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ALA's Judith Krug, First Amendment Activist and Founder of Banned Books Week

Updated on September 7, 2012

Judith's Banned Books Week Turns Thirty!

Judith Krug was a First Amendment purist, and the creator of the American Library Association's Banned Books Week, which celebrates its 30th anniversary September 30-October 6, 2012.
Judith Krug was a First Amendment purist, and the creator of the American Library Association's Banned Books Week, which celebrates its 30th anniversary September 30-October 6, 2012. | Source

The Hero of Librarians

Judith Rose Fingeret was known as the Hero of Librarians for her shining example in the fight to maintain our First Amendment rights of freedom of expression, inquiry, and privacy to seek out information.
Judith Rose Fingeret was known as the Hero of Librarians for her shining example in the fight to maintain our First Amendment rights of freedom of expression, inquiry, and privacy to seek out information. | Source

The Judith F. Krug Memorial Fund

For over forty years, Judith Krug served as a beacon of light in her unwavering defense of First Ammendment rights, and her war against censorship. Following her passing in 2009, the Freedom to Read Foundation, (of which Mrs. Krug was the founding executive director), in cooperation with the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom, created the Judith F. Krug Memorial Fund, which is dedicated to continuing her remarkable legacy.

One of the objectives of the Judith Krug Fund is to support the community in furthering the message of Banned Books Week, (which was co-created in 1982 by Mrs. Krug) and First Ammendment rights. Every year since 2010, grants of $1000.00 are awarded to community organizations in staging Read-Outs , or other events showing support of Banned Books Week.

A Banned Books Week Read-Out is a community event designed to celebrate the freedom to read by having a gathering at which people come together to read from the books that over the years have been banned or challenged.

Application for the yearly grants open in the early part of the year, with awards being announced in the early part of summer.

Because Judith Krug was also a life-long believer in the power of education, who among her other accomplishments, managed to also teach classes and to lecture on the subject of Intellectual freedom, the second objective of the Judith Krug Memorial Fund is to help in the advancement of education in the field of intellectual freedom. To that end, the Freedom to Read Foundation, is currently working with Library and Information Science professors to develop content for LIS students that focuses on issues of intellectual freedom.

To make a donation to the Judith F. Memorial Fund contact the ALA's Office of Intellectual Freedom.

Do You Know Who Judith Krug Is?

Judith Krug, was born Judith Rose Fingeret on the fifteenth of March, nineteen forty. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor's degree in political science, and went on to get her Masters Degree in library science from the University of Chicago, where she began her career in 1962 as a reference librarian at Chicago's John Crerar Library. In 1963 she was hired on as a cataloguer at Northwestern's Dental School Library, working there, until joining the American Library Association as a research analyst in 1965

She became the director of the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom, upon its creation in 1967, where she fought the banning of books such as Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, Hitler's Mein Kampf, Helen Bannerman's children's book, Little Black Sambo, and J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye.

In 1969 she co-founded and assumed the position of founding executive director of the Right to Read Foundation, which raises money to fight First Amendment issues such as freedom of inquiry, freedom of expression, and the privacy to seek out information

For over four decades, Mrs. Krug fought against censorship of books and ideas. She was a First Amendmement purist who believed that all libraries should be able to offer a full marketplace of written thoughts and ideas.

My personal proclivities have nothing to do with how I react as a librarian. Library service in this country should be based on the concept of intellectual freedom of providing pertinent information so a reader can make decisions for himself , she told the New York Times in a 1972 interview referring to her defense of keeping the John Birch Society's Little Blue Book on library shelves, even though she personally found it to be offensive. Two decades later, she would repeat that sentiment to the press again, when opposition arose to Madonna's book, Sex; The book is sleazy trash, she told the Chicago Tribune in 1992, but it should be on the shelves of every medium-sized library in the United States.

