I admit that I was rather shocked and overwhelmed. Book challenges seemed like scary historical events. I began reading, studying, and reaching out to experienced school librarians who could help. And as I worked, I gained confidence. It turns out, book challenges aren’t necessarily scary. Of course, it would be better not to have to go through one, but it is completely possible to be prepared to handle a challenge. Policies and procedures are our friends, and resources to help you create these policies and procedures are easily found. Take a look at some of the literature and news stories to be ready to answer questions in case you have to guide your school or district through a challenge response. Most importantly: use the listserv, read the forum, and look out for programming from MSLA. Reach out to your colleagues to help you— together, we can do this!
ALA is also tracking legislation in several states that would affect the way that school and public libraries operate. This type of legislation is very concerning, as many of the proposed bills would remove first amendment protections from individual librarians and educators. This type of protection is codified into Massachusetts law and to date there are no efforts to remove it. However, MSLA is remaining vigilant and keeping our eye on other states as well as reaching out to other Massachusetts stakeholders to touch base and prepare for the worst, just in case.
You may be wondering why book challenges happen at all, or what is behind the sudden rise of the current challenges. The answers are varied and complicated. It does appear to be a coordinated effort, though. Those who are challenging books are well-organized and have talking points and support. But you do too. The MSLA has already held a few virtual gatherings geared toward analyzing questions around censorship, challenges, and book bans. The MSLA reading group’s book discussions have been eye opening. We recently read Controversial Books in K–12 Classrooms and Libraries: Challenged, Censored, and Banned by Randy Bobbitt and had a discussion as to why people feel the need to try to remove books from libraries. We also have one more Unconference scheduled for March 2nd at 4 p.m. and it’s not too late to register. Our first few Unconferences included a discussion of policies and a role playing excercise dealing with determined would-be-censors and how to talk to them. Registration is open for our annual conference from March 26th to 28th, and this will feature programming about censorship and be a time for us to come together to confront the challenge we are facing.
Librarians deal in information and accuracy. We have what it takes to meet this problem head-on. The world of truth and intellectual freedom is ours, and no one knows more about it than we do. We are knowledgeable, prepared, and passionate. We will do what we’ve always done— make a diversity of voices and experiences available for our students. Because we know that they need that, and we provide what they need.