On June 22, the American Library Association (ALA) announced that it will be distributing $1 million to expand intellectual freedom initiatives. The full statement follows:
ALA will distribute $1 million to support and expand intellectual freedom initiatives as the nation grapples with rising censorship challenges and seeks a greater array of resources to protect the right to read. ALA will use the funds to provide a major boost for its current efforts to support its members, library workers, and libraries everywhere, as well as the communities they serve. The funding for these endeavors comes from Solidarity Giving.
“With book challenges reaching an all-time record high in 2022, I am grateful that the American Library Association received this critical funding to support the library community,” said ALA President Lessa Kanani‘opua Pelayo-Lozada. “Part of our mission is to ensure access to information for all, and I look forward to seeing the expansion of resources to support intellectual freedom right when we need it the most.”
The funding will enable ALA to double the staffing in its Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), which is charged with ensuring access to libraries and library materials and spreading awareness about the importance of intellectual freedom in libraries. The additional staff will expand OIF’s efforts to mobilize and provide direction to grassroots organizations to ensure a coordinated and effective response to pro-censorship groups.
“Many library workers have been facing threats to their employment and personal well-being,” said OIF Director Deborah Caldwell-Stone. “I am thankful for the aid from this funding, which will help grow the Office for Intellectual Freedom, along with the programs and resources that support library professionals across the nation at this critical time.”
The contribution will also expand the Lawyers for Libraries and Law for Librarians programs, which include trainings to give both legal professionals and library professionals the expertise necessary for deflecting censorship challenges and provide a network of lawyers who are available to work with libraries and library workers facing intellectual freedom challenges.
In addition, the funding will support existing resources and new education initiatives, such as local intellectual freedom helplines that provide access to ALA response practices, an update of resources on the OIF website, a robust digital map of national censorship challenges to enhance tracking efforts, and a toolkit with instructions for responding to intellectual freedom challenges. ALA also plans to launch a Library Board Campaign School under the oversight of its United for Libraries division and create an ALA Advocacy Academy, which will be led by the Chapter Relations Office to build state and regional chapter capacity around intellectual freedom.
A portion of the funding will also be used to convene a National Summit on Intellectual Freedom in Washington D.C., which will bring together leaders of national organizations, lawyers, legislators, and stakeholders who are invested in defending the freedom to read. To be held in January 2024, the event will encourage attendees to participate in discussions related to the escalating phenomena of misinformation, disinformation, and censorship centered around book banning and develop an effective coordinated response.
Other initiatives that the funding will underwrite include the commission of new intellectual freedom research, a prison library family literacy initiative, a funding pool to support OIF initiatives developed by ALA divisions or round tables, and a cross-country bus tour organized by incoming ALA President Emily Drabinski, who will use the tour to help promote intellectual freedom in the weeks leading up to ALA’s 2024 Annual Conference in San Diego.
These ALA initiatives will launch this summer and are expected to roll out over the coming year, building upon the ongoing intellectual freedom work that has been made possible due to many other generous partners and donors. For more information, visit www.ala.org.