Born in Odessa, Ukraine in 1918 to a secular Jewish family, Horn emigrated with her family to Canada in 1926 at age 8, then to New York City. She attended Brooklyn College and the School of Information and Library Science at the Pratt Institute. She first worked in a library in 1942.
After studies at the University of Oregon, where she became active in library organizations, she was hired at UCLA library in 1965. There she was active in protests against the Vietnam War and participated in daily vigils against it. She met and later married Dean Galloway, director of library services at Stanislaus State College in Turlock, CA. In 1968, hired as Head of the Reference Department at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA, Horn worked with peace activists and was asked by the FBI for evidence involving Philip Berrigan, a Roman Catholic priest and anti-war activist jailed in federal prison for burning draft files. It was alleged that Berrigan, from his jail cell, was plotting along with six others (the Harrisburg Seven), to kidnap Henry Kissinger, then adviser to President Nixon.
By the time of the trial, Horn had moved to a library post at the Modesto (CA) Public Library but was subpoenaed to testify for the prosecution. She refused because such forced testimony would violate her professional principles of privacy and intellectual freedom. She served 20 days in Dauphin County Jail, but was released when the case against her was declared unreliable.
At the time Horn said: “It stands on: Freedom of thought, government spying in homes, in libraries, and universities inhibits and destroys this freedom.”
After her release from prison, Horn resigned from Modesto but continued to speak out on issues of intellectual freedom. At first, the ALA Executive Board refused publicly to support Horn’s stand but later, after questioning Horn for hours, it reversed itself and officially commended Horn for her “commitment…in defense of intellectual freedom.” Horn was given assistance by the ALA Social Responsibilities Round Table, the Leroy Merritt Humanitarian Fund, and the Freedom to Read Foundation.
Horn’s memoirs, ZOIA! Memoirs of Zoia Horn, Battler for the People’s Right to Know were published by McFarland in 1965. The LJ review called her “a courageous crusader.”
Horn was elected to the ALA Council in 1974, appointed to the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee in 1977, and later served as its chair. She engaged in many battles within ALA, opposing revisions she felt weakened the 1939 Library Bill of Rights, and protesting the ALA-sponsored film “The Speaker” in a divisive conflict that nearly tore ALA apart.
Also in 1977, she volunteered at the Data Center in Oakland, calling it “a super-reference library, gathering data on vital issues. People come from all over to get information they can’t find anywhere else.”
Horn continued to speak out on intellectual freedom, speaking out against the Patriot Act and opposing library fees for service because “payment of any fee in a public library” is a form of censorship creating “barriers to information access.” In 2002, Horn won the Jackie Eubanks Memorial Award and the Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award.
The Intellectual Freedom Committee of the California Library Association annually awards the Zoia Horn Intellectual Freedom Award to honor California people, groups, and organizations that “made significant contributions to intellectual freedom in California.”