There’s no denying that these days librarians all over the nation are grappling with questions regarding the First Amendment and the legal ramifications of challenges in our libraries to intellectual freedom. On this show, Deborah Caldwell-Stone, the Director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom and Executive Director of the Freedom to Read Foundation, shares essential information about libraries and the First Amendment. While Deborah is an attorney, she cannot offer legal advice or legal counsel. Please take the information shared on this show as information only, as a guideline to start a conversation with your own legal counsel. 


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Adriane Herrick Juarez:

This is Adriane Herrick Juarez. You’re listening to Library Leadership Podcast, where we talk about libraries, and leadership, and speak with guests who share their ideas, innovations, and strategic insights in the profession.

There’s no denying that these days librarians all over the nation are grappling with questions regarding the First Amendment and the legal ramifications of challenges in our libraries to intellectual freedom.

On this show Deborah Caldwell-Stone, the Director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, and Executive Director of the Freedom to Read Foundation shares essential information about libraries and the First Amendment. While Deborah is an attorney, she cannot offer legal advice or legal counsel. Please take the information shared on this show as information only—as a guideline to start a conversation with your own legal counsel.  Enjoy the show!

Deborah, welcome to the show.

Deborah Caldwell-Stone:

Well, thanks for having me on, Adriane. I really appreciate having this opportunity to chat with you and your audience.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #1: Today we are talking about libraries and the First Amendment. This is an important topic in our current climate as libraries face book bans, meeting room challenges, First Amendment audits, and more. As we begin, will you talk about the First Amendment as it applies to the right to receive information?

Deborah Caldwell-Stone:

It’s long been held by the Supreme Court that the First Amendment includes rights that aren’t actually listed in the First Amendment that enable everyone to make best use of their First Amendment rights. Among these is a right to receive information. It was the legal scholar, Rodney Smolla, who said if there’s—having a right to speak doesn’t mean anything unless there’s someone there to hear you. He famously alluded to the fact that having a right to speak without a right to receive information is like the sound of one hand clapping. I’ve always enjoyed that phrase.

It has particular import for public libraries, and to some extent school libraries that are also public school libraries. Because the First Amendment does govern the activities of libraries, because they are government institutions, they have to protect the ability of library users to access information in the library. Much has been written about this, and of course, have relied on it for many years to protect the access to the public library for the average library user.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #2: How do libraries serve as public forums to exercise freedom of expression according to legal designations?  03:18 

Deborah Caldwell-Stone:

You have to understand that public forums are spaces that are there for the exercise of speech activities—expressive activities. Expression includes a wide range of things. It can be speaking. It can be protesting. It can be coming together to associate with like-minded people. But in the library context, of course, it’s about the right to receive and access information resources that are collected by the library. Because the library is a government institution it’s considered a special place to go to access information. That’s what the courts protect in regards to the library. Libraries are considered a limited public forum. 

When I say limited it means that it’s a place for expressive activity, but for one kind of expressive activity. It’s not for all expressive activities. This is because the government says that there are different kinds of public forums. There’s a traditional public forum, which is like town squares and sidewalks where anything can happen. Somebody can pull up a soapbox. People can hand out pamphlets. But, they have created special places like libraries where you can exercise some First Amendment related activities—that’s reading, that’s accessing the internet, that is meeting in meeting rooms—if meeting rooms are available, those special services that libraries provide.

It does mean that the library’s not required to allow certain activities. They can govern the library in line with its mission. That means that they can exclude certain activities that are otherwise protected by the First Amendment that would disrupt what’s called the quiet enjoyment of the library. 

It’s maybe a public forum, but it’s not a public forum for passing out pamphlets. It’s not a public forum for standing on a soapbox and proclaiming to everyone what your beliefs are. It’s just there for reading books.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #3: How do patron behavior rules affect library access?  05:30 

Deborah Caldwell-Stone:

Patron behavior rules are the way that libraries can make sure that libraries are places of, what the courts have called, quiet enjoyment—but also just the ability to use the library effectively without feeling they are being harassed, or that someone else’s activities are interfering with their ability to study, to read, to use the internet. 

