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

 

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

Letter to the Independence School Board – July 1, 2022

July 1, 2022

Independence School Board President
Eric Knipp
201 North Forest Avenue
Independence, MO 64050

cc: Dr. Dale Herl, Superintendent

Dear Mr. Knipp and Dr. Herl,

As Missouri librarians and members of the Missouri Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee, we would like to express to you our concern over the banning of Cats vs. Robots  Volume 1: This is War from the elementary libraries in your district. We are concerned that decisions made to remove or restrict could cause harm to the trust that children and their families have in the schools they attend, as well as the students’ ability to pursue inquiry and access materials. LGBTQ+ students need access to authentic representations of Queer experience to provide context for growing up in a predominantly “straight” society, just as cis/heterosexual children benefit from perspectives from non-binary characters that help them empathize with and understand the broader scope of human experience. We ask you to consider why someone would want to restrict access to these perspectives, particularly as our social context becomes increasingly global and interconnected, and individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ participate in an increasingly open and integrated way in our society. We ask you to consider if restricting or removing these works truly serves all the students in your district.

In reference to your email to the district, any type of “rating system” on materials is censoring. Any type of labeling like a warning label is censoring. If you remove a book aimed for 8 to 12 year old children, grades 3 to 7th grades (Cats vs. Robots) from the elementary libraries and place them only in middle and high school libraries, that is censoring the material.

Your Policy 6241 states:

It is therefore the policy of the Board to require that books and other instructional materials shall be chosen for values of educational interest and the enlightenment of all students in the community. Instructional materials shall not be excluded on the basis of the writer’s racial, nationalistic, political, or religious views. Every effort will be made to provide materials that present all points of view concerning international, national and local problems and issues of our times. Books, or other instructional or media materials of sound factual authority, shall not be prescribed, nor removed from library shelves or classrooms on the basis of partisan or doctrinal approval or disapproval.

You have removed the book in concern because of partisan and doctrinal approval. This includes stated reasons such as:

  • “not age appropriate”
  • “A very specific message regarding this topic, which is complicated and can be life-alternating”
  • “It seemed like the author had an ‘agenda’…he agreed that this material was questionable”
  • “gender is not mostly made up”

This removal does not present the point “of view concerning international, national and local problems and issues of our times”. Board Member Fears stated that the ISD district has non-binary identified students, the earliest being in 2nd grade.

Please find attached the MLA’s recent statement on intellectual freedom. In it, we outline the necessity of protecting the opportunities for access to diverse perspectives of which our students avail themselves to be well-rounded citizens and empathetic participants in contemporary society. As with other challenges in the state, we ask you to consider the irreparable harm that undermining intellectual freedom causes to students and their trust in public institutions that come between them and attempts to understand their world. We have also attached a glossary to LBGTQ+ terms that explains that non-binary is a gender identity, not a sexual orientation.

We support those teachers, librarians, and employees working toward maintaining and promoting inclusive library collections, and those who cultivate spaces for free inquiry and curiosity to flourish in schools. We support parents working to promote access to materials in your district, and applaud their efforts to support their kids during this fraught time. We lament the amount of abuse, stress, and other negative consequences students and hardworking teachers and librarians suffer as these regrettable censorship campaigns continue. Please support your students by reconsidering your recent decision to remove Cats vs Robots from elementary libraries. Please support intellectual freedom and put this item back on the shelf.

Signed,

Joe Kohlburn
MLA-Intellectual Freedom Committee 2022 Chair

Colleen Norman
MLA-Intellectual Freedom Committee 2023 Chair-elect

Tiffany Mautino
MLA-Intellectual Freedom Committee Past Chair (2021)

Casey Phillips
MLA-IFC Member/ Social Media and Communications

Ying Li
MLA-IFC Member

Kris Dyer
MLA-IFC Member/ Legislative Liaison

Kimberly Moeller
MLA-IFC-Board Liaison

Otter Bowman
Missouri Library Association President-Elect

Attachments:

MLA Statement on Recent Challenges – http://molib.org/mla-statement-on-intellectual-freedom/

