The Freedom to Read Foundation is an organization separate from the American Library Association that defends intellectual freedom and librarians. Judith Krug founded the organization which celebrated its 40th Anniversary last year. It remains, however, a mysterious organization to many librarians.
It is certainly accurate to describe the foundation as the litigating arm of the ALA in the area of intellectual freedom. This is exemplified through the challenge to the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). The strength of the foundation is in the partnership it represents with affiliate professions to librarianship – publishing and writing. The membership base of FTRF is made up primarily of publishers, booksellers and attorneys who have joined with librarians in defense of books and reading. Among the organizations it collaborates with are the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Association of American Publishers, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression and the Media Coalition.
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees all individuals the right to express their ideas without governmental interference and to read and listen to the ideas of others. FTRF was established to promote and defend this right; to foster libraries and institutions wherein every individual’s First Amendment freedoms are fulfilled; and to support the right of libraries to include in their collections and make available any work that they may legally acquire. The foundation stands in opposition to the chilling impact of censorship on authors and publishers.
Many issues addressed by the foundation bleed over into obvious library issues such as opposition to CIPA. However, the focus of the foundation is more broadly First Amendment related. Recent court cases that have seen FTRF involvement include the filing of an amicus curie in a video animal cruelty case along with fourteen other organizations (U.S.v. Stevens), a recent State of Ohio harmful to minors ruling (ABFFE v. Cordray) and opposition to Congress’s renewal of the Patriot Act.
During last summer’s annual meeting in Washington D.C., the Board reviewed developing issues of interest. One was the impact that a lack of standardized eBook format is having on access to information and eBooks. Another was the threat that social networks present to privacy. Board members also heard a presentation regarding academic freedom on college campuses and the restrictions imposed on students seeking to exercise their First Amendment rights.
As mentioned, FTRF is a separate organization from ALA. However, the office and staffs are housed at ALA headquarters in Chicago. Barbara Jones is the current Board Secretariat. It is governed by a board of trustees elected by the membership who are dues paying members, both individual and organizational. For the second year in a row, a free one-year membership to FTRF is being offered to students graduating from ALA-accredited MLS and MLIS programs and from school library media programs.