Marianna Tax Choldin is the recipient of the 2011 Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award given by the faculty of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Choldin is being honored for her extensive contributions to intellectual freedom over the span of her professional career.
Choldin worked at the University of Illinois Library from 1969 to 2002 where she served as Slavic bibliographer, head of the Slavic and East European Library, director of the Russian and East European Center, and then as Mortenson Distinguished Professor and director of the Mortenson Center for International Library Programs. In her role as director, Choldin made teaching and learning about intellectual freedom a centerpiece of the Mortenson Center program. She introduced hundreds of international librarians to the ideas of intellectual freedom using examples from her experience and research in Russia.
Choldin was also active in the founding of the Committee on Freedom of Access to Information and Freedom of Expression (FAIFE) within the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). She has also been active in the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies, an organization for which she served as president in 1995.
In 1979, Choldin earned her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. Her dissertation, A Fence around the Empire: Russian Censorship of Western Ideas under the Tsars, was a study of censorship of foreign books in nineteenth-century Russia and was published by Duke University Press in 1985. She has delivered many invited lectures at important venues such as the Library of Congress, Center for Research Libraries, IFLA conferences, other professional conferences, and at various universities on Russian/Soviet censorship and book studies. From 1994-2000, she worked with the Open Society Institute-Budapest, which provided support for civil society in Russia and the former Soviet Union, including service as chair of the Board.
Following her time at the University of Illinois, Choldin set up and served as president of the Rudomino Library Council USA, which supported a strong civil society including access to information without censorship in Russia. In 2005, she organized events in Chicago and Moscow for Chicago Public Library’s One Book, One Chicago program. She continues to work with partners in Russia on intellectual freedom and tolerance projects.
In 2002, the Government of Russia presented Choldin with the Pushkin Gold Medal for Contributions to Culture. She was recognized by the University of Illinois with the first Distinguished Faculty Award of International Achievement in 2001 and by the American Library Association in 2005 for significant contributions to international librarianship. In 2011, Choldin received a Public Service Award from the University of Chicago for working with librarians around the world to promote freedom of information.
A reception to honor Choldin will take place during the midwinter meeting of the American Library Association in Dallas, Texas, on Saturday, January 21, 2012, from 5:30–7:00 p.m. The reception will be held in the Griffin Room of the Magnolia Hotel, 1401 Commerce Street, Dallas. ABC-CLIO, a publisher of reference, contemporary thought, and professional development resources, provides an honorarium for the recipient and co-sponsors the reception.
The Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award is given annually to acknowledge individuals or groups who have furthered the cause of intellectual freedom, particularly as it affects libraries and information centers and the dissemination of ideas. Granted to those who have resisted censorship or efforts to abridge the freedom of individuals to read or view materials of their choice, the award may be in recognition of a particular action or long-term interest in, and dedication to, the cause of intellectual freedom. The award was established in 1969 by the GSLIS faculty to honor Robert Downs, a champion of intellectual freedom, on his twenty-fifth anniversary as director of the school.