Smith, Scherff receive John Phillip Immroth Memorial Award for Intellectual Freedom

Contact: Jen Hammond

Program Coordinator

Office for Intellectual Freedom

(312) 280-4223


For Immediate Release,

July 22, 2008

Scherff, Smith receive John Phillip Immroth Memorial Award for Intellectual Freedom

CHICAGO - Jane Smith, library media specialist for the Tuscaloosa County School System, and Lisa Scherff, assistant professor of English Education at the University of Alabama, will receive the 2008 John Phillip Immroth Memorial Award for Intellectual Freedom.

The John Phillip Immroth Memorial Award honors individuals inside and outside the library profession who have made notable contributions to the cause of intellectual freedom and who have set an outstanding example in the defense and advocacy of its principles. The award, which includes $500, was given at a ceremony during the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in Anaheim, Calif.

Smith and Scherff both led efforts 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." The book went through the district's challenge process, and a committee recommended keeping the book in the library. The grandmother of the student further protested to the Tuscaloosa County Board, which was unenthusiastic in its recommendation to not remove the book from the high school at a meeting on Nov. 26, 2007.

After a second meeting on Dec. 10, 2007, the board sent a more disturbing message, announcing its plans to review its policy on how books are chosen and try to keep books that "contain vulgar, offensive and inappropriate language" from school library shelves.

We need individuals like Jane Smith and Lisa Scherff to continue their vigilance. In their roles as teacher educator and library media specialist they are helping future generations of both teachers and students to understand and recognize censorship when and where it occurs.