National Library Week, Judith Krug & OBOB's Own Librarian Hero

By Christine Cupaiuolo — April 18, 2009

library_journal_movers_and_April 12-18 is National Library Week — “an annual celebration of the contributions of our nation’s libraries and librarians.”

While this is obviously a great time to think about all the resources libraries offer, for young people and adults, and to thank librarians for the services they provide, I’m going to turn the focus on a librarian who works right here: co-blogger Rachel Walden.

When Rachel isn’t breaking down the latest health study or policy statement for Our Bodies Ourselves, or offering smart, funny analysis at her own site, Women’s Health News, she’s a medical librarian at an academic medical center.

And, what’s more, she was recently named one of Library Journal’s Movers & Shakers, a “who’s who of creativity and library trends in the field.”

Rachel was spotlighted in the activist category. Here’s some of what Library Journal said:

Walden is best known for demanding answers and action in the POPLINE abortion controversy. In spring 2008, POPLINE, the major database on global reproductive health, limited researchers’ ability to search on “abortion” by making it a stopword. Its rationale: USAID funding put it under the global “gag rule” restricting discussion of abortion. “As a librarian,” says Walden, “I was angry that access to information was being quietly restricted based on a political agenda.”

Walden spread the word on her Women’s Health News blog, providing clear explanations and contacting reproductive rights and feminist activists. “This was not just an issue for librarians,” recalls Walden, but “for everybody who cares about reproductive rights and the effects of the global gag rule.”

The POPLINE controversy sums up Walden’s ongoing mission “to connect people with health-related information.” For Walden, librarianship and blogging boil down to one thing: “here’s some information, let me share it with you.”

Read the whole write-up. Seriously, she amazes me.

Plus: On a sadder note, Judith Krug, director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom and a tremendous advocate for free speech, died last Saturday. Krug helped found Banned Books Week in 1982, and, more recently, she stood up against internet and video game censorship. She also fought against the 2001 Patriot Act, which granted government officials access to confidential library records and visitors’ reading materials.

Jessamyn West and Cynthia Samuels have more. The New York Times ends with a story that nicely sums up Krug’s straightforward approach:

Ms. Krug credited her parents as inspiring her passion for free expression. In 2002, she told The Chicago Tribune about reading a sex-education book under the covers with a flashlight when she was 12.

“It was a hot book; I was just panting,” she said, when her mother suddenly threw back the bed covers and asked what she was doing. Judith timidly held up the book.

“She said, ‘For God’s sake, turn on your bedroom light so you don’t hurt your eyes.’ And that was that,” Ms. Krug said.

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