For immediate release | March 17, 2020

Rebecca Ginsburg Receives Immroth Award

The American Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Round Table (IFRT) Immroth Award Committee is pleased to announce Rebecca Ginsburg as the recipient of the 2020 John Phillip Immroth Memorial Award, which honors significant contributions defending intellectual freedom.

Rebecca GinsburgRebecca Ginsburg is the Director of the Education Justice Project (EJP), which is based at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. EJP offers education programs to individuals incarcerated at the Danville Correctional Center (DCC), a men’s medium-security state prison. In 2019, more than 200 books were moved from the EJP library at the DCC, including Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations About Race by Beverly Daniel Tatum, and The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois. The book removal was a part of the Illinois Department of Corrections’ growing practice of restricting access to reading materials focusing on issues of race and prisons.

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. She did this knowing the high stakes for the EJP and her students. Thanks to Ginsburg’s advocacy, the books were returned to the EJP library and the Illinois Department of Corrections developed new guidelines for prison libraries.

The award will be presented at the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago at the IFRT Awards Recognition Breakfast on Saturday, June 27, 7:30 - 9:00 a.m.

Established in 1979, upon 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 finest kind of example for the defense and furtherance of the principles of intellectual freedom. The award consists of a citation and $500. John Phillip Immroth was a teacher, author, scholar, advocate, and defender of First Amendment rights. He was the founder and first chair of the Intellectual Freedom Round Table in 1973.

Members of the John Phillip Immroth Memorial Award Committee are: Chair Cyndi Robinson, Illinois Library Association; Michael Furlong, University of Central Florida; Eric Johnson, Miami University; Dr. Linda Parsons, Ohio State University; and Lynda Poling, Long Beach Public Library.

The Intellectual Freedom Round Table (IFRT) provides a forum for the discussion of activities, programs and problems in intellectual freedom of libraries and librarians; serves as a channel of communications on intellectual freedom matters; promotes a greater opportunity for involvement among the members of the ALA in defense of intellectual freedom; promotes a greater feeling of responsibility in the implementation of ALA policies on intellectual freedom.


Kristin Pekoll

IFRT Staff Liaison

American Library Association

ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom