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.
Issues relating to intellectual freedom continue to dominate news stories, including debates on critical race theory, LGTBQ materials, academic freedom, and broadband access. In the past several months various state governments have passed bills targeting school curriculum. Fueled by misinterpretations of Critical Race Theory, this has led to numerous attempts to censor or ban books that discuss race. Books discussing gender and sexuality, mainly those with LGBTQ themes, have also been targeted such as when residents in Wyoming attempted to file criminal charges against library staff. Academic freedom of faculty on college campuses are also under fire, whether for curriculum concerns (related to aforementioned bills targeting Critical Race Theory) or for providing expertise outside their capacity as an educator. Broadband access continues to be an issue as many Americans continue to rely on the internet for work, education, or various other essential functions.
“The right to make my own choice is fundamental to life, and intellectual freedom with the right to choose what to read is necessary to maintain what I believe is inherent to all of us,” says Salt Lake County librarian Wanda Mae Huffaker. In anticipation of National Library Week 2020 and the State of America’s Libraries report announcing the Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2019, we share book challenge experiences, 2019 top challenged title predictions, and our passion for the freedom to read.
Part of the reason that the novel is so well loved, I think, is because it challenged so many of us to think about difficult issues. Whether we continue to teach Mockingbird or choose to move on to another, more modern book, one important lesson from Mockingbird will live on – we will continue to read, and love, our banned books.
However, I’d argue that one of the reasons our country doesn’t experience these dangerous laws is because of the perpetuation of the importance of intellectual freedom by hardworking librarians. I believe the reason we have access to and the freedom to read all books, even controversial ones, is, in part, because of awareness campaigns like Banned Books Week.
It seems the upper Midwest has a problem with Sherman Alexie. Within one month, his 2007 novel ‘The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian’ has been challenged in two school districts.
Two book challenge examples demonstrate that there is no possible way to know ahead of time what challenges will come or from whom they will come.
How is a librarian’s career impacted when they experience a significant material challenge in their library? I decided to ask some librarians about their careers following a challenge. I contacted librarians who experienced a challenge in their library 10 or more years ago, and asked them some questions about their career paths. The following is an interview with Amy Crump, who experienced a challenge to books held in the Marshall (Mo.) Public Library.
The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom released the top ten most frequently challenged books list of 2012 as part of the State of America’s Library Report on Monday, April 15. […]
Cross-posted on the Freedom to Read Foundation Blog. A final settlement was reached last week in the Davis County, Utah book removal case. In addition to returning the book In […]