This year, Banned Books Week will be held September 22-October 3. This event is an important tool for educating our patrons about intellectual freedom issues: our support for their right to read, and our belief in their right to be represented in what they read. Erica Ruscio really says it best in their post from last year here.
But given all that’s going on right now, this might also be the last thing on your mind. Our communities are facing unprecedented challenges. Many of us are still operating with deeply limited services. Some of us are participating in Disaster Service Work or just trying to educate our kids while working from home. So, with just a few days to prepare, here are 5 ways you can support Banned Books Week that are virtual and won’t take a lot of prep time.
Displays are a library mainstay of Banned Books Week, and something you can easily convert to a digital concept. If your library uses a vendor like Overdrive that allows for curation, you can create lists of Banned and Challenged Books. Many vendors already have these created, so you a lot of the heavy lifting is already done. If your library is circulating materials, you can create lists and graphics for your website.
Social media has provided us a safe channel to continue to engage with some of our families. If you’re highlighting particular titles, share links to educator’s guides or other discussion tools, related reads and even the Kids! Know Your Rights pamphlet to support parents and educators in virtual learning. Adapt trivia questions for a family-friendly audience. Take advantage of the fact that it’s mostly adult caregivers who are checking out your online content to educate them on the nuances of banned and challenged books. Don’t have time for any of that? ALA has free downloads you can use.
Incorporate Banned Books Week Into Virtual Programs:
If you already have a standing program, this is a good time to incorporate a banned or challenged book. Read a story or give a book talk. This blog post by DaNae Leu, one of our committee members and a school librarian, provides a great outline if you want to start a discussion, but even just a succinct shoutout can remind your patrons that books are still banned and challenged. See these lists for ideas.
Integrate Into your contactless services:
Libraries have gotten really creative with how we continue to serve our patrons at a distance. Look for easy ways to integrate Banned Books Week into those new or adapted services. Are you offering Reader’s Advisory? Include a challenged or banned book in your suggestions, and point it out. If you offer curbside service, or a grab bag option, you could adapt the Blind Date with a Banned Book model, and include a banned or challenged book selection for interested patrons. Providing digital outreach services for teachers? Offer to include discussion of Banned Books Week with their students, or to provide 1- on-1 consultation or resource support for lessons in intellectual freedom, fake news and censorship.
Banned Books Week can also be a reminder to look at ourselves critically. When was the last time you read your collection development policy? Does it need to be updated? What is your library’s plan for addressing challenges to material? Does it cover challenges to programs or displays? This is a good time to review the Challenge Support resources from ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom. Keep in mind that many of the books that are banned and challenged feature characters from diverse communities. Consider training opportunities such as the LGBTQAI+ Books to Share, Conversations to Have webinar (this archived version is free for ALSC members, use the link under How to Register), and ensure that your library supports representation on your shelves. Don’t have the time or bandwidth for that kind of project? Take a few minutes to think about when you will, and set a calendar reminder.
Brooke Sheets is the Senior Librarian for the Children’s Literature Department of the Los Angeles Public Library and a member of the ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee. Please note that, as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.