Librarians Resist Bans on Children’s Books with Black, LGBTQ+ Authors

Gender Queer. Sex Is a Funny Word. The Hate U Give.

These are just some of the hundreds upon hundreds of books. targeted for banning amid a revived movement to limit students’ access to literature about raceto address gender, sex, and gender issues and to challenge curricula that deal with these topics. In October, the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom announced that it recorded 60 percent more challenges to booksIt was higher than it had been in September last year.

Across the country — from FloridaTo California — efforts to censor books and give parents more say in what their kids read have intensified. This discussion has been highlighted in political campaigns such as the Republican primary. Glenn Youngkin’s campaign ad in Virginia featuring a mother who objected to her son reading Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Texas politicians, including Gov. Greg Abbott and Matt Krause, state representatives, plan to monitor school book collections. Und in WyomingAnd Washington, community members have demanded that library and school personnel be prosecuted for exposing youth to “obscene” literature.

Some librarians resist the increasing scrutiny of books for youth. They’re ignoring lawmakers’ requests to compile lists of books in their libraries that touch on race, gender, and sexuality issues. They’re defending their book collection policies in the wake of legal threats, and, in some cases, they’re resigning in protest. Libraries stock a wide range of books to meet the needs of diverse readers, librarians say, and young people need to see their experiences represented in literature — all the more so if they belong to groups that have been historically overlooked in publishing.

Angie Manfredi is a librarian who has been working since 2007. She stated that the larger implication from the book ban movement is that some people want all books about African Americans and LGBTQ+ people to be removed. They don’t want their children to learn about the experiences of underrepresented groups, including their struggles for equality, she said.

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The movement’s goal is to “get people scared…that their kids are reading books that say queer people have a right to exist,” Manfredi said. “People need to understand it’s not How to Be an Anti-Racist,” she continued, referring to the bestseller by Ibram X. Kendi. “It’s Black people exist. It’s not This Book Is Gay by Juno Dawson. It’s gay people exist.”

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, said the backlash against many of these books is part of a “cynical campaign” by groups who object to civil liberties for LGBTQ+ people. They’ve characterized all books related to the LGBTQ+ experience as inappropriate for minors, which she calls a “total misrepresentation.”

“Book censorship has been with us for decades,” she added. Some books are actually banned. schools districts have recently banned, such as Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, have faced censorship for many years. First published in 1985, the novel explores women’s rights, sexuality, and sexual assault in a dystopian society.

“We can go back to the efforts in the 1950s under McCarthy to erase anything to do with socialism or communism from our society,” Caldwell-Stone said. “In the 1990s, there was a real effort by some groups to get rid of what they called secular humanism in public schools and public libraries. And now we’re seeing a rising effort to erase materials dealing with the Black American experience or the experiences of transgender people.”

Manfredi quit her Iowa librarian job in August because she was afraid that she would not be able to say that there is a bias in race and gender while working in a library. state that banned critical race theory, an academic framework that posits that racism isn’t just about personal prejudice but about institutions and policies. It also prohibits trainings in state institutions that oppose the concept of colorblindness, or that people “should not attempt to treat others without respect to race or sex.”

Manfredi said the law, which went into effect July 1, would’ve prevented her from performing her job adequately, as she trained other librarians in her role at the State Library of Iowa. She stated that implicit bias and racism in publishing are often discussed during these sessions.

“In a training about storytime, I have to be able to say, ‘The statistics tell us that more books every year for children are published about trucks and cartoon animals than about Native Americans, and we need to look at why that is and what we can do as librarians to change that dynamic,’” Manfredi said. “‘So, I’m going to tell you about some books to share in storytime that aren’t about trucks and that can help you get over your implicit bias.’”

Manfredi, who has now left the State Library of Iowa is now preparing to become a substitute school library librarian in New Mexico. But she’s also encouraging fellow librarians to take steps to defend their book collections in a political climate that’s seen Iowa school board candidates vow to expose students who check out LGBTQ+-related books.

She advises librarians learn about the books in their collections and create a plan to respond to complaints. These policies provide the foundation for libraries’ selection, collection, and maintenance of their books. They also include protocols for handling concerns about books.

