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, 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 Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award was established in 1969 by the GSLIS faculty to honor Dean Emeritus Downs, a champion of intellectual freedom, on the occasion of his 25th anniversary as director of the School. Previous winners have included the West Bend (WI) Community Memorial Library, for its steadfast advocacy on behalf of intellectual freedom in the face of a library challenge (2009); Brewster Kahle and the Internet Archive for their successful challenge to a national security letter (2008); Barbara M. Jones, Wesleyan University Librarian, who was honored for her international work on behalf of intellectual freedom (2007); Michele Reutty, who refused to turn over patron records without a subpoena (2006); and John Doe of the court case "John Doe v. Gonzales" (2005).
The ABC-CLIO Publishing Company provides an honorarium to the recipient and co-hosts the reception in honor of the recipient. The reception and award ceremony for the 2010 Downs Intellectual Freedom Award will take place in January 2011 during the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting in San Diego, California.
Letters of nomination and documentation about the nominee should be sent by e-mail to email@example.com with a copy to firstname.lastname@example.org or in paper form to John Unsworth, Dean, GSLIS, 501 East Daniel Street, Champaign, IL 61820 by October 15. Questions should be directed to Associate Professor Terry Weech at email@example.com.
More information about the award is available at www.lis.illinois.edu/about-gslis/awards/downs-award.