Commentary: An attack on a Maine school librarian is an attack on democracy

The American Library Association and other organizations have just observed Banned Books Week, which takes place each year in September. This year, Maine librarians and educators felt the urgency to shine a light on our First Amendment rights more than ever before. As president of the Maine School Library Association, I have heard from my members that the situation in schools right now is nothing short of dire.

School librarians are being targeted in extraordinary and inappropriate personal terms on social media platforms by groups working to discredit educators and foment conflict in public schools. Previously, challenges to books in school libraries came largely from concerned parents representing a wide range of viewpoints questioning the validity of a particular book in a collection, but now we are dealing with something completely different. The people who launch these attacks frequently work from scripts provided by organized groups, including lists of book titles, to challenge the presence of books in state school libraries.

However, these are not just attacks on innocent individuals; they are also assaults on public education, which we at the Maine School Library Association believe is one of the cornerstones of our democracy.

Each school has a policy and process for dealing with such attempts to remove a book, but sometimes when schools have followed their board’s policies, formed a committee, evaluated materials, and dismissed challenges, these groups continued to demand that school administrators and elected officials ignore the results of these processes. Rather than accepting the outcome of what is a serious and thorough review of the material by a committee, individuals are overwhelming discussions at school board meetings and ramping up social media campaigns.

Without exception, the books these groups seek to censor feature diverse identities and experiences, especially characters of different color and gender or sexual identities. These literary works, acclaimed by experts and critics for their quality and content, have been deemed “obscene” and librarians have been labeled “pornographers” who “sexualize children” by having them on their shelves.

School librarians have a duty to provide quality information that reflects a diversity of experiences and viewpoints. At the Maine School Library Association, we have overwhelmingly embraced the opinion of early childhood education experts that all students benefit from seeing diverse experiences and identities represented in the books they find in their school libraries. This representation is crucial if we are to prepare our children for the future; if we want to help them understand where they fit themselves in our world, and if we want to help them understand the larger communities of which they are and will be part.

The professional school library community will continue to uphold the principle of intellectual freedom. We will continue to work and fulfill our duties to ensure that the collections in our care represent all students. But dedicated professional librarians – as well as our principals, superintendents and school boards – need your support. We need to hear your voices speak as loudly as other voices.

We encourage you to speak up at school board meetings, write to members of your school board, and share what it has meant to you or your child to see their identity reflected on the library shelves or how your child learned to appreciate the point of view of others in a library. book.

As librarians, we are honored to serve the school communities of our beloved state and provide rich and diverse library collections that will help Maine children learn and grow by providing library collections of high quality. We appreciate your recognition of our efforts and hope you will remember how important your voice is in protecting students’ right to read.

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