ALA Annual 2023

“There’s Nothing American About Banning Books:” Author Discussion on Fighting Book Bans at #alaac23 

Living in a state attempting to criminalize librarians (Arkansas, Act 372), I was eager to hear from authors and other attendees about their experiences with book banning. The wonderful array of panelists included Jerry Craft, Eliot Schrefer, Ashley Hope Pérez, Kyle Lukoff, and Samira Ahmed. The panel was moderated by Ellen Oh of We Need Diverse Books. 

Jerry Craft (New Kid) shared his experience with the banning of New Kid in Texas. Eliot Schrefer (Queer Ducks) mentioned that book banning isn’t new and shared a news clipping from the 1920s about the banning of The Wizard of Oz due to the representation of strong, independent women. Kyle Lukoff (Too Bright to See) discussed the difficulties of having a balanced collection with certain topics (i.e. police). 

Ashley Hope Pérez (Out of Darkness) discussed how progress has been made with representation in children’s and YA literature. She encouraged attendees to keep buying the books and reminded us that the greatest danger is self-censorship. For public libraries, Pérez advised making the books that have been challenged hyper-visible so that the kids can easily access them. 

Samira Ahmed (Hollow Fires) discussed the need for political action (community engagement) and provided participants with homework – “the good kind.” First, she advised knowing the name of every school and library board member as well as locally elected officials. When reaching out to officials, call or fax (!) them rather then send emails. Emails are easily ignored or deleted. Second, spearhead a postcard campaign. Collect postcards from children and deliver them to government officials with the media in attendance. 

Ellen Oh showcased a myriad of resources available on the We Need Diverse Books websites that can help librarians, teachers, parents and allies including a step-by-step guide on grassroots organization. 

Participants were given time to discuss their experiences in small groups. I always welcome these opportunities to hear from my library colleagues from around the country. I’m eager to explore the resources from We Need Diverse Books. I look forward to continuing these important conversations at conference! 

Today’s guest contributor is Lacy Wolfe (she/her/hers). Lacy is currently the Youth Services Manager at the North Little Rock Public Library. She is so excited to return to an in-person ALA conference! Lacy has served on Council as a Chapter Councilor and has missed all the energy, ideas, and networking from attending conference. She has recently moved back to public libraries after 10 years as an Instruction Librarian at academic libraries so you’ll find her at ALSC and YALSA sessions with an iced coffee in hand! 

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

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