When it was first adopted some 70 years ago, the Freedom to Read Statement was considered a landmark document—a pointed response to the censorship running rampant in the McCarthy era. Now, in the midst of another historic attack on the freedom to read, the American Library Association has announced a series of "listening sessions" which could lead to a revision of the statement.
The review will include five virtual sessions, organized by theme and facilitated by an Intellectual Freedom Committee task force focused on revising the statement, which will gather ALA member input throughout the fall of 2023 and submit their findings to the Office of Intellectual Freedom for consideration. ALA leaders are "strongly encouraging" members to attend one or all of the upcoming listening sessions.
"At these virtual sessions, attendees should plan to share their thoughts on how well the current statement addresses these themes and what changes may need to be made to the statement," an ALA release notes. "The discussions will focus on big picture ideas, rather than wordsmithing the statement. Each session will also include a brief overview of what the Freedom to Read Statement is and how it has been revised in the past."
The Freedom to Read listening sessions are set for:
- Wednesday, September 27 (1:30-3 p.m. CT): First Amendment
- Thursday, October 5 (2-3:30 p.m. CT): Disinformation and Misinformation
- Friday, October 13 (1:30-3 p.m. CT): Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
- Thursday, October 19 (2:30-4 p.m. CT): Challenges to Materials and Authors
- Wednesday, October 25(2-3:30 p.m. CT): Youth Access to Materials
The sessions come after ALA teamed up with other industry organizations after this year's ALA Annual Conference to issue a joint statement reaffirming the landmark 1953 Freedom to Read statement on its 70th anniversary. The statement was first published on June 25, 1953, and has been updated three times since then, the last time in 2004.