Heading Them Off at the Pass

A challenge or instance of censorship often hits the victim out of left field. These days, better assume that it’s only a matter of time before it happens. You don’t have to be a pornographer to be censored: Maxine’s Tree, a children’s book with a conservationist slant, was challenged by forest workers.

Therefore, it’s wise to build alliances within your organization, the community you serve and the civil-liberties community.

  • Support others when they are censored, and they will be there for you.
  • Celebrate Freedom to Read Week and use it as an occasion to educate students/patrons/parents about the issue.
  • Endorse and post the Canadian Library Association Statement on Intellectual Freedom. Have a permanent display area with changing exhibits on freedom to read.
  • Keep your superiors informed about the issue and any challenges.
  • Schools should keep parents informed about the curriculum in detail, its objectives and the context in which it is used, and encourage them to read course material. Respectful discussions with individual parents may allay their concerns without escalating conflict or creating an “us and them” scenario. Home-and-school events can help keep parents in the loop.

School librarians and teachers of English, for example, may need to educate school-board members and colleagues in other subject areas about intellectual and academic freedom.

Schools and libraries should be sure to have in place well-thought-out written policies and procedures on intellectual freedom, acquisitions, donations and “reconsiderations” (how to deal with challenges). The Intellectual Freedom Policy may simply endorse in its entirety the official position of the CLA or provincial library association.