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Dealing with censorship in your library. What is the difference between a challenge or banning? A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials,

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Presentation on theme: "Dealing with censorship in your library. What is the difference between a challenge or banning? A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Dealing with censorship in your library


3 What is the difference between a challenge or banning? A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.

4 Expression of Concern. An inquiry that has judgmental overtones. Oral Complaint. An oral challenge to the presence and/or appropriateness of the material in question. Written Complaint. A formal, written complaint filed with the institution (library, school, etc.), challenging the presence and/or appropriateness of specific material. Public Attack. A publicly disseminated statement challenging the value of the material, presented to the media and/or others outside the institutional organization in order to gain public support for further action. Censorship. A change in the access status of material, based on the content of the work and made by a governing authority or its representatives. Such changes include exclusion, restriction, removal, or age/grade level changes.

5 ALA: American Library Association ULA: Utah Library Association IF: Intellectual Freedom OIF: ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom BBW: Banned Books Week (September 21 − 27, 2014) LBR/FTR: Library Bill of Rights and Freedom to Read Statement


7 Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group

8 The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit Looking for Alaska, by John Green Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz Reasons: Unsuited for age group, violence The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit Beloved, by Toni Morrison Reasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence Of these ten books, six are oriented to children and young adults. And you might even have some of them on your shelves!

9 According to the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, at least 46 of the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century have been the target of ban attempts. Of the remaining 54, challenges may have happened but they were never reported to the OIF. Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century Nine of the Top Ten on this list have been challenged: 1. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald 2. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger 3. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck 4. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee 5. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker 6. Ulysses, by James Joyce 7. Beloved, by Toni Morrison 8. The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding 9. 1984, by George Orwell Reasons for their challenges run the gamut:


11 1. The material was considered to be "sexually explicit" 2. The material contained "offensive language" 3. The material was "unsuited to any age group“ – via OIF A majority of challenges are motivated by a well-intentioned impulse to protect or shield other library users from inappropriate or dangerous materials. Of these users, children are most commonly named as the group which must be protected.

12 “If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” - Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., in Texas v. JohnsonTexas v. Johnson

13 The Library Bill of Rights (ALA’s guiding policy document on information access) states in its first two articles: I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation. II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

14 The ALA’s Freedom to Read Statement ends with these words: “We do not state these propositions in the comfortable belief that what people read is unimportant. We believe rather that what people read is deeply important; that ideas can be dangerous; but that the suppression of ideas is fatal to a democratic society. Freedom itself is a dangerous way of life, but it is ours.”


16 In an interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights, the ALA determined: “Librarians and governing bodies should maintain that parents— and only parents—have the right and the responsibility to restrict the access of their children—and only their children—to library resources.” Free Access to Library Materials for Minors (

17 Parents challenge library materials more often than any other group, institution, or authority. These challenges disproportionately target the collections of school libraries, and usually use the Three Reasons as rationale. (Remember them?) 1. The material was considered to be "sexually explicit" 2. The material contained "offensive language" 3. The material was "unsuited to any age group“

18 The LBR and the Freedom to Read Statement have been interpreted and “fleshed out” in multiple policy papers and statements that can be found on the ALA’s website Many of these are relevant or specific to school libraries Your strongest argument that reflects these guidelines? “This library strives to provide a well-balanced collection that is appealing and relevant to all of its users, while the ultimate responsibility for circulation choices belongs to parents.”


20 A great start: the ULA IFC intellectual freedom manual, including a great policy and practice checklist at The American Library Association’s huge (and overwhelming) website, starting with the Library Bill of Rights and other guidelines: Talk to other school librarians about their policies and experiences. Ask a ton of questions!

21 Material selection or collection development policies Services policy (meeting rooms, programs, etc.) Other IF-related policies: confidentiality policy (patron privacy), law enforcement policies, etc. Have a reconsideration form in place which is in accordance with your material selection policy. USE IT! Legal review! Consult with your institution’s attorney(s) about implementation and training in policies.

22 Train all staff members (including teachers, support staff, and volunteers) on policies and procedures. How to handle oral and written complaints Reconsideration procedures Media policies and other logisitics Include board members/trustees/administrators in training process, especially concerning the principles of intellectual freedom (Lib. Bill of Rights, Freedom to Read statement, parent’s responsibilities, etc.)


24 Treat patron with respect Be calm, courteous, friendly, and professional LISTEN to their concerns De-escalate while remaining firm about IF principles Avoid library jargon Explain library’s role vs. parent’s role in selection Usually, handling an initial complaint skillfully will finish a full- blown challenge before it begins.

25 Maintain media discipline (one spokesperson, etc.) Follow all reconsideration procedures Provide all materials in writing and set expectations for a decision Involve others in the message: board members, friends of the library, teachers, community leaders Some great tips:

26 Report a challenge right away! It’s confidential and you can provide as little info (Title of material and your state) or as much info as you would like The OIF and OLA (Office for Library Advocacy) can provide additional assistance in the event of a challenge. Their websites are crucial in planning for, and surviving, a challenge:

27 Usually, challenges never proceed to a full-blown reconsideration hearing because they’re resolved by earlier steps in the challenge resolution process. If you are involved in a hearing, make sure that it’s well- publicized and that the public hears the library’s IF message Rally community leaders who will speak about the freedom to read Stay serious, stay courteous, stay professional STAY ON MESSAGE

28 The reconsideration committee should follow these steps: Read, view or listen to the challenged material in its entirety Review the selection process and the criteria for selection Check reviews and recommended lists to determine recommendations by the experts and critics Meet to discuss the challenge Make a recommendation to the administrator on removal, retention, or replacement


30 Use your experiences as a narrative to guide further discussions of IF issues Share your tips and stories with others Build a strong network of community support to aid you in future challenge attempts Get involved with state and national advocacy groups. Like our ULA IFC! Maintain professionalism when discussing the outcome Stay positive! Always, come back to the primary mission of your library: providing a well-selected collection for your patrons, and defending their freedom to use it!

31 The ALA’s American Association of School Librarians: Our webpage: The ALA’s Banned Books website: The ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom: The ALA Challenge Reporting forms: gereporting/onlinechallengeform

32 Thank you!

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