Revisiting Lillian Bradshaw's 1967 Essay on Censorship Versus the "Freedom to Read"

Friend of Unfair Park Gabe Edgar was kind enough to send us the entirety of the late Lillian Moore Bradshaw's essay "The 3 R's of Censorship vs. The 3 R's of Freedom to Read," written in 1967. It's after the jump and worth your time -- especially when you consider that five years earlier, the longtime director of the Dallas Public Libraries, then fresh on the job, had to fend off a city council member who was furious over her purchasing for the library a collection of New Yorker cartoonist Peter Arno's work and a novel by John O'Hara. Said Bradshaw in a 1987 interview at Western Maryland College, "A book censor isn't interested in censoring a book; he's interested in censoring the individual who wants to read the book."

As Jerome Weeks reminds in his fond remembrance of Bradshaw today, she was responsible, more or less, for the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library downtown. How'd she do it? Wrote her biographer Frank S. Lee in 1991, by convincing the library board that the Commerce Street location next to the Statler Hilton, which opened in '55, was already too small and antiquated; by getting Jonsson, the former mayor and TI chairman, to help with fund-raising; by touting the advantages of a public-private partnership, then an unheard-of thing; and by hiring an architecture firm that would bring in the building under budget and on time.

But, reminds Lee, Bradshaw did more than help build the library downtown -- during her tenure as director of Dallas Public Libraries, Bradshaw oversaw the construction or redo of every single branch in the city. In an issue of Public Library Quarterly in 1991, Lee wrote that Bradshaw was fond of saying, "I had more concrete in my hair than hairspray." She insisted that every child in the city have access to a library "within a 15-minute walk." As Bradshaw said, repeatedly, "The library was part of a larger strategy to amalgamate the entire city."

Though she shrugged off the label as often as she embraced it, Bradshaw was a pioneer in many respects: Not only was she the first woman in the U.S. to run a major library system, but she was the first woman in Dallas history appointed to run any city department. And, in the late 1940s, she also served as the first chair of the Staff Association of the Dallas Public Library, during which time she "she fought for a shorter work week," wrote Lee in '91. "The standard at that time was six days."

Lee interviewed dozens of her friends and colleagues in the late 1980s, and all of them said the same thing: Bradshaw was a masterful politician who loved the city like few others before or since. She could get the mayor on the phone on the phone whenever she wanted "and get more out of him for the library than he ever intended to give," said one associate; said another, "Lillian Bradshaw changed the public perception of the Dallas Public Library from 'Yes we have a public library' to 'Yes we have a public library and let me show it to you.'"

Bradshaw's funeral will be held Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. at Restland Memorial Chapel.
Bradshaw, L - The 3 Rs of Censorship_4page

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky