For immediate release | October 3, 2016

ALA President Julie Todaro responds to Kansas City (Mo.) Public Library free speech arrests

CHICAGO - On May 9, 2016 Kansas City Public Library Director of Public Programing Steve Woolfolk was arrested for his efforts to protect free speech during a public program entitled “Truman and Israel.” During the program off-duty police officers hired by the event sponsor arrested a patron for asking difficult questions and then arrested Woolfolk when he tried to intervene.

American Library Association (ALA) President Julie Todaro released the following statement.

“The ALA commends the Kansas City Public Library for its commitment to fostering public deliberation and the exchange of a wide spectrum of ideas by offering meeting rooms and other spaces for lectures, educational programs, and organizational meetings," said Todaro. "Its long history of support for free speech in public programming exemplifies the library profession’s mission to influence positive and lasting change within their communities by providing opportunities for patrons to freely express opposing viewpoints without fear of persecution.

“Libraries are public institutions that serve as catalysts for public discussions that help solve community challenges. Such efforts are not possible when patrons are not allowed to engage in open debate in a public forum, but rather are arrested for asking difficult questions.

“The ALA commends Steve Woolfolk for defending a patron's right to question and debate matters of public concern. The association will continue to extend resources to library staff as the Kansas City (Mo.) Public Library moves forward with its legal efforts.”

The American Library Association (ALA) is the voice of America's libraries and the millions of people who depend on them. Its 57,000 members are primarily librarians, but also trustees, publishers and others who support the work of the association.


Macey Morales

Deputy Director

Public Awareness Office