John Phillip Immroth Memorial Award Recipients

Past Recipients of the John Phillip Immorth Memorial Award

The Immroth Award is administered by the Immroth Committee which seeks out and recognizes personal courage and contributions to intellectual freedom.

2022: Terri Lesley

Terri Lesley has led the staff and library board of Campbell County Public Library in Gillette, Wyoming through an onslaught of challenged materials and protests. Beginning in the summer of 2021, the number of challenges to unique titles rose from 3 in August to nearly 30 by the end of the year. Library board meetings have been very contentious and there have been repeated protests outside the library. In October 2021, two of the patrons who led the challenges went to the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office to attempt to prosecute CCPL librarians, including Ms. Lesley, of violating child sex laws based on five books they described as “hard-core pornography to children.” Throughout this period, Ms. Lesley has not only stood up for intellectual freedom for her patrons, she has also continued to build community support for her library through her interactions with the public. She has also strived to support her staff and maintain a strong working relationship with her board. Ms. Lesley has shared what she’s learned with other library directors in Wyoming. (ALA Press Release)

2021: Martin Garnar

Garnar is an active leader of the ALA intellectual freedom community, having served the profession in every capacity imaginable. Throughout his career, Martin has served as a trustee and president of the Freedom to Read Foundation, chair of the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee, chair of the ALA Committee on Professional Ethics, chair of the IFC Privacy Subcommittee, trustee of the Leroy C. Merritt Humanitarian Fund, editor of the 10th edition and co-editor of the 9th edition of the Intellectual Freedom Manual, and councilor of IFRT. (ALA Press Release)

2020: Rebecca Ginsburg

Ginsburg championed the fight to restore access to the books and raise awareness of prison censorship by creating the Freedom to Learn Campaign, a coalition of 67 organizations and hundreds of individuals. Her work culminated in a special legislative hearing that changed the terms of future book access inside prisons to protect incarcerated readers across the state. (ALA Press Release)

2019: Jim Duncan

Duncan, Executive Director of the Colorado Library Consortium (CLiC), is awarded the John Phillip Immroth Memorial Award for defending the principles of intellectual freedom. Duncan and his organization have been sued by an extremist group as "purveyors of pornography" for their roles as a cooperative purchasing agent for library resources throughout the state of Colorado. (ALA Press Release)

2018: Lindsey Whittington

Whittington, a media specialist in Dixie County, Florida, publicly defended the First Amendment rights of her students. Mike Thomas, the superintendent of Dixie County issued a directive that forbids the purchase of printed materials containing profanity or inappropriate subject matter. (ALA press release)

2017: Robert P. Doyle

The Immroth Award recognizes Doyle’s defense of intellectual freedom in a library career spanning more than 30 years. (ALA press release)

2016: Jarrett Dapier

Jarrett Dapier is awarded the John Phillip Immroth Memorial Award for defending the principles of intellectual freedom by continuing to research this incident after it was no longer newsworthy and for exposing wrongdoing which could have resulted in a violation of the constitutional rights of the students in Chicago Public Schools. (ALA press release)

2015: Pam Klipsch

Klipsch is being recognized for her long defense of intellectual freedom and for legislative achievement in Missouri.

No award given in 2014.

2013: Amnesty International USA

Rather than focusing on book censorship, per se, Amnesty International’s approach focused on the logical consequences that would follow when governments are allowed to censor. Beyond the removal or burning of books comes the removal and physical harm to authors, journalists and others.

No award given in 2012.

2011: Mike Blasenstein and Mike Iacovone

The Immroth Award Committee recognizes the two for providing access to the banned video, David Wojnarowicz’s “Fire in My Belly,” in a high profile incident of censorship at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. After the Smithsonian Institution bowed to pressure to remove the artwork from the Hide/Seek exhibit, Blasenstein and Iacovone undertook their first act to preserve intellectual freedom by reintroducing the censored art into the gallery from which it was removed.

2010: Dr. Ron Critchfield

Critchfield took a stand against the censorship of the graphic novel, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier, by Alan Moore, at the Jessamine County Public Library where he is director.

2009: Alanna Natanson and Kam MacPherson

The Immroth Award Committee recognizes the two for organizing the Takoma Park Library’s Banned Books Club, a youth group of middle-school students who gather to read frequently challenged or banned books, like Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Natanson started the club because, she said, “there are a lot of people in [her] grade that are very mature for their age.” The club gives them a chance to read books with more mature themes than what they read in their classes. MacPherson, the librarian who leads the discussion, said that the list of books were all “books that kids would want to read.”

2008: Jane Smith and Lisa Scherff

Scherff and Smith led an effort that prevented the Tuscaloosa County Board from removing the book Sandpiper from Brookwood High School in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The challenge originated not from a parent or religious group, but from a student who checked out and then refused to return the book to the library due to "its graphic description of oral sex."

No award given in 2007.

2006: Lucy Collins Nazro and Kathryn Runnels

By refusing to allow Annie Proulx’s short story Brokeback Mountain to be removed from the St. Andrew’s Episcopal School (Austin, TX) curriculum in exchange for a $3,000,000 donation, Lucy Collins Nazro and Kathryn Runnells showed remarkable courage in defending the principle of intellectual freedom. In sacrificing this donation they upheld the principles of both their professions and their institution. They also exemplify the courage it takes every day to remain vigilant against those who would oppose the building of inclusive collections. St. Andrew's Episcopal School can be proud of the example set by the recipients for their students, staff, faculty, and parents.

