April 22, 2015

Banned Books Week celebrates Young Adult books in 2015

BBW Coalition Logo

BBW Coalition Logo

ALA's Banned Books Week Graphics

ALA’s Banned Books Week Graphics


Young Adult books will be the focus of Banned Books Week in 2015, the event’s national planning committee announced today. Banned Books Week, the annual celebration of the freedom to read, will run from September 27 through October 3, 2015, and will be observed in libraries, schools, bookstores and other community settings across the nation and the world.

“Young Adult books are challenged more frequently than any other type of book,” said Judith Platt, chair of the Banned Books Week National Committee. “These are the books that speak most immediately to young people, dealing with many of the difficult issues that arise in their own lives, or in the lives of their friends. These are the books that give young readers the ability to safely explore the sometimes scary real world. This Banned Books Week is a call to action, to remind everyone that young people need to be allowed the freedom to read widely, to read books that are relevant for them, and to be able to make their own reading choices.”

In recent years, the majority of the most frequently challenged books in libraries have been Young Adult (YA) titles. Six YA titles were on the list of the Top Ten Most Challenged Books of 2014, according to the American Library Association. Attempted bans on books of all kinds also frequently occur under the guise of protecting younger audiences.

Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to read by encouraging read-outs, displays, and community activities that raise awareness of the ongoing threat of censorship. Last year, tens of thousands of people participated in Banned Books Week online. More than 500 videos were posted in a virtual read-out, and thousands participated in hundreds of events in bookstores, libraries, and schools and universities across the country.

BannedBooksWeek.org is a hub for information about how individuals and institutions can get involved. The website also includes resources and activities provided by event sponsors.

Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, American Booksellers for Free Expression, American Library Association, American Society of Journalists and Authors, Association of American Publishers, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Freedom to Read Foundation, National Association of College Stores, National Coalition Against Censorship, National Council of Teachers of English, People For the American Way Foundation, PEN American Center, and Project Censored.

Contact: Nanette Perez (nperez@ala.org) or Maggie Jacoby (mjacoby@gmail.com) for more information.

April 17, 2015

2014 Most Frequently Challenged Books List

The Office for Intellectual Freedom released it’s top most frequently challenged books list of 2014 as part of the State of America’s Library report. In 2014, the OIF received 311 reports regarding attempts to remove or restrict materials from school curricula and library bookshelves. Eight of the ten books featured on the 2014 Top Ten List of Frequently Challenged Books reflect diverse authors and cultural content.

The 2014 Top Ten List of Frequently Challenged Books include:

1) “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence. Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying”

2) “Persepolis,” by Marjane Satrapi
Reasons: gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint. Additional reasons: “politically, racially, and socially offensive,” “graphic depictions”

3) “And Tango Makes Three,” Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Reasons: Anti-family, homosexuality, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “promotes the homosexual agenda”

4) “The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “contains controversial issues”

5) “It’s Perfectly Normal,” by Robie Harris
Reasons: Nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group. Additional reasons: “alleges it child pornography”

6) “Saga,” by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Reasons: Anti-Family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group. Additional reasons:

7) “The Kite Runner,” by Khaled Hosseini
Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited to age group, violence

8) “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “date rape and masturbation”

9) “A Stolen Life,” Jaycee Dugard
Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group

10) “Drama,” by Raina Telgemeier
Reasons: sexually explicit

2014 Book Challenges reported to ALA/OIF

Click for Full Size


April 15, 2015

Response Concerning the 2015 Banned Books Week Poster

Over tBBW_2015_MiniPoster_200x300he past week, the Office for Intellectual Freedom has reviewed and carefully considered the comments posted to social media, blogs, and listservs concerning the poster for the 2015 Banned Books Week campaign, as well as the two comments sent directly to the office. We also discussed the issues raised by the commenters with many members and others who are part of the library community.

Commenters are concerned that the poster might be insulting to Muslim communities our nation’s libraries serve and that any resolution should prioritize ALA’s important commitment to diversity.  Others are concerned because they do not interpret the poster in that way at all, and do not want ALA to compromise longstanding principles of intellectual freedom.  Still others believe that the poster has generated an important discussion about race and religion that ALA should foster and continue. We have also received many thoughtful statements from members who would like OIF to find a balance between these important values.