Texas librarians already take these steps. Parents and policymakers are outraged that children are reading books about gender, sexuality, or other topics, and librarians in Texas are already doing so. race.

Pointing out books by LGBTQ+ authors like Gender QueerMaia Kobabe The Dream HouseCarmen Maria Machado is the Governor. Greg Abbott last week instructed the Texas Education Agency, Texas State Library and Archives Commission, and State Board of Education to devise guidelines to prevent children from accessing “overtly sexual” literature in schools. The following is the move state Rep. Matt Krause’s October 25 letterTo the Texas Education Agency, and to select superintendents, asking if schools have copies of 850 books. he explained “might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex.” A Dallas Morning News analysis of the list found that 97 of the first 100 booksKrause wanted to target authors who were women, people of colour, and LGTBQ+. Krause also asked schools to identify any books that discuss race and sex.

Jill Bellomy, the chair for the Texas Association of School Librarians and the lead librarian for the Highland Park Independent School District in Amarillo, Texas, said recent efforts to “silence the voices” of authors “is very disheartening for us and hard to deal with.”

“We completely understand that a parent would have the right to decide what their child reads,” Bellomy said. “But our problem always is when a parent decides that they think they need to decide what’s best for every child in that school or that district. So, when we start seeing this restricting of access to material, it’s very concerning.”

Bellomy stated that her District has not received the funding. Krause’s letter but calls his request “very difficult to meet,” especially as librarians aim to include a wide array of books in their collections and staffing shortages in schools give teacher-librarians a limited amount of time to complete such a lengthy task. Fort Worth Independent Schools District said that it would comply with Krause’s requestOther school districts, like Austin ISD or Dallas ISD, stated that they would not. Texas House Democrats informed school districts they were not bound to respond to the November 12 deadline.

Bellomy said that Krause’s effort is also unnecessary.

“If a student or a parent does want to challenge a book, which is totally their right, we have a whole procedure to go through to do that,” she said. “And so it concerns us when they’re not going through these procedures, and they’re calling for instant removal of a book or lists of books.”

Bellomy stated that although the process of removing books may vary from one school district, it is generally the same across the state. The first question that is asked of complainants is whether they have read the entire book or just a few chapters. If they had read the entire book, they would fill out a form describing their concerns with the material. From there, a committee made up of administrators, faculty members, and students would meet to discuss and review the concerns. The committee would then recommend keeping the book or removing it, which school administrators and school board members would ultimately endorse or reverse.

Bellomy wants people to know that they can challenge books and that librarians carefully curate library materials. Librarians consult professionally reviewed journals when deciding which books to acquire for different grade level grades.

Some librarians have become so demoralized by the book banning movement that they’re considering leaving the profession, Bellomy said. Others, Bellomy stated, are writing to state representatives and seeking support from parents who oppose censorship. organizing social media campaignsLearn more about the importance diverse books.

“Some of us are feeling galvanized and that this is our time to speak up,” she said. “We’re going to fight to protect those collections and make sure our kids have access to books where they see themselves and they see others and hopefully are growing in empathy because that’s why we do what we do.”

School libraries aren’t the only ones experiencing outcry about their collections. Campbell County Public Library in Gillette (Wyoming) has been the target of protests since summer. It hired a transgender performer to perform for children and its collection of LGBTQ+ literature for teens. Its books are also opposed by community members. witchcraft and addiction, and a pastor took issue with the titles How do you make a baby?, It is possibleAnd Sex is a funny word.

In October, two residents filed a complaint with the Campbell County sheriff’s office accusing the library’s board and staff of violating obscenity laws. The case was handled by a special prosecutor. declined to pursue charges.

The Wyoming Library Association’s president, Jeff Collins, finds it “unbelievable” that Campbell County Public Library was accused of providing “materials that are obscene or harmful to minors.” He urges parents to discuss with children which reading materials are appropriate for their households but opposes efforts to limit what the entire community reads.

Public libraries are designed to be “welcoming and inclusive institutions that serve everyone in the community,” he said. “So libraries have a responsibility to avoid bias and to ensure that the materials and the programs they offer represent diverse views and encompass all topics of interest throughout the community.”