It’s also a protection for staff as well, because the library doesn’t operate efficiently if the staff can’t do its job free of harassment. Libraries are entitled to create what are called time, place and manner rules. These are rules that have to be content neutral and viewpoint neutral. They can’t be applied based on somebody’s beliefs, or their views on a topic. They are simply neutral rules that say, for example: you can’t make too much noise in the library; or you can only make noise in the music room that’s designated for music practice; or you can’t use amplified sound in the meeting room because that might disturb other library users; you can’t look over somebody’s shoulder because it invades somebody’s privacy; you can’t harass staff. 

You can create rules about the hours of the library—the hours you can access particular resources or meeting rooms. You can say that some activities occur at a particular branch, or again, the manner of how that is done—like bulletin boards. You can only use the bulletin board if you’re posting an 8 X 11 sign that meets the criteria of the library’s policy. 

All these rules are there to allow the library to ensure a quiet space—an appropriate space, because not all library activities are quiet, I acknowledge that, but an appropriate safe space for library users and library staff to make use of the library’s resources and for the staff to be able to provide those resources to the public.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #4:  Libraries have been experiencing First Amendment audits. What are these, and what are some guidelines for handling them?  07:37 

Deborah Caldwell-Stone:

First Amendment audits are—I’ve termed them like a social media fad. They are this little campaign by internet users. They belong to FaceBook groups. They use YouTube as a place to gather, but they have a belief that the First Amendment is very expansive—that it authorizes them to make sure that they can fully exercise all their First Amendment rights in government spaces, or public spaces. They believe they can do this in any public space that’s operated by the government that they can access. 

They have taken cameras to record activities in all kinds of institutions. This includes libraries, but they’ve tried courthouses. They’ve tried city halls. They’ve tried schools. They’ve even gone into government agencies like—for example, there was an attempt by individuals to record activity in a welfare office in Boston, which actually was truly tragic because it really isn’t a public space. The individuals applying for assistance really have a right to privacy, and these individuals were mistaken in asserting that they had it, but nonetheless they engaged with security staff. They were ejected. 

What they do with this video is they post it online and they sell advertising. They create controversy around it, and they monetize these videos. Libraries, as I said, have become part of this. What it’s important to remember, and this goes back to the patron behavior rules, is that filming as either a citizen journalist, or just as a citizen, or a library user is something that can be regulated by the library. Yes, it’s an expressive activity, but there’s no absolute right to film in the library because that’s not the purpose of the library. The purpose of the library is to make available information resources in a space where people can safely and efficiently access that information.

There can be reasonable time, place and manner rules in place in libraries to govern  filming activities. We’re not saying that no filming can take place in libraries. Often individual library users may want to take a picture of the collection, or the architecture, or just to have a souvenir of the activity in a library’s lobby. What they should not be able to do is to harass staff, to harass library users, to invade the privacy of library users. Those are all fundamental rights of library users, and library staff. There should be rules in place in the behavior policy that prohibits that kind of harassment and invasion of privacy. 

So you’re not ejecting them because they’re filming, you’re ejecting them because they’re harassing staff. You’re ejecting them because they’re violating behavior rules. You’re ejecting them because they’re filming over the shoulder of somebody browsing the internet, who may well be browsing sensitive information about breast cancer, for example. They’re entitled to have that privacy protected by the library’s policies, the library’s staff. 

