Competencies for Librarians Serving Children in Public Libraries


Welcome to Ask ALSC, where the Managing Youth Services Committee asks leaders in children’s libraries to share their response to an issue or situation.  We hope to showcase a range of responses to topics that may affect ALSC members.  If you’d like to respond to today’s topics, or suggest a topic for the future, please leave a comment.

Our inaugural Ask ALSC post, will focus on the issue of book challenges.  At some point during your career, you will encounter a patron challenge to a book in your collection.  No matter the reason for the challenge, librarians should handle the situation with diplomacy, while stressing the importance of providing a collection that represents everyone.  To help navigate these situations, here are some suggestions from managers and veteran librarians.

Those surveyed provided three suggestions for handling book challenges.  The first suggestion was listening. When librarians listen, it helps establish a dialogue between them and the patron.  Patrons have the opportunity to voice their concerns, while librarians can share that the library is an inclusive space open and welcoming to all.  Even if patrons do not get the outcome they are hoping for, they will be more apt to return if they feel their opinions were heard.

The second suggestion was using a book challenge as a tool to promote parental involvement in book selections.  Librarians can encourage parents to help their child select books and decide what is appropriate for them and their family.  Librarians can also offer reader’s advisory services if parents need recommendations.

If the above suggestions do not work, the final suggestion was to follow the policy set forth by your library.  Most libraries have an official policy for dealing with book challenges.  Make sure you are familiar with the policy and the chain of command when dealing with a challenge.  Hopefully, implementing these suggestions will help resolve the challenge in a manner acceptable to all.

Today’s blog post was written by Tracie Forfia, Youth Services Librarian at the Cleveland Public Library on behalf of the ALSC Managing Children’s Services Committee.


This blog relates to ALSC Core Competencies of II. Reference and User Services, IV. Knowledge, Curation, and Management of Materials, and V. Outreach and Advocacy.

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