A lot of folks in the library world live in dread of someone coming up to them with a a request (or demand) that a library material be removed from the collection. Even the thought of someone coming up with a question or concern about an item can be scary to contemplate. However, as Megan Schliesman of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center pointed out in a recent conversation, this is something library workers should just be prepared to deal with in the course of their work. People will have questions or concerns about items in the collection, and we need to be prepared to handle these conversations, and even see them as an opportunity to share information about the mission of the public library (to provide materials for everyone in the community).
Over the past few months, there have been some organized efforts to get long lists of books removed from libraries–mostly school libraries, but also public libraries. Sometimes these movements inspire people in our own communities to come in with a list of titles they’ve been told are a problem. If you are prepared for this, it will make the whole thing go better for you, for the library, and for your collection. Please let me know if you’d like to talk more about this!
Resources to help you get prepared:
- Be familiar with your library’s policies–and make sure everyone on staff knows what to do if they get a question, comment, or demand about an item.
- The Cooperative Children’s Book Center, one of Wisconsin’s greatest treasures, has some excellent resources to help think about, prepare, and respond to concerns and challenges.’
- Intellectual Freedom Service for Wisconsin public and school libraries, provides confidential and professional assistance to librarians who are facing a challenge or concern about a book for children or teens.
- I love this poster: Be Prepared: What to Do Before, During, and After a Materials Challenge
- I also love this one: Materials Concern Check-List: Tips and Talking Points
- Steps to Take When Materials Are Challenged has a lot of great suggestions AND additional resources and places to turn for help
- The What IF Forum is a place where you can submit questions to the CCBC librarians and their partners and they’ll answer for the wider library community. Here’s a recent example all about being prepared for a challenge.
- This School Library Journal article, When the Anti-CRT Movement Comes for Collections is worth a read