• Lester E. Asheim
  • Leon Carnovsky
  • David Horace Clift
  • Arthur Curley
  • William S. Dix
  • Robert Downs
  • Robert Vosper


Lester E. Asheim
b. 1914 – d. 1997
In 1952 Asheim worked his way up to dean of the Graduate Library School at University of Chicago. He actively held this position for the course of a decade. During this period of time he published a seminal article on intellectual freedom entitled “Not Censorship but Selection” in 1953. In the year 1966, Asheim was chosen for the Intellectual Freedom award provided by the Illinois Library Association.

Leon Carnovsky
b. 1903 – d. 1974
Carnovsky worked in the faculty at University of Chicago Graduate Library School (instructor in 1932; professor from 1944-1971). It was there, around the time that he became a professor, that he published works on intellectual freedom. He was also appointed chairman of ALA’s Committee on Intellectual Freedom (1944). One of his most famous writings is a piece on intellectual freedom entitled “The Obligations and Responsibilities of the Librarian Concerning Censorship,” which was published in 1950.

David Horace Clift
b. 1907 – d. 1973
Clift was such an advocate for intellectual freedom that he struggled for the ALA to do something about it. It was at this time, in 1967, when Clift, Judith Krug, and others in the ALA administration decided to create the Office for Intellectual Freedom.

Arthur Curley
b. 1938 – d. 1998
Arthur Curley is known for being one the founding members of the ALA’s Social Responsibility Round Table. He was also chair of the Intellectual Freedom Committee from 1991-94. When it came to social and intellectual responsibility, Curley was an outspoken advocate of libraries and their role in the issues. He would speak frequently on topics regarding the responsibilities of librarians. He also suggested that libraries have to work hard to counter the stream of “intellectual malaise” that courses through our culture of mediocrity and materialism. Another aspect of the library that appealed to him was technology. He was interested in the stratifying aspects of new technology. He wanted to know how these new and burgeoning technologies (media) of the late 20th century are affecting the community, and, furthermore, library services and the profession. He was very concerned about the ways in which the internet would create informational gaps in the population, depending on whether or not public internet services were provided. He turned the public and professional eye toward technology and the issue of public internet availability. He had an even greater interest in the issue when he was elected ALA’s president in 1994. During his presidency he set up Library Advocacy Now (LAN) which provided a program for library activists to speak on behalf of issues regarding the field, technology, intellectual and informational freedom.

William S. Dixwilliam_dix.jpg
b. 1910 – d. 1978
Dix was a leader for two important ALA committees, the intellectual freedom (IFC) and international relations committee. He was the chairman for the Intellectual Freedom Committee from 1951-1953 (this is before there was an Office for Intellectual Freedom). He also voiced his opinion regarding intellectual freedom, concerns especially made poignant in the publication of his statement entitled “Freedom to Read” which he authored in 1953. Dix was named ‘Man of the Week’ in the Princeton Town Topics (1959), they said, for his “understanding and stressing that books are among our greatest instruments for freedom […] Dix has enabled others to see that the unregimented library is all important when it comes to promoting the free flow of ideas.”

Robert Downsdowns.jpg
b. 1903 – d. 1991
Robert Downs was the ALA president during the tumultuous McCarthy years of censorship and suspicion. It was during these years that he endorsed IFC chairman Dix’s “Freedom to Read” statement in the face of the fears that surrounded the issue of intellectual freedom and international relations. In 1960, with the haunting past of McCarthyism still lingering in the back of everyone’s mind, the ALA published a book that Downs edited, a book all about intellectual freedom, entitled The First Freedom: Liberty and Justice in the World of Books and Reading, which was composed of essays from a variety of librarians.

Robert Vosper
b. 1913 – d. 1994
In the '50s while at the University of Kansas Robert Vosper helped to design an exhibition on intellectual freedom. An exhibition catalog was printed and distributed approximately 20,000 copies. The exhibit is revered for its opposition to censorship and exhibition of the history of book banning. Contextualizing the time of its debut, a period in history marked by McCarthy era terror, this exhibit is a daring accomplishment in the name of intellectual freedom. Robert Vosper also received a considerable amount of attention while working at UCLA in the year 1970, when student protests were happening all around the country. As a librarian and champion of intellectual freedom, he was dedicated to maintaining and servicing an “open sanctuary” for patrons to access information freely. During these events Vosper devised a policy dedicated to intellectual freedom that he posted in the UC campus libraries in the following statement:

The library is an open sanctuary. It is devoted to individual intellectual inquiry. Its function is to provide people free access to ideas and information. It is a calm and peaceful haven of privacy, a source of both cultural and intellectual sustenance for the individual reader. Since it is thus committed to free and open inquiry on a personal basis, the Library must remain open, with access to it always guaranteed.

The strong stance that he maintained was momentous at a time when people were trying to censor ideas and activism. Vosper, however, did not let these challenges get in the way of the library’s dedication to undue service and access.


Davis Jr., D. (Ed.). (2003). Dictionary of American library biography: second supplement. Westport:
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Robbins, L. (1996). Censorship and the American library: The American Library Association's response
  • to threats to Intellectual Freedom, 1939-1969. Westport: Greenwood Press.

Samek, T. (2001). Intellectual freedom and social responsibility in American librarianship, 1967-1974.
  • Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers.

Wiegand, W. (Ed.). (1983). Leaders in American academic librarianship: 1925-1975. Pittsburgh: Beta
  • Phi Mu.

Wynar, B. (Ed.). (1978). Dictionary of American library biography. Littleton: Libraries Unlimited.


Lester Asheim http://ils.unc.edu/development/fund_descriptions.html

D.H. Clift http://www.ukalumni.net/s/1052/index-no-right.aspx?sid=1052&gid=1&pgid=665

William S. Dix http://diglib.princeton.edu/ead/getEad?eadid=AC236&kw=

Robert Downs http://www.worlib.org/vol04no1/jackson_v04n1.shtml