Passing of an Era Friday, Apr 17 2009 

This past Monday I opened my e-mail to receive several communications concerning the passing of Judith F. Krug on April 11, 2009 in Evanston, Illinois.  I had known that Judith had been ill for some time, but her death still came as a shock.

As some know, one of my personal passions is Intellectual Freedom. A society that observes Intellectual Freedom is one that “makes an equal commitment to the right of unrestricted access to information and ideas regardless of the communication medium used, the content of the work, and the viewpoints of both the author and receiver of the information.” Intellectual Freedom Manual, Sixth Edition 2002.

Judith Krug was an inspirational leader in the struggle to educate the public concerning the right to the free expression of ideas. Since 1967 she had directed the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. In this position she was the Association’s voice for Intellectual Freedom.

For over 40 years Judith was the individual that librarians and others looked to when censorship of library materials was an issue; when government sought to limit access to materials or ideas; or when you needed a sympathetic, understanding voice to hear what you were facing. She was strident in her efforts to oppose censorship and intellectual intolerance, whether it was local community efforts to remove material from school and public libraries,  the Communications Decency Act,  or Section 215 of the Patriot Act.

Judith dedicated her life to upholding First Amendment principles. As a First Amendment absolutist, she often drew criticism for her stands. Judith had an abiding faith in the ability of individuals to make personal decisions on what they should read or view and often argued that the government should not interfere in a citizen’s right to obtain and examine information.

I was privileged to observe Judith in action and to work with her as a member of the Intellectual Freedom Committee of the American Library Association and in other American Library Association activities.   She was always willing to go anywhere to any meeting. When I was teaching a graduate course in library administration at the University of Illinois, she came down to lead the class session on Intellectual Freedom.  This class session was the liveliest and most  informative session that semester.

In a lifetime you meet few people  of Judith’s caliber and dedication. I am one of the lucky ones to have been in her orbit. Her dedication, humor and unwavering intensity left a mark on me that will be there as long as I live.


Privacy Thursday, Jul 31 2008 

In today’s technological world where new information sharing devices and systems are developed on what seems like an hourly basis, the ability to keep ones personal information to oneself is becoming increasingly difficult. For some this is not a problem. For others, such as myself, it is of concern for I have lived long enough to see what serious harm can be done when personal information is used for misguided, immoral, unethical, or illegal purposes.

What is privacy? and Why do many individuals place such a high value on maintaining personal privacy? Roger Cook an Australian who has studied in this area for many years states that,” Privacy is the interest that individuals have in sustaining a ‘personal space’, free from interference by other people and organizations”. This is as good a definition as any.

As each of us is a member of society our desire for ‘personal space’ must be balanced by the society’s need for personal information in order complete the transactions needed for the society to exist. Taxes must be paid, living places acquired and maintained, health and welfare information gathered, essential functions of commerce provided for and so on. Each of these requires that we as individuals give personal information of one type or another to other organizations in order to function as members of our society.

Libraries are in the forefront of any discussion of privacy as they have historically protected the right of individual users to maintain privacy in what they read, view, or see in the Library setting. Library records in most states are protected by confidentiality statutes that require that a court order be obtained before the library divulges information concerning the individual’s use of the library.

Recently in my role as a member of the Board of Directors of the Intellectual Freedom Round Table of the American Library Association, I have been involved in an effort to begin a National Conversation on Privacy. As an initial step, small discussion groups have been held in all areas of our country to gather information from citizens on what privacy concerns they have. Information from these meetings is being evaluated and work is progressing towards the development of a format for this National Conversation.

Some of the questions asked in these small discussion groups are ones that all of us need to think about as we look at how our society influences our ability to maintain our ‘personal space’ in our daily interactions. Think about the following:

1. What is important to you personally about privacy?

2. What information about yourself are you comfortable in giving out?

3. How do you feel about privacy? What concerns do you have about privacy?

4. What types of information could hurt a person if made public?

5. What information about others do you feel you need to know?

6. What trade-offs or compromises would you be willing to make with your privacy?

Think about these questions and how you would address each one. Discuss this with your family and friends. I will keep readers informed as to the progress of the National Conversation on Privacy.

So long for now!