In 1977, Elliot and Eleanor Goldstein founded the Social Issues Resources Series (SIRS), a unique information subscription series that has served many schools and libraries. The SIRS Intellectual Freedom Awards were established in 1981. By the time of the Midwinter 1999 celebration of the 30th anniversaries of the American Library Association (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom and the Freedom to Read Foundation in Philadelphia, the Goldsteins were sponsoring more than 30 national, state, and regional intellectual freedom awards; at that time, longtime intellectual freedom advocate and library leader Gene Lanier reminisced about his conversations with the Goldsteins regarding the establishment in particular of the state awards, noting how unique and valuable they were.
After ProQuest acquired SIRS in 2003, the awards were continued for several years; according to a 2004 ProQuest press release, for 2003 the company awarded $11,000 in awards in grants and scholarships " . . . presented to 15 state, regional and national prize winners throughout the year."
However, when the company was contacted in March 2010, ProQuest Marketing Manger Tim McLain stated that the information on the ProQuest web site has been taken down and the state awards discontinued. McLain indicated that the company is shifting its focus and continuing to support ALA initiatives; however, he did not say specifically whether or not that support includes ALA or other national intellectual freedom awards. Subsequently, on March 17 2010, Jonathan Kelley of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom confirmed that ProQuest continues to support the ProQuest/SIRS State and Regional Intellectual Freedom Achievement Award sponsored by the ALA Intellectual Freedom Round Table.
When asked about their current funding initiatives, Lynda James-Gilboe, Senior Vice President, Marketing & Customer Care for ProQuest, referred to a list of company philanthropy highlights:
Since one of ALA's strategic objectives is to "Increase public awareness of the importance of intellectual freedom and privacy, and the role of libraries in a democracy," it is to be hoped that the national association will seek ways to help fill the gap. As Eric Kidwell, library director at Huntingdon College, noted in a COLLIB list post: "Disappointing news, particularly considering that the majority of these challenges are happening at the local and state levels. In one respect, I think awards at these levels are more important than at the national level."
ProQuest/SIRS state and regional IF award recipients included:
- Alabama Library Association (ALA)
- Arkansas Library Association (ALA)
- Arizona Library Association (AZLA)
- Colorado Library Association (CLA)/Colorado Educational Media Association (CEMA)
- Delaware Library Association (DLA)
- Florida Association for Media in Education (FAME)
- Florida Association for Media in Education (FAME) Student Scholarship
- Florida Council for the Social Studies (FCSS)
- Florida Library Association (FLA)
- Georgia Library Media Association (GLMA)
- Indiana Library Foundation (ILF) / Assn for Indiana Media Educators (AIME)
- Iowa Educational Media Association (IEMA)
- Kansas Library Association (KLA)
- Louisiana Library Association (LLA)
- Maine Library Assn (MLA) / Maine Association of School Libraries (MASL)
- Massachusetts School Library Media Association (MSLMA)
- Missouri Library Association (MLA)
- New England Library Association (NELA)
- New Hampshire Educational Media Association (NHEMA)
- New Jersey Educational Media Association (EMA/NJ)
- New York Library Association (NYLA)
- New York State Council for the Social Studies (NYSCSS)
- North Carolina Library Association (NCLA)
- Northeast Regional Conference for the Social Studies (NERC)
- Ohio Education Library Media Association (OELMA)
- Oklahoma Library Association (OLA)
- South Carolina Library Assn (SCLA) / South Carolina Assn of Schl Librarians (SCASL)
- Tennessee Library Association (TLA)
- Texas Library Association (TLA)
- Virginia Educational Media Association (VEMA)
- Virginia Library Association (VLA)
- Wisconsin Library Association (WLA)
- Wyoming Library Association (WLA)
SIRS-PROQUEST Maine Intellectual Freedom Awards
Year: Recipient, Library designated by recipient to receive $500
- 2008: Rick Speer, Lewiston Public Library
- 2004: Anne Davis, Gardiner Public Library
- 2002: Jay Scherma, Thomas Memorial Library
- 2001: Bill Davis, Criminal Justice Committee, Maine Council of Churches
- 2000: Laura Johns, Brooksville Elementary School
- 1999: Deborah M. Locke, Westbrook High School Library
- 1998: Biddle Press, Curtis Memorial Library, Brunswick
- 1997: Molly Sinclair, Mt. Abrams High School Library "Educators in Intellectual Freedom"
- 1994: Nancy E. Crowell, South Portland Public Library
- 1992: Tom Adams, Massabesic High School Library
- 1991: Richard Dyer/Alden Wilson, Maine State Library
- 1989: David Ingmundson, Morse High School Library
- 1988: Stephen King, Old Town Public Library
Recent Maine Press Releases and Letters
May 15, 2003
Senator Olympia Snowe
154 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
Dear Senator Snowe,
On behalf of the Maine Library Association, I urge you to support the “Freedom to Read Protection Act” (H.R. 1157) introduced by Representative Bernie Sanders (I-VT). This act tries to balance some of the more intrusive aspects of the USA Patriot Act (Public Law 107-56). The USA Patriot Act gives law enforcement officials too broad an authority to demand that libraries and booksellers turn over “any tangible things” such as circulation information regarding books, videos, records, papers and documents if the agency suspects “terrorism.” The proceedings for these search warrants are held in a closed court and those who are asked to turn over the records cannot discuss the search with anyone.
