September 22, 2017

Brewster Kahle, Internet Archive Win 2008 Downs Intellectual Freedom Award

  • National Security Letter resisted
  • FBI withdrew request, lifted gag order
  • Reception at ALA Midwinter Meeting

(This article first appeared in the December 16 issue of the LJ Academic Newswire.)

For his successful challenge to an FBI National Security Letter (NSL), Brewster Kahle, director and co-founder of the Internet Archive, has been awarded the 2008 Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award by the faculty of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

A reception to honor Kahle will take place during the Midwinter meeting of the American Library Association at the Hyatt Regency Denver at the Colorado Convention Center on January 24, 2009, from 5:30-7 p.m. The Greenwood Publishing Group provides an honorarium to the recipient of the award and co-sponsors the reception.

In November 2007, Kahle and the Internet Archive were issued an NSL seeking information about a specific patron. In response, Kahle, along with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union, filed a lawsuit. The FBI eventually withdrew its request and lifted Kahle’s gag order. “A librarian has to be an advocate for the user, and that is a job that requires intelligence, sensitivity, passion, and courage,” GSLIS Assistant Professor Jerome McDonough said. “Brewster embodies all of these traits.”

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. 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.