2005: Hays Public Library Board of Trustees

For its spirited defense of the freedom to read and its courage under pressure in the service of all Kansas Citizens.

2004: Nolan T. Yelich

For his courageous and victorious stand in defense of freedom of information in Virginia. For several months he vigorously and publicly pursued the complete records of former Virginia Governor James Gilmore’s administration for the state archives of Virginia.

2003: Gloria Pipkin and ReLeah Lent

For their ongoing public stand in defense of the freedom to read and intellectual freedom over two decades. These former English teachers for the Bay County, Fla., schools, were plaintiffs in two separate First Amendment suits against their school board, superintendent, and principal, in cases defending the right to read and the student press. Their stories are the subject of their book At the Schoolhouse Gate: Lessons in Intellectual Freedom.

2002: Joyce Meskis

For her long-standing dedication and contributions to the defense of the freedom to read and intellectual freedom, most recently demonstrated by her stand in Tattered Cover V. City of Thornton, which determined that bookstore customers have a right to receive information anonymously, without government interference.

2001: Linda Hughes

For her commitment and contribution to the defense of the freedom to read and intellectual freedom and her unwavering advocacy and strong belief in the First Amendment.

2000: Gordon Conable

For his long-standing dedication and contributions to the defense of the freedom to read and intellectual freedom.

1999: Mainstream Loudoun

Mainstream Loudoun received this award for its role in Mainstream Loudoun v. Board of Trustees of Loudoun County Library, in which Judge Leonie M. Brinkema ruled that the highly restrictive Internet policy imposed on Loudoun County libraries was invalid under the free speech provisions of the First Amendment.

1998: Paula Baker, Marjorie Meany, Elizabeth Gibson, William Meub, Barry Ferraro, and Paul Bortz of the Rutland (VT) Free Library

For their successful defense of Daddy’s Roommate in their library’s collection and their successful mobilization of the community in support of the library’s intellectual freedom policies.

1997: Dr. Ronald F. Sigler

For his long and distinguished career supporting the cause of intellectual freedom in libraries and, in particular, the promulgation and promotion of his seminal work, “The Freedom to View Statement.”

1996: Plaintiffs in Case v. Unified School District ( Annie On My Mind case)

For initiating and pursuing a victorious legal battle to defend the constitutional rights of the students, parents and teachers of Olathe, Kansas, when the book Annie on My Mind was removed from the school district libraries based solely on the personal disapproval of the superintendent and the school board.

1995: Fort Vancouver Regional Library Board of Trustees

For defending fundamental principles of intellectual freedom, persuasively presenting that defense to a wide community, and educating their regional service area and beyond about First Amendment rights.

1994: John Swan

For his courage, perseverance, and dedication to the highest principles of intellectual freedom.

1993: William A. Moffett

For succeeding in opening unrestricted access to archival photographs of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

1992: Dorothea A. Hunter

For successfully reinstating several titles that had been removed from media centers in the Detroit public schools.

1991: Christopher Merrett

For courageous advocacy of the freedom of expression for all people and equality of library service in South Africa.

1990: Pamela G. Bonnell

For consistent defense of freedom to read by actively taking a stand against censorship whenever a threat appears.

1989: Cooperative Children’s Book Center

For providing confidence, information, and support to librarians experiencing challenges to resources and for guiding librarians through book challenges in an organized and positive manner, making it possible for them to stand firm for intellectual freedom.

1988: Eleanor and Elliot Goldstein

For their dedication to intellectual freedom and for their strong support of awards and projects promoting its principles, through which they have made this cause a priority in librarianship across the country.

1987: Charles Levendosky

For exemplary contributions as an editorialist, speaker, and intellectual freedom activist in the State of Wyoming.

1986: Thomas J. Mills

For steadfast support of challenged textbooks, of the textbook review process, and of academic freedom principles in the Palm Beach County (Florida) school system.

1985: William D. North

For outstanding service to the Freedom to Read Foundation in his roles as Counsel, Trustee and President.

1984: Gene D. Lanier

For extraordinary courage and leadership as a library educator in defense of the First Amendment throughout North Carolina.

1983: Nat Hentoff

For courageous and articulate advocacy of the First Amendment as an author, speaker, and activist for human rights. NOTE: In his January 29, 2004, column (, Hentoff renounced the award: "I now publicly renounce the Immroth Award and demand that the American Library Association remove me from the list of recipients of that honor. To me, it is no longer an honor."

1982: Steven Pico

For strong commitment and defense of the principles of intellectual freedom and the freedom to read.

No award given in 1981.

1980: Elizabeth A. Phillips

For challenging censorship of the Vergennes (Vt.) Union High School Library.

1979: Alex P. Allain

For lifelong support of intellectual freedom in libraries.

1978: Sonja Coleman

For vigorous defense of students’ right to read.

1977: Irene Turin

For professional adherence to intellectual freedom in the face of censorship by the school board.

1976: I. F. Stone

For lifelong devotion to intellectual freedom.