More than Free Speech: Upholding the Whole First Amendment through EveryLibrary's Fight for the First Campaigns

This is how a local community used the Fight For The First petition platform to enforce their right to peaceably assemble and fill petitions.

The First Amendment is rightly associated with free speech in libraries, but its scope goes beyond just the freedom to read. It also protects the rights of citizens to peacefully assemble and petition the government, both of which are core components of our democratic society. Our hope, when we launched Fight for the First, was to support not only free speech rights in libraries but also the broader scope of the First Amendment, especially how citizens engage library boards and school boards in our democratic republic. 

For example, this recent win in Worcester County, MD, where a Fight for the First campaign was organized by a local group called Worcester United to support petition and assembly rights. The Worcester County Commission did not allow for a public comment period in their meetings. This lack of open dialogue meant that residents were unable to voice their concerns or opinions on issues before decisions were made. The campaign had a straightforward yet powerful call to action: "Every County Commissioner's meeting should include time for public comment." 


A monthly donation of just $1, $3, or $5 helps us continue to support campaigns like this.


In Worcester County, EveryLibrary's Fight for the First digital advocacy tools gave local First Amendment activists a platform to get organized and make their voices heard. Worcester United fielded a successful petition that gathered over 275 signatures from across their rural county. EveryLibrary spent money on digital ads in their area to help amplify their call to action. The campaign argued that open public comment sessions should be a standard part of every meeting, allowing citizens to address a broad range of issues and ensuring that their voices are heard in a timely and impactful manner. Because they were able to be heard as a political and social force, the county has committed to creating a new policy to allow for public comment.  

This decision represents a win for the Worcester United team and sets a positive example for other counties and councils. When the Right to Petition and the Right to Assemble is curtailed, democracy is harmed. When people cannot make public comments to their government - including library boards and school boards - it isn't only about the right to read. It is about our ability to govern ourselves. 

Adopting this policy in Worcester County demonstrates the effectiveness of organized, persistent advocacy and underscores the power of the First Amendment in action. This is exactly the reason we designed Fight for the First to go beyond a singular focus on the freedom to read: democracy and civil society need a full exercise of our rights to engage boards, councils, and commissions. 

If you know of library or school stakeholders who are struggling to make their voices heard, please connect with us. EveryLibrary is here to help. And, if you believe, as we do, that this is an innovative and effective way to support libraries and democracy, please consider a monthly donation today. We will put your donations to work in other places as we try to Fight for the First.