The words “A Conversation about Book Challenges” on a light green background with the logo for Down Time with Cranston Public Library to the right of it. The logo is a pair of bright green headphones over a light blue stack of books.

A Conversation about Book Challenges

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.

An image that says “Happy Birthday, Alex Sanchez!” with a photo of Alex Sanchez to the right of the text on a navy background.

Happy Birthday, Alex Sanchez

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!

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Addressing Challenges to Books by Problematic Authors Q&A – A Summary

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.

The cover of the book “Let’s Talk About Race in Storytime” on a light brown background. The book cover itself has simple art of children with different skin tones. Next to the cover image is the words “Book Review” in white.

Book Review: Let’s Talk About Race in Storytimes by Jessica Anne Bratt

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.

“Report Censorship”

Did You Experience A Challenge In 2021? Report to the OIF!

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.

The words “The Library and Sex Ed” appear on a light blue backgound with round abstract shape decorating the corners of the image.

How Your Library Can Support Comprehensive Sex Education (and Fight Censorship)

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.

The words “Freedom to Read Foundation: Grants for Banned Books Week” in read on a gray background with the FTRF’s logo, a book with a torch on the cover, in front of the word freedom

Freedom to Read Foundation Banned Book Week Grant Recipients

Every year the Freedom to Read Foundation awards libraries with grants to facilitate programming, outreach, displays and other promotional work around Banned Books Week. These grants are funded out of the Judith F. Krug Memorial Fund. This year’s banned book week theme is “Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us.” and will take place at libraries, schools, and booksellers around the country on Sept. 26-Oct. 2, 2021. This year four public libraries and one school library were awarded grants.

Author Alison Bechdel is pictured on a navy blue background with geometric shape next to her photo on the left side of the image. The right side of the image reads: Happy Birthday Alison Bechdel

Happy Birthday, Alison Bechdel!

Bechdel is most known for penning the graphic memoir Fun Home, which was later adapted into a Tony-winning Broadway Musical, and her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, which ran for 25 year in print and was later published online. Bechdel’s debut graphic novel, Fun Home, was published in 2006 and is about her relationship with her closeted father and her own journey with her sexuality. This year Bechdel reenters the graphic novel scene after nearly a decade away with The Secret to Superhuman Strength.

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Drag Queen Storytime Continues to Stir Up Controversy as Well as Excitement Among Library Patrons

Since its creation in 2015, Drag Queen Storytime or Drag Queen Story Hour (DQSH), as the official organization calls it, has gained as much negative attention as it has positive among library patrons and community members.. In 2019, 30 challenges were reported to the OIF for Drag Queen Storytimes and other Pride related events. But there are many Drag Queen Storytime fans and advocates out there as well, with LGBT-friendly churches stepping in to host events when libraries no longer can, to people coming to these events to show their love and support in the face of angry protesters. And while these programs tend to draw in big crowds because they are fun, they also have educational benefits as well.

Marble background with Scales of Justice on the left and the words “Code of Ethics Ninth Principle” on the right

ALA Takes a Stance on Social and Racial Justice with Proposed Ninth Principle of the Code of Ethics

The Committee on Professional Ethics has proposed a ninth principle be added to the ALA Code of Ethics. This proposed additional principle is meant to codify the library and information services profession’s commitment to racial and social justice and further emphasize diversity and inclusion as one of the profession’s core beliefs.