CHICAGO (June 22, 2023) The American Library Association (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, librarians 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 the association to double the staffing in its Office for Intellectual Freedom, 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 grass roots 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 ALA's 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 DC, 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 roundtables, 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 .
About the American Library Association
The American Library Association (ALA) is the foremost national organization providing resources to inspire library and information professionals to transform their communities through essential programs and services. For more than 140 years, the ALA has been the trusted voice for academic, public, school, government and special libraries, advocating for the profession and the library's role in enhancing learning and ensuring access to information for all. For more information, visit www.ala.org .
About Solidarity Giving
Solidarity Giving provides grants to support and defend America's civic values. Organizations receiving funding are committed to a just, equitable future - preserving and defending unalienable rights and freedoms, standing up to hate, and building a democracy that works for all, not the few. Launched in 2016, Solidarity Giving is part of the Wildcard Giving philanthropic family.