giving a gift membership to FTRF. In addition to supporting litigation and grants to those defending the First Amendment in libraries, members receive an e-newsletter reporting news of legal battles and educational efforts to support First Amendment speech in libraries and an annual free webinar on intellectual freedom topics. Information about memberships is found here or call the FTRF office at 800-545-2433, extension 4226.
Time: Finally, in this busy world, give the intangible gift of time. Read with children and other loved ones, and freely discuss the world of ideas found in books. During national uncertainty, books can offer knowledge, insights, and the free flow of ideas that our country needs after a divisive election. Reading together is a personal action to push back against the 2016 word of the year—post-truth.
Freedom to Read Foundation. “About FTRF.” http://www.ftrf.org/?page=About (accessed November 16, 2016).
LaRue, James and Barbara Jones. “Editorial.” Journal of Intellectual Freedom & Privacy. Volume 1 Number 1 (Spring 2016). https://journals.ala.org/jifp (accessed November 14, 2016).
Little Free Library. “The History of Little Free Library.” https://littlefreelibrary.org/about/ and “Big Milestone for Little Free Library: 50,000 Libraries Worldwide.” https://littlefreelibrary.org/big-milestone-for-little-free-library-50000-libraries-worldwide/ (accessed November 17, 2016).
Westermayer, Till. “Candles III.” December 23, 2010. Used under Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License. https://www.flickr.com/photos/tillwe/5286519818/sizes/z/.
Author: Helen Adams
A former school librarian in Wisconsin, Helen Adams is an online senior lecturer for Antioch University-Seattle in the areas of intellectual freedom, privacy, library ethics, and copyright. A member of the AASL Knowledge Quest Advisory Board, the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee, and a KQ blogger, she is the author of Protecting Intellectual Freedom and Privacy in Your School Library (Libraries Unlimited, 2013) and contributor to The Many Faces of School Library Leadership (2nd edition, Libraries Unlimited, 2017). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.