It seems like every week another news story comes across our TV screens or smartphone notifications declaring that another school or public library is contemplating banning a book because of public outcry.
“In 2020, more than 273 books were challenged or banned,” states an American Library Association (ALA) press release, “demands to remove books addressing racism and racial justice or those that shared the stories of Black, Indigenous, or people of color grew in number. At the same time, books addressing themes and issues of concern for LGBTQIA+ people continued to dominate the list.”
The ALA keeps track of attempts to ban or restrict access to books across the United States and raises awareness of censorship efforts in libraries and schools through resources like the Most Challenged Books list which is released in April annually.
At the Freeman/Lozier Library of Bellevue University, we strive to uphold every students’ freedom to read. The Library adheres to the principles of intellectual freedom as outlined in the Library Bill of Rights of the ALA. It is the responsibility of the library staff and all faculty selecting materials to ensure that all points of view on current and historical issues are represented in the collection and that materials are not removed from the collection because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.
Library staff members work hard to provide students with any materials that they could need to complete their studies as well as provide leisure materials they can utilize in their free time. Staff members are dedicated to the support and enrichment of the university curricula through the provision of print and non-print materials to students, faculty, and staff, and to furthering the cause of lifelong education through instruction in the effective use of library resources.
Materials for the library’s collection are selected using a strict set of procedures. Materials that directly support the university’s curriculum are given the highest consideration for inclusion in the collection. Library staff members use the university’s written course descriptions, Library of Congress Classification Scheme, communication with faculty and users, and library usage statistics to determine the breadth and depth of subject coverage necessary for the collection.
Library staff members do not select materials in a vacuum, we also utilize selection aids to find the most appropriate and highest quality materials for our collection. Bellevue University Library staff use several selection aids to select materials including professional review publications, reputable subject-specific journals, industry publications, vendor-compiled subject guides, bestseller lists, and publisher catalogs.
When it comes to our online resources we purchase licensing agreements to provide access to as many scholarly databases as we can afford within our budget constraints. These databases house millions of items on thousands of subjects and we could not possibly review them all. We rely on reviews by experts like Library Journal to help identify the best databases that will provide the widest variety of scholarly material to the university community.
Members of the university community may find materials in the library or in these databases that they find offensive or controversial. The library provides access to these materials because students, staff, and faculty have a right to access this information and are guaranteed the freedom to read by the U.S. Constitution. Furthermore, the library follows the Freedom to Read propositions set forth by the ALA.
The ALA’s Freedom to Read Statement proposes that it is in the public interest for librarians to make available the widest diversity of views and expressions, including those that are unorthodox, unpopular, or considered dangerous by the majority because we must allow the reader the freedom to choose. The library makes these materials available not as an endorsement of any political, moral, or aesthetic views, but as a way of promoting the freedom of the individual.
Originally posted in the Freeman/Lozier Library’s quarterly newsletter, More Than Books, V. 25 No. 3, Summer 2022.