First Amendment Friday, Jul 24 2009 

Earlier this month I was able to attend a program honoring the 40th Anniversary of the Freedom to Read Foundation. It was held in the newly opened west wing of the Art Institute of Chicago. While the evening was mostly a celebration and remembrance of the life of Judith Krug, who is discussed in an earlier blog, the McCormick Freedom Museum was presented with the Civic Achievement Award at the event.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution; “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” guarantees all individuals the right to express their ideas without government interference and to read and listen to the ideas of others.

The McCormick Freedom Museum is a recent outgrowth of the McCormick Foundation which was established in 1955 upon the death of Colonel Robert McCormick the long-time editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune. Since its founding, the Foundation has been dedicated to the three passions of Colonel McCormick; the First Amendment, Civic Engagement, and a love of Chicago.

The McCormick Freedom Museum was opened as a physical structure in April 2006 and in March 2009 left its building to become a virtual presence organization.  The Museum focuses on the five freedoms outlined in the first amendment Рassembly, religion, petition, press and speech. As its web page indicates its mission is to engage citizens of all ages in dialogue regarding freedom and the First Amendment.

While directed primarily to the Chicago area community, it sponsors a national student expression contest, Seen and Heard, in which high school students can express their thoughts on contemporary social, political or economic issues through the following formats: editorial cartoons, film, photojournalism, and digital design.

Why are organizations such as the McCormick Freedom Museum important to individuals such as this blog writer who live many miles away from its primary action area?

The first amendment is essential to the work that I have been involved in since my first paying library job in 1959.  The freedom to read is essential to a functioning democracy. By providing  access to information and ideas across the spectrum of social and political thought public libraries serve a vital role in enabling all people to chose, without outside interference, what they want to read, view or listen to.

This right is always under attack from those who want to proscribe certain viewpoints or desire to limit access to viewpoints different from those that they find acceptable. Organizations such as the McCormick Freedom Museum are a necessary and vital force in the efforts to educate and remind all Americans, and particularly our younger generation, of the importance and value of first amendment rights to their daily lives.

So long for now!

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Core Values – First Post Wednesday, Jun 18 2008 

In my May 16 post I promised to discuss the Library’s core values. As it is now mid June the time has come to deliver on that promise.

What is a value? The Free Dictionary defines a value as “a principle, standard, or quality considered worthwhile or desirable”. This is as good a definition as any. In reality, a value is something that is held in high regard or esteem by an institution or individual. Values drive anything that an institution or individual does whether they are stated or unstated.

In committing to a set of values the Williamsburg Regional Library is declaring the institutional basis for its programs and services.

The current Williamsburg Regional Library strategic plan lists seven core values. They are :

  • We value free and confidential access to information.
  • We value all residents in our community.
  • We value a literate community.
  • We value strength found in diversity.
  • We value our staff.
  • We value ethical, fiscally responsible stewardship of public resources.
  • We value working cooperatively with groups in our community.

In this post I will briefly discuss the first four of these values, leaving the last three for a later post.

We value free and confidential access to information – The Library’s mission statement indicates “free access to information is a foundation of democracy”. In fulfilling our mission statement the Library supports the right of residents to select the information appropriate for their individual needs. Access to this information is not restricted, except where required by law, and the library through its confidentiality policy and procedures ensures that this access will be remain private.

We value all residents in our community – The Library pledges to provide each individual with courteous, respectful, and friendly service. We value individuals input regarding all that we do. I enjoy receiving “Ask the Director” Comment Cards and have had many delightful (and to be honest, some not so delightful) discussions with individuals as a result. As we look into future revisions of our strategic plan this value may be clarified to define community to being the residents of our funding jurisdictions. As recent events have shown, the Library is not able to provide full service to non-residents of our funding jurisdictions.

We value a literate community – As our strategic plan indicates, “Literacy is important to the successful functioning of a democratic society”. It is also essential to the successful operation of a public library. Without literate users, libraries cease to exist. Through all our programs, services and collections the Library promotes lifelong literacy. One of my community services, as mentioned in an earlier post, is serving on the board of a local adult literacy provider. This service has given me an increased awareness of the value of literacy to both individuals and society at large.

We value strength found in diversity – Our community is a diverse community embracing many cultures, values, and lifestyles. The adult literacy provider mentioned above had as students in the past year individuals from 50 countries speaking 32 different languages. Each summer brings many international student workers to the library on a regular basis. Through personal interactions with the many members of our community we are enriched and become a stronger and more vital institution.

So long for now!