Are you familiar with the Freedom to Read Foundation (FTRF)? On November 20, 2015, FTRF will celebrate its 46th birthday. Although holding many of the same ideals as the American Library Association, FTRF was founded in 1969 as a discrete organization to protect the First Amendment rights of library users to read and to assist librarians whose jobs were in jeopardy because of their defense of free speech. Although legal action has been a strong tool for FTRF, in recent years, it has increased its focus on educating librarians and the public about the strong connection between the First Amendment and libraries and the need to fight censorship (FTRF Foundation Activities).
Julius Jefferson, an Information Research Specialist at the Library of Congress and president of the FTRF Board of Trustees, speaks directly to school librarians when he says, “FTRF is the only organization that has protected and defended through legal action the right of students to access information as well as protected the ability of school librarians to freely make information accessible to students. Because schools librarians are central to providing access to knowledge and intellectual growth and freedom to our youth, I believe that school librarians are a key component to FTRF achieving its goals. On the other hand, FTRF provides school librarians with support to be successful in fulfilling the important role of making information accessible to the young minds who will someday lead our country” (Jefferson).
FTRF and school librarians—it’s a natural fit. Hilda Weisburg, co-author with Ruth Toor of New on the Job: A School Librarian’s Guide to Success and a retired school librarian from New Jersey, sees the connection. “I have been a member of FRTF for about 30 years. I can’t imagine not being part of FTRF because it represents a fundamental value of librarianship since its inception — providing open access to information. It is also central to democracy. Look anywhere in the world where there is a tyrannical government. The first thing dictators do is take control of the channels of communication and information. FRTF is our watchdog, ready to take on incursions into our freedom, especially the right to read” (Weisburg).
Personal membership in FTRF costs $35 a year. Thank you to the school librarians and library educators who are personal members. FTRF could not continue to defend the First Amendment (and students’ right to access information in libraries) without you. To become a member or renew your membership, select the “Join FTRF” link. Your dues support FTRF’s litigation, education initiatives, and grants. Members receive the “FTRF News” newsletter as well as electronic updates reporting on the work of the organization. They are also eligible to attend free webinars presented by FTRF legal counsel Theresa Chamara. There is a reception for FTRF members attending the Annual Conference; and at Midwinter, FTRF holds its annual author event fundraiser.
What else can FTRF do for you? Annually FTRF’s Judith Krug Memorial Fund provides grants to support Banned Books Week (BBW) activities. 2015 is the seventh year of the grants, and five libraries and organizations received grants. School librarians are eligible to apply for the grants, and in 2014 the Nashua (New Hampshire) High School North was a recipient of a BBW grant (FTRF BBW 2014). Watch for an announcement for the 2016 grant application cycle on the FTRF website, its Blog, and its Facebook page.
Organizations such as AASL’s affiliate associations can also become members, and they provide strong voices supporting FTRF’s defense of the First Amendment free speech rights in libraries. According to Kathy Lowe, executive director of the Massachusetts School Library Association, “MSLA is an FTRF member because it is a cause we want to support” (Lowe). The cost of FTRF membership for organizations is a bargain at $50 per year, and currently 24 AASL affiliates are members. To become a member organization, contact the FTRF office for a special affiliate organization membership form.
Wish the Freedom to Read Foundation a Happy Birthday and help keep the flame of freedom and democracy burning bright in school libraries.
FTRF. “Banned Books Week 2014.” http://www.ftrf.org/?BBW2014/.
FTRF. “Foundation Activities.” http://www.ftrf.org/?page=About/.
Jefferson, Julius. Email message to author, October 23, 2015.
Lowe, Kathy. Email message to author, Oct. 25, 2015.
Weisburg, Hilda. Email message to author, Oct. 24, 2015.
Diamond, Jessica. “Birthday Cake Candles.” July 10, 2008. Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike License. https://www.flickr.com/photos/sleepishly/2656467632/sizes/o/.
Freedom to Read Foundation logo used with permission from FTRF. http://www.ftrf.org/.
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.