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. You can report online by going to ala.org/challengereporting. No matter is too insignificant. Still wondering if you should report to the OIF? Here are some frequently asked questions related to reporting a challenge.
Our library/school followed their policy and we don’t need any support. Should we still report it?
Yes. Still report it! I’ll send you a follow up email and thank you for defending intellectual freedom. But OIF still wants to know, even when the process works as it should.
We kept the resource in the collection, so it’s not really censorship is it?
Attempted censorship can have a chilling effect on the resources that libraries provide for their communities. When OIF tracks the types of materials being targeted and why, we can continue to protect them from actual censorship. Still report it!
I thought a library only reported a challenge if a formal reconsideration form is submitted?
A challenge is defined by the intent of the request. Is the request to deny access or restrict access to others? Traditionally, reconsideration forms are used to convey a patron’s request to remove a library or school resource. But that’s not the only way to attempt to remove or restrict materials.
Challenges can also be a public comment at a board meeting, a call to action on social media, a petition, a protest, or a letter to the editor of the newspaper or online blog. The average person doesn’t know what “a reconsideration form” is and don’t initially connect their demand to remove a book as being censorship.
However the challenge is communicated, still report it!
Everyone agreed that the resource should be removed/cancelled. Should we still report it?
Even if everyone agrees to censor a resource, it’s still censorship. Even if no one calls it censorship but the resource is still removed because of objections to content, still report it!
Referring back to your institution’s selection policy is a good tool for evaluating whether resources are being censored or weeded.
A parent is complaining on Facebook. Is that a challenge?
If the intent of the social media post is to remove the resource, restrict access, or a call to action for others to express complaints thereby pressuring a response by a school or library, that is a challenge. Still report it!
The challenge was just in my small town/library/classroom. Does a national organization like ALA care?
We care about the right to read for everyone! Still report it!
I’m sure OIF already knows about this challenge. Should I still report it?
Even if you think OIF probably already knows about the challenge, report it anyways. There may be more details we can add to our database. Many times the status is left unknown because the case was reported before there was a resolution, so updates are also encouraged. And we always cross-check your report with existing entries in the database to avoid duplicates.
Am I the person who should report it?
Anyone can report a challenge. You don’t have to be a library worker, an ALA member, or a teacher. Students, volunteers, trustees, or parents can report censorship. Sometimes individuals assume that another person will do the reporting. Just to make sure, you should report it too.
I don’t want to get in trouble. Should I report censorship even if I don’t want anyone to find out?
Yes. Still report it! All personal identifying information is kept strictly confidential unless you give us permission to share. ALA will follow your lead in any action or communications. We never want to jeopardize your employment.
The OIF uses reports on challenges to identify trends in censorship and possible pinpoint coordinated censorship efforts. They also use this data to create the Top Ten Most Challenged Book List, which the last year’s list is announced during National Library Week every year. In order for the OIF to have the most accurate picture of censorship in our country, they need as complete data as possible. They rely on the reports from library staff, school staff, teachers, and other concerned citizens like you for this data. If you don’t know about any knowledges where you work or live, but would like to raise awareness about the importance of reporting censorship, you can find social media posts and other resources in the “Report Censorship” Toolkit.
Tayla Cardillo is the Branch Librarian of the Oak Lawn Branch Library in Cranston, RI. Before her current position she was a YA librarian. She completed her MLIS at the University of Rhode Island and her B.A. in English at Rhode Island College. Tayla has known that she wanted to be a librarian since she was 17 years old. When not doing library wizardry, she enjoys playing tabletop games and cosplaying.