March 16 is Freedom of Information Day

Freedom of Information (FOI) Day is celebrated annually on March 16, the birth date of the fourth US President James Madison. Known as the Father of the Constitution, Madison was a proponent of government transparency. During the late 1970s, the National Press Club began hosting an annual FOI awareness event. In 1993, the First Amendment Center in Nashville assumed responsibility for putting together the program, which evolved during the 1990s until the first official National FOI Day conference was held on March 16, 1999. This gathering has been held annually on March 16 or a nearby date for the past decade; the 2009 FOI Day conference entitled “Freedom & Information: Looking Back and Looking Forward,” took place on March 13 and featured Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) as its keynote speaker.

The American Library Association (ALA) presents the following two awards in recognition of FOI Day:

James Madison Award

Since 1986, this honor has been awarded to a person or organization that has brought national attention to government openness. The 2009 award went to Thomas Susman, an attorney with extensive experience related to the Freedom of Information Act.

Eileen Cooke State and Local Madison Award

Eileen Cooke was a former ALA Washington office director who advocated the right to access government information; this award is presented to an outstanding leader for building public awareness of their right to know. This award was not presented in 2009.

See previous award recipients here.

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