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Fuhrman Receives Intellectual Freedom Award

Cathi Fuhrman LibrarianAs library and classroom book bans generate controversy nationwide, State College Area High School librarian Cathi Fuhrman keeps striving to maintain students’ access to books and other educational materials.


Recently, those efforts landed her national recognition: the 2024 American Association of School Librarians’ Intellectual Freedom Award. Since 1982, the award has annually gone to individuals who uphold the intellectual freedom principles set forth by the AASL and the American Library Association. 


“This is an incredible honor and very much deserved,” said Paije Davis, the State College Area School District library department coordinator. “Cathi’s passion for the profession is admirable and contagious. SCASD is lucky to call her ours.” 


Fuhrman has been a school librarian and an AASL/ALA member for 30 years.


“The sheer longevity of consistent and persistent work by Fuhrman is impressive and appreciated,” said Kim Pakowski, the award committee chairperson. “The committee was struck by the breadth of Fuhrman’s reach including both her school and district as well as the community and across the state.”


One of the recommendations for Fuhrman came from a school board director in her previous school district, Hempfield.


“I have had the privilege over the course of many years to witness Cathi’s unwavering commitment to ensuring our students’ rights to read (and) open access to information, and upholding the principles of intellectual freedom within our school district and more broadly,” Judy Brady wrote. “Cathi embodies the very spirit of intellectual freedom. She is a strong advocate for critical thinking, open dialogue, and diverse perspectives.”


AASL President Courtney Pentland said she gets “chills” thinking of when a crowd of school librarians followed Furhman’s lead at an AASL conference by shouting, “We are school librarians. We are standing together.”


“This was not a one-time conference call-out,” Pentland said. “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. 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.”


These days, Fuhrman continues her mission with her State High library colleagues, helping organize the annual SCASDReads K-12 initiative to promote literacy, among other programs.


“I want to express my sincere gratitude for the support I feel I have from the entire SCASD administration, staff, our amazing library department and the entire school community,” Fuhrman said. “I can't put into words how much the culture of SCASD contributes to our ability to be able to soar and succeed as educators and professionals. The respect, trust, and encouragement that we receive as trained, certified school librarians to create a space of literacy, learning and inclusion are incredible and the best that I have ever encountered in my 30 years. I am honored to represent the State College Area School District!”


AASL award winners will be recognized during the 2025 AASL National Conference Oct. 16-19 in St. Louis, Mo.

By Chris Rosenblum

Published March 26, 2024