Admired Evanston librarian and activist dies

Grace Johnson

Evanston resident and famed First Amendment advocate Judith Fingeret Krug, 69, died last Saturday after a “lengthy illness,” according to an American Library Association press release.

Krug was the executive director of the Freedom to Read Foundation, as well as the director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom for more than 40 years at the ALA. She was a tireless advocate for anti-censorship and freedom of speech, said Sarah Pritchard, a Northwestern librarian. Krug also founded Banned Books Week, a week celebrating frequently-censored works.

“Judy believed that if you want to read it, you should have the right to read it,” Pritchard said.

Krug worked with an exhaustive list of people to advance First Amendment rights, including publishers, booksellers, lawyers, school administrators, journalists, authors and average citizens, said Bob Doyle, executive director of the Illinois Library Association.

“Her impact and influence extended well beyond the library community,” Doyle said.

The Freedom to Read Foundation challenged cases of First Amendment rights which went all the way to the Supreme Court, Doyle said. Krug was also one of the first voices in protest of a provision in the Patriot Act, a controversial anti-terrorism measure that included provisions allowing investigators to search library records.

Krug had no problem defending books she thought were “trashy” and she even defended the right of the Nazi Party to hold a march in Skokie in 1978, despite the fact that Krug herself was Jewish, Pritchard said.

“She was fearless, that’s what always struck me about her,” Pritchard said. “She was willing to deal with very difficult issues and tackle them head on.”

The only aspect of Krug’s life that could compete with her professional accomplishments was her deep love for her family, Doyle said.

“She loved her grandkids; they were her whole life,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, deputy director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. “She always talked about their latest achievements and included them all the time in her work.”

Krug’s involvement in the Evanston community included going to her grandchildren’s elementary schools to read books in their classes, Caldwell-Stone said.

She described one trip Krug made to her granddaughter’s class. Krug read “And Tango Makes Three,” a book about a baby penguin adopted by two male penguins. A child in the class spoke to Krug about how much the book meant to her – the girl was raised by two women, as Krug later learned.

Pritchard said Krug’s death will leave a void in the community.

“One of the difficult things will be to fill her shoes,” Pritchard said. “There is a lot to live up to, but somebody has to do it because the issues Krug worked on still exist.”

Krug is survived by her husband, two children and five grandchildren. Services were held last Tuesday at Beth Emet the Free Synagogue, 1224 Dempster St.

Her son could not be reached for comment.

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