Today is National Library Workers Day! Library workers are crucial in defending everyone’s right to access information. Here are five stories of amazing librarians who stood up against censorship.
Slaughterhouse-Five has been subject to banning, challenges and even burning for decades. The American Library Association lists the title in it’s Banned and Challenged Classics page, citing a book burning in North Dakota in 1973 and a variety of bans and challenges due to language, sexual references and even because it “contains and makes references to religious matters.” ALA notes only two instances of retention after the book was challenged.
There seems to be an intellectual freedom trend with Libraries being attacked from within by their Library Boards. No matter who wins these debates, it is the community that will always lose. The most recent example comes out of Lafayette, Louisiana. Here, the Board rejected a grant for a voting rights program because it did not feature both sides.
Recently, I was able to speak to Ms. Larson regarding this situation. Her commitment to intellectual freedom and dedication to fostering an antiracist learning environment for her students is evident in her discussion of the challenge to Stamped. Not every educator is in the position to fight back against a challenge: it can be a risk to their professional reputation or even their job security. But if they’re able to do so, it always makes a difference, even if censorship prevails in that particular incident. As Ms. Larson states below: “Fight for the kids. They will know. They always know.”
Librarians express concern that 2021 Caldecott winner We Are Water Protectors is too political for children.
This is the story of the Library Director who was threatened by the County Sheriff over her Library’s support of the Black Lives Matter movement in Summer 2020. This launched an investigation and a protest in Douglas County, Nevada.
The Poet X and its perceived challenge to the Establishment Clause is called into question by a North Carolina couple seeking to shield their son from “negative” depictions of Catholicism in fiction provided by the local public school system.
If there was any instance this year in which you asked yourself, “Is this censorship?” then you should report it to the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom by New Years Eve. If it made your library spidey senses tingle, it is probably worth a report. Read on for more information on what censorship looked like in 2020.
The ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom (“OIF”) encourages everyone to report any and all instances of censorship and challenges to materials (including databases), programs, speakers, filtering and author visits. No matter is too insignificant. If we let instances of censorship slide by or decide to just take certain books off the shelf to avoid conflict or save time, we undermine the First Amendment and our own profession.
We should consider whether tech companies are taking personalization too far, but we should also resist the urge to embrace that customization to an extent that might inhibit personal growth and evolving perspectives. And we need to continue to make sure the next generation understands the importance of looking at multiple perspectives, especially if it is going to be harder to do so organically as we absorb information.