Resource Guide: Censorship and Book Challenges

image: female teen reading a book in a school library. Image is overlaid with black tape and the words

Resource Guide

Censorship and Book Challenges in Libraries

Published 1/5/2022 10:20 AM CT, Updated 7/1/2022 2:39 PM CT

In response to the recent increase of challenges on library materials, IHLS has developed a resource guide we hope will be a benefit to your library. Below you’ll find information focused on preparing for challenges and how to respond when a challenge is made. For further assistance, please reach out to our Membership staff, who will be happy to help guide you through preparing or responding to a book challenge.f

 

To prepare for and respond to book challenges, by library type:


For Public Libraries

CHECKLIST
If you need to prepare
for a book challenge that may happen in the future


1. Know the potential issues and your responsibilities.

2. Develop and implement a collection development policy and reconsideration policy.

3. Be sure your collection is inclusive and diverse.

4. Find your supporters and develop allies.

5. Prepare to respond to informal complaints and expressions of concern.

CHECKLIST
If you need to respond
to a book challenge that has already occurred


1. Report the challenge and seek help.

2. Refer to your library's reconsideration policy, if there is one.

  • To find your library's policy

    • Refer to the director
    • Refer to the board
    • FOIA the institution, if necessary
  • If no library-specific policy exists

    • Refer to your district’s policy about curriculum or textbook complaints
    • Work toward creating a policy
      • See above, point 2 under "Preparing for a book challenge that may happen in the future," for guidance on creating collection development and reconsideration policies

3. Gather resources to build your rationale for including the book in your library's collection.

4. Build your reconsideration committee.

 

Be sure to know: The law requires collection development and recension policies at public libraries

Municipal and Township Public Libraries

  • (75 ILCS 16/30-60)
    Sec. 30-60. Resolution concerning library materials and facilities. The board of each district shall adopt, and review at least every 2 years, a resolution for the selection of library materials and the use of library materials and facilities. No employee may be disciplined or dismissed for the selection of library materials when the selection is made in good faith and in accordance with the resolution required to be adopted under this Section.
    (Source: P.A. 87-1277)

District Public Libraries

  • (75 ILCS 5/4-7.2) (from Ch. 81, par. 4-7.2)
    Sec. 4-7.2. The board of library trustees shall establish, and review at least biennially, a written policy for the selection of library materials and the use of library materials and facilities. No employee may be disciplined or dismissed for the selection of library materials when the selection is made in good faith and in accordance with the written policy required to be established pursuant to this Section.
    (Source: P.A. 85-751)

 

For School Libraries

CHECKLIST
If you need to prepare
for a book challenge that may happen in the future


1. Know the potential issues and your responsibilities.

2. Develop and implement a collection development policy and reconsideration policy.

3. Be sure your collection is inclusive and diverse.

4. Find your supporters and develop allies.

5. Prepare to respond to informal complaints and expressions of concern.

CHECKLIST
If you need to respond
to a book challenge that has already occurred


1. Report the challenge and seek help.

2. Refer to your library's reconsideration policy, if there is one.

  • To find your library's policy

    • Refer to the district librarian
    • Refer to the building administration
  • If no library-specific policy exists

    • Refer to your district’s policy about curriculum or textbook complaints
    • Work toward creating a policy
      • See above, point 2 under "Preparing for a book challenge that may happen in the future" for guidance on creating collection development and reconsideration policies

3. Gather resources to build your rationale for including the book in your library's collection.

4. Build your reconsideration committee.

 

Statement opposing attempts to censor or remove books from school libraries

Illinois Heartland Library System supports AISLE in opposing attempts to censor or remove books from school libraries. AISLE's statement reads, in part:

AISLE is opposed to any attempt to force the removal of materials from school libraries.  We strongly condemn recent efforts, by force or intimidation, to remove works that focus on or document the experiences of members of the LGBTQIA+ or BIPOC communities. We oppose censorship and any effort that limits or denies access to materials to coerce belief, suppress opinion or punish those whose expression does not conform to a singular point-of-view of history, politics, or religion. Read the Full Statement

 

    For Academic Libraries

    CHECKLIST
    If you need to prepare
    for a book challenge that may happen in the future


    1. Know the potential issues and your responsibilities.

    2. Develop and implement a collection development policy and reconsideration policy.

    3. Be sure your collection is inclusive and diverse.

    4. Find your supporters and develop allies.

    5. Prepare to respond to informal complaints and expressions of concern.

    CHECKLIST
    If you need to respond
    to a book challenge that has already occurred


    1. Report the challenge and seek help.

    2. Refer to your library's reconsideration policy.

    • To find your library's policy

      • Refer to the Dean of Library Services
      • Refer to the school/university's administration
    • If no library-specific policy exists

      • Work toward creating a policy
        • See above, point 2 under "Preparing for a book challenge that may happen in the future," for guidance on creating collection development and reconsideration policies

    3. Gather resources to build your rationale for including the book in your library's collection.

    4. Build your reconsideration committee.

     

     

    For Special Libraries

     

    What type of special library are you representing?

    The risk of book challenges at special libraries, and the best way to handle them, can vary greatly among the many types of special libraries. This makes providing special librarians with guidance for book challenges especially difficult. General/multi-type library resources can be helpful, including the ones below. Additional resources have been added for librarians at correctional facilities. 

    For additional help navigating book challenges in a special library, please contact our Associate Director/Membership Director.

    CHECKLIST
    If you need to prepare
    for a book challenge that may happen in the future


    1. Know the potential issues and your responsibilities.

    2. Develop and implement a collection development policy and reconsideration policy.

    3. Be sure your collection is inclusive and diverse.

    4. Find your supporters and develop allies.

    5. Prepare to respond to informal complaints and expressions of concern.

    CHECKLIST
    If you need to respond
    to a book challenge that has already occurred


    1. Report the challenge and seek help.

    2. Refer to your library's reconsideration policy, if there is one.

     

    • To find your library's policy

      • Refer to the head librarian
      • Refer to the administration leadership
      • Ask librarian colleagues at other institutions for guidance
    • If no library-specific policy exists

      • Work toward creating a policy
        • See above, point 2 under "Preparing for a book challenge that may happen in the future," for guidance on creating collection development and reconsideration policies
        • Seeking legal counsel on patrons' rights may be required

     

    3. Gather resources to build your rationale for including the book in your library's collection.

     

     

    4. Build your reconsideration committee, if applicable.

     

    To keep up with book and programming challenge news:


    State and Regional News

    Know of a local or regional article that we missed? Email Marketing Coordinator Shandi Greve Penrod.

    National News

    Intellectual Freedom News by the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom

    Find these and other related resources on the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom Blog.