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Deborah Caldwell-Stone to Speak Sept. 18 on “The First Freedom: The First Amendment, Libraries & Democracy”

September 12, 2023

Whitworth University is pleased to welcome Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), for a discussion titled, “The First Freedom: The First Amendment, Libraries & Democracy,” on Monday, Sept. 18, at 7 p.m. in Weyerhaeuser Hall’s Robinson’s Teaching Theatre. 

The discussion will include information about the current situation in Dayton, Wash., where voters will decide the fate of the only library in Columbia County this November. The library, which has been in the same location for 86 years, is at risk of closing following a yearlong dispute over the placements of more than 100 books dealing with gender, sexuality and race.

“The Constitution is not only the foundation for government, but a means of securing individual freedoms through the Bill of Rights,” Caldwell-Stone says. “The first freedom encompasses all that the First Amendment protects – the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, and the freedom of thought. Libraries, by assuring the free flow of ideas and the exchange of information for all persons and defending the freedom to read – help to secure these rights and democracy itself. Yet, campaigns to censor books – and even censor and eliminate libraries themselves – are on the rise despite the promises of the First Amendment.”  

”It’s perhaps never been more critical to harness the power of information literacy and the ability to sort fact from fiction when we ingest messages from the media,” says Amanda Clark, dean of the library & special programs. “Caldwell-Stone will inspire Whitworthians to remember that libraries remain one of the few places to access information freely and without reproach, free from commercial enterprise and political maneuvering.”

Erica Salkin, Ph.D., associate dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, extended the invitation to Caldwell-Stone and says, “The freedom to receive information is every bit as important as the freedom to share it. As we celebrate Constitution Day, I can’t imagine a better person than Deborah Caldwell-Stone to walk us through the current controversies about book bans and library challenges and how they factor into the First Amendment.”

Caldwell-Stone also serves as executive director for the Freedom to Read Foundation (FTRF), an allied 501(c)(3) organization, which participates in freedom of speech and freedom of the press litigation. For more than 20 years, Caldwell-Stone has worked closely with library professionals and library trustees on a wide range of intellectual freedom issues related to library service in the United States. She has served on the faculty of the ALA-sponsored Lawyers for Libraries and Law for Librarians workshops and is a contributor to the 10th edition of the Intellectual Freedom Manual. She has contributed articles on law, policy and intellectual freedom to American Libraries and other publications.

The event is free and open to the public.

About Whitworth University:

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian church. The university, which has an enrollment of about 2,500 students, offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. 


Trisha Coder, media relations manager, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or