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The Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (MNCOGI) has announced that librarian Helen Burke is the winner of the 2023 John Borger Lifetime Achievement Award, and Elder Voice Family Advocates is the winner of the 2023 Finnegan Freedom of Information Award. An award ceremony was held in the Minnesota State Capitol’s Cass Gilbert Library, on March 16, Freedom of Information Day.

The logo and wordmark of the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information

Text courtesy of the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (MNCOGI).

Borger Lifetime Achievement Award

Winner Helen Burke is a retired librarian who spent her professional career in the government records departments of the Minneapolis Public Library and Hennepin County Library System. She spent two decades serving on the Minnesota Library Association’s Government Documents Roundtable, and twice served as its chair. In her avocational career, Helen has been a tireless champion for the free-flow of information and thought. Helen served on the Minnesota Library Association’s Committee for Intellectual Freedom from 2004-2014. She also served on the board of the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (MNCOGI) for over two decades, and was its chair for over ten years. During that time, Helen helped to transform MNCOGI from a largely library-focused organization to a broader coalition of open- record advocates engaged in public education and civic policy development around government transparency.

Finnegan Freedom of Information Award

Elder Voice Family Advocates (EVFA) is a nonprofit organization that advocates for senior citizens. To assist seniors and their families with monitoring care facility quality, EVFA worked with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) to create an online database of care facility information. Users of the “Elder Care IQ” database can search elder care facilities by zip code, and then examine MDH complaint data, state inspection survey forms, and related correspondence. The project is a positive example of how the Data Practices Act can be utilized to provide critical information to the public. MNCOGI also wishes to highlight the role that MDH played in helping to transfer its data to EVFA for the Elder Care IQ project.

About the awards

Every year since 1989, MNCOGI has issued a Freedom of Information Award in the name of John R Finnegan, the former Pioneer Press editor who advocated for the establishment of the Minnesota Data Practices Act. The Borger Lifetime Achievement Award is named in honor of First Amendment attorney John Borger. The Awards are presented each year on March 16th - the birthday of James Madison, and the national “Freedom of Information Day.”

Written by

Zach Miller
Head of Communications