Montana librarians have long promoted intellectual freedom, and they continued the tradition last week at their annual conference in Billings.

The Montana Library Association passed a resolution condemning federal spying and calling for change in that program. The group also honored the Billings Public School District for its response to a challenge to Sherman Alexie's book "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian."

The Montana Library Association overwhelmingly passed a resolution critical of federal government spying on ordinary Americans, calling for openness in it surveillance program and calling on "the public to support bills and other proposals that both secure and protect our rights to privacy, free expression, free association, a free and independent press, and promote a more open, transparent government."

This isn't the first time MLA has taken a stand for privacy. The association also publicly opposed the Patriot Act and joined with the ACLU of Montana to host presentations by two Connecticut librarians who were prosecuted for refusing to comply with National Security Letters demanding information about patrons.

The group gives the Pat Williams Intellectual Freedom Award each year to an individual or group who has made significant contributions during the past year to the enhancement of First Amendment rights.

This year's recipient -- Billings Public School District 2 -- was given the award for promoting intellectual freedom when a parent challenged the inclusion of "Absolutely True Diary" in the high school curriculum. The district held public hearings on the book, during which many students spoke in favor of retaining it. That is what the district ultimately decided to do.

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