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Look Back, Move Forward: Freedom of Information Day

Senator Tester for accepting the James Madison Award, given to those who have protected public access to gov information.
Senator Tester accepting the James Madison Award at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The award is given to those who have worked to protect public access to government information.

At the tail end of this year’s #SunshineWeek, let’s take a quick moment to #FlashbackFriday (or should we say #FOIAFriday?) to 29 years ago yesterday, when the American Library Association began celebrating Freedom of Information Day. In honor of the day this year, ALA presented U.S. Senator Jon Tester of Montana with the 2017 James Madison Award for his advocacy for public access to government information. Upon accepting the award, Senator Tester gave a short speech, which you can watch here.

“It is a true honor to receive this award. Throughout my time in the U.S. Senate, I have made it a priority to bring more transparency and accountability to Washington. By shedding more light across the federal government and holding officials more accountable, we can eliminate waste and ensure that folks in Washington, D.C. are working more efficiently on behalf of all Americans.”

At the ceremony, Senator Tester affirmed his longstanding commitment to increasing public access to information by formally announcing the launch of the Senate Transparency Caucus, which aims to shed more light on federal agencies and hold the federal government more accountable to taxpayers.

Earlier this week, Senator Tester also reintroduced the Public Online Information Act, which aims to make all public records from the Executive Branch permanently available on the Internet in a searchable database at no cost to constituents.” In other words, this bill (if enacted) would cement the simple concept we know to be true: in the 21st century, public means online.

In honor of Senator Tester, here is a look back at the origins of ALA’s Freedom of Information Day: a 1988 resolution signed by Council to honor the memory of James Madison.

1988 Resolution on Freedom of Information Day; Resolved, that American Library Association encourage librarians throughout the country to bring the issues of freedom of information and barriers to information access into public consciousness and public debate by mounting appropriate information programs within libraries and their communities on March 16.
1988 Resolution on Freedom of Information Day.


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Emily Wagner

Emily is a deputy director of Advocacy Communications in the ALA's Advocacy and Public Policy Office. She holds a bachelor's degree from Mount Holyoke College and a master's in library and information science from Catholic University.

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