For immediate release | March 21, 2024

Cathi Fuhrman receives the AASL Intellectual Freedom Award

CHICAGO – Cathi Fuhrman, a school librarian at State College Area High School, Pennsylvania, is the recipient of the 2024 American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL) Intellectual Freedom Award. Established in 1982 and sponsored by ProQuest, the award is given for upholding the principles of intellectual freedom as set forth by AASL and ALA.

“The sheer longevity of consistent and persistent work by Fuhrman is impressive and appreciated,” says committee chair Kim Pakowski. “The committee was struck by the breadth of Fuhrman’s reach including both her school and district as well as the community and across her state. To see recommendations from both a school board director and student was impactful.”

Having been a school librarian and ALA/AASL member for thirty years, Fuhrman currently serves a school district that has strong support for intellectual freedom from the school board, administration, and community. That support has enabled Fuhrman to channel all her energy into standing up for Intellectual Freedom for K-12 students across Pennsylvania.

Judy Brady, school board director in the Hempfield School District, Fuhrman's former district where she is also a resident, submitted that “I have had the privilege over the course of many years to witness Cathi’s unwavering commitment to ensuring our students’ right to read, open access to information, and upholding the principles of intellectual freedom within our school district and more broadly.” Brady continues, “Cathi embodies the very spirit of intellectual freedom. She is a strong advocate for critical thinking, open dialogue, and diverse perspectives.”

Maguire Younes, past student council president in the Hempfield School District, shared their experience working with Cathi, no longer working in the district, to block a materials policy noting “Dr. Cathi Fuhrman immediately stepped up to the plate…and began to empower and advise us students to craft the plan for the upcoming weeks ahead in this fight.” Younes continues, “without her in this fight, students across the district would have lost access to numerous books at the school board's discretion, all in-classroom libraries, and ultimately the right to intellectual freedom.”

“I still get chills thinking about the crowd of school librarians following Cathi's lead at the AASL Conference in Tampa shouting in unison -- 'We are school librarians. We are standing together!' This was not a one time conference call-out. It is how she thinks every day. Cathi is a shining example that upholding intellectual freedom is a constant role school librarians must serve and that we are stronger together,” said AASL president Courtney Pentland. “For Cathi, who was not facing immediate challenges herself, to recognize and give her time, expertise, and voice to learners, colleagues, and community members is inspirational. I personally have learned so much from witnessing her passion and advocacy for not only those in her state but for school librarians and learners across the country. May we all follow Cathi’s lead to ensure equitable support for intellectual freedom across this country.”

The AASL award winners will be recognized during the 2025 AASL National Conference taking place October 16-19 in St. Louis, Missouri.

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

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Allison Cline

Deputy Executive Director

American Association of School Librarians (AASL)