Allies Not Enemies: Intellectual Freedom and Social Justice

Panel discussion by Jody Gray and James LaRue (American Library Association) and Emily Knox (University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign)

Monday, March 5, 2018, 2:00-5:00 p.m., Knight Library Browsing Room

Jody Gray, Emily Knox, James LaRue


The UO Libraries’ Biennial Symposium on Freedom of Expression and Information Policy in an Era of Change brings national scholars and library speakers to the University of Oregon to address relevant, contemporary issues affecting higher education and research libraries. Issues addressed in the symposia may include but are not limited to freedom of expression, censorship, social justice, network neutrality, copyright, privacy, the “right to be forgotten,” and more.

The inaugural 2018 panel presentation and discussion is on Allies not Enemies: Intellectual Freedom and Social Justice. The American Library Association (ALA) Code of Ethics, Article VII, states: "We distinguish between our personal convictions and professional duties and do not allow our personal beliefs to interfere with fair representation of the aims of our institutions or the provision of access to their information resources." Many of us in public higher education and research libraries support this statement, but others would argue it is within the boundaries of our professional ethics — to the extent possible in our nonpartisan, institutional roles — to promote and defend users’ human rights when they are threatened or curtailed in our institutional settings. If this is the case, how do we advance our values and ethics in an era of change, and how do we best apply them to our services and programs? Some educators and librarians assert that core values of democracy, diversity, intellectual freedom, and social justice compel us to speak out and take other actions on behalf of vulnerable members of our communities when they are intimidated, harassed, or attacked, as there can be no true freedom or free expression in an environment tainted with fear and intimidation. Others argue that we should be committed first professionally to the principle of intellectual freedom, even if this comes at the expense of other concerns. This interactive presentation and panel will examine the complex issues involved in this intersection of values and real-world situations, and will explore ideas by which we can constructively respond as educators and library professionals to promote and protect human rights in our communities.

Distinguished panelists for this 2018 session are:

  • Jody Gray, Director, Office of Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach, American Library Association
  • Emily Knox, Asst. Professor, School of Information Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
  • James LaRue, Director of the Office of Intellectual Freedom, American Library Association

Jody Gray (Lakota) is the director of the American Library Association’s Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services (ODLOS). Using a social justice framework, Jody and her team are responsible for programs and services that promote recruitment and retention to the field of librarianship and development of best practices in service underrepresented and vulnerable communities. She is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, where she was born and raised.

Dr. Emily Knox is an assistant professor in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her book, Book Banning in 21st Century America, was published by Rowman & Littlefield and is the first monograph in the Beta Phi Mu Scholars’ Series. She also recently edited Trigger Warnings: History, Theory Context, also published by Rowman & Littlefield. Emily serves on the boards of the Association for Information Science & TechnologyFreedom to Read Foundation and the National Coalition Against Censorship.

James LaRue is the director of the American Library Association’s (ALA's) Office for Intellectual Freedom, and the Freedom to Read Foundation. Author of "The New Inquisition: Understanding and Managing Intellectual Freedom Challenges," LaRue was a public library director for many years, as well as a weekly newspaper columnist and cable TV host. He has written, spoken, and consulted on leadership and organizational development, community engagement, and the future of libraries.

This event is free and open to the public. Accommodations for people with disabilities will be provided if requested in advance by calling 541-346-3056, or email