Intellectual Freedom Newsletter

Intellectual Freedom Newsletter

ILA Intellectual Freedom Committee Newsletter, Issue 2


This is the second newsletter from your ILA Intellectual Freedom Committee for 2017. You will receive a quarterly newsletter from us that summarizes what is going on in the world of intellectual freedom. Anything to do with Idaho will get priority, but we want you to stay informed with what is going on throughout the country too!

And remember, we want to know what is going on in your library! Shoot us an email and let us know about any book challenges, concerns, or activities in your area. All communication is confidential; we will consult you before talking to anyone else. Challenges can also be reported to the ALA national office, using this form.

Shalini Ramachandran, Chair, Intellectual Freedom Committee




Surveillance, Censorship, & Intellectual Freedom

Ritchie Eppink began his work with the ACLU of Idaho in 2012. He was previously the Justice Architect for Idaho Legal Aid Services and, before that, a Fulbright Fellow. Eppink manages all aspects of ACLU-Idaho’s litigation program. He will address the topic of government censorship and surveillance and its impact on intellectual freedom and constitutional rights. This free event is co-sponsored by the Idaho Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee and Boise Public Library. 

If you are in the area, we would love it if you join us! Library patrons, library workers, and anyone interested in governmental policies regarding surveillance and censorship will find this presentation interesting.


Wednesday, May 24, at 6:30 PM

Hayes Auditorium, Boise Public Library



Science March,  Boise April 22, 2017

‘Science is not up for a vote’: Researchers rally against skeptics at Boise march.

Idaho Statesman

On Earth Day, April 22, 1000 Boiseans marched in support of science funding and research at the state Capitol. Marches also took place in Moscow-Pullman, Pocatello, and Twin Falls. The Boise march was organized by Shaina Cohen, a Boise State science student and other Boise area scientists. The March for Science was followed by the Climate March on April 28,  in support of actions to ameliorate global warming and to protest climate change denial.

More information about the March for Science at the national and international stage, in the national news section.


 Jerome school considers removing book from library| KMVT (Idaho); "Avery told KMVT each committee member read the book, and they decided that the materials the student found offensive, in the context of the story, were appropriate to have in the library."





by Steve Barrett, Idaho Historical Society

On April 22, Earth Day, hundreds of thousands of people worldwide took to the streets to proposed cuts to science funding by the Trump administration.  The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) was among the dozens of organizations around the globe supporting the March for Science.  Others included the National Center for Science Education, the National Science Teachers Association, the Nature Conservancy, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Society for Research in Child Development.[i]

In the US, one of the chairs of the event was Bill Nye, “the Science Guy,” who spoke at the Washington DC March.

“When facing tides of deliberate misinformation, scientists, engineers and researchers have taken it upon themselves to organize and raise awareness about their professions and the vital importance of the scientific enterprise’” said Nye.[ii] “Science is a process that enables continual innovation, extraordinary public works, reliable transportation, and food for the world's billions,” he added.  “How would your life be without electricity, let alone information technology? Consider a city with no sewers. Be thankful for antibiotics and polio vaccines. These technologies derive from our science.”

The March for Science was organized immediately following last January’s Women’s March and a proposal by the Trump administration to cut $12.6 million from the Health and Human Services budget, nearly half of which ($5.8 million) is to be cut from the National Institutes of Health budget alone, one of our nation’s foremost research institutions in the battle against infectious diseases.

 The proposed cuts are only the most recent in a flurry of statements from the Trump campaign last year and the Trump administration this year attacking scientific findings they don’t like—most notably decades of findings suggesting the influence of humans in global climate change.  In fact, the impact of humans is so profound many scientists are referring to a new epoch in the history of Earth’s climate—the Anthropocene Epoch, literally the Age of Man—which began with the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Most disturbing, many scientists argue that we are in the early years of an Anthropocene Extinction, a sixth mass extinction of plant and animal life in the planet’s history.  As the name suggests, this most recent extinction is different from its predecessors, in that it is largely the work of humans.  Since 1900, four hundred and seventy-seven vertebrate species alone have become extinct, a rate unparalleled since the demise of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, according to the geologic record.

"The number of species that have gone extinct in the last century would have taken between 800 and 10,000 years to disappear," stated scientists in a recent study published in the journal Science Advances.[iii]

Just last September, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere reached a so-called “tipping point,” a point of no return-- 400 ppm--for the first time in over 1 million years, and the annual rate of change since 2007 is “unprecedented,” meaning things will be getting worse sooner. Human-manufactured CO2 is the greenhouse gas par excellence driving climate change.

 Consequently, 150,000 protesters are reported to have marched in our nation’s capital; 70,000 in Boston; 50,000 in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and St. Paul; 40,000 in New York City and Chicago; and 20,000 in Seattle.



Intellectual Freedom – An Ongoing Value by Michelle Armstrong, Albertsons Library, Boise State University

Intellectual freedom is a professional value that has been established over many decades. Through countless struggles to define, codify, and implement this value, library staff have brought to life through their everyday actions the true meaning of intellectual freedom. Here are a few historical examples of how libraries have advocated for this core value.

