July 12, 2014 marked the passing of an extraordinary librarian, Zoia Horn. Ms. Horn was best known in library circles for spending three weeks in jail in 1972 for having refused to testify before a grand jury regarding information relating to Phillip Berrigan’s library use. Ms. Horn stated: “To me it stands on: Freedom of thought — but government spying in homes, in libraries and universities inhibits and destroys this freedom.”
Throughout her life, Ms. Horn was on the forefront of the protection of academic and intellectual freedom, especially in libraries. She was an outspoken opponent of the PATRIOT ACT. She won numerous awards for her work, and a Zoia Horn Intellectual Freedom Award was inaugurated in 2004 by the California Library Association.
The Internet Archive is proud to have been a recipient of that award in 2010, and Brewster Kahle was presented with the award by Ms. Horn herself.
Along with so many others who have fought for freedom, we will greatly miss Ms. Horn, and we honor her memory by continuing her work.
When I was in library school in the 90s, Ms. Horn’s refusal to disclose a patron’s records was an archetypical lesson in how we should think and behave as librarians.
My students today need to realize, in this social media-let’s-post-everything culture, how important intellectual freedom, and intellectual property are, and the concept of privacy, and how necessary it is to fight to maintain it, despite media pressure to make everything available. Now more than ever, we need to realize that there are limits to what the government is allowed to access (as well as Google and other media giants) and fight the good fight to keep our democratic society adhering to the freedoms that our Constitution gives us.
Zoia Horn the great librarian and activist is no more. But she was the best librarian i have never seen.