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

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