AE Monthly

Articles - June - 2004 Issue

Book Business Heroes

Freespeech

From the first Congress, Article III, which became the First Amendment, guarantees freedom of speech and the press. Courtesy of L. of C.


By Karen Wright

There aren’t many Indiana Joneses or Wonder Woman-type heroes in the book selling business, but there are still heroes. One of mine is Joyce Meskis of the Tattered Cover in Denver, Colorado, and a Wonder Woman she is, but in a different way. The Tattered Cover is a great big beautiful bookstore with more than a half million new books in stock and two stores, one in the Old Town part of Denver and another in the upscale Cherry Creek area.

One of the constitutional rights that Joyce Meskis and a huge majority of we booksellers and librarians value more than any other, is the First Amendment to our Constitution. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

There is endless debate about exactly what was intended with the establishment of this amendment; the result of too many lawyers with too much time on their hands, perhaps. However, it seems to be pretty much agreed that publications are definitely covered under freedom of speech. Thus, it would seem that the searching of records to see what people read should be covered as well. But of course, not everyone agrees, that’s why there are more flavors than chocolate.

Joyce Meskis has been concerned with censorship and First Amendment rights since she was a teenager. As she said in an interview with Shirley Bryant, former IOBA Standard Editor and current IOBA President, “I could never imagine why people would want to censor material, because I felt strongly then (as I do now) that our governmental system is based on the access to and debate of ideas of all kinds. In order to have an informed citizenry, they need the freedom to read. People don't just need to have access to the ideas with which they agree, but also those with which they might disagree. Don't we want to know what the other side is thinking? (IOBA Standard – Vol. III, No. 2).

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