MLA Board Statement on Secretary of State Ashcroft’s Proposed Rule

The Missouri Library Association considers Secretary of State Ashcroft’s proposed rule for libraries an infringement on the professional judgment of librarians, and an effort to further stoke division in the communities that libraries serve. Libraries support access to information and ideas. The placement of books and materials in libraries is something that should be left up to people with training and experience in the profession of librarianship.

 Ashcroft’s proposed changes also place undue burden on small and urban libraries by undermining not only their sense of agency but their ability to access information. The libraries who are most in need of state funding and assistance are also the most at risk under the proposed change.

Please support your libraries in taking action against censorship and this proposed rule. 

MLA Featured Library Employee — Debby Byron

Debby Byron, Jefferson County Library

Meet our newest Featured Library Employee for the Missouri Library Association, Debby Byron!

What is your name, your library, and your role at the library?

Debby Byron

Jefferson County Library

As the Assistant Director for Business & Finance, I am responsible for all things financial and human resources related.

What originally got you interested in working at a library?

I have always harbored a strong sense of community and knew that after earning my BSBA, I wanted a job that was essential to my community, i.e., hospital, school district, library.  As a child utilizing the Carondelet Branch of the St. Louis Public Library, I came to realize just how important libraries are to our communities.  A job posting for a Secretary/Bookkeeper with the Jefferson County Library District was the first that I came across and the rest is history.

What keeps you coming back every day?

Library work is challenging and never boring!  My coworkers are awesome!

What’s challenging about your work?

JCL’s staff desire to provide the best library experience for our patrons from the entire spectrum of services, materials, programming, and beyond.  It can be challenging to keep all this enthusiasm at bay to stay within budget. Preparing for the Annual Audit and annual filings of a myriad of required reports are also challenging and time consuming.

Has your work made you either curious, or passionate, or awestruck about something?

I am passionate about the Freedom to Read!

Who is one of your mentors?

My Aunt Kathy, who waited until her children were grown to pursue her dream of becoming a renowned high school gifted English teacher.

What book, author, artist, show, or music are you engaging with this week, either personally or professionally? Persuade us in one or two sentences that we should pick this up, too.

Even though I am not a Best Seller List reader, the lengthy holds list at my library for, Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens, piqued my interest and so I took the plunge!  I recently finished this novel and was sad to see it end.  Where the Crawdads Sing is set in the southeastern part of the country and gives readers a strong female character, mystery, suspense, romance, and a peek at local wildlife.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

It has been my privilege and honor to serve the patrons and community of the Jefferson County Library District for the past 31 years.

 

Would you like to nominate someone to be our next Featured Library Employee?  Examples could be:

…a new employee you’d like to introduce

…someone with a unique job or on a unique career path

…an employee you find inspirational

…a coworker whose gifts you wish were more widely known

…someone who’s “an institution” full of interesting stories

…a role that has a new focus or is reaching a new audience

…someone you’d like to make more visible to potential employers

Submit name(s) and contact information, along with place of employment, to Shannon Mawhiney at smawhiney@missouristate.edu.  We’ll do all the work of contacting; we just need you to connect us!

Unite Against Book Bans Call to Action

With more than 82,000 races on ballots across the country next month, Unite Against Book Bans is laser-focused on elections and engaging voters so that they are ready to vote, know what’s on their ballot, and know where their candidates stand.

Candidates for any office can take the Unite Against Book Bans pledge to let voters know that they will defend the right to read and oppose book bans. We need your help.

Together, we must raise the voices of the majority of Americans who oppose book bans. Share the Unite Against Book Bans candidate pledge widely to know where your candidates stand on this important issue. 

Unite Against Book Bans

MLA IFC Statement on Proposed Rule 15 CSR 30 – 200.015

MLA Intellectual Freedom Committee Statement on Proposed Rule 15 CSR 30 – 200.015

The latest proposed rule is a solution in search of a problem. A few of the requirements in the proposed rule are already best practices in libraries. The ALA and MLA already recommend that libraries have written collection development policies (A) and challenge processes and procedures (F). Indeed, many of our latest qualms about school board and library board meetings would be assuaged if people actually followed the procedures in place for challenges rather than circumventing them and going straight to the board to complain.

That said, this set of new rules for the most part represents an obtuse political effort to catch librarians in the act of being librarians, and to recast that spotlight in a malicious and libelous hue. This is nothing new. Librarians, educators, and public servants of various types, many who have devoted decades of their lives to serving their communities, are under attack from the politicians elected to support their institutions. During the social upheaval of the sixties and seventies, a children’s consultant for the Missouri State Library named Joan Bodger suffered a similar series of indiginities for the “crime” of writing a letter of support for a censored student newspaper. She was called a “communist pornographer” for supporting the intellectual freedom of students, and was fired from her job at the state library. In fact, the first major action by the Freedom to Read Foundation was to launch a fact finding mission to clear Bodger’s name and to condemn the actions of the state library.

What’s old is new again. Once again, the state library of Missouri is being leveraged to control and punish Missouri librarians. This time, funding overseen by the State Library and Secretary of State is being used to extract elaborate concessions from librarians that are against both the interests of their libraries and their communities. Chiefly this nebulous concept of “prurient interests” is noteworthy for the lack of creativity with which it is deployed. Though we hate to make prognostications as careful and pragmatic professionals, this time we will venture two:

First, ‘prurient interests’ as it pertains to the proposed rule change will be used almost exclusively to remove, label, and restrict access to materials and events that feature the life experiences and stories of LGBTQ+, BIPOC, women and other historically marginalized communities – as has been a hallmark of anti-reader campaigns across the state and nation over the past year;

Second, given the present political climate of Missouri, we anticipate librarians fleeing in droves. We anticipate rural libraries closing, or remaining open with diminished collections, event offerings, and floundering under oppressive labeling systems devised by hamfisted partisans who know nothing about libraries, and care nothing for their own communities beyond their ability to yield votes.

While we’re at it, here’s a third idea, not a prediction but a question for voters to ponder. Why make this an issue? Why cast librarians and libraries in this negative light when, as institutions, libraries have been and continue to be cultural, social, and economic hubs for all communities in Missouri? Why do politicians pick scapegoats from among loyal public servants when elections roll around? What do lawmakers and political officials in Jefferson City have against libraries? Why are libraries being targeted? The “problem” being addressed by the proposed rule change is no moral problem, in fact, it is part of a moral panic.

Libraries have operated on their current set of access values for decades, and only in times of political turmoil and upheaval do we typically see libraries being subject to moral inquisitions of this type, just as the fabric of our social and cultural world seems to be particularly threadbare. In our present state of political unrest, we need access not restriction, we need community not conflict. Libraries represent a place for us to come together, which begs the question, who benefits from the conflict and ignorance engendered by this proposed rule? Who benefits from pulling us apart?

Signed,

Joe Kohlburn
MLA-Intellectual Freedom Chair 2022

Casey Phillips
MLA-Intellectual Freedom, Social Media and Communications

Colleen Norman
MLA-Intellectual Freedom Chair 2023

Tiffany Mautino
MLA-Intellectual Freedom Past Chair

We support MASL’s statement from October 19, 2022 on this subject

https://maslonline.org/2022/10/19/masl-statement-on-missouri-secretary-of-states-proposed-rule-change/

 

Missouri Library of the Year, 15 other awards presented to outstanding libraries

2022 MLA Award Winners

MLA Award recepients following the Awards Gala held during the MLA Conference on September 29, 2022, which was held at the Discovery Center, an interactive science center, located in Springfield, Missouri.

 

Front row L-R: Phil Amato, Tiffany Davis, Madeline Matson, Tori Story, Konrad Stump, Niki Cox, Vivian Gibson, Whitney Burton

Back row L-R: Steve Wiegenstein, Steve Potter, Eric Button, Brian Grubbs, Renee Glass

 

Press release – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 14, 2022
CONTACT:
Grace Jackson-Brown, Chair, Awards Committee
Professor of Library Science, Missouri State University
gjackson-brown@missouristate.edu

Missouri Library of the Year, 15 other awards presented to outstanding libraries

SPRINGFIELD, MO – The Missouri Library Association (MLA)’s top award, for 2022 Missouri Library of the Year, was presented to St. Louis County Library (SLCL) on September 29 at the MLA conference. This award is given for distinguished achievement in library service and accompanies fifteen other awards and scholarships presented last night to libraries, library employees, community organizations, and authors. SLCL, the largest public library in metro St. Louis, earned the top spot because of its services to the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff worked together to bring about service projects including COVID vaccines, COVID testing, and a partnership with the Office of the County Executive to help bridge the digital divide.

In Jefferson City, another team of local agencies won the Community Partnership Award. Missouri River Regional Library (MRRL) and Lincoln University worked together on a monthly lecture series. These events have taken place over three years, initially offered virtually during the early pandemic days. The lectures provide engagement between the Jefferson City community and the university students, faculty, and staff, and have included a wide array of topics including race in America, medical marijuana, what makes poetry good, and naval warfare in the 1910s.

The Excellence in Genealogy and Local History Award went to the Springfield-Greene County Library District’s Local History & Genealogy Department for its Springfield Newspaper Project. The library worked in partnership with the State Historical Society of Missouri and the local newspaper, the Springfield News-Leader, to digitize more than two million pages of Springfield’s newspapers. This project will have a lasting impact for future genealogy and local history researchers in the Ozark region. The work the department has completed is a success story that illustrates how a partnership between media and preservation institutions can benefit a community.

Rounding out the awards given to public and academic libraries was the Public Relations Achievement Award, won by Cape Girardeau Public Library. Marketing Coordinator Whitney Burton did some amazing campaigning for the library to celebrate their 100th anniversary, including a centennial-themed logo and specialty library cards. They gave away T-shirts, pens, notepads, and naturally-magnetic bookmarks to celebrate.

Three awards were presented for works of literature with Missouri connections:

The Missouri Author Award was established to encourage and recognize Missouri authors and promote interest in local authors’ books, whether the books are about Missouri or another subject. Awards are based on literary merit. An honored author must be a Missourian by birth or have lived in Missouri for at least five years. This year’s Fiction Award went to Steve Wiegenstein, a native of the Ozarks who writes about his home region in novels and short stories. In his historical novel series, he uses the fictional village of Daybreak as a microcosm of rural life in America. His short story collection Scattered Lights was a shortlisted finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award in Fiction in 2021.

The Missouri Nonfiction award was won by Vivian Gibson. Her bestselling memoir of growing up in the 1950s in a segregated St. Louis neighborhood was hailed by critics as “a spare, elegant jewel of a work” and “a love letter to Gibson’s childhood.” Gibson grew up in Mill Creek Valley, a working-class neighborhood in St. Louis that was razed in 1959 to build a highway, an act of racism disguised under urban renewal as “progress.” A moving memoir of family life at a time quite different from the present, The Last Children of Mill Creek chronicles the everyday experiences of Gibson’s large family―a collection of decidedly universal stories that chronicle the extraordinary lives of ordinary people.

The final literary award is the Missouri Building Block Picture Book Award, presented annually to the author and illustrator of the picture book voted most popular by preschool children in Missouri’s public libraries. The award’s purpose is to encourage reading aloud to children from birth through kindergarten age. This year’s award went to Bad Dog by Mike Boldt, the hilarious story of a little girl who gets a pet cat but insists it is a dog. Boldt is a well-known name in children’s literature, having authored such well-loved books as A Tiger Tail, I Do Not Want to Be A Frog, Thunder Trucks, and 2022 Building Block nominee Find Fergus.

Six awards and two scholarships were presented to Missouri library employees, trustees, and retirees:

● The Ronald G. Bohley Award is offered annually to library staff who further the cause of interlibrary cooperation in Missouri. This year’s award honors a trio who worked together as a team to plan and implement a catalog shared between St. Louis Public Library (SLPL) and SLCL: Eric Button, Deputy Director at SLCL; and Tiffany Davis, Director of Customer Experience, and Liz McArthur, Director of Neighborhood Services, both at SLPL. These three led a variety of departments, including acquisitions, cataloging, circulation, receiving & delivery, and customer services, through a successful migration that was initially planned in July 2021 and completed in March 2022. They finished by leading customized training for over six hundred employees, and the result was a significant increase in collection access to 1.3 million customers between the two systems.

● Konrad Stump, Local History and Genealogy Associate at Springfield-Greene County Library District (SGCLD) won the Outstanding Library Employee Award. Stump has worked for SGCLD for nine years. He has dedicated this time to developing adult programming and local history interests. He currently co-chairs the district’s One Read committee and developed the “Oh, the Horror!” programming series, which he also chairs. In addition, Stump partnered with the Springfield Art Museum to develop a virtual tour of the Museum’s Sketches from Springfield exhibit during the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout his work in the libraries, Stump has demonstrated his dedication to public service, innovation, and community development.

● Tori Story of Maplewood Public Library (MPL) won the Outstanding New Librarian Award. Story is passionate about promoting inclusion and diversity in the library. After completing their own training, Story led MPL staff through LGBTQ+ Safe Zone training; they now also offer it to community members. They advocated for MPL’s gender-neutral restrooms as well as for period products to be made available at no charge to patrons. Additionally, Story’s insight was essential to the activities organized for the Municipal Library Consortium’s participation in their first Pride Festival. Their dedication to serving diverse communities has helped create a safe and welcoming environment for MPL patrons.

● Lisa Sanning, this year’s winner of the Outstanding Professional Librarian Award, began her career as the Reference Librarian for the Wolfner Talking Book and Braille Library. She has worked at MRRL for two years and has established two important services to the Jefferson City community. The first is one-on-one assistance offered for filling out online forms – job applications, IRS inquiries, and more – for patrons with limited technology experience. Secondly, Sanning launched a program called Caring Connections in spring of 2022. Social-services professionals are now available at the library during set times to consult with patrons who have basic social needs such as food, shelter, and health care.

● Steve Potter is the winner of the 2022 Meritorious Award, given for outstanding service. Potter spent over thirty years at Mid-Continent Public Library, beginning as a shelver and working his way up to Library Director and CEO. To pick just two of his many and varied contributions, Potter led MCPL to an IMLS National Medal, and he launched the country’s largest public genealogy library. He is also a published author, a frequent and expert speaker on public libraries, and a leader in regional library initiatives, tax incentive work, and public policy.

● The Virginia G. Young Service Award goes to a trustee for exemplary service to Missouri libraries. The 2022 winner is Phil Amato, who has served as a Jefferson County Library trustee since the system’s inception in 1989; in fact, his contribution began even earlier, when he served as chairperson of the committee to establish a county library district. In addition to his work on the board, Amato has also donated equipment, fixtures, and funds to the library, including proceeds from his newest book, Arnold, Missouri: Fifty Years in the Making. Amato epitomizes what it means to be a public servant, and his work helping the library grow into a thriving system will serve as a legacy.

● Christina Matekel, Children’s Librarian at Joplin Public Library, is the winner of the Patt Behler Call-to-Conference Award in 2022. The award supports the professional development of an individual employed in cataloging by encouraging participation in, and covering the cost of, the MLA Annual Conference. Attending this conference will enable Matekel to connect with other youth services librarians, discover new Summer Reading performers, and explore programming ideas for Joplin.

● Morgan Perry, Business Outreach Specialist at Mid-Continent Public Library, won the Ronald G. Bohley Scholarship. The Bohley is awarded annually to a student pursuing a master’s degree in library or information science who has demonstrated high scholastic achievement, a commitment to professionalism and library cooperation, a desire to provide quality service to library customers, and promise toward making a contribution to Missouri libraries. During the pandemic, Perry worked to transition services for her community to an online format, which led to her helping librarians across the country do the same. She brings an energy and drive to her work that is an excellent representation of Bohley’s achievements and passions.

MLA is a non-profit organization that serves as a regional membership organization for individuals working in the field of librarianship. The goal of MLA is to support the work of libraries and further advancements in the profession. The organization’s mission is to promote library service, the profession of librarianship, and cooperation among all types of libraries and organizations concerned with library service in the state. Learn more at molib.org.

CONTACT:
Grace Jackson-Brown, Chair, Awards Committee
Professor of Library Science, Missouri State University
gjackson-brown@missouristate.