Equally, the library staff is entitled to feel safe in their work. While there is a right for individuals to film public employees doing their jobs in public, this doesn’t amount to a right to demand that they answer questions, to follow them around so closely that they can’t do their work. There needs to be policies in place for that as well.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #5:  What should librarians know about meeting rooms and display cases when it comes to the First Amendment?   11:18 

Deborah Caldwell-Stone:

What you should know is that you can create a sort of mini public forum within your library. No, library’s obligated to give access to its meeting rooms. No library’s obligated to provide public access to display cases. That can be completely controlled by the library. You can keep your meeting rooms reserved solely for library sponsored programs if you want. But, many libraries do choose to open up meeting room space as a service to the community, because many smaller groups, for example, may not have a place to meet and conduct their business—garden clubs, scout groups, that kind of thing, or it’s important to the library to make available a place where people can bring in speakers for civic engagement purposes, for learning purposes. 

If you do that—if you open your meeting room, or your display case to public access, allowing any members of the public to use it, it’s like a library book. You’ve created a resource that people can use whenever they want and you can’t stop them from using it because of their views, because of their identity, because of the topic of the speech they’re going to be addressing. You have to treat it like another kind of public forum. 

So you can have time, place and manner rules—meeting rooms are only available on Tuesday, and Thursday nights. You have to apply fifteen days in advance. You have to be a library card holder to access a meeting room. They have to be content neutral, viewpoint neutral rules that you put in place because you want to manage the library’s meeting rooms in a way that allows for the efficient, safe operation of the library.

If a group that you may not like applies to use the library and they otherwise meet the criteria of the meeting room policy that you’ve created with your board, you have to let them use it. You may not personally like their views, or the arguments they’re going to make. You may believe strongly in the separation of church and state, and this is a religious group, for example, but they’re equally entitled to use that room. You can’t put your personal beliefs ahead of the right of a library user to use space that the library’s made generally available to the public. The law will see that as an infringement on the user’s First Amendment rights. 

In fact I used religion as a very real example because that’s where most of the court cases around this have happened. This is actually an area where there’s been lots of litigation, and I’m sad to report that libraries usually come out on the losing end of these lawsuits because they’ve prevented a religious group from holding a prayer meeting, or they’ve prevented a religious group from just using the space for a business meeting because of the religious aspect of their mission—that’s seen as viewpoints and belief discrimination by the courts. 

There was a time when many libraries had it in their policies that they didn’t allow religious groups to use their meeting rooms, and that’s really an antiquated view. Yes, there’s an issue with the establishment clause. The library can’t be seen as endorsing a particular religious group, or a particular religious viewpoint, but that doesn’t mean that you should exclude religion all together from the library, or prevent religious groups from using library meeting rooms, or display cases on a co-equal basis with all other citizens in the community, or library users in the community. 

There’s actually an interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights—that on meeting room policies, on display cases, that can be useful in guiding policy development, if you have questions about that.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #6:  What does case law indicate when it comes to managing social media?  14:59 

Deborah Caldwell-Stone:

Similarly to meeting rooms and display cases, libraries can actually create a public forum on their social media. I want to emphasize that when I talk about libraries I talk about public libraries. But really, any government agency that uses social media to communicate with the public.

What the courts have determined is that it’s fine to have social media to push out messages. But if you start engaging in a conversation with users of the social media account—if you invite users to contribute content to social media accounts you’ve actually created another public forum. It will be governed by public forum rules. You can’t block somebody because you don’t like what they say, or what they’re saying. You can’t take down their posts because that’s considered a kind of censorship. The person who discovered this and really laid out the principle for this is our former president who began blocking people on his Twitter account and the individuals took the ex-president to court and the court swiftly ruled that because that was being used to communicate with citizens about government services that it was a public forum, and that people couldn’t be blocked from the account—that they couldn’t prevent people from posting to the account.

It’s the same for public libraries.

If you start engaging in a conversation, or invite comments on your social media posts, whether it’s FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, or otherwise you have to be very mindful that your moderation rules are time, place and manner rules—or are very carefully crafted to prevent harassment or conformity with the purpose of a forum. You can limit the purpose of the forum for a discussion of library book titles for example. You can say, Well if you’re not going to talk about library book titles we’re going to not allow you to post or something. Even there, there’s a little bit of a liability issue so we always say that you have to consult with your library’s attorney when you’re crafting these policies to be very careful not to cross these lines where you might be seen as creating a public forum or violating the rights of the individuals who are invited to participate on the social media account. 

