Zoia Horn has passed on

I have just learned that Zoia Horn died on July 12th. She has been an inspiration to me from the time I was in library school in the late 90s. I was inspired by her memoirs and later by her personally when I visited her Berkeley. (I have just found out that her memoirs, ZOIA! Memoirs of Zoia Horn, Battler for the People’s Right to Know, are online in full text at Archive.org.)

This announcement of her 2002 Jackie Eubanks Memorial Award goes into some nice biographical detail. Besides the Jackie Eubanks Award, which was given by the Alternatives in Print Task Force of SRRT, she also received the 2002 Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award, given by the UIUC GSLIS. Here is part of the announcement of that award:

Thirty years ago, when Zoia Horn was subpoenaed to appear at the trial of the “Harrisburg Seven,” she refused to testify, was found in contempt of court, and jailed for three weeks. This jail sentence effectively ended her library career, but she used her information skills in her work for both the Center for Investigative Reporting and DataCenter, both of Oakland, CA. She has also remained active in intellectual freedom issues over the years, chairing the Intellectual Freedom Committees of ALA, New Jersey Library Association, and the California Library Association, sponsoring resolutions affirming the confidentiality of the relationship between libraries and their users. In 1986, Horn brought her Right to Know project from DataCenter to ALA, who then formed the Coalition on Government Information, a group of about 50 organizations that are interested in stemming the trend toward less public access to government information.

The California Library Association gives an annual Intellectual Freedom Award named in her honor.

When someone dies, I always find it less tragic when that person has lived to a ripe old age and had a full life. Zoia was 96 years old when she passed on. That is old; she did not die before her time. I want to take this occasion to honor and celebrate her life.

One last link – this article from the Berkeley Daily Planet in 2004: Zoia Horn Takes Pride in Provoking.

Zoia, thank you for all that you did.

(The photo above taken by me at the protest of the SF Marriott during the 2001 ALA conference. It was an informational picket for the workers who were fighting for a contract.)

9 comments on “Zoia Horn has passed on

  1. Thank you, Rory, for sending word out and for the photo and your comments. Amazing woman!! I had not heard how she was doing for a while. I hope she was herself to the end and not uncomfortable. Is Dean Galloway still living? We can hope to hear how to contact him or his daughter Nancy.
    Joan Goddard

  2. Thanks for honouring my mother with your kind and true words, not to mention links to pertinent information. It’s great to hear that she continues to inspire new librarians.

    Dean Galloway sends his appreciation as well.

    Catherine Marrion

  3. I posted the following on Facebook this morning:
    Zoia Horn, who died Saturday in Oakland at 96, was, to understate it, an incredible woman who led an extraordinary life. I had the privilege and honor of working closely with her at the DataCenter, helping her edit our People’s Right To Know series of Press Profiles.
    On her 90th Birthday, I wrote the following: Zoia Horn pioneered a new type of librarian: the archivist/activist. She set the standard for fighting an intrusive government that demanded its right to know the public’s business by becoming a champion of the People’s Right To Know.
    As Zoia’s co-worker and one of the point persons on the Data Center’s Right To Know Project we shared some very interesting times. Editing Zoia, was not something she (or I) took lightly. And we had our little battles.
    Over the years, however, we shared much more than an occasional scuffle over the introductory words to an R-T-K volume or which articles should appear in each edition. We shared the joy of producing a series of important collections on the people’s right to know; we shared March birthday parties; we exchanged memories of times in New York City (as a college student I worked the stacks at the 42nd Street branch, while Zoia’s first librarian job — some twenty-one years earlier — was in 1942 at the city’s Jackson Square Branch); we shared a surprisingly ribald yet quasi-dignified (she, not me) sense of humor; and we shared a passion for information that serves and advances social justice, not information for information’s sake.
    I would chat with Zoia about how my daughter Leah, born in 1980, was doing and later, she would proudly relay tales of her granddaughter.
    When Zoia attended Data Center staff meetings (she was the rare volunteer accorded that privilege – although one would be hard pressed to call it that) and when she spoke up, staff paid attention. When Zoia requested support for a project, she got what she asked for. After all, it was not possible to turn down the grand doyen of data!
    Zoia’s written inscription to me on her memoir says it all for me: “To Bill,” she wrote, “dear colleague, friend and great tease.”
    And, the title of her book: “Zoia! Memoirs of Zoia Horn, Battler for the People’s Right to Know” tells you, in small measure, about Zoia’s extraordinary endeavors.
    Happy 90th birthday dear Zoia and many many happy and healthy birthdays to come.
    (Her book is online @ https://archive.org/details/zoiamemoirsofzoi00horn). She was a librarian of conscience (as you’ll read in the obituary below) who went to prison “as a matter of conscience by refusing to testify against antiwar activists accused of a bizarre terrorist poly.”
    A short tribute video, made in 2010) is available @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l44tNDR4WY0.

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