Letter to the Parkway School District 9/30/22

September 30, 2022

Jeff Todd- Board President
Parkway School District
455 N.Woods Mill Road
Chesterfield, MO 63017
jtodd3@parkwayschools.net

cc: Dr. Keith Marty- Superintendent

kmarty@parkwayschools.net

Dear Mr. Todd and Dr. Marty,

We were asked by members of your community to write on behalf of students, teachers, and librarians in your district. Your recent effort to remove a series of award-winning graphic novels by beloved artists and authors is concerning and part of a nationwide trend to get between readers and their books. This includes, in your case, The Handmaid’s Tale a graphic novel adaptation of the book by Margaret Atwood, Blankets by Craig Thompson, Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, and Fun Home and Are You My Mother by Alison Bechdel. As librarians, we are firmly against removal or other censorship of these works and would ask that you reconsider. In particular, this statement that appeared in the Post-Dispatch a few weeks ago was of concern:

In order to make sure students cannot access these materials through our partnership with St. Louis County Library, we have also removed access in the SORA app to all materials in the “general adult” category since we cannot restrict access to individual books in that system. Students can still access those materials in the public library, just not through our system.

Beyond the troublingly obsequious censorship actions you’ve taken related to SB 775 and MO-Revised Statute 573.550, this added action of blocking access via the Sora app undermines the autonomy of public libraries. In this case, you are restricting student use of the St. Louis area’s largest library system, a system to which students should have complete unfettered access as residents of St. Louis County. Here you not only block access to graphic novels in your district, but you set up roadblocks to students who simply want to read content that may have been arbitrarily deemed developmentally beyond their grasp.

First, let us assure you that students who read above their “grade level” are some of our most familiar library users. On their behalf, we would point out that readers may wish to access “general adult” content for a number of reasons. For example, if students are fans of horror fiction, they may want to read Stephen King’s work this Halloween season, rather than a book that has been deemed more ‘developmentally appropriate’. Advanced readers such as these might have interests or abilities that make it necessary to move beyond the age-designated part of the collection, which indeed they may have already read. Why should a reader be turned away from content? Genre fiction and graphic novels are two of the best tools we have to entice literacy and to encourage a life-long love of reading.

To be clear, we find that much of what gets dubbed “adult content” is labeled as such because it speaks to LGBTQ+ readers or folks interested in equal rights with regard to gender. In each of the five graphic novels you’ve taken action against, you will find both LGBTQ+ identity and gender-equality represented as themes. We can assure you that this slight is especially clear to your students. Rather than acquiescing to the anxieties and ignorance of those trying to have books removed, we suggest instead that you center the wellbeing and enrichment of your students when making decisions about book challenges. Your students are our readers. When young people notice a major difference in the degree of freedom they experience in schools compared to libraries, they begin to question the processes at play that causes this difference.

Readers will always find their books (and we will help them do it), but if they have to jump through a series of foolish and paternalistic hoops to get there, they will also lose trust in those institutions and leaders who restrict their intellectual freedom. The trust of students is hard won, and easily lost. Preserve the trust that students, parents, and community members place in schools as institutions that prepare youth to be a part of the world. Do not create more barriers between our readers and the world around them.

Signed,

Joe Kohlburn
MLA-Intellectual Freedom Committee, 2022 Chair

Ying Li
MLA-Intellectual Freedom Committee member

Tiffany Mautino
MLA-Intellectual Freedom Committee, Past Chair

Hope Hunter
MASL – AASL Delegate

Casey Phillips
MLA-Intellectual Freedom Committee, Social Media and Communications

Colleen Norman
MLA-Intellectual Freedom Committee, Chair-elect

Attachments:

MLA-IFC Banned Books Week Statement

http://molib.org/banned-books-week-statement-mla-ifc-september-19-2022

 

MLA Featured Library Employee — Pam Wood

Pam Wood, Stone County Library

Meet our newest Featured Library Employee for the Missouri Library Association, Pam Wood!

What is your name, your library, and your role at the library?

My name is Pam Wood and I am the Stone County Library Youth Services and Outreach Coordinator.

What originally got you interested in working at a library?

A few years ago, my oldest son had just started college and I was still homeschooling my two younger children. I was looking for part time employment and thought a library position would be perfect because I love helping and interacting with people of all ages. I noticed online that a youth services position had opened at the Midtown Carnegie Branch of the Springfield-Greene County Library. I love reading and always loved reading books to my own children, so I knew any position that allowed me to host story times would be perfect. I worked at Midtown for just over four years and I’ve been with Stone County Library since February of 2020. Story time is still one of the best parts of my job!

What keeps you coming back every day?

I was born and raised in Stone County so I thoroughly enjoy serving its citizens. In my current position, I have the privilege of interacting with patrons of all ages during story time, art programs, summer reading programs, school visits, community outreach events, and while delivering materials to our homebound patrons. My job is full of variety so there is no chance of getting bored.

What’s challenging about your work?

Planning summer reading is always challenging! We have a top-notch youth services team and we all collaborate to plan summer reading programs. One of my primary responsibilities is to coordinate summer reading performances and library visits to our local schools. It has gotten easier each year but it’s still tricky because I have to tentatively book performers long before most of our schools know their summer school schedule. Thankfully, our schools and the performers we’ve worked are very flexible when schedules don’t work out quite as I anticipated.

Has your work made you either curious, or passionate, or awestruck about something?

I am passionate about treating all of our patrons with kindness and respect, regardless of age, gender, or lifestyle and even when dealing with difficult issues. We never know what kind of day someone is having and everyone deserves a greeting and a smile.

Who is one of your mentors?

My mentors are my three sons, ages 20, 22, 25. They are all so witty and unique and truly comfortable in their own skin. Recently, I was reminded of just how amazing they are . On July 26th, our youngest suffered the devastating loss of his girlfriend, the woman he planned to spend the rest of his life with, from injuries she sustained in a car accident. His brothers dropped everything and took time off work just to be with him and support him and grieve with him. I’ve always said they have each other’s backs but seeing that expressed in such a tangible, meaningful way was amazing.

What book, author, artist, show, or music are you engaging with this week, either personally or professionally? Persuade us in one or two sentences that we should pick this up, too.

This is VBS week, August 7-11, so that has consumed my evenings – in a good way! I’ve also been listening to City Spies by James Ponti. It’s a 2022-2023 Mark Twain Award Nominee and is so much fun. It’s fast paced and the characters are kids that come from difficult living situations and each have specialized talents – computer coding and hacking, amazing deductive reasoning skills, and sleight of hand skills to name a few. In this first book of the series, they end up in Paris, working with MI6 to stop a criminal mastermind. If you are looking for a fun, quick read, I highly recommend it!

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

One of the most rewarding parts of my job is attending community outreach events. If you’ve never had the opportunity, I would encourage you to attend an outreach event in your community.  During the summer and fall, there are many outreach opportunities in Stone County. I love going to these events. It’s so rewarding to engage with our patrons outside of the library and talk with them about all the great programs and services we offer. And when the kids see us at an event, they make us feel like celebrities!

 

Would you like to nominate someone to be our next Featured Library Employee?  Examples could be:

…a new employee you’d like to introduce

…someone with a unique job or on a unique career path

…an employee you find inspirational

…a coworker whose gifts you wish were more widely known

…someone who’s “an institution” full of interesting stories

…a role that has a new focus or is reaching a new audience

…someone you’d like to make more visible to potential employers

Submit name(s) and contact information, along with place of employment, to Shannon Mawhiney at smawhiney@missouristate.edu.  We’ll do all the work of contacting; we just need you to connect us!

Banned Books Week Statement- MLA-IFC- September 19, 2022

In honor of Banned Books Week (Sept 18-24), the Missouri Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee would like to clearly state our position on SB 775 and related actions by legislators, administrators and school board members. On behalf of our members and readers across the state, please join us in resisting attempts to undermine intellectual freedom.

Banned Books Week Statement- MLA-IFC- September 19, 2022

Librarians are no shrinking violets, don’t let our cardigans and thick-rimmed glasses fool you. None of us want to be arrested for doing our jobs, but we will not sacrifice our ethical and moral principles simply because we are threatened. SB 775 confronts librarians with a fine and up to a year in prison for the “crime” of helping a young person find the next volume of their favorite graphic novel. Libraries are not here to protect arbitrary “innocence” or “purity” standards, we are here to protect the freedom and richness of our readers’ intellectual lives. We are here to provide them with access to the world of ideas, and to nurture their development as citizens of the world. This means encouraging inquiry and trusting readers to choose their books.

