Public Libraries' Responses to Censorship: Analyzing the Implementation and Effects of Standard Practices

Grants and Contracts Details


The rate of challenges to books and other library materials has escalated sharply in 2021-present [1, 2]. Challenges come from parents, grandparents, and even local and state elected officials [3, 4, 5]; most challenges occur in school and public libraries [3]. The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (ALA OIF) has developed “best practices” for libraries to follow when faced with a materials challenge. These include: require a form to be completed for each individual item challenged; create a committee to consider the challenge; ask the committee to consider the item in its entirety as well as relevant professional reviews; share the committee’s decision; formulate an appeals process; and keep the item in the collection while it is being challenged [6, 7]. Despite an increase in the number of challenges, the tireless work of the OIF workers, and an increase in relevant media coverage, there has been no systematic study of whether public libraries are following these best practices when faced with a challenge. There are many media reports of libraries not following these practices [8, 9, 10], but we do not know the proportion of libraries doing so. Further, we do not know the impacts on communities of (not) following ALA OIF best practices. Challenges in the past 18 months have primarily focused on books with authors or characters who are Black, indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC) and/or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer/questioning (LGBTQ+) [2, 3, 4]. Thus, it is unclear whether these traditionally marginalized communities are disproportionately or differently impacted by libraries’ decisions to (not) follow OIF best practices.
Effective start/end date8/1/237/31/26


  • Institute of Museum and Library Services: $445,281.00


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