We intend to take the following actions:

  1. Provide another poster that does not use the image of a person for those who want an alternative to the current poster.
  2. Retain the current poster as an option for those who want to use it.
  3. Promote the “make your own poster” template that uses the layout and graphic elements of the current poster that offers libraries the opportunity to create their own posters featuring persons of different ages and backgrounds.
  4. We have spoken to the Task Force on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and have asked them to consider engaging in community discussions addressing diversity, race, and religion.

We have reviewed our proposal with members of the Intellectual Freedom Committee; the Committee on Professional Ethics; Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels; the Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services; ALA Graphics; and other affected offices and ALA staff, and they agree with the Office for Intellectual Freedom that the above resolution is one that fairly addresses all the concerns raised by members and the library community while balancing and upholding the values of our association and the profession.

April 14, 2015

How Do We Design a Banned Books Week Campaign?

As we continue to review the questions raised by the controversy regarding the 2015 ALA Banned Books Week poster, we wanted to answer the question about how a poster campaign is selected. We welcome your feedback on this process as we make decisions on the current campaign.

Our design process is as follows:

  1. We contract with an outside design firm to produce 4 or 5 ideas. The vendors we consider are ones who employ a diverse design team, as part of our commitment to diversity within the association. We’ve learned that diverse design teams provide new perspectives on the issue of censorship.
  2. We set a meeting with OIF staff and an outside librarian to review the proposed designs. We also consult with other offices within ALA on the design. The first design concept we review is the poster. Once we reach consensus on the poster, the designers then use that image to create the additional merchandise in the campaign. The merchandise typically used in the campaign includes buttons, bookmarks, and t-shirts.
  3. New to this year is the customizable PSD file where people can use their own image rather than that of the model represented in the 2015 poster.
  4. Once the design has been finalized, we go to print and feature the products in the Spring/Summer catalog.

Like any promotional campaign, there can be unanticipated reactions. OIF is committed to listening to everyone:  the design team who created the image and message; those who object strongly to the design and those who strongly support it; ALA members and non-members who have expressed concern about our commitment to inclusion and diversity. OIF is trying to listen and acknowledge the entire conversation.

April 13, 2015

Statement on the 2015 Banned Books Week Poster


We are aware of the comments about this year’s poster for Banned Books Week. We appreciate and respect the concern expressed by the commenters on behalf of the individuals and communities served by their libraries, as well as the concern expressed for the association’s work on behalf of diversity and intellectual freedom.

We take to heart any distress we may have inadvertently caused anyone. The poster was never intended to offend or shock, nor was there any intent to include any ethnic or cultural stereotypes. The aim of the campaign is to employ the universal signage for “Do Not Enter” – a red circle with a bar across it – as a visual proxy for book censorship. It is not a head covering.

We attempted to embrace diversity by including a person of color – which, combined with the graphic elements of the design, appears to have contributed to the multiple perceptions of the poster. It is especially unfortunate that a poster meant to embrace diversity has raised concerns about possible stereotyping and offense.

Commenters have shared how the image evokes a burqa or a niqab. This simply did not occur to us as the design for the poster developed. Our design team included a Muslim woman who wears traditional dress. She was enthusiastic about the campaign and the poster design and we were pleased to work with her on it. We have shared the comments with her and she is surprised that the poster has been interpreted as traditional Muslim dress.

We have read and carefully considered all the feedback. We will be exploring alternatives and our future course of action in the coming week with the goal of reaching a resolution that responds to members’ concerns and upholds the values of our association and the profession. We will continue to engage in the robust exchange of ideas that is the hallmark of our values.

As always, our goal for Banned Books Week is to highlight the harms of censorship and to promote the freedom to read for all.

April 3, 2015

Pam Klipsch receives the 2015 John Philip Immroth Memorial Award

John Phillip Immroth

The Intellectual Freedom Round Table (IFRT) of the American Library Association (ALA) announces that Pam Klipsch is the recipient of the 2015 John Phillip Immroth Memorial Award.

