PW Focus on Political Challenges to School Libraries
Publishers Weekly is focusing important attention on the political attacks on school library collections - and the threats it can bring to school librarians.
The article "Librarians, Educators Warn of 'Organized' Book Banning Efforts" on November 19, 2021 by Andrew Albanese surveys the landscape of political attacks in a few important ways. Albanese looks at these attacks not through the lens of individual materials or intellectual freedom challenges at individual school districts but frames it as a component of a larger systematic approach to dismantling public education - and even destabilizing civil society in the United States. We agree with him when he says "[I]t appears to be part of a political strategy on the right designed to activate voters in communities across the nation, alongside calls to ban the teaching of so-called Critical Race Theory."
We have to take heart that at the individual school level the policy framework about how schools review and evaluate materials challenges is answering the need. We also need to be vigilant. As EveryLibrary's Executive Director John Chrastka says in the piece "There is an attempt to shift the conversation away from books and ideas to a conversation about parental control. What we’re seeing is the weaponization of parental control to advance a political agenda.” Albanese goes on to ask "The question, however, is how do librarians, educators, and supporters of the freedom to read, including publishers, effectively push back? It is one thing to defend books when they are challenged. But how do freedom to read advocates push back against an organized political movement effectively using book banning as a political cudgel?"
The "parental control" message framework is highly effective in the current political climate because it allows political actors to talk about bad or inappropriate books instead of people - even while negating the stories that are told about LGBTQ+ experience or about people of color. Here at EveryLibrary, we are aligning smart resources for this political fight even as we help library organizations and associations address the current crisis. We are listening for ways to offer to support librarians and library workers as they face these difficult fights for access. If you would like to help us help them in this very political moment, please share this petition and also donate now.
We need to reach people across the country who also care like you. We can only do that through your networks and your support.