Often I have ended up recommending to libraries that they think about, maybe, just using their social media accounts to provide information rather than inviting conversations, or having a separate account for reference services where they might be in conversation with library users, but also understanding people are going to post criticism on your social media accounts. You may have to live with that criticism and allow that post to live unless it crosses a legal line—if it’s a true threat to somebody’s health, safety, or if it’s harassment, or it’s illegal material of some kind. There are categories of material that are not legal to post and your library’s attorney can guide you to those case law and help you craft a policy in conformity with that.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #7: Will you please give us an overview of library censorship in the courts to help us understand the obligations of libraries?  18:18 

Deborah Caldwell-Stone:

Absolutely, as a public form, as an institution that’s governed by the First Amendment, I’ve mentioned some of these principles earlier in relation to the meeting rooms, or behavior policies or social media, but you cannot censor materials based on the viewpoint expressed by the author, or because some people regard them as controversial, or disagree with that viewpoint. You cannot remove materials simply because someone doesn’t like the content of the book, or feels that, for example, authors of color shouldn’t be in the library. You have to have both collection development policies and reconsideration policies that are written with this in mind.

You also should have strong procedures that address due process. It’s fair for an individual to raise a concern about a book, and there should be due process in place to allow their concern to be heard, to be fairly dealt with in light of the collection development policy, and receive an answer from the library about whether or not the book will stay in the collection, for example.

We strongly recommend a collection development policy that clearly sets forth the library’s mission, its goals, its criteria for collecting books, as well as a reconsideration policy that puts in place that due process. Due process is important because it not only respects the rights of an individual to raise concerns, to petition the government, which is another part of the First Amendment, but also to give notice of community, to give a fair hearing—not only to the individual, but to the book itself, to the library staff that is managing the collection, and to the library board, so everyone has a say in the final decision making. 

Ultimately, if the book was acquired according to policy, is available in a manner that’s suitable for the developmental age of the reader, when we’re talking about children’s collections for example, they should ultimately remain in the library’s collection. Removing it because someone doesn’t like the fact that the book touches on gender identity, or sexual orientation, or matters of race can well and truly raise liability issues for every library. 

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #8:  Are there any categories of unprotected speech?  20:39 

Deborah Caldwell-Stone:

Yes, absolutely, and again—touched on this a little bit earlier, but the Supreme Court has identified several categories of speech that are not protected by the First Amendment, and that can be regulated by local, state, and federal governments, and that includes obscene materials, and that means sexually explicit materials that are created solely for the purpose of causing sexual excitement—have no serious value, and are presented in a way that are–they call it an objectionable way, a prurient—the materials are presented in a prurient fashion. It really just refers to the fact that these are materials that have no other purpose than to excite the person sexually, and literature—aren’t educational materials about reproductive health, puberty, birth control, other issues like that. 

Often there’s an attempt to conflate obscenity with topics that touch on sex and sexuality, but the truth is that the Court has long protected materials that touch on those topics. They’ve just set aside those materials that have no educational value, no serious value, and said it’s appropriate—especially when it’s presented in the fashion that’s meant to be both exciting and disgusting at the same time, is an odd way of putting it. Child pornography is an unprotected category of speech mostly because they are going after the harms that are done to the young children that are forced to participate in the making of child pornography. Child pornography can also be obscene. 

On defamation, defaming somebody’s reputation, telling lies about an individual is unprotected speech. False advertising–lying about a product, trying to entice people to engage in commerce based on lies, that’s also prohibited. 

