Over the past year challenges to books in school and public libraries have garnered a lot of media attention. Most of these challenges are books that feature characters that identify as LGBTQ+ and that address racism in its many forms. Article III of the Library Bill of Rights states: Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.
Recently ALA launched a campaign to Unite Against Book Bans. Once you are on the site there are many ways for you to help in the fight to ensure everyone’s freedom to read. You can:
- Register to join the fight.
- Create social media posts using #UniteAgainstBookBans.
- Donate money to ALA’s 21st Century Fund to help schools and libraries combat challenges.
- Upload a video of yourself explaining why you oppose book bans and censorship.
Another way you can join the fight is to make sure that you and your fellow library workers know the steps you should take when material in your collection is challenged. One of the first steps is to report it to the Office of Intellectual Freedom. Their webpage has an online form you can fill out to report your challenge and it provides you with access to resources to help you in your fight to protect the integrity or your library’s collection.
Even if your library has a strong reconsideration of library materials policy in place, it is important to report any challenges to the Office of Intellectual Freedom. Your input allows them to get a better picture of what materials are being challenged in what areas of the country. These reports are also where the top 10 most banned books of the year are gathered from.
A lot of the challenges this past year have been focused on what materials are available in school libraries. In my service area, all of the elementary and middle school libraries are staffed by passionate library aides that are not necessarily certified teachers/librarians. If a challenge comes their way it is unlikely that they would know to contact ALA to both report the challenge and get support in fighting for their students’ right to read.
You can help the Office of Intellectual Freedom by sharing their link and resources with your school and public library peers. Not only will it help ALA have a better understanding of what items are being challenged but it can also be a resource for curbing the removal of quality resources from our libraries.
This blog addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: I. Commitment to Client Group and V. Outreach and Advocacy.
Melissa Sokol is children’s services librarian for Dayton Metro Libraries. She is writing this post on behalf of the Public Awareness and Advocacy Committee. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.