A librarian in central Iowa helped create a piece of legislation decades ago that became national policy that’s still important and influential today. Forrest Spaulding was director of the Des Moines Public Library from 1927 to 1957 and he’s the subject of a one-man play, “The Not-So-Quiet Librarian.” Actor Tom Milligan says he’s thrilled to play the role.
“It’s a two-prong story,” Milligan says. “One is what it’s like to be a librarian and the importance of being librarians, which was his passion. The second half of it is more about his passion for freedom of speech, first amendment rights and freedom of information.” Spaulding wrote what became known as the Library Bill of Rights in 1936.
Even though it was a generation ago, Milligan says the issues the document brought forward are still prominent today in the 21st century.
“Most of the stuff the play’s based on is pre-World War Two era, late 1920s to early 1940s,” Milligan says. “A lot of it has to do with what was happening in Germany and Europe at the time and that kind of take-over and putting a foot of the throat of free information.”
Milligan says Spaulding’s words were again being quoted shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. “What the government said at that point in time with the Patriot Act was, ‘We have the right to come in to a library and check out what you’re checking out,'” Milligan says. “The flag that was waved by every librarian in the United States was the National Library Bill of Rights, saying, ‘No, you do not have the right and the power to do that,’ and the government backed down off of that stand.”
Milligan will be performing the 30-minute play tonight at 6:30 in the Kendall Young Library in Webster City.
By Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City