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Most Parents Trust, Respect, and Feel Safe with Librarians: Book Censorship News, December 1, 2023

Kelly Jensen


Kelly is a former librarian and a long-time blogger at STACKED. She's the editor/author of (DON'T) CALL ME CRAZY: 33 VOICES START THE CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH and the editor/author of HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD. Her next book, BODY TALK, will publish in Fall 2020. Follow her on Instagram @heykellyjensen.

Earlier this fall, Book Riot and the EveryLibrary Institute teamed up to create and distribute a series of research studies exploring parental perceptions of the library. The first in the series explored what parents thought about the public library, and results and analysis of those surveys are available here, here, and here.

The second survey was released this week and looked more specifically at how parents perceive library workers. In many ways, the responses to this survey should come as a breath of fresh air and a reminder that no matter how loud the book banners may be and no matter how successful their rhetoric has been in some arenas, the vast majority of parents trust and respect library workers. Let’s take a look at the responses for this latest survey that specifically address perceptions of librarians. In a future censorship roundup, we’ll compare the responses to when parents believe children are capable of selecting their own materials from the library across both surveys.

In the latest survey, 92% of parents and guardians stated that they trusted librarians to select appropriate material for children and to recommend appropriate materials to children.

Even more remarkable is that 96% of parents and guardians believed their children were safe in the library. This is an even higher percentage than seen in the first survey in the series, where 92% of parents felt their children were safe in the library.

The survey showed that 90% of parents were comfortable letting their children select their own materials. This aligns with a similar series of questions asked in the initial survey, where parents reported that most of the time, they were not made uncomfortable by materials borrowed by their children and that their child was not made uncomfortable with something they borrowed.

Part of the latest survey involved asking parents to rank a series of professions based on their trustworthiness.

Survey results for professions by trustworthiness.

Both public and school librarians ranked in the top five of most trustworthy professions. Alongside librarians in parental trust are teachers — again contradicting popular narratives among the far right — doctors, nurses, and veterinarians.

At the bottom of the list in trustworthiness are politicians, with 6.11%. This is worth pausing with for several reasons, chief among them being that in the prior survey of parental perceptions of libraries, where about 25% of respondents said elected officials (politicians!) should be making decisions about what materials are in the public library.

Slide from the deck on parental perceptions of public libraries, available here:

The tension between these two survey results is interesting but also points to why politicians should not be involved in selecting public library material. They’re not trusted as a profession, especially when compared to librarians and teachers.

Library workers are not only seen as trustworthy; parents and guardians see them as relatable, vital members of their community. In other words, librarians are not some evil entity working to indoctrinate children. They are neighbors and friends. They are creative, resourceful, and eager to engage children on their levels. In terms of numbers, 69% agree that a Librarian is someone they can relate to, 53% agree that the librarian is well-known in the community, 85% agree that librarians support children’s learning, 70% agree that librarians understand their community’s needs, 77% agree that librarians make the library a place for fun and creativity, 78% agree that librarians are true advocates for lifelong learning, 77% agree that librarians are friendly and approachable, 67% agree that librarians are knowledgeable about their community, 75% agree that librarians are experts at connecting people to what they need, and 83% agree that librarians know what books children would love.

As if those weren’t proof enough of the positive value of librarians in a community, perhaps the fact that 85% of parents are satisfied or very satisfied with librarians is.

You can explore the full survey at the EveryLibrary Institute. We’ll continue to dive into it here as well over the coming weeks as we distribute and prepare to analyze the third and final survey in the series before the end of the year.