And finally—truth, facts, and fighting words. If it’s incitement to a riot—if it’s a threat against someone’s health and safety, that’s unprotected speech as well. We’re seeing that conversation around incitement to riot all too often these days. When you incite someone to undertake violence against an individual, or a group, or an institution the courts will not protect that speech.

Now there is one other category of speech that is protected for adults, but unprotected for minors, and that’s called harmful to minors material, or obscene for minors material. What you need to know is that this is material that is sexually, often sexually explicit. It’s protected for adults. It doesn’t meet the adult test for obscenity, but measuring it by what we know to be the developmental age of minors it is unprotected for minors. 

I would say if you wanted a thumbnail measure of this kind of material, think about materials that used to be published by Playboy, or Penthouse, or Hustler—those kinds of materials. The measure for what’s obscene for minors, however, does not exclude sexual content of any kind, gender identity, sexual orientation. Again, it’s the same standard. Does it describe sexual activity in a prurient fashion as measured by minors? Does it lack any serious value for minors? But if it has serious value for minors, and again going back—does it address a topic in literature, in non-fiction that’s important to minors, or has educational value for minors, especially by the oldest of minors. If it’s protected for a seventeen-year-old, it’s protected for all minors of all ages, then it’s not considered obscene for minors.

There’s much confusion about this because of the term of art that’s used—harmful to minors. What that’s really saying is it’s obscene as measured by the particular developmental sensitivities of minors. As a result it might be proscribed for minors, but it means too, that it’s not a measure of what can be proscribed for adults. Often materials are protected for adults, but not for minors. We’ll see that with—there have been blinder racks, for example, for some magazines on display at newsstands in stores and that’s respecting this little distinction about materials that are legal for adults to read and view versus that, that is not intended for children, or older minors.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #9:  How do we tell what is obscenity and what is harmful to minors?  25:18 

Deborah Caldwell-Stone:

There is a test, a legal test, for determining both obscenity and harmful to minors. It’s important to note that this decision has to be made by a court of law, or a judge and jury during a legal proceeding. This isn’t a decision left to the average person. It isn’t a decision left to elected officials. It isn’t left to board members, or even to librarians. There has to be a legal proceeding that applies a test developed by the Supreme Court, it’s called the Miller Test. 

It asks if the work depicts or describes in a patently offensive way sexual content, specifically defined by applicable state law, and whether the average person applying contemporary community standards would find the work as a whole, appeals to the prurient interests. That’s what I was talking about a little earlier in our discussion that it appeals to, you know, creates sexual excitement in a way that you might find a little disgusting. My law professor once said it’s meant to turn you on and turn you off at the same time. But at the same time you have to answer a third question—does the work have serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value? If it has value for anyone in that regard, if someone would appreciate the statue of David without the fig leaf, sculpted by Michelangelo, it has value. It doesn’t matter that some people believe it doesn’t have value for them, personally, that’s not the test. 

The important thing to remember about these tests is you have to meet all three prongs. If it has serious literary value, even though some may not approve of the content, or find it inappropriate, it’s protected by the First Amendment. If it has serious scientific value, political value, artistic value it’s protected by the First Amendment. 

In regards to minors, it’s the very same test only we measure it in regards to what we consider to be appropriate for minors at their stage of development. And again, if it has serious value for any minor it will be protected—well, let me say, if it has serious value for any minor it will be protected speech for those minors.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #10:  Given all we have talked about here will you please share with us some general policy guidelines to help guide our actions in libraries?  27:34 

Deborah Caldwell-Stone:

Absolutely, and let me start by making a disclaimer, but maybe we can do it separately so we can put it at the head of the program. While I’m an attorney, I can’t offer you legal advice, or legal counsel, so please treat the information I’m sharing with you today as legal information—a guideline to start a conversation with your own legal counsel. 

Really, the first rule of thumb for any policy development is to be able to consult with your library’s attorney. They are the best guides to where the legal boundaries are, what particular precedent applies in your state, or in your locality, and to provide guidance on what is appropriate for your community’s library. 

