I write this welcome at a time of uncertainty. We have been wallowing in the unknown for quite some time; what does certainty even mean now? Yet, ALA Conference '22 felt strangely close to normal, seeing humans I had only seen from the waist up for years and enjoying the sights and sounds of our colleagues buzzing about the nation's capital. I never imagined I would be IFRT chair; if I HAD daydreamed, I’d have thought it would be to inspire fun and send memes to the executive committee. However, I do feel a sense of obligation and responsibility in a way I might not have in lighter times.
I heard librarian’s struggles at this past conference: challenges around materials, displays, and programs, the repetitive beat of complaints about LGBTQIA materials during June, librarians afraid for their jobs, the call of white supremacists outside the doors of the program room, and restrictive book banning legislation. Tears in the backroom as you defend the right to read and terrible microaggressions. It all takes a significant toll.
I will celebrate my 25th year working in libraries this year, and never have I ever felt my work to be such a personal attack on my lived experience as a queer Mexican woman as I feel it now. When challenges are no longer about the material in the books but about the people who write them, that their personhood is on trial, it all starts to hit too close to home. Indeed, we see that reflected in the Top 10 Banned Books list, where in recent years, BIPOC and queer author's books have been targeted disproportionately more than their peers.
This year, I will focus on helping librarians across the nation know the resources available to them in the onslaught of these challenges, how to raise their voices in defense of intellectual freedom, and how to protect their jobs. But, more importantly, I want you to know you are not alone. We are stronger together. While we increasingly talk about trauma-informed care of our patrons, we also need to take care of ourselves and understand how these aggressions can take a toll on us and our colleagues, especially our BIPOC and queer colleagues.
I also want to celebrate joy this year. We have been on this journey for a long time, doing the heavy lifting daily, and in the blink of an eye, IFRT is celebrating its 50th year. Our golden jubilee honors years of librarians who have worked tirelessly to preserve and further intellectual freedom. While that work continues, I want to honor and commemorate where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going. Plus, who doesn't love a rad party? I look forward to shepherding our next generation of librarians into the world of IFRT like others did for me, ideally with music and fanfare.
I want to call back to the wisdom that Kristin Pekoll passed to me as I stepped into this role: IFRT is made up of amazing volunteers who show up and put in the work that makes the Round Table the success that it is. It’s with this in mind that I say a huge thank you in advance to every one of you who joined a committee, stepped into a chair role, paid dues, read the blog, and stood behind the Freedom to Read; you make it possible for us to celebrate another 50 years.
Sincerely, Angela Ocaña
The Intellectual Freedom Round Table (IFRT) provides a forum for the discussion of activities, programs, and problems in intellectual freedom of libraries and librarians; serves as a channel of communications on intellectual freedom matters; promotes a greater opportunity for involvement among the members of the ALA in defense of intellectual freedom; promotes a greater feeling of responsibility in the implementation of ALA policies on intellectual freedom.
- Provides broad opportunities for ALA members to become involved in the support of freedom of access and freedom of expression in libraries
- Supports librarians involved in censorship controversies
- Monitors intellectual freedom developments affecting library and information services
- Provides a forum where ALA members involved in intellectual freedom activities on the state and local level can discuss programs, activities, and problems
- Organizes conference programs on topics related to intellectual freedom
The American Library Association (ALA) Council established the Intellectual Freedom Round Table in June 1973. At the 1973 Annual Conference in Las Vegas, IFRT was organized as the associations's membership-activity program for intellectual freedom. The activities of the round table supplement the OIF's educational program and offer opportunities for ALA members to become active in the association's intellectual freedom efforts.
The IFRT sponsors three intellectual freedom awards. The annual State and Regional Achievement Award, given by the IFRT since 1984, was revised in 1991 and replaced by the Gerald Hodges Intellectual Freedom Chapter Relations Award in 2009. Formerly presented to a state intellectual freedom committee. the award has been expanded to include "state educational media association intellectual freedom committees, state intellectual freedom coalitions, legal defense funds, or other such groups that have implemented the most successful and creative state intellectual freedom project during the calendar year. The IFRT established the John Phillip Immroth Memorial Award for intellectual freedom, given annually in memory of the cofounder and first chairperson of the Round Table, "to honor notable contributions to intellectual freedom and demonstrations of personal courage in defense of freedom of expression." Biennially, the IFRT sponsors the Eli M. Oboler Memorial Award, presented for the best published work in the area of intellectual freedom.
Office for Intellectual Freedom
225 Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60601