Courtesy graphic from the American Library Association of Intellectual Freedom

Book challenges in 2022 are set to exceed those of 2021, according to data released by the American Library Association (ALA) ahead of September’s Banned Books Week.
Across the nation, the most frequently challenged books contain: LGBTQ topics or characters; sex, abortion, teen pregnancy or puberty; race or racism or protagonists of color; history of Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC).
At the June meeting of the Garfield County Public Library District (GCPLD) board of trustees, a library patron, speaking during public comment, challenged whether a book should be on the shelves. The book in dispute is one book in the 10-volume Japanese manga series “Finder” written and illustrated by Ayano Yamane.
According to the ALA, the top three challenged books in 2021 — “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe, “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison, “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson — have one thing in common: all have LGBTQ-themed content.
The patron, attending every board meeting since June, completed a Request for Reconsideration form at the most recent Nov. 3 meeting. According to Adrian Rippy-Sheehy, GCPLD board president, the patron’s response to the form’s inquiry “Please state the action you wish taken on this item” was, “Let’s just build a fire and burn it.”
A book challenge may lead to a book being removed from a library’s shelves and database, but only after an intensive review process. A completed Request for Reconsideration form is reviewed by a committee of librarians from the district’s six libraries. Their completed review is then sent to GCPLD Executive Director Jamie LaRue and the process concludes with a letter to the patron outlining GCPLD’s decision with an opportunity to appeal that decision.
Timeframes for GCPLD responses are built into the policy. As Rippy-Sheehy explained, “Once we receive that written Reconsideration form, the library has 45 days internally to go through their process of reviewing it … the patron, after receiving whatever the decision is from the executive director and the committee, still has another chance to come before the board of trustees and say, ‘I don’t agree with this decision [that] was made.’ And we, as a board of trustees, have 60 days to respond to that.”
On the ALA’s website, the Support for Intellectual Freedom webpage states: “Intellectual freedom is the right of library users to read, seek information and speak freely as guaranteed by the First Amendment. Intellectual freedom is one of the core values of the library profession; it promotes access to information and guides the defense against censorship.”
Access to library materials continues to be a priority for ALA. In a Sept. 16 press release, ALA President Lessa Kananiʻopua Pelayo-Lozada said, “The unprecedented number of challenges we’re seeing already this year reflects coordinated, national efforts to silence marginalized or historically underrepresented voices and deprive all of us — young people, in particular — of the chance to explore a world beyond the confines of personal experience.”
The Dec. 1 meeting of the GCPLD board of trustees is at 2 p.m. at the New Castle Branch Library at 402 W. Main Street.

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