Freedom Fighter

Freedom Fighter

Picture this: You go into the local library, drop off the kids at story hour and browse the Internet while you wait. You follow a couple of leads, track a few sources, read some international takes on American foreign policy. Later that day the FBI pays a visit to your local librarian to check what you read. You are now part of a secret investigation pertaining to "the enforcement of federal laws," none of which you have violated. Unlikely? Carolyn Additon Anthony '71 doesn't think so.

By Ru Freeman

Proponents say those who have committed no crimes needn't fear. Not so, say Anthony and others who oppose the act. They note that searches can take place without notice to the target, with or without a warrant or a criminal subpoena and without demonstrating probable cause.

Anthony's protest and that of others in her profession may surprise those who still hold to the stereotype of the librarian as the silence-enforcing keeper of card catalogues and rubber stamps. But it came as no surprise in Skokie, where Anthony arrived in 1985, picked from a pool of 200 applicants. "She said she saw libraries becoming focal points in communities, not merely to lend books but to provide vital access to information," said Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen.

For Anthony and Skokie "a multi-cultural community that is home to more than 70 nationalities" this was in character. This is a library that recently sponsored a lecture series that included presentations on the Japanese-American internment during World War II and on the ongoing controversies at the Guantanamo Detention Center. Indeed, Anthony has been a leader in promoting diversity, and information is clearly her tool of choice. For instance, Anthony helped research and edit the first two of a planned five-book series on the multicultural history of Skokie to be given to all Skokie children in second through fifth grades.

Anthony's current political activism evolved throughout a career that began at Harvard's Widener Library. She moved to libraries in Baltimore, where she and her colleagues, faced with the aftermath of the race riots of 1969, took to the streets to address the needs of their community. They engaged the city's disenfranchised by turning libraries into sources of information and referrals. And it was here that Anthony met the person who helped set her sights on the kind of leadership position that allows her to affect community and national policies today.

Charles Robinson '50, then director of the Baltimore County Public Library, recognized Anthony's potential and encouraged her to apply for the directorship of the Skokie Public Library. "I looked at her and decided that she must be a director," he said. "I am not surprised that she's leading the charge in Illinois and nationally. She's a thinking, determined woman. A Quaker."

Anthony's Quakerism pervades her life. She mentions it often and regards it as a strong motivation for her work. "As a Quaker these things become integrated. If you respect other people, you tend to see that everybody should be assured of protection," she said.

With her move to Skokie in 1985, Anthony took on not merely the mantle of library director but also community guardian. So much so that Mayor Van Dusen proclaimed October 16, 2003, Carolyn Anthony Day, recognizing her many state and national achievements over 18 years at her post, including her work as president of the Illinois Library Association, her chairmanship of the Illinois State Library Advisory Committee and her membership on the Council of the national body, the American Library Association. The proclamation also mentions a few sundry successes, among them her election as the first female president of the Rotary Club of Skokie, which she joined soon after it began to admit women, and her help in founding an annual Skokie Festival of Cultures, a reaction to concern on the part of some residents that the city was becoming too diverse.