As Justice Potter Stewart wrote, “In order to be responsible citizens who have the ability to self-govern, we must be well-informed.” A well-informed citizenry cannot exist in a society where censorship is allowed. Each year the Iowa City Public Library along with many libraries across the nation celebrate our freedom to read and view and create.
In 1995, the Iowa City Public Library established the annual Carol Spaziani Intellectual Freedom Festival to honor her 26-year career at ICPL and her life-long commitment to the freedom of ideas. Spaziani believes that the public library’s role is to be a resource and a forum for an individual’s pursuit and expression of diverse points of view. Intellectual Freedom is a basic human right, defined by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. Intellectual freedom is central to a democratic society and libraries provide information, ideas and resources in a variety of formats, enabling an informed citizenry.
Whenever possible the Festival coincides with Banned Books Week, an annual event celebrating the freedom to read sponsored by the American Library Association, the American Booksellers Association and the American Society of Journalists and Authors among other groups and associations. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community –- librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types –- in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.
At the Iowa City Public Library we have events for all ages, from stories for children from books that were banned or challenged, to activities for teens as well as programs for adults. Thursday, September 26, at 7 pm we plan a public discussion of what censorship means in a our society and as well as in countries where the freedom of expression is not a right. Join library staff, writers from the International Writing Program and a representative of the Hawkeye Area Chapter of the ACLU-Iowa as we discuss what it means to have this freedom and what it like to live in a society where opinions and words are suppressed.