Utah Librarian To Receive Downs Intellectual Freedom Award

DaNae LeuIn January 2013, a months-long dispute over Patricia Polacco’s In Our Mothers’ House was finally resolved when the Davis School District in Farmington, Utah, returned the picture book to open library shelves. Since April 2012, the book about a lesbian couple and their children had been kept behind the library counter, rather like a controlled substance, and only checked out to students who had parental permission to read it. Now, a school librarian who helped bring media attention to the case and fought to return the book to its rightful place will be honored with a major annual award. Windridge Elementary librarian DaNae Leu will receive the 2013 Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award at the American Library Association’s Midwinter conference on January 25.

The purpose of the Downs Award, presented by the faculty of the University of Illinois’ Graduate School of Library and Information Science in partnership with publishing imprint Libraries Unlimited, is 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.” (Not to brag or anything, but CBLDF was the 2010 recipient.) A GSLIS press release highlights Leu’s role in shining a light on her school district’s restriction of the book, which led the Utah Library Association and the ACLU to pick up the cause as well. Leu, who was also honored as a Banned Books Week Hero in September, said that she couldn’t have done it alone:

I was but one player in an entire troop of committed actors who stepped up and fought for the idea that the freedom to keep one book on a library shelf protects the very foundation of the basic liberties our country needs to thrive. There is much gratitude to spread around, from the Utah Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee, the ACLU, Melinda Roger at the Salt Lake Tribune who broke the story, and ultimately to my school district who found a way not only to repair a mistake but to ensure that freedom from censorship is now policy. Thank you to the Robert B. Downs Award Committee for your continued focus on the most cherished truth that our country will only survive when information, thoughts, ideas, and our stories are available to all.

Hear, hear! CBLDF congratulates Leu and commends the Downs Committee for its continued good judgment.

We need your help to keep fighting for the right to read in 2014! Help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work by visiting the Rewards Zonemaking a donation, or becoming a member of CBLDF!

Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.