Throughout Wisconsin and across the nation there has been a dramatic increase in book challenges. These escalating censorship efforts have been acknowledged by the American Library Association (ALA), as the organization recently released a Statement on Book Censorship, and reported by numerous news outlets. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction supports access to library materials and freedom to read for all Wisconsin residents.
School library programs can benefit by being prepared for book challenges before they occur. One component of creating and maintaining an effective district library plan is the review of district policies and procedures related to school libraries, including those involving collection management and student records. This process not only encourages school librarians to be familiar with these documents but also creates opportunities to discuss them with administrators and school board members. Increasing knowledge surrounding policies and procedures ensures they will be followed if necessary. Some helpful talking points on the importance of policies and their connection to library plans can be found in the article “Setting Library Policies” from the December 2021 issue of Wisconsin School News.
In addition to gaining a better understanding of policies and procedures, conversations between school librarians and leadership can help build relationships, establish expertise, and highlight the positive impact school libraries have on students. It is encouraged to use this opportunity to develop talking points and communication plans ahead of concerns being raised. Teams may even consider role-playing different scenarios as another means to prepare.
Whether a school is prepared or not, a book challenge can produce heightened emotions and anxiety. Support and resources for school librarians are available:
Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) Intellectual Freedom Resources: The CCBC has an extensive website, including the What IF...Forum, which highlights frequently asked questions. Wisconsin school librarians can also reach out to get personalized support.
ALA Selection and Reconsideration Policy Toolkit: This resource can help with the review and revision of district policies and procedures.
ALA Fight Censorship website: The ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom has curated a hub of current and continually updated information to assist librarians.
School libraries provide opportunities for students to have choices about what they read. They represent the diversity of our world and do not discriminate. The professionally curated collections of materials should allow all students to find something to read while maintaining that not every book is for every student. Since book challenges can run counter to this philosophy and present many questions, please reach out to Monica Treptow (email@example.com) at the DPI, the CCBC, or ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom to obtain the support you need.