The 82nd Annual Montana Library Association Conference was held April 25-29 in Billings at the Sheraton and Radisson-Northern Hotels. The theme was "Library Advocacy: Community, Commitment, Connection." 450 people registered to attend. Workshops featured information on copyright law in the age of technology, the future of technology for libraries, and readers' advisory services. Special events included the Conference Reception at the Western Heritage Center, Magic by Bob at the Membership Dinner, and the Bingo Bonanza which raised $1,400 for the Sheila Cates Scholarship Fund. Chairperson Kathy Kaya and the Conference Planning Committee worked with Ginny Waples and Peggy Smith, Local Arrangements co-chairs to do a tremendous job of coordinating all the details of the conference. Helena is the site of next year's conference which will be held April 24-27 at the Best Western Colonial Inn.
-Lyn McKinney & Karin Green
Librarians who also contributed to the success of the evening include: Cheri Bergaron and Beth Furbush for collecting and organizing the donations in their room (it looked like a giant Treasure Chest); Bonnie Williamson and her staff for the Bingo Bucks: to Denise Robison, Kathy Branaugh, Dawn Greenwood, and Jan Nickoloff for exchanging money and the bingo cards (and explaining the rules); to Paulette Frazer for the posters and art work, and to Pat Havlovick and Paulette for their eleventh hour help.
As we honored Sheila and celebrated her memory, we also affirmed what we are about and celebrated who we are. Every player was a winner.
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Retired Parmly librarians Evelyn Coil, Myrtle Cooper, Mary Schmiedeskamp, Mary Jane Albrecht, and Jeff Edgmond (who worked at Parmly in his very young days and is not retired) attended and reminisced about the days when the public library was located in the Western Heritage Center building. They talked about how the library was organized, the difficulty of working with closed stacks, and the competition caused by trains – they could not hear a patron on the telephone if the trains were moving on the nearby tracks.
It was also interesting to hear that the censorship issues libraries deal with today were also being handled effectively by librarians in the past. They mentioned one incident specifically – it involved a library showing of a movie about Pete Seeger and church music of the rural South. A community member objected on the basis that she thought Seeger was a Communist, and she wanted the event canceled. The library board eventually backed the librarians, making it possible to show the film. The community member staged a protest the night the film was to be viewed. However, the film did not arrive in the mail as scheduled, so the protestors thought they had "won" and went home. The showing was rescheduled and went off without a problem.
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The second program was a panel discussion with Candice Morris, Lewis and Clark Library, and Dennis Gaub of the Billings Gazette on the impact of the Internet on intellectual freedom.
The following screens have the remarks of Jim Heckel, Chair, Montana Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee, on presentation of the annual awards for intellectual freedom at the MLA conference in Billings, Montana, April 24, 1995.
It gives me the greatest of pleasure to once again present the Montana Library Association Award for Intellectual Freedom. I have had the singular privilege to present this awards several times in years past and I am honored to do so.
The Intellectual Freedom Award is symbolic of the soul of library service. Libraries exist in a democratic society in order to provide access for all citizens to the unbridled marketplace of ideas, a marketplace which creates and sustains a healthy democratic society. Societies without free access to information are not healthy and they soon sicken and wither on the vine.
We are facing in our society a deepening distrust of the wisdom of allowing individuals to assume the joys and responsibilities of personal discovery. Increasingly, one group or individual attempts to "protect" another group or individual by denying access.
I have here a list of the most challenged books in the 1990s. It contains 50 titles by authors ranging from Nobel Prize winners to tabloid writers. In every case the attempt is not to educate for discernment; the attempt to prevent discernment from ever taking place. This is control by denial, by limitation. These attempts run counter to the heart and soul of the great American experiment, whose ideals are founded on the optimistic view that, just as our potential for personal growth is unlimited, our opportunities for discovery should not be shackled.
In Montana we have seen the recent introduction in the legislature of HB 83, the so-called "anti-obscenity bill," a bill which would serve to severely restrict the principle of free access to information, either directly or through the "chilling effect" produced by the threat of legal action.
Today we are honoring three brave and outspoken legislators who challenged the passage of HB 83, knowing that it represented a restriction on the First Amendment rights of the citizens of this state and presumed to set up a mechanism whereby our choices and options for growth and exploration would be limited and proscribed. In the midst of high emotion and sometimes unruly debate, these legislators in particular shone forth as beacons of reason and champions of the rights of individuals in our society to access information.
Ladies and gentleman of the Montana Library Association, I present to you the recipients of the 1995 Montana Library Association Award for Intellectual Freedom: Representative Debbie Kottell, Representative John Bohlinger, and Senator Mike Halligan.
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