Nominations invited for 2023 Downs Intellectual Freedom Award

The School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign seeks nominations for the 2023 Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award. The deadline for nominations is March 15, 2024. The award is cosponsored by Sage.

Given annually, the award acknowledges individuals or groups who have furthered the cause of intellectual freedom, particularly as it impacts 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 or to hear or express ideas, the award may be in recognition of a particular action or a long-term interest in and dedication to the cause of intellectual freedom.

The Downs Award was established in 1969 by the iSchool’s faculty to honor Dean Emeritus Robert B. Downs, a champion of intellectual freedom, on the occasion of his twenty-fifth anniversary as director of the School. 

Previous winners have included:

  • New College of Florida faculty, librarians, student reporters of The Catalyst, and the Defend New College and Save New College student and alumni organizations (2022) for the efforts to support academic freedom; 
  • #FReadom Fighters (TX) and the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (2021) staff for their contributions in the defense of intellectual freedom;
  • Amy Dodson, Director, Douglas County Public Library, Nevada (2020) for supporting the value and necessity of equity, diversity, and inclusion as a part of her library's mission and service.; 
  • the Education Justice Project, for its defense of the First Amendment rights of incarcerated individuals (2019); and
  • the Iowa Library Association (2018) for taking a leadership role in several highly visible challenges to intellectual freedom.

Sage provides an honorarium to the Downs Award recipient and, with the iSchool, co-hosts the reception held in honor of the recipient. The reception and award ceremony for the 2023 Downs Intellectual Freedom Award will take place in June 2024 at the American Library Association Annual Conference in San Diego.

Letters of nomination and documentation about the nominee should be sent by March 15, 2024, to Emily Knox, Chair of the Nominations Selection Committee, by email at knox@illinois.edu with a copy to ischool-dean@illinois.edu.

Please email any questions to Emily Knox at knox@illinois.edu.

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