Utah Library Association Wins 2019 ALA Gerald Hodges Award for Intellectual Freedom

The Utah Library Association is honored to receive the 2019 American Library Association Gerald Hodges Intellectual Freedom Award! This award is given to the most innovative and effective intellectual freedom project covering a state or region. ULA is awarded the 2019 Hodges Award for taking the lead in building a coalition of partners that lead to the reinstatement of access to EBSCO databases for more than 650,000 students after a state Board blocked access based on complaints that EBSCO databases were pornographic. The month-long campaign to overturn the censorship decision was multi-faceted, strategic, and generated thousands of emails from ordinary Utah citizens direct to UEN Board Members, resulting in a reversal of their initial decision to ban access to the databases.

ULA Advocacy Chair Peter Bromberg, who coordinated the effort to reinstate EBSCO, will be at the ALA Annual Conference in Washington DC to receive a plaque and $1000 prize on behalf of the Utah Library Association. Congratulations, Peter and ULA!

Utah Education and Telehealth Network (UETN) votes unanimously to reinstate Ebsco for K-12 Utah Schools

In late September, the Utah Education and Telehealth Network (UETN) shut off access to the Ebsco databases for K-12 Utah students after receiving and investigating complaints about inappropriate content in the Ebsco database. On October 1, the UETN Board voted 6-1 to retain the ban on Ebsco pending further investigation.

Over the past three weeks, ULA has partnered with UELMA, EveryLibrary, UEA, and ALA to advocate that UEN restore access to Ebsco. ULA and EveryLibrary created an online petition that generated nearly 7,000 emails to members of the UETN Board, and an additional push through ALA Engage this week generated 550 more emails. Peter Bromberg, ULA Advocacy Chair and Elaine Shelburne, a UELMA representative and librarian at Bonneville High School, were interviewed on KRCL 90.9 Radioactive Wednesday night encouraging Utah residents to attend the UETN Board meeting today where the Board would vote on whether to restore access to Ebsco.

This morning, the UETN Board voted unanimously to immediately restore access to Ebsco for K-12 students. Several library representatives from ULA and UELMA made public comment and State Librarian Colleen Eggett spoke in support of restoring access to Ebsco. The motion to restore Ebsco was passed with the caveat that should UEN receive future complaints, UEN staff will immediately verify the legitimacy of the complaint and work with Ebsco to block the offending item. If the verified offending content can’t be blocked, UEN will again shut down access to the whole database. To mitigate the risk of Utah students again losing access to Ebsco, ULA will follow up with UEN to make sure they are aware of the granular administrative control that can be exercised over Ebsco content.

The Utah Library Association wishes to thank our membership for their support of Utah students and intellectual freedom. Your actions through signing petitions, commenting on UEN’s website, and making public comment at the UETN board meeting helped raise awareness and garner support for a critical information resource that keeps Utah students informed and academically competitive. We also want to thank EveryLibrary, UELMA, UEA, and ALA for partnering with us to restore Ebsco. Lastly, thank you to the UETN Board for making sure Utah students have continued access to high-quality, safe, and scholarly resources.

Sincerely,

Rebekah Cummings, Utah Library Association, President

Peter Bromberg, Utah Library Association, Advocacy Chair