Klipsch has vigorously defended intellectual freedom throughout her library career.  For decades, she has served on the major committees and round tables within ALA devoted to intellectual freedom—the Intellectual Freedom Committee and IFRT.  She has served five terms on ALA’s Council and was IFRT’s very first Councilor on ALA’s Council.  Over many years, she has supported the Freedom to Read Foundation and has served on its board.  She has authored and edited many of the Library Bill of Rights Interpretations, which are guiding principles of the library profession.

Klipsch has advocated for helping people who challenge controversial material to see how library principles concerning intellectual freedom reflect their own personal values, instead of treating such challengers as opponents.  This philosophical foundation allowed her to work with elected officials across the political spectrum in securing passage of groundbreaking privacy legislation in her home state of Missouri, where she is the director of the Jefferson County Library.

Klipsch worked with Missouri State Representative John McCaherty to introduce – and then pass – a bill in 2014 to extend the privacy rights of library patrons to include third-party vendors that contract with the library in providing services requiring access to patron information (usually, authenticating in a library’s database that a patron is indeed a library cardholder). According to this law, any personally identifiable information about resources that patrons access through a third-party vendor is as protected and confidential on the vendor side as on the library side of the transaction. This statute stands as a model approach to privacy in the digital age.

For her long defense of intellectual freedom and for this legislative achievement, Klipsch is being recognized with the 2015 Immroth Award.

This year’s award will be presented at the ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco at the IFRT Awards Reception from 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. on Friday, June 26.

The John Phillip Immroth Memorial Award honors intellectual freedom fighters in and outside the library profession who have demonstrated remarkable personal courage in resisting censorship. The award consists of $500 and a citation. Individuals, a group of individuals or an organization are eligible for the award. The award was first presented in 1976.

April 3, 2015

Delaware Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee receives the 2015 Gerald Hodges Intellectual Freedom Chapter Relations Award



The Intellectual Freedom Round Table (IFRT) of the American Library Association (ALA) announces that the Delaware Library Association (DLA) Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC) is the 2015 recipient of the Gerald Hodges Intellectual Freedom Chapter Relations Award.

The award will be presented to the Delaware Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee at the ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco at the IFRT Awards Reception from 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. on Friday, June 26.

The Delaware Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee has been actively involved in school library challenges. Interest groups challenged the books “Brave New World” and “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” and the “Delaware Blue Hen Awards” recommended reading list. The DLA IFC built up a coalition of local, state and national groups to gain insight, advice, ideas and support. They responded quickly to support librarians, attend meetings, write emails and strategize with organizations to provide guidance. They have reached out through workshops, meetings, the DLA listserv and informational brochures to share information and coordinate efforts with librarians, library staff and educators. This led to the creation of a new DLA IF Section to share and document censorship and privacy challenges. The DLA IF is inspiring education efforts so no library staff members in public or school libraries are isolated or unsure if faced with a challenge. They are making a positive difference in intellectual freedom rights for all of Delaware libraries.

The Hodges Award recognizes an organization that has developed a strong multi-year, ongoing program or a single, one year project that exemplifies support for intellectual freedom, patron confidentiality, and anti-censorship efforts. The award is named after Gerald Hodges, an ALA staff member from 1989 to 2006. Chapter relations and intellectual freedom were his passions and he willed a portion of his estate to support those efforts. The award consists of $1,000 and a citation.

April 3, 2015

IFRT accepting nominations for 2016 Eli M. Oboler Memorial Award

Eli M Oboler


The American Library Association (ALA) Intellectual Freedom Round Table (IFRT) is seeking nominations for its 2016 Eli M. Oboler Memorial Award. The biennial award is presented for the best published work in the area of intellectual freedom and consists of $500 and a citation. Nominations will be accepted through Dec. 1, 2015.

The award was named for Eli M. Oboler, the extensively published Idaho State University librarian known as a champion of intellectual freedom who demanded the dismantling of all barriers to freedom of expression. Works to be considered for the award may be single articles (including review pieces), a series of thematically connected articles, books or manuals published on the local, state or national level in English or English translation. The work must have been published within the two-year period ending the December prior to the ALA Annual Conference at which it is granted. The 2016 award is for work published between 2014 and 2015.

