As we approach the end of the year (how does it always manage to sneak up so quickly?!), many of us have likely received reminders to renew our professional memberships for 2013. Since you are reading Tennessee Libraries, I assume you already recognize the benefits of membership in the various professional organizations that are available to librarians; however, I realize that we did not enter this profession for its reputation for being lucrative, and with all of our other end-of-year obligations, it can seem more and more difficult to justify the expenditure of belonging to more than one professional organization, if we manage to budget for any memberships at all. This is my plea to you to prioritize this expense, and even consider expanding your membership spending as a critical facet of your professional life.
This past year, like all of those before it, has seen no shortage of challenges to library materials. It is frustrating for all of us to read about these challenges, but easy enough to maintain an insulated distance from individual challenges if they are not happening in our own libraries and our own communities...until they are. And one never knows when one will become embroiled in a censorship situation that may turn out to be bigger than any for which we thought we may have to prepare. My own dedication to membership renewal was solidified by my own fight for intellectual freedom; my thinking was that if I were going to need to enlist the support of the ALA and the TLA, I had better be a dues-paying member before asking for favors!
There are a few organizations that are slightly “off the beaten path” of professional memberships that I would like to endorse as important champions of intellectual freedom issues; please consider including one or more of them in your alliance of champions whose work will undoubtedly make yours easier:
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) From the CBLDF website: “Joining the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund puts you on the front line of the fight against censorship! Your membership dollars provide the tools to fight back when comic book readers, retailers, and artists are muzzled, censored, or attacked! When you become a CBLDF member, you are proclaiming that comics are important and that you are a protector of their First Amendment rights!” And as if this weren’t inspiring enough, the CBLDF provides excellent swag as incentive for your membership. In their words, “we’ll thank you with the best incentives and benefits in the free speech community”.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) From the EFF website: “When our freedoms in the networked world come under attack, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is the first line of defense. EFF broke new ground when it was founded in 1990—well before the Internet was on most people's radar—and continues to confront cutting-edge issues defending free speech, privacy, innovation, and consumer rights today...EFF fights for freedom primarily in the courts, bringing and defending lawsuits even when that means taking on the US government or large corporations. By mobilizing more than 140,000 concerned citizens through our Action Center, EFF beats back bad legislation. In addition to advising policymakers, EFF educates the press and public.”
The Freedom to Read Foundation (FTRF) From the FTRF website: “Founded in 1969, the Freedom to Read Foundation was the American Library Association's response to its members' interest in having adequate means to support and defend librarians whose positions are jeopardized because of their resistance to abridgments of the First Amendment; and to set legal precedent for the freedom to read on behalf of all the people.” Member benefits include a quarterly copy of the Freedom to Read Foundation News, which “includes articles and timely reports on censorship trends, current court cases, and more."
You work hard to champion intellectual freedom in your daily work life; give yourself (or put on your Wish List!) a holiday gift of memberships in organizations that will have your back all year long.