LGBTQ+ Glossary of Terms – https://www.hrc.org/resources/glossary-of-terms

Letter to the Nixa School Board – June 17, 2022

June 17, 2022

Nixa School Board President
Linda Daugherty
301 South Main Street
Nixa, MO 65714

cc: Dr. Gearl Loden, Superintendent

Dear Ms. Daugherty and Dr. Loden,

As Missouri librarians and members of the Missouri Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee, we would like to express to you our concern over the number of challenges being made to books in your district. We understand that a nationally-connected special interest group representing a vocal minority in your district recently presented to you a list of 17 books for potential removal from your collections. It is also our understanding that the majority of those books were retained, and for this we would like to support your judgment. That said, we are concerned that other decisions made about removal or restriction could cause harm to the trust that youth have in the schools they attend, as well as youths’ ability to pursue inquiry and access materials.  The books that were marked for removal, Fun Home, and All Boys Aren’t Blue, are both memoirs by prominent and celebrated Queer artists and authors. Homegoing, which it is our understanding is subject to restricted access, is a work by a Ghanian-American author that touches on complex themes about race, history, colonization and slavery. We trust that as educated people, you can see the common thread here: Celebrated authors from historically marginalized communities are being challenged for political purposes that have nothing to do with protecting youth. We ask you to consider why someone would want to restrict access to these perspectives, particularly as our social context becomes increasingly global and interconnected. We ask you to consider if restricting or removing these works truly serves youth in your district. We would further note that students in the district have already voiced their support for the challenged materials, which should be of equal or greater consequence to these considerations than the complaints of specific groups of parents.

As you know, challenges such as these are part of a national campaign to undermine civil rights and the social progress of LGBTQ and BIPOC populations, and to block access to the perspectives of historically marginalized people by young readers who may share those identities, or who seek to build greater understanding of experiences different from their own. Please find attached the MLA’s recent statement on intellectual freedom. In it, we outline the necessity of protecting the opportunities for access to diverse perspectives of which our youth avail themselves to be well-rounded citizens and empathetic participants in contemporary society. As with other challenges in the state, we ask you to consider the irreparable harm that undermining intellectual freedom causes to youth and their trust in public institutions that come between them and attempts to understand their world.

These challenges represent ill-founded and disingenuous attempts by anti-democratic organizations to curtail young people’s access to diverse perspectives and experiences. These incredibly damaging political actions are obfuscated by concerns about “protecting children”. Removing Fun Home and All Boys Aren’t Blue does not, certainly, protect LGBTQ+ youth, who need access to authentic representations of Queer experience to provide context for growing up in a predominantly “straight” society, just as cis/heterosexual children benefit from perspectives like Bechdel’s or Johnson’s that help them empathize with and understand the broader scope of human experience. Putting Homegoing behind the desk and requiring permission to access it does not help children interested in learning about African history or gaining access to authors writing that directly confronts the ills of slavery and racism on the world stage. In fact, these infringements on the intellectual freedom of youth in your schools cause only harm, and we would assert, do so as part of an agenda that is antithetical to the purpose of public education itself.

We request that you consider a moratorium on removing or restricting access to works from your collection, particularly doing so as a result of petitions by individuals or local groups who are known to be associated with national anti-intellectual-freedom action groups. Groups such as these are attempting to undermine the expertise of educators, the agency of students, and the good faith of parents across the state of Missouri and the nation. The goal of these groups has nothing to do with the well-being of parents and students in your district and is instead part of an unfortunate “culture war” that continues to drag public institutions into protracted battles that waste public resources and undermine the general public good.  We support those teachers, librarians, and employees working toward maintaining and promoting inclusive library collections, and those who cultivate spaces for free inquiry and curiosity to flourish in schools. We support parents working to promote access to materials in your district and applaud their efforts to support their kids during this fraught time. We lament the amount of abuse, stress, and other negative consequences students and hardworking teachers and librarians suffer as these regrettable censorship campaigns continue. Please support your students by reconsidering your recent decisions to remove Fun Home and All Boys Aren’t Blue, and to restrict access to Homegoing.  Please support intellectual freedom and put these items back on the shelf.

