On March 27, the American Library Association’s (ALA) Executive Board issued a statement condemning the ongoing threats against libraries and library workers after Hilton (N.Y.) Central School District received two bomb threats last week, prompting evacuations at all five schools in the district. The full Executive Board statement follows.
The American Library Association (ALA) condemns—in the strongest terms possible—the violence, threats of violence and other acts of intimidation that are increasingly taking place in America’s libraries, including last week’s bomb threats to Hilton Central School District in New York, which put the lives of hundreds of innocent children and staff members in jeopardy.
ALA stands with New York, its library community, educators, and those across the country who courageously continue to face down threats to their personal and professional well-being because of their efforts to celebrate diversity and foster inclusion within their communities, while holding the belief that every human being deserves respect and dignity.
ALA echoes the New York Library Association’s sentiment that, “Libraries are unique institutions of education and knowledge that provide information with impartiality and balance. Library materials are carefully selected by professionally trained librarians to represent a broad range of ideas and opinions and appeal to the needs and interests of all members of their communities.”
The message of libraries is one of openness and welcoming of people everywhere who believe in the peaceful exchange of ideas. Libraries are committed to upholding and defending the core values of inclusion and free and equal access to ideas and information, which are essential to an informed democratic society. The freedom to read is a constitutionally protected right, and reading choices must be left to the reader, and in case of children, their parents. Threats of physical harm and harassment are not, and never have been, protected speech.
ALA President Lessa Kanani‘opua Pelayo-Lozada said, “Every day professional librarians sit down with parents to thoughtfully determine what reading material is best suited for their children’s needs. Now, many library workers face threats to their employment, their personal safety, and in some cases, threats of prosecution for providing books to youth that they and their parents want to read.
“While a vocal minority stokes the flames of controversy around books, the vast majority of people across the nation are using life-changing services that public and school libraries offer. Our nation cannot afford to lose the library workers who lift up their communities and safeguard our First Amendment freedom to read.”
America’s libraries are there for communities; and communities must be there for libraries. ALA calls on community leaders and elected officials to stand with libraries and others who promote the free and democratic exchange of ideas to stand up to those who would undermine it.