In a small town in western Montana, Wendy Campbell turned a difficult situation into an opportunity to show her fellow citizens how libraries are vital to communities as safe places for education and communication. For her efforts, Campbell, director of the Darby Community Public Library, has been named the 2016 recipient of the Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award, given annually by the faculty of the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and cosponsored by Libraries Unlimited.
Earlier this year, the Darby Library hosted a series of lifelong learning cultural programs for its service community of 4,000 people. As described in Campbell’s article in American Libraries, one of the three programs, “Perspectives on Islam,” sparked strong protest by several community members. In response, Campbell met with the library board and spoke with several groups—including library staff and volunteers, library patrons, community leaders, the local school board, high school teachers and administration, the county sheriff’s office, the state librarian, and the Office for Intellectual Freedom—to find a way to hold the program and help expand cultural awareness in her community. The commitment she received from these groups supported her steadfast efforts.