Jerilynn Adams Williams receives 2003 PEN/Newman's Own First Amendment Award

Contact: Paige Wasson


For Immediate Release

April 18, 2003

Jerilynn Adams Williams receives 2003 PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment Award

Jerilynn Adams Williams, director, Montgomery County (Texas) Library, is the 2003 recipient of the PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment award for protecting access to materials and information at the Montgomery County public libraries.
Williams will receive $25,000 and a limited edition artwork at PEN’s annual Gala on April 22, 2003, at Pierre Hotel in New York City.

“Williams is a prime example of the commitment librarians have to preserving intellectual freedom,” said Judith F. Krug, director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom.

In August 2002, a dozen community members appeared before a meeting of the Commissioner’s Court in Montgomery County in demand that the book “It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex & Sexual Health” be removed from the county library shelves, complaining that the book is obscene and promots homosexuality.

In the face of relentless community pressure, Williams spent three months working to restore “It’s Perfectly Normal” to the library shelves.
She tirelessly educated public officials and the community as a whole about established procedures for challenging library materials and the importance of following them.
She fought to include five citizens on the reconsideration committee to and worked with library staff to provide information on the book, a critically acclaimed young adult-oriented work on human sexuality to committee members.

Williams received personal threats wand calls for her termination. Outraged citizens demanded the county library system withdraw from ALA.
In the end, her conviction and approach prevailed and the Commissioners’ Court accepted the review panel recommendation and ordered, “It’s Perfectly Normal” and “It’s So Amazing,” a companion book by the same author, returned to library shelves.

ALA is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with more than 64,000 members. Its mission is to promote the highest quality library and information services and public access to information.

The PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment Award, was established by actor Paul Newman and author A.E. Hotchner to honor a U.S. resident who has fought courageously, despite adversity, to safeguard the First Amendment right to freedom of expression as it applies to the written word.