West Bend librarians and community activists share censorship stories at ALA Annual Conference

Censorship, Freedom to Read Foundation, Intellectual Freedom Committee, Midwinter Meeting/Annual Conference

Meet the librarians and community members who are fighting to keep library materials on the shelves in West Bend, Wisconsin!

A special panel sponsored by the the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee and the Freedom to Read Foundation at ALA’s Annual Conference in Chicago, Illinois will feature West Bend Community Library director Michael Tyree, young adult librarian Kristin Pekoll, library board president Barbara Deters, former library board member Mary Reilly-Kliss, and community organizer Maria Hanrahan. The panelists will share their unique experience and insights gained in addressing multiple challenges to young adult and GLBT materials in the West Bend Community Library, including a demand to publicly burn (!) Francesca Lia Block’s Young Adult novel, Baby Be-Bop.

The panel, part of the IFC Issues Briefing, will take place on Monday, July 13, at 8:00 a.m. in Room W194a in McCormick Place West convention center. You must be registered for the ALA Annual Conference to attend.

The controversy arose in February 2009 when a West Bend couple filed a request to reconsider books included in the library’s “Out of the Closet” bibliography aimed at youth interested in GLBT issues, as well as books deemed “sexually explicit.” Over the following weeks and months, the couple helped to form a citizens’ group, West Bend Citizens for Safe Libraries, and circulated a petition asking the library to move young adult books to the adult section, label certain material as objectionable, and restrict access to categories of online content. A second citizens’ group, West Bend Parents For Free Speech, was formed to oppose the requested restrictions and to support the library’s existing policies. A third organization, the Christian Civil Liberties Union, eventually filed a widely-reported claim with the City of West Bend that asserted that the library had injured its members by placing the young adult novel, Baby BeBop, in the library’s collection. The group asked for money damages and demanded that Baby Be-Bop be publicly burned “as a deterrent to repeating this offensive conduct.”

In June 2009, the West Bend Community Library Board voted unanimously to retain the challenged books in its YA Zone, “without removing, relocating, labeling, or otherwise restricting access.” The five panelists, all librarians, trustees, and community members directly involved with the challenges, will discuss their experiences and their plans to continue the ongoing work of maintaining unrestricted access to information for everyone in their community.

See also: ALA President Issues Statement Concerning the Library Controversy in West Bend, WI

Office for Intellectual Freedom Letter to the West Bend Common Council


West Bend Community Library

West Bend Community Library YA Zone

West Bend Parents for Free Speech