Evan Agostini—Invision/AP

Tracie D. Hall, the first African American woman to lead the American Library Association since its inception in 1876, has spent much of her professional life serving the public good.

As a librarian, she has sought to have the greatest possible diversity of books for the greatest possible public readership. She has served in and fought for public libraries—what Andrew Carnegie called the “palaces for the people.”

With the resurgence of censorship and the rise of politicized redacting of history and curricula, Hall and librarians across the country have had to battle valiantly for a reader’s right to read, learn, and grow. Practicing her belief that “free people read freely,” Hall has led efforts against censorship that demonstrate her brave stewardship of the bulwark of democracy, our public library. Hall has labored to protect the democratic ideals of freedom of thought, assembly, press, public education, dissent, speech, and above all the freedom to imagine a liberated world through the word.

Hall’s life’s work teaches each of us that the love of libraries and books can free us from hatred and lies not just for the present generation but for the liberation of all to come.

Lee is a writer and serves on the boards of PEN America and the Authors Guild

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