Libraries, and the books they contain, should reflect the diversity of thoughts and values ​​in their communities



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Deborah Caldwell-Stone is Director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association. She wrote this for

The American Library Association fully supports the right of every parent to control what their child reads and to choose alternative reading or educational materials for their child. We do not believe, however, that a parent’s right to control their child’s reading includes a right to restrict what other children read or to limit the books available to young people in the library.

Our conviction is firmly anchored in the First Amendment. Young people have First Amendment rights – not only the right to speak, but the right to access and use school or public library resources, without any censorship resulting from disapproval of content or opinions of a book. Our courts, including the Supreme Court, have held that a decision by a school board or library to remove a book from its library because the board disapproves of the words, ideas or opinions in the book constitutes a violation of the rights of a minor. Modification rights.

This principle applies even when it comes to a parent or group of parents demanding that elected or appointed officials censor books they find offensive or inappropriate because the books conflict with their beliefs. moral, political or religious. While the First Amendment promises freedom of belief and the right to express that belief, it does not guarantee the right to dictate to school boards or library boards what ideas or beliefs can be found in our publicly funded libraries. .

Publicly funded libraries are community institutions that must serve the interests and information needs of every child, family and individual in the community. By necessity, their collections must reflect the diversity of thought and values ​​that exist in each community.

These aren’t easy problems to navigate, let alone solve, especially when books are seen as a threat by parents and partisan activists because they challenge assumptions they have about their world.

Designating a wide range of books that deal with the lives of gay, homosexual or transgender people, or that tell the stories of black, native or colored people as inappropriate or worse, does not only inflict trauma on vulnerable youth and to their families who are members of these groups, it also threatens our democratic values.

Librarians and library workers will be the first to recognize that not all books are suitable for all readers. But librarians and librarians will also be the first to tell you that censorship only succeeds in fostering conditions that destroy our precious freedoms – our freedom to read and think for ourselves, which belong to young and old alike.

Parents should certainly be able to direct their child’s reading, and librarians and library workers are more than willing to help parents identify books for their children that reflect their values. But librarians and librarians are also committed to defending the right of their communities to read and learn. Rather than teaching censorship lessons, librarians and librarians strive to assert the importance of the freedom to read and demonstrate to young people that in this country they have the right and the responsibility to think critically. what they read, rather than allowing others to do their thinking for them.

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