Immroth Memorial Award winner announced

Contact:Don Wood


For Immediate Release

June 2002

Immroth Memorial Award winner announced

Joyce Meskis, owner of Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, has been named the recipient of the 2002 John Phillip Immroth Memorial Award for Intellectual Freedom, presented by the American Library Association (ALA) Intellectual Freedom Round Table (IFRT).

The Immroth Award honors intellectual freedom fighters in and outside the library profession who have demonstrated remarkable personal courage in resisting censorship. The award consists of $500 and a citation.

Meskis was chosen for her long-standing dedication and contributions to the defense of the freedom to read and intellectual freedom, most recently demonstrated by her stand to prevent law enforcement officials from seizing confidential customer records from her famed Tattered Cover bookstore in the course of an investigation. The Colorado Supreme Court heard the lawsuit that resulted, Tattered Cover V. City of Thornton, on December 5, 2001, and subsequently determined that bookstore customers have a right to receive information anonymously, without government interference. "As the owner of the Tattered Cover bookstore, and as a defendant in a case, Ms. Meskis set a standard of personal commitment, which serves as a model for every bookstore owner," Award Committee Chair Pamela G. Bonnell said. "Throughout this ordeal with law enforcement officials, her advocacy and strong belief in the First Amendment did not waver."

"In the Colorado Supreme Court decision, the Court declared, 'Had it not been for the Tattered Cover's steadfast stance, the zealousness of the city would have led to the disclosure of information that we ultimately conclude is constitutionally protected,' Bonnell continuted. "The Immroth Award Committee is extremely pleased to honor her notable contributions to the cause of intellectual freedom."

In July 2001, the Tattered Cover Bookstore filed suit to quash a search warrant ordering the bookstore to turn over to the police customer records related to the investigation of a methamphetamine laboratory discovered in a group home. Two books relating to the production of drugs also were found in the home, and in an exterior trashcan, police discovered an envelope from the Tattered Cover with an invoice number. They did not find any information with the envelope that would identify the books purchased from the bookstore. The police theorized that the Tattered Cover envelope contained the invoice for the two books and believed that if they could identify who purchased the books, they would be able to prove who built the lab.

The Freedom to Read Foundation and 14 other groups filed an amicus brief arguing that search warrants or subpoenas directed at bookstores or libraries that demand information about the reading habits of patrons significantly threaten the exercise of First Amendment rights. "Not only is this case a victory for readers and book purchasers in Colorado, but we believe the Court's opinion sets an important precedent for readers, bookstores and library patrons throughout the country, who can now look to Colorado law for guidance when the First Amendment rights of readers collide with the desires of law enforcement," Joyce Meskis said.

Meskis will accept the award presented to her by Bonnell, Saturday, June 15, at 1:30 p.m. during the IFRT program at the ALA Annual Conference in Atlanta.

More information on the award is available