YA fiction contains some of the most novel, interesting, and cutting-edge content in print today. YA non-fiction is very honest and straightforward. Unfortunately, each year YA materials are often among the most challenged, and YA access to information is constantly in danger. As difficult as it may seem, library staff must stand firm in open collection development practices and in defending access for all.
The ALA (American Library Association) intellectual freedom policies are very clear about the fact that young adults deserve the same access to service and information as any other group using the library. Librarians must remember:
As always, library staff must vehemently protect a reader’s right to read. ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Office was created to support libraries in this effort.
It is important for your library to have a standard procedure for handling complaints, including an available “Request for Reconsideration” form. This form allows you to take a step back from any confrontation and makes clear your intent to:
The form itself would generally require the requester/challenger to fill in the following information:
Remember, while every community member has a right to be heard, he/she does not have a right to speak for the community.
“Banned Books Week” sponsored by ALA each September can provide wonderful YA programming and display opportunities.
One program, developed by an Oregon public library in cooperation with local schools is a critical analysis session on book banning. Groups of teens are provided a set of “banned books” (picture books due to time constraint) and are encouraged to look through the books to uncover the reason it was challenged. After they record their guesses, they reconvene as a group to present each title, give their guess as to the reason, and are confirmed or told the real reason to the surprise and entertainment pleasure of the group.
The forbidden fruit, rebellion angle of reading a “banned book” plays well with the YA psyche, and YAs are always surprised to find that some of their favorite books have been challenged. They also are some of the best intellectual freedom advocates because they know just how important access is.
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