Up to the Challenge

Books to navigate threats to intellectual freedom

November 1, 2021

Librarian's Library by Allison Escoto

Intellectual freedom is now—and will likely always be—a necessary topic for librarians to examine. If every book has its reader, most books will also have a challenger. In addition to considering banned books in schools and libraries, intellectual freedom issues are so closely tied to social justice that librarians often need both a foundational understanding of the topic as well as practical guides, and perhaps a standout example of a banned book, to navigate the often-muddy waters of intellectual freedom in libraries.

Foundations of Intellectual FreedomFoundations of Intellectual Freedom
By Emily J. M. Knox

This text is a practical introduction to intellectual freedom in librarianship. It provides a broad overview, including historical perspectives, key US case law and precedents, a presentation of opposing viewpoints, and an examination of various professional codes of ethics, among other essential topics. The work also incorporates timely social justice issues and their impact on intellectual freedom in various types of libraries. Though it is written for those new to the field, this resource is valuable for librarians at any stage of their career. ALA Neal-Schuman, 2022. 176 p. $55. PBK. 978-0-8389-3783-9.

Controversial Books in K–12 Classrooms and LibrariesControversial Books in K–12 Classrooms and Libraries
By Randy Bobbitt

This informative and insightful read considers censorship throughout the decades, providing a historical analysis of book banning in school classrooms and libraries. Starting with challenges in the 1950s, Bobbitt offers perspectives from authors, critics, and civil liberties groups and explores the motivations and goals of the parties that are often involved when a book is disputed. In addition to presenting case studies, this volume delves into the topics that commonly spur challenges to books in schools. It’s a helpful guide that effectively puts the fight over so-called controversial material into context. Lexington Books, 2021. 226 p. $40. PBK. 978-1-4985-6974-3. (Also available as an ebook.)

Books Under FireBooks under Fire: A Hit List of Banned and Challenged Children’s Books, 2nd edition
By Pat R. Scales

This edition contains a wealth of data for anyone dealing with challenged books, arming library staffers and educators with comprehensive information about frequently disputed titles. For each book entry in this reference guide, readers will find a summary, reviews, list of awards and accolades, issues and themes, useful talking points, additional resources, and read-alike titles. This updated volume, which includes challenged books published since 2015 and an array of timely subjects, is an asset to any reference collection. ALA Editions, 2021. 232 p. $55. PBK. 978-0-8389-4982-5.

Intellectual Freedom Stories from a Shifting LandscapeIntellectual Freedom Stories from a Shifting Landscape
By Valerie Nye

In her introduction, Nye states that this book is “at the intersection of intellectual freedom and storytelling.” It’s an accurate description of this enlightening look at libraries across the US that have exercised intellectual freedom, from drag queen storytimes to overcoming censorship issues at prison libraries. By examining these stories, librarians of all types can gain a greater understanding of the programs and services that experience challenges and difficult conversations. Divided into sections ranging from policy to public events to issues of cultural sensitivity, this compilation highlights current issues surrounding intellectual freedom in a way that is both intriguing and educational. ALA Editions, 2020. 208 p. $45. 978-0-8389-4726-5. (Available as an ebook.)

Practicing Intellectual Freedom in Libraries
By Shannon M. Oltmann

Combining theoretical discussion, examples from real-world situations, and an analysis through the lens of community, this book serves librarians who are interested in gaining a new understanding of intellectual freedom or expanding their grasp of the subject. The book is divided into two sections; one focuses on theory and the other looks at concepts in action. This holistic text considers the complexities of intellectual freedom in libraries and is a must for any collection. Libraries Unlimited, 2019. 193 p. $55. PBK. 978-1-4408-6312-7. (Also available as an ebook.)

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You
By Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

It’s important for librarians to learn about new disputed books, and Stamped stands out as an exceptional and timely choice. Based on Kendi’s National Book Award–winning nonfiction title, Stamped from the Beginning, and modified for young readers by Reynolds, this text opens the conversation about the history of racism in America and its present-day ramifications. One of the most frequently challenged books of 2020, Stamped is an important part of a national conversation on race. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2020. 320 p. $9. 978-0-316-45369-1. (Also available as an ebook.)


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