Law policy should always be in writing. You need to provide notice to the public. They need to be accessible, whether through your website, posting on a bulletin board, in a booklet at the circulation desk that people can easily access, but people should have notice about the library’s practices and procedures, and should be accessible to them in writing. 

You have to be able to apply those policies objectively, which means without fear of favor, without putting the thumb on the scale in favor of any particular group. Libraries should be open to everyone and be governed by policies that are inclusive of everyone. It shouldn’t be that you’re collecting books just for one group. You should have an objective collection development policy that includes everyone. Behavior policies just can’t apply to religious groups, or you know, youth. There’s sometimes been an effort to exclude youth from libraries because they might create noise, and everything. The policies have to treat everyone equally and objectively. 

They have to be related to library use. You can’t have a policy that tries to control behavior outside the library. For example if you get barred from FaceBook it shouldn’t bar you from using the library. The library can’t use that as a criteria. Probably the case that illustrates this best—it’s kind of a sad case, but an individual was engaged in a personal relationship with a member of the library staff and it was completely divorced from their behavior in the library. They used the library appropriately. They came in. They borrowed books. They sat at a computer terminal, and they left. But because they were involved in a dispute with this library staff member, I believe it was a divorce. They actually created a policy to bar this library user from the library—out of a concern, certainly for the library staff member, but that was treating him differently for a behavior that was occurring outside the library and had nothing to do with his library use.

Now, if he had started to engage in harassing the library staff member inside the library that would have been a basis for providing consequences for his behavior ranging from you know, being excused for a day, to being barred altogether from the library. But, you can’t look to outside behavior in the library. 

You have to have an appeal mechanism for all your policies. Certainly there should be a final decision-maker in place, but that should be seen in light of who manages the library, who should be hearing about this. So what we recommend is, perhaps the library director is the final decision-maker, but the library board can hear an appeal if somebody thinks the library’s director’s decision is unreasonable, or wrong. But then that body has the final decision. It can be library staff making a decision that the library director is the final resting place for that decision—could be the director going to the library board. You could have both processes in place depending on what’s going on in the library, but you should have an appeal mechanism. It’s part of the due process, and fairness that we want to extend to our library users that they’ve been heard when they have a concern, or they feel that they’ve been treated unfairly.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #11:  Is there anything else you would like to share?  31:45 

Deborah Caldwell-Stone:

Just that libraries are such great community institutions, and all of you as librarians are doing such hard work, and I just want to express my appreciation. I’m fully aware that you’re all on the front lines of this and you’re navigating difficult waters these days. It’s our job here at ALA to make sure that you have the tools and information you need to safely navigate those waters. 

So, I invite you to always feel like you can reach out to us for assistance at [email protected], or to consult our websites. Certainly we’re here to help you and provide guidance and make connections where we can’t provide the assistance directly ourselves. Always remember that. Also, if you hear about censorship in a library please let us know about it. Sometimes we can provide assistance, but we certainly want to be able to track and report on what’s going on in libraries. 

It’s having an effect. Our data is reaching legislators in congress, and at state houses, and they’re taking note of the fact that censorship is taking place in our libraries, and needs to be addressed by items like the Right to Read legislation that’s been introduced in congress.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #12:  You mentioned the ALA website, which is a great resource for anyone who has questions. Do you have any other books, or resources that you can share that will also help?  33:02 

Deborah Caldwell-Stone:

One thing I always recommend, and not just because I helped put it together, is the Intellectual Freedom Manual. It’s in its tenth edition. It’s a compilation that has all the recommended best practices and policies as developed by ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee, and Committee on Professional Ethics, to guide decision making about acquisition; access to library resources; good information from an attorney, Theresa Chmara about the rights of library users; and the obligations of libraries in regards to library users rights. It’s a great reference resource to use in this regard.

