Reading & Literacy

Judith Krug, Helped Librarians Fight Book Bans, Dies at 69

April 17, 2009 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

When Banned Books Week is commemorated for the 27th time this fall, the annual list of texts slated for possible removal from school libraries will be shorter than previously, if it follows the trend of the last few years. And it’s expected that there will be many more books on the list that were “challenged” than those that were “banned” from library shelves, since librarians and library advocates have become very skilled at fending off such demands.

For that they should probably thank Judith F. Krug.

“Censorship dies in the light of day,” Krug, who died this week of stomach cancer, used to say.

Krug, who headed the Office for Intellectual Freedom at the American Library Association for more than 40 years, was one of the founders and chief promoters of Banned Books Week. The annual event, started in 1982, was intended to bring attention to the hundreds of cases each year when citizens or parents would call for a book to be removed from public collections because they found them offensive or inappropriate.

Krug helped to craft formal policies for handling such demands, which were adopted by many school districts around the country. She also designed and promoted thorough training for librarians to help them carry out school policies on challenged books. Those policies have allowed both a formal outlet for parents and others who have concerns about books on the library shelves and a detailed method for school officials to fairly and thoroughly review the complaints against predetermined standards for schoolbooks.

The ALA says this about the annual event:

Although they were the targets of attempted bannings, most of the books featured during BBW were not banned, thanks to the efforts of librarians to maintain them in their collections. Imagine how many more books might be challenged—and possibly banned or restricted—if librarians, teachers, and booksellers across the country did not use Banned Books Week each year to teach the importance of our First Amendment rights and the power of literature, and to draw attention to the danger that exists when restraints are imposed on the availability of information in a free society."

I wrote about one such challenge in Arkansas, where the district’s clearly defined policy helped neutralize a tense situation.

I remember talking with Krug for the story at the time and she recommended I visit Fayetteville because of the painstaking work the district had done to craft its policy on challenged books, and then how that policy helped them through a very aggressive challenge. The superintendent, school board members, librarians, and teachers in the district all pointed to that process, and the help they received from Ms. Krug’s office in crafting and carrying out the policy, as incredibly effective and empowering.

When you consider that some 400 books get complaints significant enough to be reported to ALA each year, 70 percent of them in school libraries, and multiply that by all the years that Ms. Krug worked on that issue, it’s safe to say her work had a lasting impact on the nation’s schools.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Start Strong With Solid SEL Implementation: Success Strategies for the New School Year
Join Satchel Pulse to learn why implementing a solid SEL program at the beginning of the year will deliver maximum impact to your students.
Content provided by Satchel Pulse
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Science Webinar
Real-World Problem Solving: How Invention Education Drives Student Learning
Hear from student inventors and K-12 teachers about how invention education enhances learning, opens minds, and preps students for the future.
Content provided by The Lemelson Foundation
Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Reading & Literacy Opinion No, Fewer Books, Less Writing Won't Add Up to Media Literacy
NCTE’s call to “decenter” print media in favor of digital media has some troubling implications, argues Mike Schmoker.
Mike Schmoker
4 min read
conceptual illustration of a stairway of books leading out of a dark space filled with letters
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and iStock/Getty images
Reading & Literacy Letter to the Editor Reading Recovery Debate Is ‘Polarizing’
The executive director of the Reading Recovery Community pushes back against criticism of the program.
1 min read
Illustration of an open laptop receiving an email.
iStock/Getty
Reading & Literacy What the Research Says Concerns Raised Over Reading Recovery's Long-Term Effects
The popular literacy intervention showed dramatic benefits for 1st graders, but follow-up research points to drawbacks years later.
5 min read
Image of a young boy selecting books in the library.
Getty