With the overturning of Roe v. Wade, many states have enacted laws that not only restrict a person’s access to abortion services, but also criminalizes helping a person seek an abortion. Now library workers in states with these types of restrictive abortion laws are wondering if providing information about abortion is also restricted under these laws. In July 2022, staff at the Metropolitan Library System (MLS) in Oklahoma were told not to help patrons access information about abortion, the message to staff going so far as the warn them to not even use the word abortion when speaking to patrons. In states with restrictive abortion laws, librarians may have to decided what statues are more important for them to adhere to, state law or the First Amendment.
Public records requests are a way for journalists and other interested parties to find out information about request for reconsideration forms that have been submitted to libraries and gain insight into book challenges that are happening at libraries near them. A legal debate in Colorado has raised the question of whether individuals submitting request for reconsideration forms are protected by library privacy laws or if their names and other identifying information is public record along with the rest of the request.
One of the main talking points you’ll see again and again when it comes to fighting book challenges is that you should be able to back up any purchase you make with your collection development policy. Many collection development policies cite professional review sources as one of the major ways library staff find quality materials to add to their collection. For library staff that work with youth, School Library Journal (SLJ) is a go-to professional review source. That’s why SLJ put together the webinar: From Book Submission to SLJ Star: Insight on the School Library Journal review process to explain what goes into their reviews. For this webinar Shelly Diaz, Reviews Editor for School Library Journal, is joined by Mahnaz Dar, Senior Editor, Professional Reading & Reference for SLJ, Ashley Leffel a middle school librarian and reviewer for SLJ, and Kiera Parrott, former Reviews Director for SLJ and LJ.
In January of this year the Prosper Citizen Group Political Action Committee (Prosper PAC), a conservative political action group operating in Prosper, Texas, asked the Prosper Independent School District (PISD) to remove a list of 82 books from their libraries on the grounds that they were sexually graphic, violent and inappropriate for children. A group of Prosper ISD parents have created a reading group so they can decide for themselves whether these titles should be removed from Prosper schools. One of those parents is Holly Lister Draper who in February posted a review of one of the books from the Prosper PAC’s list, The Pants Project by Cat Clarke, on her Facebook page.
The Cranston Public Library in Cranston, RI hosts a weekly podcast titled Down Time with Cranston Public Library where they talk with librarians, library workers and community members about a variety of topics. On February 15th, 2022 they spoke with Martin Garnar, director of the Amherst College Library, and Marianne Mirando, the Librarian from Westerly High School in Westerly, RI to talk about the recent increase in book challenges across the country. They discussed what it means for a book to be challenged in a school or public library and what you can do to protect intellectual freedom in your community. This post is an excerpt from their conversation.
April 23, 2022 marks author Alex Sanchez’s 65th year on the planet. Happy Birthday, Alex Sanchez! Sanchez is a Mexican American author who has written the award winning young adult books Rainbows Boys and Getting It, as well as a middle grade novel So Hard to Say. Sanchez also collaborated with DC comics and illustrator Jul Maroh on You Brought Me the Ocean, which is a reimagining of the story of Aqualad for a modern teen audience. His most recent work The Greatest Superpower (2021) is about twin boys whose dad comes out as transgender. Thank you Alex Sanchez for writing books that affirm the experiences of young people and get them excited about reading!
A common concern among librarians and other information professionals is how to handle materials written by individuals wrapped up in some type of controversy, whether that be political statements they have made publicly, crimes or misconduct that they have been accused of, or where they have donated or invested their money. This post will summarize a Q&A that provides guidance selecting, weeding and addressing challenges to these types of materials.
In this book Bratt lays out how librarians can start talking about race as part of their regular storytime practice. She begins with an introduction explaining her reasons for committing to talking about race in her storytimes and how the Black Lives Matter movement’s tenant of starting your antiracist work where you are inspired her to work within libraries to move us as a society towards racial equity. This book is a great guide for any librarian who is looking to create more diverse and inclusive storytimes at their libraries but don’t know where to start. I highly encourage anyone who leads storytimes at their library to consider adding this (quick) read to their upcoming professional development plans.
With the increase in book challenges happening in schools and libraries around the country in recent months, it is more important than ever that challenges and other instances of censorship be reported to the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF). If you or someone you know has experienced any challenges to library or school materials, online resources (including databases), programs, speakers, displays, reading lists, and author visits in 2021, the OIF encourages everyone to report any instance of censorship they encounter.
There is a long history in the U.S. of controlling, suppressing, and censoring information about sex, even if the information is meant to educate, not arouse. The Comstock Act of 1873 made it a criminal offense to, “send ‘obscene, lewd or lascivious,’ ‘immoral,’ or ‘indecent’ publications through the mail. Attempts to restricted sex education materials, under the guise of protecting children form obscene and inappropriate materials, are continuing to happen today in the form of challenges in K-12 schools and public libraries. A recent example comes from Gillette, Wyoming where Hugh and Susan Bennett filed a complaint with the county sheriff’s office over the inclusion of five books in the local library’s collection. In this post are some ways that you and your library can support quality sex education for young people in your community.