Among the primary benefits of being an ALSC member have always been the opportunities to network and get involved in the work of our organizations. However, lately, those opportunities have taken on even greater importance. The recent rise of book challenges and censorship in communities across the country is a call to youth services librarians to come together as we stand up in defense of the freedom of children across our nation to access diverse books and information that represent the richness of humanity and against blatant attempts to erase our history and diversity.
On November 29, the Executive Board of ALA and the boards of directors for ALA’s eight divisions issued a joint statement regarding the recent increase in censorship efforts and book challenges. The ALSC leadership immediately mobilized to be among the first to sign onto this joint effort. How could we not when children’s books are at the center of most of these attacks?
The increase in censorship cases and the character of the challenged books point at a seemingly concerted and organized effort to perpetuate a world order in which historically marginalized communities remain silent and invisible. As youth services library workers, it is of primordial importance to be prepared to defend the freedom of children and youth to read and the right for all voices to be represented in our collections.
There are numerous ALA resources available to help sharpen our professional skills and to update our resources so that together we stand up and stop this pervasive trend. While it is true that most libraries have a “Library Request for Reconsideration of Materials Form,” many of those forms and policies have been around since the 1980’s or 90’s. There has never been a better time to revisit and revitalize those policies, procedures, and forms. ALA has a wealth of resources to help us do that such as Answering Questions about Youth and Access to Library Resources, as well as helpful sample forms. The ALSC Supporting Diverse Communities Toolkit also has pertinent resources and information.
Fear of the unknown is at the root of many book challenges. That fear is understandable, but greater access to literature and information is what cures those fears by exposing us to other worlds and helping us better understand our fellow citizens. It is dangerous when this fear of the unknown is instead politicized by special interests and groups to promote an evermore narrow world view. Censorship, in all its forms, is in direct opposition to our organization’s core values of intellectual freedom, equity, diversity, and inclusion, and we, as the gatekeepers of information, must do everything we can to stop it.
Lucia M. Gonzalez
ALSC: Association for Library Service to Children