|Supporters of blacklisted authors and script writers rally in Hollywood, 1950|
Librarians and their unions have long stood strong against the anti-intellectualism of government repressions and those who would facilitate it.
This courage was especially on display during the dark days of McCarthyism.
The spectre of McCarthyism and its anti-democratic and anti-intellectual impulses lingers large again now.
We should, given the historic efforts of the capitalist state to repress leftist speech and impose imperialist and rightist narratives, always keep this in mind.
Author Howard Fast, after years of being blacklisted as a Communist, went into his local library one day to find that his books were all back on the shelf. The librarian said she had kept them aside, waiting for better days.
Library Bill of Rights
The Council of the American Library Association reaffirms its belief in the following basic policies which should govern the services of all libraries.
1. As a responsibility of library service, books and other library
materials selected should be chosen for values of interest, information and enlightenment of all the people of the community. In no case should library materials be excluded because of the race or nationality or the social, political, or religious views of the authors.
2. Libraries should provide books and other materials presenting all points of view concerning the problems and issues of our times; no library inaterials should be proscribed or removed from libraries
because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.
3. Censorship should be challenged by libraries in the maintenance of their responsibility to provide public information and enlightenment.
4. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgement of free expression and free access to ideas.
5. The rights of an individual to the use of a library should not be denied or abridged because of his age, race, religion, national origins or social or political views.
6. As an institution of education for democratic living, the library should welcome the use of its meeting rooms for socially useful and cultural activities and discussion of current public questions. Such meeting places should be available on equal terms to all groups in the community regardless of the beliefs and affiliations of their members, provided that the meetings be open to the public.
(Adopted June 18, 1948. Amended February 2, 1961, and June 27, 1967, by the ALA Council.)
This is the text approved and adopted by the Council of the American Library Association in 1967, The first version was drafted by Forrest Spaulding, Librarian of the Des Moines Public Library, in 1938 or 1939, as a guide to selection of materials in that Iowa library. It was adopted by the national association as an official policy against
censorship in 1939...The Library Bill of Rights has encouraged American librarians to
hold tenaciously to the principle that the users of libraries must have
the opportunity to examine all information on all sides of all controversial issues. It is no accident that the policy avoids the expression “information on both sides of controversial issues.” The distinction is very important, especially today when political and social stresses tend to polarize many citizens into opposing authoritarian positions, causing them to be intolerant of any expressions that depart from or modify what they hold to be the truth. The library profession, in this and other policy statements, emphasizes the necessity for providing a variety of view points on any issue, not merely the extreme expressions or the lukewarm middle-of-the-road statements. - 1970
Below from: McCarthyism and Libraries:
Intellectual Freedom Under Fire, 1947-1954 by Stephen Francoeur:
In the late 1940s and through most of the 1950s, many public and private
institutions and organizations were touched in some way by efforts to rid America of the
influence of political radicals, particularly those who were members of (or “fellow
travelers” with) the Communist Party. Government officials and agencies at all levels—
federal, state, local— pursued those deemed subversive. Groups like the American
Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Daughters of the American Revolution, and
the Chamber of Commerce, which had been vocal in anticommunist efforts in previous
decades, moved into the spotlight again and played a central role in the drama of
unmasking allegedly subversive elements in American society.
Like many other institutions in the United States, libraries found themselves as
players in this drama. Library collections were challenged repeatedly for harboring
books, films, and periodicals deemed by pressure groups (or sometimes by just a single
but very vocal citizen) to be overly sympathetic if not outright propagandistic in their
treatment of the Soviet Union. The same pressure groups and vocal individuals also often
criticized libraries for not including books that they viewed as shining examples of
American patriotism. For example, in 1953, a local citizen named Kathryn Mitchell
contacted the directors of the public library in her hometown of Mt. Lebanon,
Pennsylvania, to ask why the collection had so many books sympathetic to communism
and so few by the likes of Senator Joseph McCarthy (author of McCarthyism, the Fight
for America: Documented Answers to Questions Asked by Friend and Foe) and John
Flynn (author of While You Slept: Our Tragedy in Asia and Who Made It, the Roosevelt
Myth, and the Road Ahead: America’s Creeping Revolution).
It is important to note that during the postwar period, censorship pressures on
libraries were not solely limited to materials that were politically suspect. At the same
time that libraries were under fire for keeping a copy of Karl Marx’s Communist
Manifesto on the shelves, they were also defending themselves against objections to
books that offended moral and religious sensibilities. Paul Bixler, who was the secretary
of the ALA’s Committee on Intellectual Freedom, wrote in 1952 that there were two
main types of censorship which libraries had to confront: “political censorship” and
“moral censorship.” About the latter, Bixler said that it was “aimed at the obscene and the sacrilegious.” Speaking of recent legislation, Bixler noted that the “urge to censorship on these grounds was a strong element in the two Gathings bills introduced in the Eighty-second Congress—one have to do with radio and television, and the other with books, magazines, and ‘comics.’” He also argued that in “libraries, efforts at censoring so-called‘obscene’ material may not so frequently take the form of outright censorship as of ‘control’ through demands for restrictions on availability or for labeling.”
Pressure was brought to bear not only on the materials in the library but the staff
who ran it. Loyalty programs sprang up around the country beginning in 1947, the year
that President Harry Truman enacted a federal program for employees in the executive
branch. Typically, these programs required that employees sign an oath indicating
whether or not they had had or continued to have any affiliations with organizations
considered subversive. Those who did admit to affiliations, or were suspected of lying on
their oath application, or who refused to sign the oath were investigated, which in turn sometimes led to the employee being fired and blacklisted. As many librarians were
public employees (at school libraries, public libraries, or libraries at public universities
and colleges), they were required to submit to loyalty programs operating at the state or
local level. One librarian who ran afoul of a loyalty program was Rebecca Wolstenholme, who had signed a loyalty oath in Oakland and was then questioned by the library board when they found out she had been named as a Communist in testimony given at the House Un-American Activities Committee. After refusing to answer the library board's questions, she was fired in 1954. Her legal battles to get her job back at the Oakland Public Library, which were eventually successful, dragged on for five years
Pressures on libraries could be found at many different levels: international,national, state, county, and municipal. At the international level, there were various pressures preventing the free flow of books from the Soviet Union into the United States.
Logistical challenges as well as federal laws blocked many books and periodicals from
entering the United States. An example of pressures at the national level can be seen in
the proposal in Congress by Representative Harold Velde in 1952 for a bill “to provide
that the Librarian of Congress shall mark all subversive matter in the Library of Congress and compile a list thereof for the guidance of other libraries in the United States.” The bill never made it out of committee, but it is notable that such legislation was even being considered.
The ALA itself reported that it was subject to pressure at the national level. In a
1952 article in ALA Bulletin, it was reported that the “Select Committee of the House of
Representatives of the Congress of the United States” sent a document with sixty-three
questions about the ALA that needed to be answered within ten days. According to the
letter that accompanied the questionnaire, Congress was conducting an investigation of
“educational and philanthropic foundations and other comparable organizations” that
were tax-exempt to see if they “were using their resources for un-American and
subversive activities.” Questions included, “State your definition and your understanding
of the meaning of the term ‘subversive’ as that term is commonly used in public print
today,” and “What steps, if any, have been or are being taken to prevent infiltration of
your organization by subversive persons?” Pressure at the national level also came from
groups like the American Legion, whose monthly magazine published articles listing
authors they deemed subversive.
At the state level, pressure was often exerted in the form of laws for loyalty
programs, such as the Ober Law in Maryland. States often passed laws restricting the
content or authorship of textbooks found in schools and school libraries, as was the case in Texas and Alabama.
Pressures at the city and county level came in all forms. The most common was
the demand by an individual or local pressure group to remove allegedly subversive
books from the library....
....According to a 1952 New York Times article that reported the results of the
paper’s “nation-wide study of book censorship,” the “censorship is usually conducted in
the name of a patriotic organization or committee set up to protect the community against subversive literature.” The paper found that “voluntary groups are being formed in every state to screen books for ‘subversive’ or un-American statements."