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The Intellectual Freedom Round Table (IFRT) provides a forum for the discussion of activities, programs, and problems in intellectual freedom of libraries and librarians.

The IFRT Members Community group is the central hub for discussion, library and events. It is visible to all ALA members but only IFRT members can participate in the conversation.

  • 1.  Book Challenge: Let's Talk About It

    Posted Feb 16, 2023 03:46 PM

    Hi,

    One of the US Army's Morale Welfare & Recreation libraries has received a formal request for reconsideration of the book Let's Talk About It: The Teen's Guide to Sex, Relationships, and Being a Human, by Erika Moen. This is not the first time this book has been questioned and we believe it's on a "list". 

    We will be keeping the book on the shelf.

    If you have had this particular title challenged our committee would be interested in your decision/results. We are in the process of crafting our reply. We've not had to deal with a formal challenge in a very long time. 

    If you have a response letter specifically for this book (or one similar), would you be willing to share it? We have policies, regulations, ALA code of ethics, and other items we will include. But, we are interested in how you worded your response. 

    Thank you very much for your assistance. 



    ------------------------------
    Paula S.W. Laurita
    Command Librarian
    Army Material Command HQ
    alternate address: paula.s.laurita.civ@army.mil
    ------------------------------


  • 2.  RE: Book Challenge: Let's Talk About It

    Posted Feb 16, 2023 04:24 PM
    Hi Paula,

    I don't have a letter to share, but I've got some relevant background on why this book is being challenged right now.

    There's an article out on Fox News today (I guess it was on TV too) about this book in the Anchorage School District (ASD). The book was available to teachers, not students, and a "concerned citizen" used his time at the mic to read a portion of the book at the last school board meeting. After he was cut off, he went to his car and recorded a video on Facebook Live reading from the book. Yesterday the video had been watched 30,000 times; today it was on Fox News.

    This article gives a more balanced account of that meeting's events: Let's talk about it – LGBTQ book unavailable to ASD students used as straw man to pummel public education. Several public libraries in Alaska are having the title challenged right now, though ASD has not received a formal challenge. I know one of the public libraries was compiling reviews from SLJ, Kirkus, PW Reviews, and Booklist to push back against the challenge. I will follow up with the director, to see how they reply.

    Rebecca


    Rebecca Moorman
    Head, Technical Services
    UAA/APU Consortium Library
    University of Alaska Anchorage





  • 3.  RE: Book Challenge: Let's Talk About It

    Posted Feb 18, 2023 11:58 AM

    Hello Paula, 

    Firstly, sending you and the library team our thoughts. Though becoming, sadly, more common, dealing with challenges can be extremely stressful and emotionally taxing. 

    Secondly, given the exceptional number of recent challenges that have specifically targeted comics and graphic novels (including New Kid, Maus, and Gender Queer) the ALA Graphic Novels & Comics Round Table has created an Addressing Comic Challenges Toolkit that provides strategies to proactively fight these bans and challenges specific to the comics and graphic novel format BEFORE, DURING, and AFTER they happen:

    https://www.ala.org/rt/gncrt/preparing-and-addressing-challenges-comics-library-committee

    In terms of crafting a letter to respond to the challenge, I reached out to Addressing Comic Challenges Committee members and while no one has (yet) experienced a challenge for this particular title, they have experienced other similar challenges (especially for Gender Queer and other titles like Sex is a Funny Word) and their recommendation was to: 

    (1) report the challenge to OIF and other partners such as the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF), Freedom to Read, National Coalition for Censorship, and your state's branch of the ACLU (*I might also alert the publisher, Penguin Random House, as publishing houses are trying to keep track of challenges and use their influence to push back)

    (2) utilize the template letters on OIF's site to create a response back: https://www.ala.org/tools/challengesupport/selectionpolicytoolkit/complainant

    (3) Committee members also noted that when responding back they will include a copy of their library's Challenge Policy as well as copies of the Right to Read, Right to View, and Library Bill of Rights.

    With comic and graphic novel challenges one of the most specific things we are noticing is how images from the text are taken out of context and/or utilized to alert and inflame critics. A picture truly is worth a thousand words. Lastly a few of the reasons why comics and graphic novels have been disproportionately challenged include: 

    • Accessibility: A strength of comics and graphic novels is their ability to, in a single panel, share a multitude of information and emotional resonance with their readers. This makes them powerful, accessible, and, when taken out of context, easily misunderstood.
    • Misunderstanding the medium: For a variety of reasons, misperceptions persist around comic books and graphic novels, two of the largest being that "comics are for kids" and/or that comics are for "reluctant readers." We see this in A LOT of challenges against Gender Queer. Though published as an adult graphic memoir, many challenges have included their perceptions that Gender Queer's 'colorful pages' will 'entice' young (kid) readers. You can read more about the obscenity case levelled against Gender Queer in the state of Virginia here: https://www.aclu.org/cases/virginia-obscenity-proceedings-against-two-books. Importantly, this case was struck down. 
    • Historical bias: Many have forgotten that comics - the most popular reading material of children in the 1940-50s - were also censored, restricted, and, in many countries, banned under the criminal code in the 1950s. Worry, fear, and restrictions of children's reading sadly is not new. And though the research behind this 1950s comics moral panic has been successfully disproved (by Dr. Carol Tilley), the stigma around comics remains for many in schools and libraries along with decades of normalized gatekeeping and restrictions.

    Hope this helps! 

    Kind thanks, 

    Amie 



    ------------------------------
    Amie Wright (she/her)
    Chair, GNCRT Addressing Challenges Committee
    Graphic Novels & Comics Round Table (GNCRT)
    sporadic tweeter @librarylandia
    aedwright@gmail.com
    ------------------------------



  • 4.  RE: Book Challenge: Let's Talk About It

    Posted Feb 18, 2023 12:11 PM
    Thanks.
    I’ll be taking a look at these resources.
    Fortunately we have a good policy and strong Army regulations against censorship.

    My last challenge in a public library was someone who wanted all books about Sigmund Freud removed. So, it was an easy response.

    I appreciate the support.

    Paula Laurita
    Sent from my iPad