About the Freedom to Read Foundation
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. The Freedom to Read Foundation was established to promote and defend this right; to foster libraries as 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 which they may legally acquire.
The organization of the Foundation in 1969 was the American Library Association's response to the interest of its members in having adequate means to support and defend librarians whose positions are jeopardized because of their resistance to abridgments of the First Amendment; and to set legal precedent for the freedom to read on behalf of all the people.
In Defense of America's Freedoms is an article that first appeared in American Libraries (December 2004, pp. 54-56). Written by Tom Teepen, it describes the history and current activities of the Foundation.
The Freedom to Read Foundation was incorporated in December of 1969. Its charter lists four purposes:
- Promoting and protecting the freedom of speech and of the press;
- Protecting the public's right of access to information and materials stored in the nation's libraries;
- Safeguarding libraries' right to disseminate all materials contained in their collections; and
- Supporting libraries and librarians in their defense of First Amendment rights by supplying them with legal counsel or the means to secure it.
The Foundation's work has been divided into two primary activities:
- The allocation and disbursement of grants to individuals and groups primarily for the purpose of aiding them in litigation;
- Direct participation in litigation dealing with freedom of speech and of the press.
The Foundation is devoted to the principle that the solution to offensive speech is more speech, and the suppression of speech on the grounds that it gives offense to some infringes on the rights of all to a free, open and robust marketplace of ideas.
See also Freedom to Read Foundation Time Line
SUPPORT AND ASSISTANCE
Through the provision of financial and legal assistance to libraries and librarians, the Foundation attempts to eliminate the difficult choice between practical expediency and principle in the selection and distribution of library materials. Persons committed to defending the freedom to read should be given an assurance that their commitment will not result in legal convictions, financial loss or personal damage.
Through fighting repressive legislation, the Foundation benefits all members of the library profession. Laws such as obscenity statutes can be significantly dangerous to individuals and institutions, for they may permit, and even encourage, prosecution of non-commercial interests which have neither the incentive nor the resources to defend the propriety of individual works.
Librarians should not be vulnerable to prosecution for disseminating works which the First Amendment entitles their patrons to receive. The denial of the basic rights of library patrons through censorship is not consistent with the philosophical basis of the library profession. The choice between censorship and criminal punishment is inimical to the concept of intellectual freedom, and a derogation of the responsibilities of librarians. The Foundation will challenge the constitutionality of those laws which can inhibit librarians from including in their collections and disseminating to the public any work which has not previously been declared illegal.
HOW TO CONTACT THE FREEDOM TO READ FOUNDATION
Freedom to Read Foundation
50 East Huron Street
Chicago, IL 60611
Telephone: 800-545-2433, ext. 4226
Judith F. Krug
Secretary and Executive Director
Telephone: 800-545-2433, ext. 4222
Deputy Executive Director
Telephone: 800-545-2433, ext. 4224
Telephone: 800-545-2433, ext. 4221
Links to non-ALA sites have been provided because these sites may have information of interest. Neither the American Library Association nor the Freedom to Read Foundation necessarily endorses the views expressed or the facts presented on these sites; and furthermore, ALA and FTRF do not endorse any commercial products that may be advertised or available on these sites.
In Defense of Americas Freedoms by Tom Teepen (PDF File)