I think we also need to get back to the assumption that censorship is generally bad policy in any context – the default position should be no censoring what people read, and we should only deviate from that in extreme circumstances. Kids are different, but we are preparing them to be adults and – most importantly – to be citizens. I for one want our future citizens to be well and broadly read.
While book challenges are a perpetual issue within the library world, recent decisions by many school boards to remove supposedly “obscene” titles from their library collections with little justification seems to signal that this is a growing problem that won’t subside anytime soon. It’s with this increasing intolerance in mind—and the accompanying threats to the employment of library staff who might wish to defend intellectual freedom—that this toolkit for the Merritt Fund has been created.
“If it feels like censorship challenges to limit the right to read have increased exponentially, you’re right. We are in a period that is normalizing efforts to limit access to books and ideas, especially those centering BIPOC + LGBTQIA voices. Join American Library Association in fighting back!” Tracie D. Hall, ALA Executive Director.
“The Culture War Has Come for Higher Ed,” proclaimed a recent headline in The Chronicle of Higher Education, summarizing ongoing attacks on intellectual freedom and the closely related concept of academic freedom. Although the same risks apply to academic libraries and librarians, they are often excluded from this discussion about freedoms required for teaching and research. Recognizing that academic librarians have academic freedom is only the first step, albeit an important one.
Guest Post by Sara Stevenson. As Michael Moore once said: “Librarians are subversive. You think they’re just sitting there at the desk, all quiet and everything. They’re like plotting the revolution, man. I wouldn’t mess with them.”
Do you know of a state chapter or organization that has bravely defended the freedom to read or access to information; successfully promoted intellectual freedom issues; or demonstrated exemplary coalition-building efforts?
“The South Carolina Association of School Librarians (SCASL) upholds the First Amendment rights and Freedom to Read of all our citizens, including students in South Carolina schools. We strongly condemn any form of censorship or removal of books and materials from libraries without following established processes.” SCASL’s Statement on censorship, the Freedom to Read, and in support of School Librarians
The First Amendment (to the United States Constitution) is often referenced in today’s society, but without being prompted can you name all five freedoms that are protected? This was part of a survey administered for The First Amendment: Where America Stands, a project from the Freedom Forum. Freedom Forum, as an organization, strives to raise awareness of First Amendment freedoms through education, advocacy, and action. This project surveyed over 3,000 Americans in summer 2020, asking them more than 200 questions to provide a detailed analysis of how people differ on the relevance of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment.
“The knee-jerk reaction reeked of panic and may have far-reaching consequences. A decades-old U.S. Supreme Court ruling makes it clear: The First Amendment keeps in check the power school officials have to remove books from school libraries because of content.” A modern book burning: LGBTQ-themed books removed from North KC, Liberty schools in the Kansas City Star
This month we would like to highlight IFRT Member Pilar Martinez.