You're looking at a heroine here, a tireless advocate of "freedom to read" and the First Amendment. Her name is Judith Krug, known to many as "Judy" and a brave and wonderful woman. As Director of the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom since it was founded in 1967, she also founded "Banned Books Week" in 1982. That's how I met her.
I'd done stories before about First Amendment issues and someone gave her my number. She called to tell me that the last week of September, 1982, would be the first ALA Banned Books Week and wouldn't the Today Show like to cover it? Of course we would. Look at some of the most banned books over the years - here in the US! Surprising at best, eh? They include Harry Potter, Huck Finn, Of Mice and Men, The Catcher in the Rye and Kaffir Boy. Appalled by the list, I remember starting the piece with film of the Nazi book burnings in Berlin. Judy loved it!
In the years since 1982 we repeated the story almost every year -- and every year new books joined the list. Not always from the right, either. Some liberal parents challenged Huckleberry Finn as racist, and the other ban efforts came from all over the place! Harry Potter as Satanism, Native Son because it put the death penalty in dispute and the Bible preaches "an eye for an eye," Wrinkle in Time, Understood Alice and others by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret, The House of Spirits, Slaughterhouse-Five and Lord of the Flies.
But banned books were far from her only concern. As the Chicago Tribute wrote:
Mrs. Krug worked directly with librarians across the country who were engaged in censorship battles. She enlisted allies from fields that are affected by 1st Amendment attacks such as publishers and journalists, said Robert Doyle, executive director of the Illinois Library Association.
"She was concerned about the gamut of expression, so that people could go to the library and encounter the full marketplace of ideas," Doyle said.
Beyond books was her opposition to filters on library computers and her less-noticed championing of free expression in video games. A Game Politics piece includes this:
Judith was instrumental in the fight against video game censorship. She was a forceful advocate for Media Coalition amicus briefs in the Indianapolis, St. Louis, Illinois, Minnesota, and California video game cases. It would have been easy for the librarians to say, "That's not our battle," but thankfully that wasn't Judith's temperament.
Judith was a fierce believer in the importance of freedom of expression to our culture and our society and was zealous defender of the First Amendment. We all have truly benefited from her passion.
Judy died on April 11th. She leaves a family who will miss her, I'm sure. But she leaves a legacy for the rest of us too, one for which we should be grateful. Anyone who loves to read, who wants to be able to ask a librarian for a special book for a quirky kid, who wants to use the library computer to do research or read off-the-wall news stories, or who just loves to wander in the stacks or online looking for something that never occurred to them, or a special idea or book or website -- we'll miss her too.