Blog: Judith Krug, Banned Books Week founder, dies

Monday, April 13, 2009

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Judith Krug, who founded the now-nationally recognized Banned Books Week to draw attention to battles over intellectual freedom, died Saturday.

Krug, 69, was a director of the Chicago-based American Library Association. She died in a Chicago-area hospital after a battle with stomach cancer, according to Judith Platt, president of the ALA’s Freedom to Read Foundation.

Banned Books Week has been observed since 1982 during the last week of September. Krug had been head of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom since 1967.

Krug appeared in panel discussions and programs with a number of First Amendment Center scholars and others. We recall her as a tough, resilient opponent of those who would attempt to censor voices or ideas they deemed unwelcome by attacking libraries, banning books or restricting free speech — but also as a person willing to listen and to respond to others’ ideas and points of view.

ALA Executive Director Keith Fiels said today that Krug “worked tirelessly to guarantee the rights of individuals to express ideas and read the ideas of others without governmental interference. Through her unwavering support of writers, teachers, librarians, and above all, students, she has advised countless numbers of librarians and trustees in dealing with challenges to library material.

“She has been involved in multiple First Amendment cases that have gone all the way to the United States Supreme Court,” Fiels added. “Her legacy is a lifetime of passionate commitment, advocacy, and affirmative actions to protect the Constitutional rights of citizens granted under the First Amendment.”

Krug won many honors, including: the Joseph P. Lippincott Award, the Irita Van Doren Award, the Harry Kalven Freedom of Expression Award, and most recently the William J. Brennan Jr. award, from the Thomas Jefferson Center for Free Expression. The Freedom to Read Foundation had already scheduled an honor for her in July, saluting her years of vision and leadership.

Born in Pittsburgh, Krug graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and received a Masters degree from the University of Chicago.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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