Friends of the library [heart] the FREEDOM TO READ. National Friends of Libraries Week, October 15-21, 2023, an initiative of United for Libraries. #NFOLW23

Friends of the Library & the Freedom to Read

This blog post is by Dr. Gordon N. Baker, Dean of Libraries Emeritus at Clayton State University and 2022-2024 President of United for Libraries, a division of the American Library Association.

Happy National Friends of Libraries Week! This year’s event, held October 15-21, marks the 18th annual celebratory week, which is coordinated by United for Libraries, the American Library Association’s division for library trustees, board members, friends, foundations, and those who work with them.

This week presents a two-fold opportunity to celebrate Friends of the Library. Friends across the country are promoting membership and hosting events and fundraisers, and libraries and boards are recognizing all that Friends do to support their libraries, including speaking out against censorship.

Many Friends of the Library groups hosted programs during this year’s Banned Books Week, in addition to fighting for the freedom to read all year round. This year, Friends of the Long Beach (Calif.) Public Library planned Banned Books Week events including zine making, trivia, an open mic, live music, and outreach to educate community members on the current state of book bans and how to contact  their elected officials. In fact, the Friends of the Long Beach Public Library was founded in 1963 specifically to fight local censorship, in reaction to a city councilmember’s efforts to ban Nikos Kazantzakis’ The Last Temptation of Christ from the library.

Friends of Ridgewood Library (Queens, N.Y.) marked Banned Books Week with a giveaway of banned books on October 7. Stirling Library Friends (Hollywood, Fla.), supported an October 4 Banned Books Week event hosted by the library’s Teen Advisory Board, where children wrote postcards to their favorite authors, decorated postcards, and received free copies of banned books. And as part of its National Friends of Libraries Week events, Friends of the Library, Montgomery County, MD (FOLMC) is promoting Speak Up, Speak Out: A Community Discussion on Free Speech on October 20, where FOLMC Executive Director Ari Z. Brooks will be a featured panelist.

For Friends of the Library groups who want to learn how to help support their libraries during this wave of censorship, United for Libraries offers resources including guides, tip sheets, webinars, and more. And the upcoming United for Libraries series Fighting Censorship: Creating Connections to Protect Intellectual Freedom will support Friends in their role as library and community advocates.

This National Friends of Libraries Week, we thank all those who are giving time and support to their libraries and helping defend the freedom to read year-round.