Director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom for more than 40 years, Judith Krug died last week at the age of 69. We remember the librarian who crusaded against censorship and railed tirelessly against efforts to ban books.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And now a salute to librarians in general, and one, in particular. On the Media admires librarians because they stand steadfast and brave on the side of free speech even when the political wind, or their own communities, blow the other way. We've noted this year after year during citizen campaigns against books ranging from Heather Has Two Mommies to Huckleberry Finn, and when librarians lobbied long and hard against a provision in the Patriot Act that would compel them to release a client’s book-borrowing records without their knowledge. The best thing about librarians, though, is how much noise they make when the sanctity of their citadels is breached.
JUDITH KRUG: Libraries serve the information needs of everyone in the community that they serve, not only the most popular people, not only the loudest and not even only the majority. We serve the needs of those people that we wouldn't take home for dinner.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: That’s the librarian in particular who we wish to celebrate – Judith Krug, director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom since it was founded in 1967. She died in Evanston, Illinois last Saturday at the age of 69. The ALA’s annual Banned Books Week was Krug’s brainchild. She said a book makes the list not when people object to it but when they demand its removal from library shelves.
JUDITH KRUG: The people who want materials removed really do feel very strongly. And if they feel that strongly, the way to protect their own value system is to make sure nothing’s available to contradict it.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Back in the early '90s, during the kerfuffle over Madonna’s salacious paean to sex – called Sex – Krug said the book was, quote, “sleazy trash, but it should be in every medium-sized library in the United States.”
JUDITH KRUG: I like to say that your First Amendment rights end where my nose begins.
[LAUGHTER] That’s where my First Amendment rights begin.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Judith Krug, who devoted her life to preserving that most fundamental of American values, was a true patriot.
JUDITH KRUG: Over 200 years ago, James Madison said it better than I could ever say it when he said, “A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” And, ladies and gentlemen, we, the librarians of this country, hold that knowledge in our hands.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: In my opinion, Judith Krug deserved the Medal of Freedom. All we can do is bestow our gratitude – and offer this musical sendoff, about how librarians help us navigate the card catalog, I think she'd appreciate.
MAN SINGS: ‘Cause she shows it to me and then she does it with me. And then she smiles so happily when I can do it for myself. She’s the interactive kind when there things that I need to find. Whoa, my librarian. She is so fine.
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BOB GARFIELD: That's it for this week's show. On the Media was produced by Jamie York, Mike Vuolo, Mark Phillips, Nazanin Rafsanjani, Michael Bernstein and P.J. Vogt, with more help from Kara Gionfriddo and Ethan Chiel, and edited – by Brooke. We had technical direction from Jennifer Munson and more engineering help from Zach Marsh. Our webmaster is Amy Pearl.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Katya Rogers is our senior producer and John Keefe our executive producer. Bassist/composer Ben Allison wrote our theme. This is On the Media from WNYC. I'm Brooke Gladstone.