OLA's Les Fowlie Intellectual Freedom Award

The Ontario Library Association Board of Directors established the Award for Intellectual Freedom in 1997 to recognize the courage shown by individuals and organizations in defending the rights of library patrons to full access to information. In 2000, the Award was renamed the Les Fowlie Intellectual Freedom Award in memory of the former Chief Librarian of Toronto Public Library whose efforts on behalf of intellectual freedom in Canada are legendary.

To apply: Complete the online nomination form by November 1
For questions or more information, contact awards@accessola.com

To view more information on eligibility and nomination procedures
To view past recipients

2019 Award Recipient


James Turk

Centre for Free Expression, Ryerson University
James is a staunch supporter of intellectual freedom and brings many perspectives to the discussion. He has worked with CAUT and CFLA on these topics and has always brought spirited and passionate discussion to the table. The committee has reflected on the leadership that he has shown across the country, and the work he has done within OLA to generously give his time at Super Conference in 2018 and 2019. OLA Awards Committee 2018

2018 Award Recipient


Vickery Bowles

City Librarian, Toronto District School Board
In July 2017 Ms. Bowles defended Toronto Public Library's stance on a library room booking for Barbara Kulaszka’s memorial service. Ms. Kulaszka was a lawyer who had represented Holocaust deniers in her practice, and the booking was seen by many as allowing Nazi rhetoric to enter the library space. Ms. Bowles insisted that denying access to these library services contravened the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the principles of intellectual freedom and the cornerstone of the library’s mission and values. 
Despite mounting political pressure from the Mayor of Toronto, and intense scrutiny from national and international media, Ms. Bowles remained steadfast to the values of librarianship and was able to maintain a respectful dialog throughout the situation. Her efforts have gone on to encourage more library systems to reflect on their policies, and to remind librarians of their professional values and principles. OLA Board 2017