Welcome to the VLA Intellectual Freedom Committee!

The Vermont Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee is concerned with the rights of freedom of expression, and stands ready to assist in situations where these rights may be in danger. The committee hosts the John Swan Intellectual Freedom Lecture.

Contact Us

Chair: Randal Smathers
Rutland, Vermont

Report a Challenge

Please use the guidelines on VLA's Intellectual Freedom Committee Rapid Response Team page to let us know when your library has received a challenge to library materials, programming, policies, or services.

In addition, the American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom (ALA OIF) challenge report form allows you to report censorship and request assistance with the challenge.  Alternatively, you can send email to oif@ala.org or call 312-280-4221 / 1-800-545-2433 x4226.



Vermont Library Association Marks Banned Books Week, October 1 – 7, 2023

In 2023, Banned Books Week is no longer a warning about what might happen if censorship goes unchecked, but what is happening.

Libraries and schools around the country are under attack, including violence and threats of violence, for providing reading materials and a safe space to enjoy them.

Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to read, and spotlights attempts to censor books in libraries, schools, and bookstores.

The American Library Association (ALA) maintains lists of books that have been targeted for removal or restriction in libraries and schools. By focusing on these efforts across the country, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship. The theme for Banned Books Week 2023 is "Let Freedom Read."

The ALA reports that “in a time of intense political polarization, library staff in every state are facing an unprecedented number of attempts to ban books. ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom documented 1,269 demands to censor library books and resources in 2022, the highest number of attempted book bans since ALA began compiling data about censorship in libraries more than 20 years ago.”

That total was almost double the 729 challenges reported in 2021. The ALA said 2,571 unique titles were targeted, also a record, and that most of them were by or about LGBTQIA+ people, and / or Black, Indigenous, and people of color.

“The right to determine what we read and think is critical to our free and democratic society," said Oceana Wilson, President of the Vermont Library Association. “It is imperative that we recognize that the consequences of banning books go far beyond withdrawing an individual book from circulation. These efforts represent a threat, involving the erasure of both people and history, to the foundation of American democracy."

Most of the concerns expressed by Vermont librarians to date have been in terms of self-censorship; that is, libraries opting not to provide certain materials or programs out of fear of being targeted for abuse. Only by a unified effort can we stand strong to provide our readers and visitors the rich, varied, and welcoming content that they have the First Amendment right to read.

Resources for your library are available at the links above, at Banned Books Week Promotional Tools, and at Unite Against Book Bans.

Please reach out to the Intellectual Freedom Committee of the Vermont Library Association if you need help with Banned Books Week or any other censorship issue. Email Intellectual Freedom Committee chair Randal Smathers at randal@rutlandfree.org or at ifc@vermontlibraries.org.

Banned Books Week, Sept. 18-24 2022

Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. It brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

The books featured during Banned Books Week have all been targeted for removal or restriction in libraries and schools. By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship.

VLA is offering resources to Vermont libraries for Banned Books Week: a press release and "wanted poster" cards for social media including a template for libraries to build their own if they want Vermont-made content for Banned Books Week.

Wanted Poster featuring the book Gender Queer

John Swan Intellectual Freedom Lecture

2020 - Alison Macrina
Library Freedom Project (video hosted by Kingdom Access Television), a virtual lecture about surveillance capitalism and connecting privacy issues to the work we do as librarians. Recorded June 4, 2020.

2018 - Deborah Caldwell-Stone
Privacy in an Age of Surveillance Capitalism: Join us as we explore the importance of privacy on the Internet. Learn about role libraries play in protecting your online freedoms and steps you can take for protecting your data and your privacy. Given in the town hall in Shelburne, Vermont, on April 12, 2018.

2016 - Justin Peters
YouTube video of Slate writer Peters, author of The Idealist: Aaron Swartz and the Rise of Free Culture on the Internet, speaking on the role of free culture, libraries, and liberty in America. Given at the O'Brien Community Center in Winooski, Vermont, on April 15, 2016.

2014 - Dawn Sova
YouTube video of Sova's lecture on the current state of attempts to limit intellectual freedom in America, in comparison to mid-20th century attempts. Given at the Pavillion Auditorium, Montpelier, Vermont, on January 27, 2014.

2011 - Christopher Finan
Finan talks about his book, From the Palmer Raids to the Patriot Act: A History of Free Speech in America, in which he speaks about VLA being the first sign of hope in the fight against the USA PATRIOT act. Given at Sherburne Memorial Library, Killington, Vermont, on August 25, 2011.

2005 - Laurie Lane-Zucker
A New Vision of Citizenship For a Fast-Globalizing and Ecologically Challenged World by Laurie Lane-Zucker, given at Brooks Memorial Library, Brattleboro, Vermont, on June 9, 2005.