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Library 2.0's 'Banned Books and Censorship' Conference Discusses How to Thwart Parents & Concerned Citizens From Challenging Banned LGBTQ+ Books Featuring Explicit Images & Language
"It makes it too easy for parents or community members to find those kinds of books. Don't make it necessarily easy for those groups to find." - Valerie Byrd Fort on using "dummy covers" on books.
I attended Library 2.0’s “Banned Books and Censorship” Worldwide Conference event live on Zoom on June 8th, 2023. The event was organized by The Learning Revolution Project and sponsored by The SJSU School of Information whose abstract reads, “Intellectual freedom is under attack. Books with a focus on materials and programs related to or representative of marginalized communities are being banned. During this conference, we will examine the current trends in censorship and explore solutions for how to promote our principles in an era of increasing polarization. We will also explore the dilemmas that arise at the intersection of intellectual freedom and social justice.”
Here are the receipts. I hadn't had time to write the story, as I was tending to other issues but took the time to clip some of the most important things in this thread. I even have a few screen grabs of the live chat:
WATCH: During the Opening Keynote of the American Library Association's recent Library 2.0 conference Associate Professor in the School of Information Science at the University of Kentucky Dr. Shannon M. Oltmann, Ph.D. & Associate Professor in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois, Dr. Emily Knox, Ph.D. explains how pornographic books in public libraries & school libraries are subjective & not illegal. Oltmann says the idea of these kinds of books being in libraries is a complete Red Herring: "Pornography does not equate to something that makes you uncomfortable...I don't want people to get caught up in the definition of pornography. Sometimes those things are really valuable to students or other patrons." Knox follows up by saying that p0rn0graphy is something that's defined legally. Speaking specifically about the infamous book Gender Queer she says, “Yes, there are pictures. I was kind of like Woah! Those are surprising pictures. They aren’t particularly sexy pictures, they’re just kind of there. We need to be prepared to respond to the books that have images." - “Learning can be painful and hard.”
Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Director of the American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom, discusses how to keep LGBTQ+ books on shelves & behind the circulation desks. She encourages limiting borrowing times, keeping extra copies behind the desk, as well as using "mounted cover photos or photo wraps on dummy books for displays."
Deborah Caldwell-Stone also discussed Kirk Cameron's BRAVE Books “See You at the Library” book tour, which she refers to as his "Library Takeover Campaign" wanting to rent meeting rooms & how libraries can adjust certain policies already in place to limit accessibility or make it more difficult for undesirable patrons groups to use.
Deborah Caldwell-Stone begrudgingly explains how libraries have to adhere to 1A policies across the board, but gives examples of how to combat certain groups from scheduling meeting rooms. She says library staff can schedule a library-sponsored Pride event on the same day and "fill the library with rainbows and have other programming in place. You can put posters on the wall that make clear what the library's missions and commitments to inclusion and diversity is [sic]."
Valerie Byrd Fort, Instructor, University of South Carolina discusses how librarians should be sure to NOT label LGBTQ+ books as such to thwart certain groups from obtaining them. In this group she specifically names parents. "It makes it too easy for parents or community members to find those kinds of books. Don't make it necessarily easy for those groups to find." She stresses the importance of using "dummy covers" and private physical lists that public library patrons & students at school libraries have to ask for specifically to find and HIDE certain LGBTQ+ literature.
April Dawkins, Assistant Professor, UNC Greensboro goes over a website where you can find legislation on certain topics, including a downloadable guide on how to support & hold Drag Story Hour in libraries.
Drag Story Hour Guide: https://urbanlibrariansunite.org/drag-story-hour-support/
One particular frame from the Louisiana Association of School Librarians (LASL) caught my eye, it reads: "The bottom line - moving books written for teens and housed in the teen section on topics of sex education and sexual identity to the adult section of a library is censorship. It is the role of a parent to determine what is appropriate and monitor access of content for their own teens. It is the role of the public library to provide a vast range of resources to the community they serve." Also included is info on how to build your banned books displays and actions to take during banned books week & beyond. https://getreadystayready.info/media
Another session of the conference was held by Andrew Wertheimer & titled "The Politics of Nativist Censorship Efforts: Today's Right Wing 'Culture War' and Lessons from Previous Historical Movements" which discussed "defending obscenities". "I would not be surprised if the current Supreme Court overturns these issues which would mean that you might have to defend obscenity or pornography or some of these issues which we saw in some of the earlier comments were decided by law if the definition changes that might mean that we as Librarians have to be able to defend that in our own communities."
Wertheimer then goes on to discuss the Moms for Liberty group being named "extremist" by the SPLC. "I think we need to look further into this organization and why are they targeting libraries and why now." "I have to wonder if this was as organic as the Tea Party was." He then questions their funding & mentions the group having said their funding comes from t-shirt sales and $50 memberships. Wertheimer mentions "dark money" as something that needs to be looked into with the MFL group. He also mentions one of the organizers' husbands being the vice-chair of the Republican Party of Florida. Wertheimer refers to the Parents Bill of Rights and asks, "Are they trying to egg us on?"
Star Bradley, Research and Instruction Librarian, Montana State University Library wanted to make 250 banned books free to distribute to the public, reached out to Friends of the Library who helped fund her event. They asked for $1,500 & received it.
They couldn't afford to get copies of all banned books, so they decided on these 5. These have been banned for sexual content, language, and invoking violence, particularly seen in "The Hate You Give". The ALA's own website for top banned books in 2022 list why they were banned. These 250 books were given to Montana State Univ. students, in 45 minutes time. https://ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/top10
Peter Bromberg referred to Arnold King's "The Three Languages of Politics" in how to respond to those who are challenging books in "their language:" in his hosted session on messaging called "Real world policy and messaging issues from the trenches."
These included keywords depending on who was challenging the books:
"Virginia: a Case Study of Race and Sexuality as Recurring Factors in the History of Book Banning" is the last in the sessions before the Closing Keynote, presented by Keith Weimer, Librarian for History and Religious Studies, University of Virginia Library. "There are a lot of similarities in terms of I think ideology with Moms for Liberty however, I have not been able to find links between the two groups."
In the Closing Keynote: Social Justice and Intellectual Freedom: Why We Need Both by Dr. Martin Garnar, Director of the Amherst College Library he discusses the importance of DEI in libraries. “DEI are the core ways we pull this all together: A for access J for justice B for belonging" - Dr. Martin Garnar
Dr. Martin Garnar also discusses issues surrounding Drag Queen Story Hour, restrictions in their policies, and meeting room language. "Controversial is defined differently by different people."
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