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Book banning: Challenges from an educational perspective

Updated: Oct 16, 2022

Last night's #LSLLTS Twitter Spaces chat, which will be the last one until we start again in September, certainly got the conversation going. Book banning thankfully is not a huge issue yet in the UK but there is certainly an underlying current rumbling away.

School librarians have a difficult task in supporting the rights of the students to read what they want v’s age appropriateness. They also have to take into account the need to protect them, as well as what parents and teachers want them to read. However, this does not mean that just because a parent objects to a book on the library shelves that it automatically leads to its removal. There are many reasons why a book may or may not stay on the library shelves and it is down to the school librarians' specialism in curation that helps build a diverse collection for all.

Amy Hermon and Steve Tetreault, both school librarians from the US, joined us to talk about the situation over there. Steve said that initially, school librarians were unprepared for the onslaught of objections. This was not just one or two parents objecting to certain books but a very organised group of people who move from school to school and district to district causing problems. Like many school librarians in the UK, school librarians in the US work alone which leaves them extremely vulnerable. Lists of banned books are circulating and if any are found on school library shelves this can lead to instant dismissal. This is impossible to fight against as an individual librarian.

Amy and Steve told us that school librarians are coming together to support each other and policies were in the making to enable school librarians to fight this ever-growing list of banned books. Several voices are much louder than one!

Claire a UK school librarian, talked about the situation here and how although there have been one or two challenges to books people in the UK seem to be a little more conservative than in the US. She pointed out that it is a school librarian's specialism to know their students and school in order to make sure the right books were in place.

Richard Beaudry, a librarian from Canada joined in the discussion to tell us that the problems in Canada were growing too. It was fascinating to hear everyone's stories.

Other school librarians from the UK, talking about ways to level books but not restrict access. Understanding your student's needs was highlighted and the fact that every school is different. Students are good a self-censoring. If they don't like something they tend to return it unfinished. Some of these books allow students to talk about issues concerning them which is what learning is all about.

We talked about the impact that social media has had on these problems. Highlighting the very real opportunity to flood the world with negativity. This is a real and present danger and highlights the need to ensure that we teach our students how to navigate social media effectively.

We finished with a very powerful message from Steve... Get yourselves organised now before it comes to the UK... Trying to create policies afterwards is an impossible task.

Steve also shared some of the articles he has written that I am delighted to pass on to you.

This podcast from Amy Hermon, School Librarians United is also worth a listen.

If you would like to listen to the whole chat, check it out here...

Or catch up as a podcast here

We will start these chats again in September. As always if you have any topic suggestions we would love to hear them! Please comment below or send me an email.

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