Challenges to Critical Race Theory (CRT) being included in educational curricula from elementary schools to universities is making headlines across the United States. A troubling – and perhaps unexpected- related trend is now occurring in school and public libraries: using CRT as a reason to ban books from library collections. As so much of the world is working to move toward greater inclusivity, authors and librarians are seeing the opposite.
If you’re a librarian facing a challenge to materials, you’re not alone, and you’re not on your own. While no one can predict the future, it’s certain that CRT challenges to library collections are not going away. As librarians and advocates for free access to library materials and the benefits they provide, it’s our duty to keep materials accessible to all readers.
When a Texas school district banned Jerry Craft’s Newbery Medal-winning New Kid, its sequel, Class Act, and canceled his visit in October, he described his shock to School Library Journal: “Ever since New Kid and Class Act have been published, I have received nothing but love, both from a critical standpoint and in terms of feedback from fans…I have always thought of my books as being fun, with strong family values and a lot of humor. This was all unexpected to me.” (images from author’s page)
A Pennsylvania school district removed one of Grace Lin’s most beloved picture books, declaring it “objectionable material”. Ms. Lin told School Library Journal: “A Big Mooncake for Little Star simply tells a sweet story about a mother, a daughter, and the phases of the moon. The only political statement it makes is that an Asian child can be a main character in a book.” (image from author’s page)
Resources Available Now
The ALSC Intellectual Freedom committee is keenly aware that it’s part of our mission to “promote in-service and continuing education programs in the area of intellectual freedom for those who select library materials for children.” We are working at developing information that can be helpful to the ALSC community.
In the meantime, here are resources that can be immediately helpful:
- On November 29, 2021, the American Library Association published a statement against censorship.
- The School Library Journal article, “When the Anti-CRT Comes for Collections,” by Kara Yorio, provides an introduction to ALA resources that can help right now.
- Challenges should be reported to the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF). Reporting challenges helps the OIF to stay aware of challenge trends and to offer support. To report a challenge (which may be done anonymously), follow the directions here: https://www.ala.org/tools/challengesupport/report
- Intellectual Freedom Blog, The Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association, Intellectual Freedom News November 19, 2021, provides many links to helpful resources.
- The Freedom to Read Foundation, which, in partnership with ALA, offers webinars on a range of trending intellectual freedom issues, including First Amendment rights for minors, censorship challenges and Net Neutrality.
- The National Coalition Against Censorship also has resources to help you learn about your First Amendment rights, what censorship can look like, techniques for preventing it, how to handle incidents of silencing and specific ways to defend free expression in your communities and nationally.
- Your state may also have resources. For example, in Wisconsin, librarians and educators can contact the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) for help when facing challenges, but the CCBC also has some resources that anyone can use.
About the author: Marybeth Kozikowski is a member of the ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee and works as a Librarian II, Children’s Services at Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY.