Library Director Wendy Campbell received the Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom award at the American Libraries Association mid-winter conference on January 21st. Thanks to the financial support of the Friends of the Darby Library, Campbell was able to attend the ceremony in Atlanta, Georgia, to receive her award and $1,000.
According to the award letter, Campbell was chosen for her determination in providing the cultural program, “Perspectives on Islam,” against community objections.
Sandy Burner, president of the Friends of the Darby Library, praised Campbell for presenting informative programs to the community.
“The library brought in special speakers and there was quite a bit of backlash from the community,” Burner said. “Wendy was so steady in seeing to it that we could present any information that was pertinent whether or not people agreed with it.”
James LaRue, Executive Director, Freedom to Read Foundation, American Library Association, nominated Campbell.
“Campbell’s library hosted a series of Lifelong Learning cultural programs for her community of 4,000 people,” he said. “One of these programs, “Perspectives on Islam,” sparked strong protest by several community members. Campbell spoke with the patrons, met with them and various community leaders, and eventually decided to proceed with the program.”
LaRue detailed the steps Campbell took to continue with the event. She contacted a neighboring library director, the county sheriff, the state librarian, the school superintendent, school board and the Office for Intellectual Freedom. He added that the event was peaceful and successful.
“At a time when libraries are seeking greater civic engagement, at a time when many of us are looking for more meaningful and dignified discourse, Campbell’s approach proved to be definitive: the speaker was welcomed warmly, listened to attentively, and questioned respectfully,” LaRue said. “By the conclusion of the event, the patrons gratefully applauded speaker and librarian alike. The library, meanwhile, secured its position in the community as a force for education that neither promoted nor condemned various ideas, but provided a safe and courteous forum for their consideration.”
Larue said the community was “inspired by the example of an extremely thoughtful and dedicated librarian.”
“We are so proud of Wendy, our librarian, so thrilled for the community and so delighted our Darby library has received this award,” said Darby Library Board member Marie Myers.