As an affiliate of the American Library Association and the American Association of School Libraries, the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association opposes widespread efforts to censor books in U.S. schools and libraries. ALA states, “it is our responsibility to provide a diverse and robust collection in order to support our students in their academic, social, and emotional growth. We are committed to defending the constitutional rights of all individuals, of all ages, to use the resources and services of libraries. We champion and defend the freedom to read, as promised by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.” (https://www.ala.org/advocacy/statement-regarding-censorship)


If you find yourself facing a challenge to library materials, here are some steps to help you navigate the reconsideration process. The first step is to determine whether an administrator or teacher is challenging material(s) or if the challenge is coming from a community member or organized group. When dealing with a challenge to materials, remember that libraries serve everyone by providing access to all types of information and giving students the freedom to read. The first thing we suggest you do is take a breath. This process does not have to be rushed. You do not have to do this alone. You can reach out to other school librarians or public librarians for advice. 


Some other things to consider doing to help with the process:

  1. Contact ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom

Once ALA knows of a challenge, they will be able to provide you with guidance and resources to help defend your students’ right to read. It is vital that you report a challenge of any type to ALA (this includes administrators removing books from the library before an official challenge is made). You may want to refer to ALA’s Library Bill of Rights. This is a great resource to give you direction and talking points. ALA offers a toolkit for you to reference and use as needed.

  1. Learn more about the challenge

Some questions to consider are: Did the challenge come from a community member or parent?;  Has the administrator or librarian reached out to explain collection development and opt out options (notes in library management system, technology blocks, etc.)?; If the challenge is from a community member, have they completed the appropriate form?; If the challenge has come from an administrator or other teacher, do they need to be informed/educated on library policies and procedures?; If not, do they want to meet to discuss concerns? 


If concerns aren’t met at either level after discussion with a librarian and (neutral) administrator, does a formal challenge need to take place?

  1. Locate your district’s policies/procedures.
    These policies and procedures are commonly called: Review of Instructional Materials policy, Instructional Material Selection Policy, Challenge Protocol, Resource Material. Some of them will be school board policy while others may just be library protocol and procedure.

If your district does not have policies, or similar ones, in place, find out if your school board is a member of PA School Board Association. PSBA offers form templates for ease in creating policies. Sample policies and forms are linked below. If you are creating or suggesting a new policy for your district, it will need to be approved before going into effect. Creation and updates to procedures do not generally need school board approval, but informing and working with administration ensures the execution of such procedures.

  1. Begin to look for reviews of the materials being challenged. If you are having trouble finding reviews, ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom will be able to help you.

  2. Contact the Office of Commonwealth Libraries. OCL will be able to put you in touch with other librarians who have been through this and provide local support as needed.

  3. Key points to remember:  

    1. Every student is entitled to the freedom to choose what to read

    2. Your job is to ensure freedom for every reader to see themselves in a book

    3. You are not alone. 

    4. Lost battles are not lost wars.


ALA also offers webinars on this topic. Here are a few that are archived:

  1. Advocacy for Your Library During a Crisis(April 2020)

  2. Challenges & Crises: Preparing Your Board of Trustees, United for Libraries’ president’s program (June 2020)

  3. #LibrariesStrong: State Ecosystems Mobilize to Defeat Censorship Legislation(May 2019)

 

Other resources for you to use as needed:

 

Reconsideration Forms:

ALA Sample reconsideration Committee Form

Sample Reconsideration Form

Sample Reconsideration Committee Administrative Regulations

 

If you have more information to share, please share it with us at [email protected].