Guest Blogger

Horrible, Evil Library Books

The good news: #PLA2022 hosted multiple sessions on intellectual freedom and book challenges. You can guess the bad news: there has been an uptick in book, service, and program challenges so there is a big need for these sessions.

I attended the session: “Horrible, Evil Library Books: Intellectual Freedom Standards in Customer Service” and came out with some great takeaways.

It’s not enough to train the management team, the collection development team or the youth librarians to talk about intellectual freedom. Any front-line staff may be on the receiving end of complaints like: “I want this book [“It’s Perfectly Normal“]removed from the children’s section because it shows sexually explicit content and drawings!” and should be able to have conversations on intellectual freedom.

Tiffany Mautino from Mid-Continent Public Library and Tammy Parrott from Manatee County Government talked through the 5 steps they believe are necessary in dealing with challenges like this:

  1. Listen
  2. Empathize, do not apologize
  3. Advocate for the library process in choosing media, services and programs
  4. Redirect to other materials
  5. Notify management.

They provided the slides for a workshop they developed which includes scenarios, discussion questions and key intellectual freedom points. They believe any of us can implement this training at our own libraries to turn our staff into “Intellectual freedom fighters.”


Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

Guest conference blogger Shelley Sutherland (she/her) is the Youth Services Manager at the Skokie Public Library in Skokie, Illinois. She will be attending the conference live and is looking forward to learning from her colleagues. She loves her own baked goods as snacks and her favorite animal is an owl.

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