The staff and board of trustees of the Orland Park (Illinois) Public Library are the 2014 recipient of the 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 and cosponsored by Libraries Unlimited. Mary Weimar, director of the library, and Nancy Healy, president of the board, will accept the award at the Downs Intellectual Freedom Award Reception held during the midwinter meeting of the American Library Association (ALA).
The library’s staff and board are being honored for defending the principles of intellectual freedom as described in the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights. This year, they received strong opposition to their policy of not filtering adult Internet access in the library. The protracted controversy elicited an intense public response and received a great deal of attention in the Chicago metropolitan area.
In the nomination letter for the award, Barbara Jones, director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), wrote:
I have never experienced in person such vicious attacks on a staff simply trying to do their job, and a board of trustees that has remained steadfast in its support for the freedom to read. I don’t use the word, “steadfast,” frivolously. This controversy over filtering the adult Internet terminals has been going on for almost a year now and has not stopped—despite the fact that the courageous board of trustees voted NOT to filter.
In this challenging context, the library’s staff and board of trustees have sustained their commitment to the principles established in the Library Bill of Rights and to defending intellectual freedom in libraries. In doing this, they provide an excellent example of the resolve and commitment to intellectual freedom demonstrated in the professional life of Robert B. Downs in his role as an author and scholar while serving as dean of the University of Illinois Library and GSLIS as well as his active participation in ALA.
In support of Robert B. Downs and his efforts, Libraries Unlimited honors award recipients each year by providing an honorarium and co-sponsoring an awards reception. The reception to honor the Orland Park Public Library staff and board of trustees will be held on Saturday, January 31, 2015, from 5:30 - 7:00 p.m. in the Williford C Room of the Chicago Hilton Hotel at 720 S. Michigan Avenue.
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 Downs, a champion of intellectual freedom, on his twenty-fifth anniversary as director of the school.
With Libraries Unlimited, an imprint of ABC-CLIO, assuming co-sponsorship of the award in 2012, ABC-CLIO has been dedicated to supporting the Downs Award for more than thirty years. As a publisher committed to advancing library professional development and independent critical thought, Libraries Unlimited and the entire ABC-CLIO family are strong advocates of intellectual freedom rights and the dissemination of all ideas. GSLIS is very honored to share sponsorship with Libraries Unlimited and appreciates the contributions it and the other imprints of ABC-CLIO have made in defending intellectual freedom through the years. For a list of the prior award recipients, visit the Downs Intellectual Freedom Award web page.