Librarians hold true to our convictions in the face of injustice done to the rights of readers by SB 775. The members of the Missouri legislature who made the change to MO-Revised Statute 573.550 are engaging in a cynical act of cowardice; the governor became complicit when he signed this bill into law. These politicians would shrink the world to improve their chances to win reelection, and in doing so, shortchange and disenfranchise countless readers in our state. Librarians are public servants who work to support access, literacy, and democracy; all of which are foundational principles that support public institutions. We as librarians ask why Missouri’s legislature seems intent on producing bills that curtail the freedom of the general public, that undermine voting rights, that intimidate long-time public servants in an effort to curtail intellectual freedom. We question what gives them the impression that voters want fewer rights? We wonder if the true wellbeing of their voters even enters into their decision making at all.

Libraries and schools are under constant scrutiny, and are consistently underfunded in our state. While we act in good faith to support the public good, legislators seem to spend their time working to undo any progress we make, scheming and acting in bad faith to undermine that public good in the name of political expediency. This seems, from our careful observation, to be the political strategy of those who oppose intellectual freedom: Undermine public education, limit access to diverse viewpoints through libraries and curricula, and encourage the most negative elements of public sentiment toward ignorance and bigotry. Librarians oppose this strategy. It is antithetical to everything we believe and practice in our work and lives.

We stand against oppressive legislative efforts to undermine the public good, and we stand with our readers.

Joe Kohlburn, 2022 Chair
Intellectual Freedom Committee
Missouri Library Association

Tiffany Mautino, Past Chair
Intellectual Freedom Committee
Missouri Library Association

Colleen Norman, 2023 Chair
Intellectual Freedom Committee
Missouri Library Association

Casey Phillips, Social Media and Communications
Intellectual Freedom Committee
Missouri Library Association

Letter to the Rockwood School District 09/09/2022

Dr. Curtis Cain
Superintendent
111 East North Street
Eureka, MO 63025
cc: Jaime Bayes
Board of Education President

September 9, 2022

Dear Dr. Cain and Ms. Bayes,

We send letters like this to point out the potential impact of harmful policy decisions. When we advise school districts, library boards, or local politicians against infringing on the first amendment rights of readers, we do so to protect the freedom to read. In most cases, these efforts to censor and control what people read are undertaken with some form of nefarious intent, whether that is to push particular political agendas, to foist religious dogma on public institutions, or to undermine the wellbeing of groups of people who have been historically marginalized by our society. In few cases, like yours, we can appreciate that your effort to remove certain graphic novels is undertaken out of an abundance of caution, and to ultimately protect your employees from prosecution under Missouri’s unjust addition to Missouri Revised Statute 573.550, put into place by SB 775 just recently. That being said, the impact of the decision to remove these books will be the same as the aforementioned nefarious efforts of others. In choosing to preemptively remove graphic novels from your collection, you are sending the message to your students that you support SB 775’s intent, which is to chill access to information, art, and culturally relevant materials in your collection.

We noted with concern that each of the graphic novels you list for removal in your recent post is a locus for just the sort of critical reflection that we claim to be teaching in K-12.  All of these works are cultural touchstones representing political issues or aspects of identity relevant to historically marginalized communities. The visceral impact of graphic novels makes them an important tool for promoting literacy, and for grappling with difficult psychological and sociological issues. For example, Sean Murphy’s Batman: White Knight asks questions about the brutality of our justice system and Katie Green’s Lighter Than My Shadow is the story of the main character’s struggle with disordered eating; these are both books on your removal list. Other graphic novels like Be Gay Do Comics collects stories from diverse artists and writers across the LGBTQ+ spectrum, while Margaret Atwood and Renee Nault’s Handmaid’s Tale presents a dystopian picture of reproductive rights, reflecting the reality in which we now live. These also are on your list for removal.

