+ Judith Krug, Who Established “Banned Books Week”

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Dorothy Samuels, in the NY Times, offered an appreciation of Judith Krug, who has died at 69.

She reminds us that Merriam-Webster identifies a “librarian” as a person who specializes in the care and management of a library.

But there is a larger role they play in a democracy. 

They facilitate access to information and ideas.  They promote and protect a precious First Amendment right: the freedom to read.

Judith Krug was a trained librarian and the director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom for more than four decades.

Defending the freedom to read from damaging assaults by censors in and out of government was her life’s work.

In 2002 Ms Krug explained that the role of librarians is to bring people and information together.

We do this by making sure libraries have information and ideas across the spectrum of social and political thought, so people can choose what they want to read or view or listen to.  Some users find materials in their local library collection to be untrue, offensive, harmful or even dangerous.  But libraries serve the information needs of all of the people in the community — not just the loudest, not just the most powerful, not even just the majority.  Libraries serve everyone.

She assisted countless local librarians and library trustees who were dealing with objections to library materials.  She waged principled legal battles challenging both book and Internet censorship, and she took them all the way to the Supreme Court.

She stood up against the portion of the 2001 Patriot Act that allowed government officials broad access to confidential library records, permitting them to monitor secretly what individuals were reading.

And in 1982, she established Banned Books Week during one of our periodic censorship epidemics.  This became an annual celebration of authors, their literature and the Constitution’s system of free expression.

The perrennial appearance of Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye” and Steinbek’s “Of Mice and Men” was reassuring to her.  They regularly appear on the American Library Association’s list of the 10 most frequently challenged library books.

That means that censors, real and would-be, are not making the headway they think they are.  Books that matter are still in libraries.

source: Dorothy Samuels’s editorial “Appreciation” in the NY Times on 4/15/09.  www.nytimes.com

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