Updated June 6, 2023
The Office for Intellectual Freedom has received multiple reports over the last two days about individuals checking out all the books from a library’s PRIDE Month display to prevent other readers viewing or reading the books.
This censorship tactic is being promoted by a fringe Catholic political advocacy group, CatholicVote, via social media and their blog. Their handout includes a list of targeted books that range from books intended for families and children to materials for young adults.
The language used by this organization is couched in terms of “child protection,” but it should be clear that this group is promoting an unethical and hateful censorship tactic that has long been used by censors to circumvent a library’s reconsideration processes and to stigmatize and erase the voices of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Our recommendation to libraries in the short term is to place books displayed for PRIDE Month or Rainbow Book Month on reserve and under limited loan periods, and to enforce consequences for failure to return library property on time. We also recommend that libraries experiencing these actions reach out to their local Catholic faith leaders and interfaith organizations to alert them to the campaign and ensure that longstanding lines of communication remain open and constructive. Libraries may also wish to encourage their users to reach out to their faith leaders to express concern about the campaign.
Libraries experiencing this censorship tactic should report “Hide the Pride” and similar censorship efforts to the Office for Intellectual Freedom.
Some talking points that may be helpful for libraries addressing this censorship tactic:
- Libraries are committed to meeting the information needs of all the diverse individuals and families in our community. We are both proud and grateful that we are able to provide access to a wide variety of books that appeal to a breadth of interests and offer a collection that ensures that there is something of interest available to everyone of every background, belief, and identity.
- Libraries support each person’s freedom to choose what they want to read without anyone – including the library staff or the library board – censoring books or restricting the user’s right to select the books they want to read.
- Hide the Pride is simply censorship in another form that imposes one group’s viewpoint on the entire community.
- Hide the Pride is a campaign designed to deny other library users’ right to choose what they want to read.
- Hide the Pride discriminates against those library users, residents, and families that are part of the LGBTQIA+ community, who have an equal right to find the books they want and need on the public library’s shelves and highlighted in the public library’s displays.
- And a reminder that Catholic Vote and Hide the Pride are not part of the Catholic church, as noted by a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Chicago in this Chicago Sun-Times article:
- “Not everything that calls itself ‘Catholic’ is in fact part of our church,” said Paula Waters chief communications officer for the archdiocese. “CatholicVote is not a Catholic organization, It’s not a part of the church, or sanctioned by the church or has any relationship to the church. It has no standing. It’s a PAC that appears to be well-funded.”
Deborah Caldwell-Stone is Director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom and Executive Director of the the Freedom to Read Foundation. She is a recovering attorney and former appellate litigator who works closely with librarians, library trustees and educators on a wide range of intellectual freedom and privacy issues, including book challenges, internet censorship, meeting room policies, and library users’ privacy and confidentiality. She has served on the faculty of the ALA-sponsored Lawyers for Libraries and Law for Librarians workshops and speaks frequently to librarians and library organizations around the country about intellectual freedom and privacy. She is a contributor to the 10th edition of the Intellectual Freedom Manual and the third edition of Information Services Today: An Introduction. She has contributed articles on law, policy, and intellectual freedom to American Libraries and other publications.