Intellectual Freedom Award honors local library director

By Jennifer Holloway - Staff Writer
Enfield - posted Wed., Apr. 20, 2011
Henry Dutcher is the recipient of the Connecticut Library Association's Intellectual Freedom Award. Photo by Jennifer Holloway.
Henry Dutcher is the recipient of the Connecticut Library Association's Intellectual Freedom Award. Photo by Jennifer Holloway.

Enfield Public Library’s director of libraries, Henry Dutcher, will be awarded the Connecticut Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Award on May 3 in Stamford. He is receiving the award for his handling of the controversy surrounding the screening of the film “Sicko” earlier this year.

The 2007 documentary by director Michael Moore investigates the United States health care system. After complaints arose to the showing of the film, Dutcher postponed the viewing.

“Libraries do a lot, and not everything is everyone’s cup of tea,” Dutcher said. “We want to get information out for everybody, and you always know it’s a possibility that something won’t be well-accepted.”

He and Town Manager Matthew Coppler were able to work out a solution to put in a balance of ideas. In addition to showing “Sicko,” the library also presented the film “Sick and Sicker” on U.S. health care reform and Canadian-style health care.

The library has shown films for years - from Academy Award-nominated films to classics like “Oklahoma!” One reason the library began to show “Hot Topic” films such as “Sicko” was to bring more people into the library. “We actually had higher attendance for the ‘Hot Topic’ series,” Dutcher said. “I’m not sure whether it was due to the films or the controversy.”

Dutcher, who knew he had been nominated for the award, never thought he would receive it. He said he deals with intellectual freedom issues quite regularly, but nothing has ever been as publicly debated. More minor issues involve a person requesting material be moved to a different section of the library: for example, from the children’s section to the young adult section.

Dutcher has been with the Enfield Public Library for 11 years, but his career in library work began in 1971. During that time, he’s won other awards, but the one he is most proud of came in 2003 when the library won a State Public Service Award for its summer reading program.

Regarding the current honor, Reference Librarian Cheryl Collins said Dutcher handled the controversy well. “The resolution with the town is commendable,” she said. “It’s definitely a deserved award.”

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