The Oboler nomination form is available on the ALA website. Nominations and supporting evidence should be sent to:  Shumeca Pickett, ALA, 50 E. Huron St., Chicago, IL 60611. Telephone: 312-280-4220 or 800-545-2433, ext. 4220. Fax: 312-280-4227. Email: spickett@ala.org.

The Intellectual Freedom Round Table (IFRT) provides a forum for the discussion of activities, programs and problems in intellectual freedom of libraries and librarians; serves as a channel of communications on intellectual freedom matters; promotes a greater opportunity for involvement among the members of the ALA in defense of intellectual freedom; promotes a greater feeling of responsibility in the implementation of ALA policies on intellectual freedom.

February 18, 2015

Newly Revealed Records Detail 2013 Decision to Remove Persepolis from CPS Classrooms

During the week of March 11, 2013, directives were issued by administrators at Chicago Public Schools’ Fullerton school network and Lane Tech High School to remove Marjane Sartrapi’s acclaimed graphic novel Persepolis from school libraries and classrooms on the grounds that the book contained inappropriate language and images.

The directive to remove Persepolis from CPS’ libraries and classrooms became public after students at Lane Tech alerted their colleagues in the school’s journalism program. Bloggers and critics publicized the directive and the apparent effort to ban the book from CPS classrooms and students took to the streets to protest the book’s removal. As the protests mounted, CPS administrators slowly backtracked on the initial directive; CPS Chief Barbara Byrd Bennett eventually issued a letter denying that there was any effort to ban the book and limiting the directive to remove Persepolis to 7th grade classrooms.

ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom and the Freedom to Read Foundation were involved from the beginning, supporting the students and organizations that sought to keep the book in CPS classrooms, publicly protesting the apparent censorship of a critically praised work of literature, and seeking information about the events leading up to the decision to remove the book. In response to a FTRF Freedom of Information Act request that asked for all correspondence and electronic communications related to the decision to remove Persepolis from CPS classrooms, we only received the directives and letters that had already been publicly disclosed, and a copy of the agenda for the chief of schools meeting on March 11, 2013.  That document contained no information at all about Persepolis or the decision to remove or recall the book. We remained in the dark about who had filed the initial complaint about Persepolis and who had made the decision to remove the book from CPS classrooms.

Then Jarrett Dapier, an intrepid MLIS candidate at the University of Illinois’ Graduate School of Library and Information Science, filed his own FOIA request in order to gather materials for his paper on school censorship. And in December 2014, CPS provided Dapier with the emails and correspondence we – and other organizations – were told did not exist in 2013.

Ben Joravsky of the Chicago Reader has already written about the contents of the emails. With the permission of Mr. Dapier, we are now sharing the actual emails and correspondence – which reveal that, contrary to CPS’ public statements in 2013, there was in fact an effort to remove Persepolis from all schools and libraries in CPS. The emails detail the initial complaint, the decision to remove the book, and the eventual modification of the original directive to remove the book from CPS classrooms and libraries. (It’s important to note that Persepolis remained in school libraries only because a strong reconsideration policy – CPS Policy 604.7 – prevented its removal without sufficient review and due process.) The emails are an object lesson in casual censorship, the ability of one person to pass judgment on a work of literature, and the chaotic decision-making that occurs when a school system fails to have policies in place to address demands to censor classroom materials.

Our thanks to Mr. Dapier for his initiative and perseverance in obtaining these public records.

January 21, 2015

IFAction: Media’s First Impressions and Analysis of President Obama’s Exiting SOTU

This is a special mid-week IFAction roundup of news and op-ed articles articulating and assessing issues relevant to intellectual freedom in President Obama’s final State of the Union address last evening.

Obama just lumped the Internet in with trains, bridges and Keystone XL. Here’s why that’s a big deal.

Obama promises to promote net neutrality, broadband

Obama leaves out patent reform

The first tech moment of the State of the Union happened before Obama started speaking

Obama: I haven’t forgotten NSA reform