I also recommend that individuals consult the Unite Against Book Bans website. I say this because in the choppy waters we’re navigating—to carry forth the metaphor, there’s a need for marshaling support for libraries and library workers across the board. Unite Against Book Bans is an opportunity for individuals in the community to get involved in the fight to support libraries, to support library workers, and to advocate against censorship in their communities. There’s an entire toolkit there for individuals to use, and to understand the issues, and to work with elected officials on preventing censorship in their communities—either letters to the editors, talking points, on how to even run for office themselves if they want to be on the library board and defend the right to read from that position. So, I recommend it to libraries to share with their communities and with their Friends Group and their library supporters, as well.

There’s such a wealth of materials available through a number of library publishers. I would look for works written by Pat Scales on defending banned books, and teaching about banned books. Emily Knox has written a number of excellent works on intellectual freedom, and professional ethics that are available through ALA editions like Foundations of Intellectual Freedom. 

I would say that books by Shannon Oltmann, who is also an academic at University of Kentucky, but who has written extensively, and worked with librarians extensively on putting policies in place to defend the freedom to read. 

Of course, the Freedom to Read Foundation—well, Freedom to Read Foundation is closely affiliated with ALA, but it’s a separate organization. It can be found at It litigates First Amendment issues on behalf of library users and library workers, and it regularly engages in court cases and also supports education on intellectual freedom for library workers across the country, as well.

If you ever find yourself in difficulties because of your defense of intellectual freedom as a librarian, the LeRoy C. Merritt Fund provides—actually it provides financial assistance. If you need a seed grant to help consult with an attorney about your employment, even if you’ve lost your job because of your defense of intellectual freedom the Merritt Fund is available to help pay COBRA, or grocery fees, mortgage fees, if you need that support as a result of your defense of intellectual freedom, it’s available through the ALA website, but can also be found at the Merritt, if you’d like to consult them.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #13:  Deborah, in closing, what do libraries mean to you, personally?  36:41  

Deborah Caldwell-Stone:

Libraries were, and are my sustenance. I was an early reader. My mom was a single parent and just couldn’t provide the books I wanted to read. Libraries were there. I could go to the library, and I rode my little bicycle with its wicker basket and loaded up, and I discovered the world through libraries. 

I don’t think I’d be where I am today without libraries being in place—the librarians guiding me to books. The librarian who snuck me into the adults—I’m dating myself, I’m sure, but my library had separate stacks for adults and you had to be over the age of twelve to access them. She snuck me in there [laughs] when I was too young to be in there. I was looking for things like Nero Wolfe Mysteries, you know, I wasn’t looking for salacious materials or anything like that. I was looking for novels written by authors that had been classified as adults—Madeleine L’Engle comes to mind. 

In the end they gave me access to ideas, databases, and things that fed my later education as well. I can’t say enough about libraries. It’s been truly a privilege for the last two decades to say that I have librarians as my client, so to speak. No, I don’t represent all of you individually, but I’ve always taken it to heart that librarians are my clients and I want to make it possible for librarians to continue to serve, particularly young people the way I was served as a young person, and make sure libraries are there long into the future.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Oh, Deborah, that is marvelous. My mom was a single mom, too. I also found the world in libraries, and I think so many others have as well. Thank you for all this valuable information to serve your client base of librarians. I know this is going to help a lot of people listening today. I’m very grateful to have had you here. 

Deborah Caldwell-Stone:

Thank you again, for having me on—any time, and if there’s other topics, or other chances to chat with you, I’d welcome them. Thank you again, for inviting me.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

You’re welcome. Thank you, Deborah.

You’ve been listening to Library Leadership Podcast. This is Adriane Herrick Juarez. For more episodes tune into where you can now subscribe to get episodes delivered right into your email inbox. Our producer is Nathan Sinclair Vineyard. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time.

We would like to thank the Park City Library for their dedicated support of this show. The opinions expressed on this show are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect the views of Library Leadership Podcast, or our sponsors.