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.