New books spotlight intellectual freedom challenges and triumphs for kids in time for Banned Books Week

Intellectual Freedom Committee, Office for Intellectual Freedom

The annual Banned Books Week, held Sept. 21−27 this year, celebrates the freedom to read. In addition to purchasing a copy of Banned Books: Challenging Our Freedom to Read, by Robert P. Doyle, to help learn more about the state of literary censorship in America, check out two new titles published by ALA Editions that spotlight both the challenges and triumphs of safeguarding intellectual freedom for young people: “Intellectual Freedom for Teens: A Practical Guide for Young Adult & School Librarians” and “Books under Fire: A Hit List of Banned and Challenged Children’s Books.”

Year after year a majority of the titles on ALA’s Banned Books list, which compiles titles threatened with censorship, are either YA books or adult books that are frequently read by teens. It’s important for YA librarians to understand the types of challenges occurring in libraries around the nation and to be ready to deal with such challenges when they occur. “Intellectual Freedom for Teens: A Practical Guide for Young Adult & School Librarians,” by Kristin Fletcher-Spear and Kelly Tyler for the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), is tailored specifically for these situations, providing much-needed guidance on this highly charged topic. Among the issues addressed are:

  • how to prepare yourself and your staff for potential challenges by developing a thoughtful selection policy and response plan;
  • resources for help when a challenge occurs;
  • the art of crafting a defense for a challenged book, and pointers for effectively disseminating your response through the press and social media;
  • the latest on intellectual freedom in the digital realm, including an examination of library technology.

Many things have changed since ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) was founded in 1967, but not everything: the most beloved and popular children’s books are still among the most frequent targets of censorship and outright bans. Limiting access to controversial titles such as “Captain Underpants,” “The Dirty Cowboy,” “Blubber” or “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” or leaving them out of a library’s collection altogether is not the answer to challenges. In “Books under Fire: A Hit List of Banned and Challenged Children’s Books,” Pat R. Scales gives librarians the information and guidance they need to defend challenged books with an informed response while ensuring access to young book lovers. Spotlighting dozens of “hot button” titles written for young children through teens, this book:

  • gives a profile of each book that covers its plot, characters, published reviews, awards and prizes and author resources;
  • recounts past challenges and how they were faced, providing valuable lessons for handling future situations, plus a list of other books challenged for similar reasons;
  • provides discussion ideas for planning programming around banned books, whether in reading groups, classrooms or other settings;
  • includes an appendix of additional resources for librarians who find themselves enmeshed in a challenge.

Fletcher-Spear is the administrative librarian at the Foothills Branch Library in Glendale, Ariz. She is coauthor of “Library Collections for Teens: Manga and Graphic Novels” and has written for YALSA, VOYA, and Library Media Connection. Tyler is the branch manager for the Van Nuys Branch at the Los Angeles Public Library. Prior to becoming a supervisor, she worked as a youth services librarian and was a mentor and trainer for new teen librarians.

Scales is a retired middle school and high school librarian whose programs have been featured on the “Today Show” and in various professional journals. She received the ALA/Grolier Award in 1997, and has served as chair of the prestigious Newberry, Caldecott, and Wilder Award committees, and is a past president of the Association of Library Service for Children (ALSC). She has been actively involved with ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee for a number of years, is a member of the Freedom to Read Foundation, serves on the Council of Advisers of the National Coalition Against Censorship, and acts as a spokesperson for First Amendment issues as they relate to children and young adults. Author of “Teaching Banned Books: Twelve Guides for Young Readers and Protecting Intellectual Freedom in Your Library,” she also writes for School Library Journal, the Random House website, and Book Links magazine.

ALA Store purchases fund advocacy, awareness and accreditation programs for library professionals worldwide. ALA Editions publishes resources used worldwide by tens of thousands of library and information professionals to improve programs, build on best practices, develop leadership, and for personal professional development. ALA authors and developers are leaders in their fields, and their content is published in a growing range of print and electronic formats. Contact us at (800) 545-2433 ext. 5418 or

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