Adopted in 1939, the first Library Bill of Rights outlined three basic policies libraries should adopt to confront a “growing intolerance, suppression of free speech, and censorship” (American Library Association, 1939). The need for such a statement came in response to various attempts to censor library collections. One of the most notable campaigns was the drive to ban John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, the top bestselling book for 1939. Although not considered the specific reason for the creation of the Library Bill of Rights, its popularity helped draw attention to the impact of censorship in the library community (Robbins, 1996). Using the Des Moines Public Library’s intellectual freedom statement as a foundation, members of the American Library Association debated and adopted the first Library Bill of Rights (Magi, Garnar, & American Library Association, 2015). As a core treatise for the library profession, copies of the 1939 document, as well as subsequent versions, can be found in ALAIR, the American Library Association Institutional Repository.

After the dark days of World War II, a wave of fanaticism began to take root in America. Nationally, Joseph McCarthy was capturing headlines with his witch hunt, while locally libraries were fighting numerous attempts to ban books and restrict free speech. In 1947, the California Library Association’s Committee on Intellectual Freedom responded to attempts to ban the textbooks series, Building America, for not describing sufficiently the positive aspects of the country. San Bernardino county librarian, Helen Luce, led a review committee to produce a comprehensive review and response to the criticism directed at the textbook. The issue expanded beyond a single textbook when state legislation was introduced to the California Assembly to increase legislative control over educational materials. Once again, local librarians organized a resolution opposing the bill which was eventually defeated (Mediavilla, 1997). 

Few years later, the universal library mission of providing access to information was challenged in a particularly ugly way. As people across the nation advocated for integration, one Oklahoman librarian used her position to promote equal rights for African Americans. Detailed in Louise Robbins’ book, The Dismissal of Miss Ruth Brown, librarian Ruth Brown checked out books to African American patrons, subscribed to Ebony, and hosted exhibits on African American culture. In response, angry members of the community began scrutinizing the library collection and accused her of subversion. After 30 years of service, Ruth Brown was fired from her job (Robbins, 2000). Far from being the only instance of racism in the library community, the American Library Association attempted to advocate for civil rights through its own actions. In 1954 ALA “banned states from having more than one chapter to eliminate separate white and African American chapters” (Lipscomb, 2005) and in 1961 the association expanded the Library Bill of Rights by adding a clause stating “the rights of an individual to the use of a library should not be denied or abridged because of his race, religion, national origins, or political views (Magi, Garnar, & American Library Association, 2015). Although it would eventually take federal legislation outlawing segregation to make substantive progress towards equitable services, the fight for freedom was waged by many librarians during this period.

Challenges to intellectual freedom became complex and technical with the advent of the internet. In 2000, the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) became federal law, requiring libraries who receive funding through LSTA, ESEA, or the E-rate programs to install filters. Although the stated purpose of CIPA, protecting children from obscenity and pornography, seems valuable, the failure of the filtering technology created difficult challenges for many librarians. The cumbersome process of unblocking sites for adults using public library computers, the invasion of privacy of patrons researching sensitive topics, and the denial of access to constitutionally protected content are all problems identified in the ALA Council’s Internet Filtering: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights (2015). Although ALA passed a resolution declaring “that the use of filtering software by libraries to block access to constitutionally protected speech violates the Library Bill of Rights.” (ALA Council, 1997), filtering continues to be a real life intellectual freedom battle that librarians have to fight on a daily basis.

Although only a small sampling of the intellectual freedom challenges libraries have faced through the years, these examples serve as a reminder of both the importance of our professional values of ensuring access to information, as well as the progress that can be made toward the goal of intellectual freedom through practical, high-quality librarianship. You can read the full text of the Library Bill of Rights here.



ALA Council (1997). Resolution on the use of filtering software in libraries. Retrieved from

ALA Council (2015). Internet filtering: An interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights. Retrieved from

American Library Association (1939). The library’s bill of rights. Retrieved from

Lipscomb, C. E. (2005). Race and librarianship: part II. Journal of the Medical Library Association93(3), 308.

Magi, T. J., Garnar, M., & American Library Association. (2015). A history of ALA policy on intellectual freedom: A supplement to the intellectual freedom manual, ninth edition. Chicago: American Library Association

Mediavilla, C. (1997). The war on books and ideas: The California Library Association and anti-communist censorship. Library Trends46(2), 331.

Robbins, L.S. (1996). Censorship and the American library: The American library association’s response to threats to intellectual freedom, 1939-1969. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Robbins, L. S. (2000). The dismissal of Miss Ruth Brown: Civil rights, censorship, and the American library. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

Do you have a story that you want us to share? Email us at


[i] “Partners,” March for Science.

[ii] Nye, Bill.  “Bill Nye: Science Made America Great,” CNN.  22 April 2017.

[iii] Lackey, Katharine.  “Study: 6th Mass Extinction Already Underway -- and We're the Cause,” USA TODAY.  20 June 2015.

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