How Librarians Became American Free Speech Heroes

In the Past and Present, They’ve Fought Book Bans and Censorship

At almost 85 years old, the Library Bill of Rights is seeing another round of attacks.

The American Library Association (ALA)—founded in 1876 to professionalize and improve library services across the country—first published the statement in 1939 in response to the news of Nazi book burning and the suppression of information overseas. It asserted that library resources should be provided for the “interest, information, and enlightenment of all people,” and that libraries themselves should challenge censorship and “partisan disapproval” at every turn.

American librarians championed this code during the buildup and entry …

Could a “Trigger Moment” Imperil Civil Liberties?

Surveillance, Government Secrecy, and an Unpredictable Political Landscape Raise Difficult Questions

In December 1941, the attack on Pearl Harbor was the “trigger moment” that eventually led the U.S. government to herd tens of thousands of Japanese Americans into internment camps. If …