The Virginia Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee is pleased to announce that the 2001 winner of the VLA/SIRS Intellectual Freedom Award is Neal Wyatt.
Neal Wyatt served 5 years on the Intellectual Freedom Committee of the Virginia Library Association, and during her tenure as chair, she authored the Committee’s first official statements on intellectual freedom, formally adopted by the Virginia Library Association. These documents, entitled The Virginia Library Association Intellectual Freedom Vision Statement and The Virginia Library Association Vision Statement on Access to Electronic Media,define what our organization supports and believes in. Both of these groundbreaking statements provide clear guidance as to the stance VLA takes on intellectual freedom issues. (And you can find them on our committee’s section of the VLA website.)
In 1999, Neal initiated the first major overhaul of the VLA Intellectual Freedom Manual and saw that the results were posted on the Internet for the first time. As a result several library schools and state library associations use Virginia’s Intellectual Freedom Manual as the basis of discussion for intellectual freedom issues. The online manual has been seen as far away as Istanbul, Turkey.
In 2000, Neal presented a number of lectures throughout the Commonwealth on the role of the American Library Association Code of Ethics and the Library Bill of Rights. She represented Virginia on the first ALA Filtering Education Program and spearheaded the state’s component of the ALA Campaign for Intellectual Freedom Heroes.
As if all this and a full time job were not enough, Neal taught classes for the Catholic University of America on the ethics, roles, and responsibilities of the library profession and has served as a representative to the ALA Ethics Committee.
What she has achieved over a number of years represents the kind of grass roots professional commitment, self-motivation, and talent on which the Virginia Library Association thrives. Neal’s work presents a perfect opportunity to recognize one of those who too often appears to be only a soldier in the trenches to the casual observer—because they are not in the eye of high-profile controversial events—but they are in fact the sort of quiet and persistent leader we need everywhere to express and act upon our profession’s values.