1. Contact National Organizations Who Can Help
Numerous national organizations provide information, tools, and support,
including the American Library Association, the National Coalition Against
Censorship, and the American Booksellers Foundation for Freedom of Expression.
Click here for contact information
and Web site addresses for these and other censorship experts.
2. Know the First Amendment
Freedom of speech is a powerful tool supported by law that protects your
rights and the rights of your readers. Click
here to download a printable copy of the First Amendment.
3. Be Familiar with the Definition of Intellectual Freedom
Intellectual freedom is the right of every individual to both seek and
receive information from all points of view without restriction. For a
fuller analysis and defense of this right, read the Intellectual Freedom
and Censorship Q & A at www.ala.org/ala/oif/basics/intellectual.htm
4. Research Past Cases
Over the years many books have been challenged. Responses to these challenges
are archived on several Web sites, including www.ala.org/oif.html.
Use these past examples to support your defense.
1. The American Booksellers Foundation for Freedom of Expression
(ABFFE) is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to booksellers
who are faced with book challenges as well as subpoenas, search warrants,
and other demands for customer information. In case of First Amendment
emergency, please call ABFFE at (212) 587-4025 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
EST, Monday through Friday. During the evenings and weekends, call
(800) 727-4203. www.abffe.com
2. If faced with a challenge, you don’t need to defend it alone.
Recruit allies in your cause; alert the local media to the challenge.
Local libraries and other local bookstores may also be a source of support
as there is a good chance they too may be under fire. (Click
here for a sample letter to the editor.)
3. Set up discussion groups inviting consumers, booksellers, and educators
to share their thoughts and views on specific titles and their debatable
topics. (See Talking About Banned Books page.)
4. The best defense is often a good offense. Celebrate the First Amendment
throughout the year, but especially during Banned Books Week (September
27–October 4, 2008). The poster, staff buttons, easel, and bookmarks
in this kit can provide the foundation for a table or window display.
Discuss the issues and objectives of Banned Books Week with your staff,
especially new employees.
1. Be familiar with the Library Bill of Rights: www.ala.org/ala/oif/statementspols/statementsif/librarybillrights.htm
2. When faced with a challenge to a book in your collection, explain your
selection process—and the legal protection of that policy—to
the complainant. Advice from the ALA:
Each library has its own selection and collection development policies.
. . . Selection is an inclusive process, in which librarians seek materials
that will provide a broad range of viewpoints and subject matter. This
means that while library collections have thousands of items families
want, like and need, they also will have materials that some parents
may find offensive to them or inappropriate for their children.
Because an item is selected does not mean the librarian endorses or
promotes it. He or she is simply helping the library to fulfill its
mission of providing information from all points of view. (Source: www.ala.org)
3. As public institutions, libraries cannot discriminate based on age,
sex, race, or any other characteristic. Therefore, a library cannot legally
restrict access to materials based on age—a common request of concerned
adults in relation to children’s material.
4. Reach out to your local community and the local media. The library
is a public institution and their goal is to serve the people. Incorporate
the public because the books in your collection belong to all citizens.
1. Know the full substance of the book you are assigning or reading aloud.
Be ready to discuss controversial subjects with your students and be prepared
to address parents’ concerns. Develop a written rationale to articulate
the reasons for using a particular literary work in the classroom. According
to the NCTE:
Rationale development should be a part of thoughtful planning for classroom
instruction. If we have not reflected on the whys of what we teach,
we will be unprepared to meet the needs and challenges of our students
and to respond to potential complaints, either from parents or from
others in the community who seek to influence the curriculum. . . .
2. Provide parents with a copy of the written rationale, as proof of how
the title in question fits into the curriculum. If a parent raises a challenge,
advise them to read the entire book, and explain the danger of interpreting
language or actions outside of the context of the story.
3. Talk to other teachers, librarians, guidance counselors, principals,
and the board of education to explain the situation. Getting their support
will make a big difference—multiple voices are louder than one.
4. Be familiar with your material selection policy, including local criteria,
the methods for choosing materials, and who selects materials. Know your
school’s method for dealing with complaints. Make sure the entire
school staff is aware of the policy for handling challenges and will strictly
adhere to these policies.