Contact: Larra Clark ALA Press Officer 312-280-5043

For Immediate Release

December 8, 2003

Remarks by American Library Association President Carla Hayden upon accepting the Ms. "Women of the Year" award at the National Press Club, Washington, December 8, 2003

Let me begin by thanking Ms. magazine for this truly prestigious honor. I have long been a fan and a regular reader of the magazine, and I cannot tell you how proud I am to receive this recognition. To stand here today in the company of such accomplished women is inspiring. The work that Ms. does to educate women about issues and rights affecting their lives is truly admirable. And as the second African American woman to be president of the American Library Association in its 127-year history, and the first one to receive this honor on behalf of ALA, it makes this recognition even more special. I am pleased to accept this honor - not only on my behalf - but also for all of the more than 65,000 members of our organization nationwide. Librarians are heroes every day.

I started my career as a children's librarian and never thought that I would be standing here today representing my profession's largest organization. Over the years, my late grandmother said that she didn't think that being a librarian could be very exciting. The last few years as president-elect and now president of ALA certainly proved her wrong.

From CNN to CBS' The Early Show, The Washington Post and the New York Times, Ebony Magazine and yes, even Time for Kids, I have had my share of answering the sometimes hard questions about the conditions of one of our nations most valuable resources - the library, the cornerstone of democracy.

Like other women in this room who have worked hard to bring positive change to empower the powerless, I work with librarians and the diverse communities that they serve, to educate people about defending their civil rights and liberties. It is a role that librarians have played throughout our nation's history, but until recent years has gone unnoticed.

With the recent passage of the USA PATRIOT Act, all that has changed. Librarians are committed to educating our citizens about the dangers of many provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act - including its effect of undermining the historical protection of private library records. Instead of being called mousy and dull, we are being called "feisty fighters for freedom." We even have a librarian action figure now!

When Attorney General John Ashcroft called me to express his concerns that librarians may have misunderstood his long-standing commitment to civil liberties, I must admit I became a bit nervous. As I said before, librarians have been doing this type of work but rarely in the spotlight. When the press started reporting our opposition to this act, I knew that eventually it would lead to something like this. Yet we stood firm even when called hysterical and dupes. We even had these
buttons made - Another "hysteric" librarian for freedom - as a badge of honor.

Librarians will continue to stand strong and work with organizations and people from diverse backgrounds to oppose laws that infringe on our civil liberties and privacy-related rights.

Thank you again to Ms. magazine for this award. I proudly share it with my colleagues across the country.