Vermont Library Freedom to Read Statement

Intellectual freedom is the right of library users to read, seek information, and speak freely as guaranteed by the First Amendment. Intellectual freedom is one of the core values of the library profession and a basic right in our democratic society; it promotes access to information and guides the defense against censorship.

In 1953, the American Library Association and the Association of American Publishers jointly released The Freedom to Read Statement. This statement reminded us that, “The freedom to read is essential to our democracy. It is continuously under attack” (ALA, 2004). Now, seventy years later, a resurgence of attacks on the freedom to read again threatens our democracy. Calls for book bans, the adoption of unconstitutional legislation, and campaigns to criminalize librarians for distributing materials protected by the First Amendment threaten our fundamental liberties.

Vermont librarians are joining together to emphatically reaffirm their commitment to the values expressed in the American Library Association’s intellectual freedom documents, including The Freedom to Read Statement. We believe all Vermonters deserve free access to materials that function as windows and mirrors, both reflecting individuals’ experiences and providing expanded, diverse views of the world (Bishop, 1990). We also believe that people are only truly free when they can read freely.

Jointly issued by the governing boards of the Vermont School Library Association and the Vermont Library Association, January 2024.

REFERENCES

American Library Association. “The Freedom To Read Statement.” ALA Advocacy, 2004,
https://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/freedomreadstatement

Bishop, Rudine Simms. “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors.” Perspectives: Choosing and Using Books for the Classroom, vol. 6, no. 3, 1990.
https://scenicregional.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Mirrors-Windows-and-Sliding-Glass-Doors.pdf

Vermont Library Association green and white logo, and American Library Association red, blue, and white logo.

ALA Donates $3,500 to Assist Vermont Libraries Damaged by Floods, Encourages More Donations

Catastrophic flooding in July 2023 impacted the state of Vermont, including many libraries. Seventeen public libraries suffered damage to their buildings and loss of resources. Thanks to support from American Library Association (ALA) members and other library supporters around the country, the ALA Disaster Relief Fund is sending $3,500 to the Vermont Library Association (VLA) to disburse to those libraries hardest hit and in need of financial assistance.

Kellogg-Hubbard Library in Montpelier, the state capitol, suffered major damage to infrastructure and was not open to the public for several months. Staff provided curbside pickup of library materials and provided internet access outside the building.

Johnson Public Library is providing library services from its temporary location in the Johnson Masonic Temple, while work on the library building continues. Post-flood building repairs at the Johnson Public Library building include heating, electrical, flooring, and insulation installation.

Water flooded the South Londonderry Free Library through both the roof and the basement during the storms. The library continued service to the public despite having on-going repairs.

“ALA thanks the Vermont Department of Libraries and the Vermont Library Association for their support and assistance to library staff and the communities they serve,” said Michael Dowling, director of the ALA Chapter Relations Office, in a press release.

The American Library Association’s Disaster Relief Fund provides monies to libraries in the U.S. and around the world that have been damaged or destroyed due to natural or man-made disasters. Donations to Vermont libraries can be made on the ALA Disaster Relief Fund web page. Please type “Vermont” in the tribute line.

The American Library Association is the foremost national organization providing resources to inspire library and information professionals to transform their communities through essential programs and services.

Vermont Library Association Statement of Support for ALA

The Vermont Library Association (VLA) affirms its support for the American Library Association (ALA), a nonpartisan, nonprofit membership organization that develops, promotes, and improves library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.

The American Library Association has a representative in Vermont, Chapter Councilor Jessamyn West, who has served in this position since 2020.

The ALA:

  • Promotes the Library Bill of Rights, affirming that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and Freedom to Read, affirming Americans can make their own decisions about what they read and believe.
  • Supports First Amendment rights to free speech, thought, and opinion;
  • Is composed of and serves people of all demographics and ideologies;
  • Is not a governing body and has no authority over the governance of Vermont libraries, which have a wide range of organizing structures;
  • Is governed by a council and executive board elected by the membership, including a representative from the Vermont Library Association;
  • Provides information about library best practices to its membership, and creates public relations campaigns that promote library services;
  • Offers professional development, publications, and conferences to its membership.

ALA is an effective advocate for funding from the federal government through the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ (IMLS) grants to states. Through ALA’s efforts with its members and allies, including the Chief Officers of State Library Associations, IMLS has increased its base funding nationally. The Vermont Department of Libraries has seen an increase of $326,077 or 26% from 2019 to 2023, to $1,247,111 annually.

During the pandemic years, ALA pushed for further support for libraries across the country. The Vermont Department of Libraries received additional critical dollars, $56,384 from the CARES Act and $2,135,819 from the American Rescue Plan Act.

ALA is the second-largest grant funder to libraries. Since 2021, ALA has awarded 44 libraries in Vermont a total of $276,000 for digital training workshops, bolstering technology in small and rural libraries, STEM resources, and other professional development and resources to help libraries better serve the needs of their communities.

The Vermont Library Association Executive Board
September 2023
Contact:
Oceana Wilson (she, her)
VLA President
president@vermontlibraries.org