Maine has a strong tradition of respecting the privacy of individual citizens and all library records are considered confidential under state statute. This erosion of our First Amendment rights should be a cause of concern for all of us. We understand the need for sufficient government authority to protect everyone from terrorist acts. We do not believe that our federal government has the right to question a library about its patrons’ reading and viewing habits. Our profession is founded on principles that encourage the freedom to read, view and express ideas without any government infringement or censorship. I ask everyone to consider how much liberty he or she is willing to forfeit just to feel safe. I think the USA Patriot Act simply goes too far and I encourage you to support the “Freedom to Read Protection Act”. This bill would exempt libraries and booksellers from certain portions of the USA Patriot Act that threaten our constitutional right to seek knowledge and information without wondering if the F.B.I. is looking over our shoulder. If you would like to discuss the concerns that Maine librarians have about the USA Patriot Act please call me at 207-582-3312 or call your local librarian. Librarians have always been avid protectors of our civil liberties.
Sincerely, Anne Davis President, Maine Library Association
Opposition to absolute Internet filtering earns library director Intellectual Freedom Award
The Trustees of the Thomas Memorial Library have announced that Jay Scherma, director of the Thomas Memorial Library, has received the SIRS Intellectual Freedom Award for 2002.
Each year, the Intellectual Freedom Committee of the Maine Library Association (MLA) and Maine Association of School Librarians (MASL) presents the award to an individual or individuals whose actions exemplify First Amendment rights, particularly as they pertain to freedom of speech and press in the pursuit of intellectual endeavors.
Scherma was recognized by his peers as having provided exemplary leadership and representation of the Maine Library Association (MLA) in its position opposing the federal legislation known as the Children's Internet Protection Act (CHIPA.) This legislation would require libraries to use blocking software on all Internet access computers-including those used by adults and staff-in order to receive federal assistance vital to providing patrons with Internet access.
In his acceptance speech, Scherma talked about the quest for knowledge that is so fundamental to all human beings. "It is my belief," he said, "that central to the very definition of librarianship is a charge to serve our patrons by facilitating this curiosity and thirst for knowledge … As a consequence, it is our duty to resist any effort to stand between the public and their attempts to find the answers they need."
SIRS Publishing, Inc., which supports the award, is a leading provider of print, CD-ROM and online reference databases to more than 50,000 libraries. Their stated mission is to provide "information that is reliable and credible in order to encourage dialogue about the major issues of society…." The SIRS Award includes a $500.00 gift to the Thomas Memorial Library.
Lewiston's Speer Receives 2008 Intellectual Freedom Award
PRESS RELEASE: November 12, 2008
Lewiston Library Director Richard A. Speer was recently presented with the ProQuest/SIRS 2008 Intellectual Freedom Award for Maine at the October Maine Libraries Conference.
The selection criteria for the esteemed award is an individual or organization actively promoting intellectual freedom in Maine defined by the American Library Association (ALA) and the Association for Education Communications and Technology (AECT) as"the freedom to express one's beliefs or ideas through any mode of communication and the right of unrestricted access to all information and ideas regardless of the medium of communication."
The Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC) of the Maine Library Association/Maine Association of School Libraries annually seeks nominations for the Maine Intellectual Freedom Award. The award is donated by SIRS, Inc., and consists of $500 for material to the library of the recipient's choice and a commemorative plaque.
Speer was selected this year due to actively promoting intellectual freedom through efforts to "protect First Amendment rights, challenge censorship, or otherwise resist abridgement of free expression and free access to ideas."
Melora Ranney Norman, the Intellectual Freedom Officer for the Maine Library Association and Co-chair, Joint Intellectual Freedom Committee of the Maine Association of School Libraries and the Maine Library Association, commended Speer for strongly advocating "the principle that information is meaningful, powerful, and all-encompassing in a democratic free society." Norman is also the Director of the Dorothy Webb Quimby Library at Unity College.
Upon receiving the award, Speer responded: "On behalf of the Staff and Board of LPL, I was very proud to accept this Statewide award."