As we eagerly await the announcements for the youth book/media awards on January 24, we should also be prepared with tools to address potential challenges. Recently, the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom reported that in the last three months, they have contacted over 300 times regarding censorship issues. Contrast that to 2019, when there were 337 reports in total. Here then, is a reminder of some resources and a preview of some new resources to support the work we do
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.
There is a dramatic surge in materials challenges at school and public libraries across the United States. What can librarians do to protect intellectual freedom? As a local activist turned elected local official, I have a few thoughts on how you can defend against book banning in the community where you live. If challenges occur at a library where you work, you must be unbiased and confer with the leadership of your institution. It’s all about organizing: mobilizing large numbers of people.
“Uh, oh!! That patron looks mad!” I remember thinking as they walked determinedly toward the desk early on a Saturday morning. (Any time on a Saturday morning has always been “early,” as far as I’m concerned.) It quickly became clear they were impervious to my welcoming smile and upbeat greeting, and were kicking up quite a flurry of dust balls from the wind they were creating by waving a book in the air. You’ve probably already guessed where this is going: they were unhappy about a book their kid had checked out several days before. Unhappy? More like furious, steaming, aggrieved, and irate. And on the inside I was panicked: looks like today is when a book will be challenged in my library!
Privacy and intellectual freedom go hand in hand, once you think about it. The ability to explore new ideas and information -without fear of judgement or repercussions- directly supports the growth of intellectual freedom. As tweens and teens seek knowledge to understand themselves and their place in the world, they benefit from protections inside, and knowledge outside, the library. Here are some resources that may be useful in thinking about working with teens and tweens in your library!
As August quickly fades into September, students are heading back to the classroom, the weather begins to change, and the anticipation of pumpkin spice is in the air. For the library universe, it is also the perfect time to begin planning for Banned Books Week, scheduled to take place from September 26th through October 2nd this year. If you’ve worked in libraries for any length of time, chances are you’ve had a title challenged for something in its content that someone felt was inappropriate. Children’s literature is especially vulnerable, as parents question books that use “vulgar” language, contain sexual references, or dare to challenge the status quo of society.
The ALA Annual Conference for 2021 was held virtually from June 23-29. Incapsulated in this post a few intellectual freedom issues presented at the conference. Program Highlights “Can I wear or say that? Free speech in the workplace,” sponsored by the Office of Intellectual Freedom, included speakers, Theresa Chmarar, general counsel for the Freedom to Read Foundation; Douglas S. Zucker, Esq., partner, the Weiner Law Group LLP; and Sarah Houghton, Director of Discovery and Delivery, California Digital Library. Issues of the differences between private and publicly funded organizations with respect to employer/employee relations and what each can or cannot do were addressed. As one would expect, managers in private organizations can impose just about any dress/speech restrictions they so choose as long as the policies do not discriminate between sexes or impact religious practice. Public institutions (such as public libraries) are protected by the US Constitution but, in general, employers can…
Connecting is easier than ever: The NEW ALA Connect Maybe you’ve seen the messages from ALA leadership over the past few weeks warning us that all discussion lists and other association communications will cease to exist in their current form as of June 30, 2021. After that time, all communications between ALA and ALA divisions/committees will be handled through the new ALA Connect. And maybe these announcements have filled you with dread over the thought of having to now go to a separate place in order to stay in touch with ALA, ALA divisions, and your committees. Fear not! I think you will be pleasantly surprised with the features of the new ALA Connect: the best of which is that all communications can be sent directly to and replied directly from your email! A recent session on the features of the new ALA Connect provided useful and encouraging information, including: You…