The Immroth Prize Committee of the American Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Round Table (IFRT) is pleased to announce that Terri Lesley is the recipient of the 2022 John Phillip Immroth Memorial Prize, which recognizes notable contributions to intellectual freedom and demonstrations of personal courage in the defense of freedom of expression.
Terri Lesley led the staff and board of the Campbell County Public Library in Gillette, Wyoming through an avalanche of disputed documents and protests. Starting in the summer of 2021, the number of single title challenges increased from 3 in August to almost 30 by the end of the year. Library board meetings were highly contentious and there were repeated protests outside the library. In October 2021, two of the clients who led the challenges went to the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office to try to sue CCPL librarians, including Ms. Lesley, for breaking child sexuality laws on the basis of five books they described as “harsh child pornography”. .”
Throughout this time, Ms. Lesley not only championed the intellectual freedom of her patrons, but also continued to build community support for her library through her interactions with the public. She has also worked hard to support her staff and maintain a strong working relationship with her Board of Directors. Ms. Lesley shared what she learned with other Wyoming library managers
“Ms. Lesley’s commitment to intellectual freedom, her community and her staff is unparalleled,” said Conrrado Saldivar, president of the Wyoming Library Association. inspiration to all Wyoming library staff and ensure that its community can continue to have a strong exchange of ideas and opinions.”
The prize will be awarded on Friday, June 24 at 7 p.m. ET at ALA Annual Conference in Washington DC
Besides Ms. Lesley, there were several other inspirational nominees, including Amanda Cawthon, director of youth services at the Pflugerville Public Library in Texas, who was nominated for her social media work in support of intellectual freedom; Aaryan Rawal, a high school student from Westfield High School in Fairfax County, who was nominated for his work with the student group Pride Liberation Project that fought the removal of two books from Fairfax County public school libraries; and The FReadom Fighters – Becky Calzada, Carolyn Foote, NancyJo Lambert and an anonymous member – who were nominated for their social media work and letter-writing campaigns to fight book bans in schools and libraries .
Established in 1979, on the death of John Phillip Immroth, the Immroth Memorial Award honors the courage, dedication and contribution of a living individual, group or organization who has set the best example for the defense and promoting the principles of intellectual freedom. The prize consists of a citation and $500. John Phillip Immroth was a teacher, author, scholar, lawyer, and advocate for First Amendment rights. He was the founder and first chair of the Roundtable on Intellectual Freedom in 1973.
Members of the John Phillip Immroth Memorial Award Committee are: Chair Johannah Genett, Hennepin County Library; Kristin Joy Anderson, University of Lewis; Sarah Beverly Burchart, Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research; Kristin EC Green, Penn State University Libraries, Scranton Campus; Lynda Salem Poling, Long Beach Public Library; and Dr. Jennifer E. Steele, University of Southern Mississippi.
The Intellectual Freedom Roundtable (IFRT) provides a forum for the discussion of intellectual freedom activities, programs and issues of libraries and librarians; serves as a channel of communication on issues of intellectual freedom; promote greater opportunity for involvement among ALA members in the defense of intellectual freedom; promotes a greater sense of responsibility in implementing ALA policies on intellectual freedom.