All across the United States, there is an unprecedented campaign to censor books in school and public libraries. In March, the American Library Association (ALA) reported that 2022 saw the highest number of attempted book bans in 20 years, nearly double the number in 2021.
“Overwhelmingly, we’re seeing these challenges come from organized censorship groups that target local library board meetings to demand removal of a long list of books they share on social media,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. “Their aim is to suppress the voices of those traditionally excluded from our nation’s conversations, such as people in the LGBTQIA+ community or people of color.”
Being a library for everyone means we challenge censorship
“Oak Park Public Library strives to be a library for everyone, every day,” says Executive Director Joslyn Bowling Dixon. “We know that access to information and reading materials is crucial to democracy and civic engagement. Given our responsibility to provide information and enlightenment to all people we serve, we challenge censorship in all forms.”
Our library actively provides access to materials in multiple formats—digital, audio, and print—”which embrace inclusivity and provide a window into lived experiences from all walks of life,” she adds.
Showing solidarity & support for library staff, collections & programming
Last fall, our library board passed a resolution to support library staff, collections, and programming. It was a show of solidarity with public libraries nationwide, as well as a clear vote of confidence in our professional library staff and the decisions they make in selecting collection materials as well as programs.
This resolution adds to the way our library upholds the freedom to read through existing policies and practices, including our Collection Strategy Statement, which states that our collections, as well as experiences, spaces, materials, and collaborations, should respond to our community’s needs and aspirations.
While the library does not promote all of the ideas found in its collections or the discussions those ideas may inspire, we provide the spaces and opportunities for those ideas and discussions. We do not exclude materials for partisan reasons, or because of the origin, background, or views of their creators.
Above: Highlighting inclusive books often happens as part of exhibits. This exhibit—Gender Is a Galaxy, Gender Is a Weapon, Transgender Day of Remembrance—was curated by a community member in November 2022. More about the Idea Box »
Striving to always be inclusive
Our collection management librarians are expert curators who are knowledgeable about what is trending in our community and across the country. They use this knowledge to curate We Suggest recommendations, including 60 different themed lists in 2022.
While some lists focus on specific cultural and heritage celebrations—for example, Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Transgender Day of Visibility, Arab American Heritage Month, Pride Month, and many more—all lists are built with inclusivity as the goal.
“Oak Park is a village of readers,” says Manager of Collections Services Barbara Fitzgerald. “Our material curation supports the diverse interests of the community, and we will continue to create collections that support our being a library for everyone.”
Resources to learn more & take action
From the American Library Association (ALA):
- Watch ALA Executive Director Tracie Hall speak about book bans on Chicago Tonight »
- See the action toolkit from Unite Against Book Bans »
- Get tools to fight censorship from ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom »