Judith Krug, librarian, tireless advocate for First Amendment rights, dies

Judith Krug, librarian, tireless advocate for First Amendment rights, dies

Contact: Macey Morales
Manager, ALA Media Relations
Public Information Office
(312) 280-4393

For Immediate Release
April 13, 2009

CHICAGO –Judith Fingeret Krug, 69, the long-time director of the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) and executive director of the Freedom to Read Foundation, who fought censorship on behalf of the nation’s libraries, died April 11 after a lengthy illness.

Krug, who often said, “Censorship dies in the light of day,” was the director of OIF and executive director of the Freedom to Read Foundation for more than 40 years. She was admired and respected for her efforts to guarantee the rights of individuals to express ideas and read the ideas of others without governmental interference.

Through her unwavering support of writers, teachers, librarians and, above all, students, she has advised countless numbers of librarians and trustees in dealing with challenges to library material. She has been involved in multiple First Amendment cases that have gone all the way to the United States Supreme Court. In addition, she was the founder of ALA’s Banned Books Week, an annual week-long event that celebrates the freedom to choose and the freedom to express one’s opinion.

“For more than four decades Judith Krug inspired librarians and educated government officials and others about everyone’s inviolable right to read. Her leadership in defense of the First Amendment was always principled and unwavering. Judith’s courage, intelligence, humor and passion will be much missed - but her spirit will inspire us always, “said Jim Rettig, ALA president, and Keith Michael Fiels, ALA executive director.

Krug was the recipient of many awards, including the Joseph P. Lippincott Award, the Irita Van Doren Award, the Harry Kalven Freedom of Expression Award and, most recently, the William J. Brennan, Jr. award, from the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression. Krug also received an honorary doctorate, Doctor of Humane Letters, from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 2005. In July, the Freedom to Read Foundation planned to give her an award for her years of vision and leadership. In addition, she served as a senator and vice president of the Phi Beta Kappa society.

Earlier this year, she received the William J. Brennan Jr. Award for her “remarkable commitment to the marriage of open books and open minds.”

Krug was only the fifth person to receive the award since 1993. The award recognizes a person or group that demonstrates a commitment to the principles of free expression followed by the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

“Often in the face of great personal criticism, Krug has never wavered in her defense of First Amendment freedoms, whether testifying before Congress, leading legal challenges to unconstitutional laws or intervening hundreds of times to support and advise librarians in their efforts to keep particular books,” according to the center.


Born Judith Fingeret in Pittsburgh in 1940, she began her library career as a reference librarian at Chicago’s John Crerar Library in 1962. Later, she was hired as a cataloguer at Northwestern University’s dental school library, working there from 1963-65. She joined the ALA as a research analyst from 1965-67 and assumed the post of OIF director in 1967, also taking over the duties of executive director of the Freedom to Read Foundation.

Krug was a member of the ALA, as well as Phi Beta Kappa, serving as an associate on the Chicago area’s executive committee and as president from 1991-94. She was also a member of the American Bar Association’s committee on public understanding. In addition, she was on the board of directors of the Chicago chapter of the American Jewish Commission, on the council of Literary Magazines and Presses and the chair of the Media Coalition.

She is survived by her husband Herbert, her children Steven (Denise) of Northbrook and Michelle (David) Litchman of Glencoe and five grandchildren: Jessica, Sydney, Hannah, Rachel and Jason. She is also survived by her brothers, Jay (Ilene) Fingeret and Dr. Arnold (Denise) Fingeret of Pittsburgh, Pa., and her sister and brother-in-law, Shirley and Dr. Howard Katzman of Miami, Fla. She was preceded in death by her sister Susan (Steve) Pavsner of Bethesda Md.

Services for Judith Fingeret Krug were held at Beth Emet Synagogue, 1224 Dempster St., Evanston Ill., Tuesday, April 14, followed by an internment service at Shalom Memorial Park, <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />1700 W Rand Rd, Arlington Hts, Ill. 60004. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to The Freedom to Read Foundation, 50 East Huron, Chicago Illinois 60611, or www.ftrf.org.