Signed,

Joe Kohlburn

MLA-Intellectual Freedom Committee 2022 Chair

Colleen Norman

MLA-Intellectual Freedom Committee 2023 Chair-elect

Tiffany Mautino

MLA-Intellectual Freedom Committee Past Chair (2021)

Casey Phillips

MLA-IFC Member/ Social Media and Communications

Ying Li

MLA-IFC Member

Kris Dyer

MLA-IFC Member/ Legislative Liaison

Kimberly Moeller

MLA-IFC-Board Liaison

Otter Bowman

Missouri Library Association President-Elect

 

Attachments:

MLA Statement on Recent Challenges- http://molib.org/mla-statement-on-intellectual-freedom/

 

 

Letter to the Wentzville School Board – June 9, 2022

June 9, 2022

Wentzville School Board President

Mr. Daniel Brice

280 Interstate Drive

Wentzville, MO 63385

cc: Dr. Curtis Cain, Dr. Danielle S. Tormala, Superintendent (Present and Future)

 

Dear Mr. Brice and Drs. Cain and Tormala,

We have been informed that your district has again chosen to remove work by LGBTQ+ and BIPOC authors from library shelves. Per our letter of January 28, 2022, we again must request that you return the book to circulation. The pertinent question for you is not whether certain books are worthy of being removed, the question is what actual good comes from removing materials? As we implied in our previous letter, one pragmatic reason librarianship as a profession insists on intellectual freedom and not banning or removing certain books based on their content is precisely that doing so becomes a protracted boondoggle that slows down and detracts from the important work with which libraries and schools have been historically concerned: supporting and educating students. We are aware of your present predicament with the ACLU and federal courts, negative media coverage, and push back from all sides, and must assume that the extent of the aforementioned boondoggle is clear to you. We, the Intellectual Freedom Committee of the Missouri Library Association (MLA-IFC), would like to again formally express our concern as Missouri librarians and intellectual freedom advocates regarding your recent decision to remove Allison Bechdel’s Fun Home. As with the previous attempt to remove Toni Morrison’s work, this is an ill-founded and disingenuous attempt by a vocal minority to control access to diverse perspectives and experiences obfuscated by concerns about “protecting children”. Removing this work does not, certainly, protect LGBTQ+ youth, who need access to authentic representations of Queer experience to provide context for growing up in a predominantly “straight” society, just as cis/heterosexual children benefit from perspectives like Bechdel’s that help them empathize with and understand the broader scope of human experience.

As quoted in a recent St. Louis Post-Dispatch article, Dr. Rebecca Wanzo, a prominent scholar and professor at Washington University, says, “ Alison Bechdel is one of the preeminent cartoonists of the 21st century…Her work invites conversations about sexuality, trauma, medium and genre, women in the academy, place and childhood”. This work, much like Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, is critically above reproach. If reporting is accurate, and most of these challenges indeed derive from a single parent, we ask you to consider why one parent (or even one group of parents) should be able to dictate the collections of an entire district. We ask you to remember that Fun Home is a memoir, meaning that Bechdel includes the events of her life as part of the art and narrative of the work based on real events. This means that the details of said events were formative and significant to her, not just as art, but as memories in the course of her life. We further ask you to consider what insight petitioners in favor of removing the work have to the experience of children who might grow up to be more like Allison Bechdel. We question if in fact trying to prevent youth from growing up to live open and healthy lives as LGBTQ+ adults is precisely the motivation for removing the work. Should not LGBTQ+ youth have the same freedom to push boundaries in their reading works like Fun Home, as straight youth have when they read any one of thousands of YA books or graphic novels about people like themselves?

We again request that you codify the depth of your commitment to education as a vehicle to understanding and empathy, and reject this outgrowth of political grandstanding performed at the expense of educators and students in your district. In terms of policy improvements, we suggest striking removal of work as the challenge goes through committee and other processes. If you keep the book on the shelf, we suspect you can undermine much of the motivation for challenges in the first place, which seems mostly to be about political haymaking rather than the good of any student in the district.  We further suggest adding provisions that place a moratorium on petitions from individuals who seek to abuse the process of reconsideration for political or personal reasons judged to be in conflict with the interests of students, teachers, and librarians in the district. We continue to support those working toward maintaining and promoting inclusive library collections, and those who cultivate spaces for free inquiry and curiosity to flourish in schools. Please support your students by reconsidering your recent decision, and putting Fun Home back on the shelf.

Signed,

Joe Kohlburn

MLA-Intellectual Freedom Committee 2022 Chair

Colleen Norman

MLA-Intellectual Freedom Committee 2023 Chair-elect

Tiffany Mautino

MLA-Intellectual Freedom Committee Past Chair (2021)

Casey Phillips

MLA-IFC Member/ Social Media and Communications

Ying Li

MLA-IFC Member

Rachelle Brandel

MLA-IFC Member

Kris Dyer

MLA-IFC Member/ Legislative Liaison

Kimberly Moeller

MLA-IFC-Board Liaison

Otter Bowman

Missouri Library Association President-Elect

 

Attachments:

Letter from MLA-IFC- January 2022- https://www.stltoday.com/entertainment/books-and-literature/letter-from-missouri-library-association-to-wentzville-school-board-president/article_5583141d-3148-5ce8-a516-86d95395b9ec.html

STL-PD Article on Fun Home Challenge- https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/wentzville-school-board-bans-another-library-book-for-sexual-content/article_83f7a559-cc8c-5848-ae26-2e0d77234add.html

Board Minutes- https://go.boarddocs.com/mo/wsdr4/Board.nsf/Public#

MLA Statement on Recent Challenges- http://molib.org/mla-statement-on-intellectual-freedom/

MLA Statement on Intellectual Freedom

On behalf of our members, member institutions and professional ethical standards, we at the Missouri Library Association (MLA) stand with librarians, library workers, and other educators in the state of Missouri as they select and provide access to their collections for readers. We further support the processes and procedures our libraries have in place to deal with challenges with concerned parents and community members and are deeply troubled by efforts to circumvent these processes for political gain or as a result of moral panic.

Libraries as public institutions have existed in the United States for over 250 years. Each year, we promote our foundational ideals, provide access for our patrons, and find better and more equitable avenues to improve our institutions. Perhaps our most important guiding principle comes from Ranganathan: “Every reader, their book and every book, its reader.”

The “freedom to read” is more than just a shorthand for encouraging curiosity and inquiry. It is a pillar of our democracy. Intellectual freedom means that all of us have the right to explore and engage with the ideas we choose, and to be informed about the world around us. Adults have intellectual freedom, but so do youth. We support MASL’s statement that says, “Students should have choices in what books they read.”

We librarians are skilled, credentialed and thoughtful professionals who make it our work to champion inquiry, curiosity, democracy and access to information. Librarians support the rights of parents to choose books for their own children, but not the rights of one person to choose what books are right for an entire classroom, school, or public. Through our deep immersion in books and materials, librarians and library workers understand the greater context of knowledge and understanding facilitated through our collections. We reject the claim that removing, labeling, or relocating a title will somehow shield children from the ideas contained within, especially in the context of our connected digital world. We further reject the notion that anyone can perform the work we do without significant engagement with the professional ethics and expertise of librarianship. Public and school libraries are safe places for children to encounter ideas in an environment that nurtures curiosity. Occasionally these encounters will include ideas that might be challenging. We support the right of readers to be challenged, to learn, and to grow.  Librarians and educators are the critical connection between readers and their books. It is our responsibility to champion these rights.

We support the expertise, thoughtfulness, and care exercised by thousands of librarians, library workers, and educators in the state of Missouri to foster the curiosity and inquiry that lives in young people.

Signed,

Cindy Thompson, Missouri Library Association President

Members of the Missouri Library Association Board

Members of the Missouri Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee

 

For further reading:

Ranganathan’s Laws

Freedom to Read Statement

The Library Bill of Rights

Core Values of Librarianship