For immediate release | April 14, 2020

Donna Morris receives AASL Intellectual Freedom Award

CHICAGO – Donna Morris, school librarian at Daniel Boone Elementary in Richmond, Kentucky, is one of two recipients of the 2020 American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL) Intellectual Freedom Award. Established in 1982 and sponsored by ProQuest, the award is given to a school librarian for upholding the principles of intellectual freedom as set forth by AASL and ALA.

In late 2017, a parent requested the removal of “If I Ran the Zoo” by Dr. Seuss from the school library. The challenge was issued via notes to the student’s classroom teacher. Morris reached out to the parent who then filed a formal challenge with the school administration. Morris prepared the reconsideration committee with background information on the book, documents from the American Library Association, and copies of the book. Morris also presented the committee with general information on intellectual freedom. The committee recommended the book remain in circulation.

After successfully navigating the challenge in her school, Morris shared her knowledge and experience fighting for intellectual freedom locally by providing professional development sessions in her school system and currently plans to share her strategies at the state level. In 2019, Emily Northcutt, president of the Kentucky Association of School Librarians (KASL), recognized Morris’s work by appointing her as chair of the association’s intellectual freedom committee. In her letter of support, Northcutt wrote, “Donna is an innovative member of our profession who has a proven track record in regards to promoting and defending intellectual freedom in our state."

“For the first time in the history of the Intellectual Freedom Award, the committee decided upon two winners,” said Valerie Ayer, award committee chair. “Both exemplified outstanding efforts in managing the challenges they faced in their libraries and community. Their professionalism and wisdom are models of best practices and fine examples for all school librarians.”

“I want to thank Valerie Ayer and her committee for their work on the Intellectual Freedom Award Committee this year,” said AASL President Mary Keeling. “That Donna is one of two awards in this category affirm that intellectual freedom is the right of all learners. I’m excited that this award recognizes school librarian activism on behalf of learners and in defense of the printed word in two distinct categories: picture books for elementary students and graphic novels for young adults.”

The AASL award winners will be honored during a virtual AASL Awards Ceremony during the fall of 2020. The virtual ceremony will replace the live ceremony traditionally presented during the ALA Annual Conference. Out of concern for the health and safety of all members of the community, the ALA Executive Board felt it was important to cancel the 2020 conference taking place in Chicago. Details for the virtual ceremony will be shared as they are finalized.

The American Association of School Librarians,, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), empowers leaders to transform teaching and learning.


Jennifer Habley

Manager, Web Communications

American Association of School Librarians (AASL)