Intellectual freedom, as defined by the American Library Association, is 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 used. The ALA Library Bill of Rights offers expanded explanations of practices, which promote intellectual freedom.

Since 2010, the WLA and the Wisconsin Educational Media and Technology Association (WEMTA) have collaborated to give the annual intellectual freedom award. This award recognizes the contribution of an individual or group who has actively promoted intellectual freedom in Wisconsin. The award will be given to a recipient selected by the WLA & WEMTA Joint Intellectual Freedom Award Committee. The award consists of a plaque to the recipient commemorating the award.

Nominations for the award may be made by personal members of WLA and/or WEMTA. Individuals and groups may nominate themselves for the award. The Joint WLA/WEMTA Intellectual Freedom Award Committee will evaluate the nominations based on the stated criteria. An award recipient will be selected only in those years when the committee believes an award is justified. The award will be presented at the annual Wisconsin Library Association Conference. In succeeding years, the award will be presented at the Wisconsin Library Association Conference or the annual Wisconsin Educational Media and Technology Association conference, depending on the preferred affiliation of the award winner.


Nominations must be received by August 15.  

Anyone who has actively promoted intellectual freedom in Wisconsin is eligible for the WLA & WEMTA Intellectual Freedom Award. Activities within the past five years are eligible for consideration.

Nominees for the award will be judged on the:

  1. Role they have played in actively promoting intellectual freedom in their sphere of influence and beyond.
  2. Degree to which they exemplify the spirit of intellectual freedom.
  3. Effect of their efforts to promote intellectual freedom and challenge censorship.

Nominators must send a nomination letter that identifies the nominee’s role in promoting intellectual freedom, along with a minimum of two additional letters of support that further illuminate the nominee’s visible efforts on behalf of intellectual freedom. References to published articles by or about the nominee; workshops or speeches by the nominee relating to intellectual freedom, and other tangible evidence of the nominee’s work are especially welcome.


2015:  Marti Koller, English Department Chair, Baldwin-Woodville High School

2014:  Megan Schliesman, Cooperative Children's Book Center, UW- Madison School of Education

2013:  Appleton Area School District and School Board for Retaining The Body of Christopher Creed in the Curriculum

2011: Belleville School District Parents and Students Defending Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes

2010: Dr. Robert W. Smiley, Director of Technology, Waunakee Area School District

2009: Staff and friends of the West Bend Public Library

2007: Helen Adams, retired media specialist, author, advocate

2006: Dee J. Hall, reporter, Wisconsin State Journal, Madison, WI

2003: United States Senator Russell Feingold, Middleton, WI

2001: Irene Cooley, Media Specialist, Barron Senior High School, Barron, WI

2000: Dianne McAfee Hopkins, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI

1999: Carolyn Winters Folke, Former Director, Bureau for Instructional Media & Technolgy, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

1998: Dr. Nicholas J. Karolides, Chalmer Davee Library, River Falls, WI

1996: Ginny Moore Kruse, Director, Cooperative Children's Book Center, Madison, WI

1995: Hales Corners Public Library, Hales Corners, WI