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.
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.
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!
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.
Readers need books to help them understand points of view and experiences outside of their own. But what is a trusted, expert resource for diverse book lists? How do we get those titles into the hands of your readers? How do we make the case for diverse reading experiences with caregivers who might disagree?
Reading and intellectual freedom are inextricably linked, placing librarians at the center of all the recent discussion about what books should be actively recommended to patrons, who should or should not be given book deals, and the extent to which publishers take responsibility for false or misleading information in books they print.
Inside the toolkit, you will find practical, easy to implement tips and sample programs for incorporating intellectual freedom and Information literacy into library cornerstone programs and services, including storytimes, book clubs, outreach, and STEAM activities.