There is unrest in America…..PEW Research has tracked data about the United States in the past year, including:
- 25% of Americans are satisfied with the way things are going in this country today
- 76% of Americans rated economic condition in America as fair/poor
- 63% of second generation American from immigrants think of themselves as very different from typical Americans (http://www.pewresearch.org/data/)
Politics, racial division, transgender issues, and terrorism are some of the few topics that create division between our nation. Books are a reflection of our society and trends, but they are also handled and challenged based on what makes people uncomfortable. Authors and publishers are pushing the importance of intellectual freedom, but if people don’t understand this concept, censorship and challenged rear their ugly heads. This year’s list of banned books is a reflection of the topics that Americans find uncomfortable, many of which are children’s and young adult books. The subjects for the top 10 most challenged books include:
- Mental health issues
- Islamic culture
Recently, I had the opportunity to listen to a keynote from Mark Smith, Director and Texas State Librarian for the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. One of the many things he said really struck a chord with me. In a nation where there exists chaos and fear, the library is the one place that is neutral, needed, and appreciated. When a library branch in Killeen Texas was not going to be funded, the community rallied to keep it open. When there were riots in Ferguson, Missouri the library tweeted, “We are open 9-4. Wifi, water, rest, knowledge. We are here for you. If neighbors have kids, let them know teachers are here today, too.” When the librarian left the library open during the Freddie Grey incident and violent protests, she was nominated and become the new Librarian of Congress.
Unfortunately, challenging and censoring books not only comes loudly from the public, but it can happen quietly within libraries themselves. Libraries need to ensure they have open access to information, even the information that may cause the most concern. It’s what the institution stands for and is built upon. We need to be that one place whether we are school, public, academic, or colleges and universities. If books are a reflection of our society, it’s also those titles that become a kind of archive for future readers. Most importantly, when things get tough, communities turn to libraries and their resources…. all of them.
Naomi Bates is a teacher librarian at Northwest High School in Justin Texas. She has worked with students K-12 in both small and large school districts in Texas. Currently, she is serving as a school library representative-at-large for the Texas Library Association. She can be reached via Twitter @yabooksandmore or email at firstname.lastname@example.org