Meet the ACRL Presidents: Robert Bingham Downs

Over the course of ACRL’s 75th anniversary celebration, we’ll highlight the association’s history by profiling our past presidents.Robert Bingham Downs

Robert Bingham Downs (1903-1991) was the third President of ACRL from 1940-1941. During that time, he was also the Director of Libraries for the New York University System. Downs also served as the President of ALA from 1952-53. As a response to McCarthyism and attacks on U.S. libraries, under his leadership, ALA endorsed “The Freedom to Read.” In honor of Downs’ advocacy for intellectual freedom, the University of Illinois Graduate School of Library and Information Science established the Robert B. Downs Award to recognize outstanding contributions to intellectual freedom in libraries. Downs had filled a dual role as Director of the Library and the Library School from at the University of Illinois from 1943-1958. He eventually retired from the University of Illinois as the Dean of Library Administration. Besides his work on intellectual freedom, Downs was also a champion for high standards in the academic library profession and was instrumental in setting a standard of academic librarians being granted full academic faculty status.