Book Censorship News: December 1, 2023

  • Wisconsin’s GOP is proposing their own censorship bill — recall, the democrats have one cooking, too — that would require parental notification of books being borrowed by students and one that would get rid of protections for those who “distribute obscene materials.” So since none of the books these people are mad about fit the definition of obscene, this is simply meant to scare the shit out of educators and librarians and wield power.
  • 31 books will be debated in Brevard County, Florida, schools beginning this month. Brevard County is home to Moms For Liberty, so what happens here will make ripples elsewhere across the U.S.
  • NBC 5 Chicago looked at the rise of book bans and challenges in the Chicago area. “NBC 5 Investigates received responses from 174 public libraries and 289 school districts in the Chicago area. The majority of the books being challenged — 38 percent — involved books that cover sexual orientation or gender identity topics followed by materials that touch on race, which made up 17 percent of books challenged in the Chicago area.”
  • St. Cloud’s library system (MN) has had an unprecedented number of book challenges this year and have to update its policies as a result. This link and the previous are a reminder that, despite spending hours researching and linking to book ban stories here every week, so many are never actually reported.
  • “‘We’re not book banning,’ Teague said. ‘We are curating inappropriate books in the school system. That’s what that is. Nobody is banning books. We have inappropriate books in this library system, and I don’t feel like, as a board member, that we should house sexually explicit books in the school system.'” The party line is really well rehearsed, honestly. This is in Catawba County, North Carolina, where students need permission now to access Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Lolita.
  • Brandywine, Michigan, schools might see a book ratings system implemented thanks to their flavor of far-right nonsense.
  • Jake Epp Public Library (Manitoba, Canada) is going to sticker every LGBTQ+ book in the public library because of complaints. Their rationale is that Christian books are also stickered. Y’all…
  • I told you book fairs were the next frontier in the book ban wars. Guess what the fight is in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, schools? It’s whether or not to use Scholastic or a right-wing book fair.
  • “Republican leaders are calling for a prosecutor to enforce obscenity laws to remove hundreds of books from schools in the Colorado Springs area.” They don’t coparent with the government, though?
  • A deep dive into the story of how Angles in America was banned in Temecula schools (CA).
  • The director of the Wasilla Public Library (AK) talked with the board and the aggrieved about how books are selected following a challenge of Red Hood. There’s a comment in here that should concern anyone who cares about intellectual freedom: “Treesh maintained the library would temporarily mark books from the young adult section as those of the adult section until there is more consideration from the city on the matter.” Since when does the city get to weigh in, and why are they being temporarily re-labeled? Naturally, the “why aren’t there more conservative books?!” whine came up.
  • Meanwhile, in Alabama, the Foley Public Library moved some of its YA books into the adult section, too. Three books in the challenge process were removed via “weeding” (convenient), and several others have just not been returned to the library.
  • And in Prattville, Alabama, half of the library board resigned. Another member resigned later in the week, too.
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas has been banned in Catawba County schools in North Carolina.
  • “RSU 56, which is the only district in the state to have banned the book [Gender Queer], is considering a proposal that would remove all books containing sexually-explicit material.” Stopping at banning one book wasn’t enough for this Maine school district — the only one to ban Gender Queer. They want to play banning with anything they deem “sexually explicit.” AKA, anything queer. More on this story.
  • The City of Corpus Christie, Texas, appointed 5 new members to the public library board this week…several incumbents were removed, and at least one eager book banner was given a seat.
  • In Marietta, Georgia, schools, there’s been an appeal to reinstate Me and Earl and the Dying Girl back into school libraries. The appeal made to keep Flamer ended in it still being banned a couple of weeks ago, so my optimism here is zero.
  • The Charlotte County School Board (FL) just got served a letter from the SPLC and several other cosigners threatening a potential lawsuit over their LGBTQ+ book bans.
  • In League City, Texas, the attempt to create a new library book policy has now cost the city attorney his job. This story is bananas, but the final quote in this piece is truly a masterpiece.
  • Las Cruces Public Schools (NM) approved of keeping Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) in the school library, but that’s now apparently going to be appealed by the *state* board of education?
  • School District Five of Lexington and Richland Counties (SC) has returned A Court of Mist and Fury to school library shelves.
  • “For more than a year, there’s been controversy at the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County [OH] over LGBTQ books and some of those displays that were seen in June for Pride Month.” I believe this is the first time I’ve read about this — it’s been going on for over a year. It made news when the board decided to limit public comment time.