Every spring, I look forward to the day when the Office for Intellectual Freedom releases its annual “Top 10 Challenged Books.” What questions, issues, and topics sparked conversations for communities, schools, and the nation? Which books became the most recent proxies for our national debates, corns, and preoccupations?
Part of the Librarians Lead Against Censorship blog series. In 2017 Academy School District 20’s Challenger Middle School Library faced a challenge to the book Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles. A parent challenged the book, objecting to language, alcohol use, violence and sexual descriptions. I had a chance to talk to Gina T. Schaarschmidt, the Challenger Middle School librarian, about the challenge and her experience working with the Office for Intellectual Freedom.
I asked a large group of librarians about their experiences with people hiding materials, defacing materials or stealing materials from the library. It was an informal request on social media so nothing scientific and I would have loved to follow up with more questions but I opted for brevity. Of the 100 comments posted, here are some of their responses.
Beaverton School District is creating quite a buzz but for all the wrong reasons. Parents and teachers recently received notice that the school’s superintendent decided to ban Andrew Smith’s young adult novel, Stick, from the majority of its students. Read the letter from ALA and the Oregon Library Association.
Indeed, however difficult it might be to differentiate the men who authored these books from their words on the page, it is vital to our First Amendment rights and the promotion of intellectual freedom that we do not let that difficulty interfere with our duties as librarians. Patrons possess, and should continue to hold, the right to decide for themselves whether or not they want to read these materials.
Reporting censorship helps OIF provide better information and support to librarians and teachers facing intellectual freedom and access challenges.
With its three distinguished leaders over the half-century, the office has transformed into a thriving resource for librarians when First Amendment rights have been trampled. And we couldn’t have done it without you. Here are a few stats that highlight the work we’re proud to continue, and the obstacles our team is determined to tackle with your support.
The board voted to retain the book in the children’s collection of the public library, and as the meeting concluded, there was an atmosphere of joyful celebration.
In May of 2015, Hood County Library in Granbury, Texas, found itself in the middle of a censorship attempt that led then-Director Courtney Kincaid to leave that library for both professional and personal reasons. Courtney shared her story with me.
The Field Report is a great resource to showcase the variety of books and unique situations of each challenge. It includes nine beautifully designed pages, packed with 46 detailed censorship incidents and tips on how to protect the right to read in your community.