(Washington, DC) The Minnesota Coalition on Government Information is the winner of the inaugural Eileen Cooke State and Local Madison Award, presented by the American Library Association. The award, named for noted Executive Director of the American Library Association Eileen Cooke and for President James Madison, honors those at state and local levels who have championed, protected, and promoted public access to government information and the public’s right to know. The award will be presented annually on the anniversary of James Madison’s birth.
In the late 1980’s, building on the work of Eileen Cooke—a Minnesota native—a number of advocates in Minnesota determined to address the challenges to access to government information at the state and local levels. They established the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information, which represents a diverse network of individuals and agencies committed to access in the fullest sense and to the role of the state as producer, collector, regulator and provider of access. The Coalition includes state agencies, librarians and libraries, representatives of the press, computer professionals, information providers, archivists, and others who care about the issues surrounding access to government information.
Protecting and enhancing open government at the state and grassroots level requires strong champions. For fifteen years, The Minnesota Coalition has partnered with a remarkably diverse number of groups and has been persistent in promoting the role of the state in ensuring open access to government information. The Coalition is an example of a state-level “laboratory of democracy,” an ideal envisioned by Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, that plays a major role in arming the people with knowledge.
The Minnesota Coalition on Government Information will be presented with its award at the National Freedom of Information Day Conference, sponsored by the First Amendment Center, in cooperation with the American Library Association. “Congress and the Courts: Confronting Secrecy” is the theme of this year’s conference, to be held as usual on James Madison’s birth date, Wednesday, March 16, from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm at the Freedom Forum’s World Center in Arlington, Va. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a forceful advocate for open government since his days as Texas Attorney General, will be the keynote speaker.