Obscenity laws like that put into place by SB 775 are simply a means to block access to truth. Visual art, like the written word, is a means by which society views itself through the lens of the author or artist. In this case, it is obvious that certain perspectives are being censored as a means to suppress the vitality and freedom of the reader’s intellectual life. To what end? We ask you as leaders in your district to have courage in the face of this law, to support your staff and your students, and to stand with us against censorship. SB 775 is clearly meant to intimidate districts into taking actions just like the one outlined in your post. Any success of this law will only feed future similar successes, undermining the autonomy of educators as professionals and the wellbeing of students. You will find that elsewhere, as in Virginia last week, laws like this are being overturned outright.  As educators, and stewards of the intellectual wellbeing (not the “purity”) of young people, you must fight back! SB 775’s addition to 573.550 exists exclusively to create chaos in public institutions, and to eventually drive principled teachers and librarians out of the profession. While we can understand trying to protect your employees from being charged with a misdemeanor for doing their jobs, preemptive censorship is ultimately more harmful than theoretical lawsuits that may never come. We as the Intellectual Freedom Committee are also prepared to support you and your district by way of writing letters, providing resources, and communicating with relevant parties. We implore you to reconsider your choice to remove the aforementioned comics and others, and to stand with us in protesting this absurd and unjust law.

Sincerely,

Joe Kohlburn
Intellectual Freedom Committee Chair
Missouri Library Association

Casey Phillips
MLA-IFC Member/ Social Media and Communications

Colleen Norman
Intellectual Freedom Chair-elect
Missouri Library Association

 

Kimberly Moeller
MLA-IFC Member/MLA Executive Board Member

 

Otter Bowman
President-Elect
Missouri Library Association

 

Tiffany Mautino
Intellectual Freedom Committee Past-chair
Missouri Library Association

 

Kris Dyer
MLA-IFC Member/Legislative Liaison

 

Hope Hunter
AASL Delegate/MASL

Statement in Support of MASL

August 11, 2022

Dear Readers,

The Missouri Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee stands in solidarity with The Missouri Association of School Librarians (MASL) in their opposition to pre-emptive removal, censoring, and labeling of library materials. We commend our school librarians on the excellent work they are doing in the face of SB 775 in Missouri, and strongly agree with the points they made in their recent statement

To reiterate MASL’s excellent points:

  • SB 775 includes language regarding “sexually explicit materials” in the school setting, but provides exemptions for works that are artistic or otherwise informational in nature. Since that accounts for the entirety of library collections, we strongly agree that school districts should refrain from removing, labeling, or censoring any library materials. We also suggest that organized efforts to undermine school libraries and the intellectual freedom rights of students are antithetical to the mission of public education.
  • Libraries should make sure to have collection development policies and reconsideration/challenge policies in place. If your library would like guidance on creating such policies, you can find it here.
  • Please contact the MLA-IFC if your library has materials that are being challenged, or pre-emptively removed from the collection. We are happy to offer letters of support and other assistance in that fraught and difficult situation.

Finally, we stress the importance of intellectual freedom, particularly to the agency and self-confidence of young people. For many of us, libraries are the first places we are able to truly explore the world of ideas freely and engage deeply with art, science, philosophy, and other concepts on our own terms. The joy and confidence this brings fuels a lifetime of learning and curiosity. Conversely, putting up roadblocks to inquiry, and undermining librarians and teachers sends the message that those in power are not interested in the wellbeing of young people. Working to criminalize librarianship and intimidate library and school boards into damaging their own institutions is a poor strategy long term, since doing so is a transparent effort to use moral panic as an opportunity to gain vulgar political ground. This ultimately serves no one. We instead ask for support for MASL and school librarians in general to do the important work of providing access to materials and helping students to encounter library collections in their entirety, and therefore have the opportunity to learn and to grow within school libraries and beyond.

Sincerely,

Joe Kohlburn
Missouri Library Association- Intellectual Freedom Chair, 2022

Casey Phillips
Missouri Library Association-Intellectual Freedom Committee Member/ Social Media and Communications

Otter Bowman
Missouri Library Association President-Elect

Kimberly Moeller
Missouri Library Association – Executive Board

Ying Li
Missouri Library Association-Intellectual Freedom Committee Member

Kris Dyer
Missouri Library Association-Intellectual Freedom Committee Member/Legislative Liaison