The Internet, Intellectul Freedom and Mrs. Krug

When the 1990's and the age of the Internet dawned, Mrs. Krug became a leader in fighting censorship in that arena as well, When groups allegedly connected to the ultra-conservative Moral Majority began efforts to keep theoretically unlimited amounts of indecent material from children by means of requiring technological filters on library computers. In 1997 Mrs. Krug and her alliance of civil liberties groups won their fight when they convinced the Supreme Court to strike down the indecency provisions of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. She would fight and win in this arena again, when following the events of September 11, 2001, she would do battle with former Attorney General John Ashcroft, and the USA Patriot Act, when she fought against the provision that would allow federal authorities to peruse library records of who has read what.

In 2002, after convincing the ALA to oppose the 1998 Children's Internet Protection Act, which required that access to any material that was concluded harmful be restricted to all minors , she testified before the Supreme Court that; Librarians are concerned about 'quick-fixes' that fail to teach young people how best to use the Internet. Internet use policies combined with appropriate education are vital to the well-being of our nation's children. They need to be taught the skills to cope in the virtual world just as they are taught skills to cope in the physical world. Children who are not taught these skills are not only in danger as children in a virtual world, they also will grow into young adults, college students, and an American workforce who are not capable of avoiding online fraud, Internet addictions, and online stalking. Education is our best way to avoid raising a generation of victims. Her testimony helped to convince the court that the reasons for censorship were insufficient, and as of 2009, the act remained unconstitutional and unenforced.

Her Legacy

Judith Krug, who said of herself in the September 1995 issue of American Libraries, If I have an agenda, it is protection of the First Amendment, Libraries in this country cannot operate unless we can stand foursquare on the First Amendment, and if that becomes a partisan position, well, ok, I guess if Ihave to be partisan, I will be partisan on behalf of the First Amendment, was widely recognized for her work on behalf of the First Amendment, and as a leader in the fight against censorship. She was the recipient of many prestigious awards, including; The Joseph P. Lippincott Award, the Irita Van Doren Award, the Harry Kalven Freedom of Expression Award, and the William J. Brennan Jr. Award, from the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression. In 2005, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, recognized Mrs. Krug with an Honorary Doctorate, Doctor of Human Letters.

For all of her adult life, there seemed to be no battle that Judith Krug could not win, but on Saturday April 11, 2009, Mrs. Krug passed away after losing her lengthy battle with stomach cancer.

She was a force of nature, fiercely determined to make sure that censorship wouldn't triumph in the library or the larger world, said friend and colleague, Deborah Caldwell-Stone, (deputy director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom), when she learned of Mrs. Krug's passing.

Judith F. Krug is survived by her husband, Herbert Krug, her son Steve, her daughter Michelle Litchman, five grandchildren; Jessica, Sydney, Hannah, Rachel, and Jason; two brothers, Jay and Arnold Fingeret, and her sister, Shirley Katzman.

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. All who had the privilege to work with her admired her, learned from her example, and enjoyed her sense of humor. Her professional legacy is the thousands of librarians and others who share her commitment to intellectual freedom. -Jim Rettig, ALA President, April 2009

-Kristen Burns-Darling ©September 2012 (all rights reserved)

Highlights From Banned Books Week 2011


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    • K. Burns Darling profile imageAUTHOR

      Kristen Burns-Darling 

      5 years ago from Orange County, California

      @always exploring - Judith Krug was an amazing woman and an inspiration to anyone who values their First Amendment rights. I am glad to have been able to introduce her to you, and thankful for the gift of your time, and for your comments, which are welcomed and deeply apprecited.


    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      5 years ago from Southern Illinois

      This was an enjoyable and educational read for me. Freedom of speech is one of our most important liberties. Thank you for sharing information about a woman I was unfamiliar with..

    • K. Burns Darling profile imageAUTHOR

      Kristen Burns-Darling 

      5 years ago from Orange County, California

      @Jackie Lynnley - She really was an amazing woman and her dedication to the protection and preservation of our First Amendment rights was awe inspiring. Thank you so much for the gift of your time for your comments, the vote, and the share, they are all of them very welcomed and deeply appreciated.


    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      5 years ago from The Beautiful South

      She was a very important person and though I will admit I at one time would have been against her I today see her logic and realize how such a seemingly small thing could be the root of many rights stolen from us. Great hub, up and shared!


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