County of San Luis Obispo Public Libraries Defends the Right to Read
Author: Erica Thatcher
9/29/2023 4:01:00 PM
Banned Books Week draws attention to censorship attempts.
Banned Books Week is October 1 – 7, and the County of San Luis Obispo Public Libraries is highlighting the importance of access to information for a variety of ages, abilities, and interests.
The American Library Association’s annual Banned Books Week initiative draws attention to attempts to remove books and other materials from libraries, schools, and bookstores. This year’s theme is “Let Freedom Read.”
According to a recent ALA media release, public and school libraries across the United States are experiencing a surge in challenges to books written by or about a person of color or member of the LGBTQ+ community. The ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) also reports that the number of unique titles challenged has increased by 20 percent since 2022, and almost 40% since 2021.
The County of SLO Public Libraries have experienced some interactions with local pressure groups trying to restrict access to books. “We were notified of a few social media postings whereby the individual posting is shown to be hiding specific titles behind shelves while claiming Moms for Liberty affiliation,” said Library Director Chris Barnickel. “We embrace the American Library Association’s Bill of Rights to protect all patrons from censorship. We have great support from the Board of Supervisors to ensure that our libraries are free from political interference and open to all constituents throughout the county."
According to the Library’s Collection Development Plan, the vision of the overall collection is a “balanced,” and “inclusive, fresh, relevant” selection of titles. The Plan also highlights the goal of “showcasing diverse works” throughout the libraries. It states that the Library offers resources for a variety of ages, abilities, and interests, and that the selection of titles reflects a “vibrant, diverse community.”
“Everyone should be able to see themselves in books,” said Susana Lewis, Youth Services Coordinator for County of SLO Public Libraries. “Our goal is to provide a collection that is not only interesting and informative but also enlightening.”
Professional librarians decide what goes into the library’s collections, explained Lewis. “We use reviews from professional journals to select popular titles and relevant topics.”
According to American Library Association data, of the overall number of books challenged in 2022, 90% were part of attempts to censor multiple titles. 40% were attempts to censor 100 books or more.
“These attacks on our freedom to read should trouble every person who values liberty and our constitutional rights,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, in a media release. “To allow a group of people or any individual, no matter how powerful or loud, to become the decision-maker about what books we can read or whether libraries exist, is to place all of our rights and liberties in jeopardy.”
Visit the Policies page at SLOLibrary.org to see the Collection Development Plan and for more information about Library collections and programs.
Visit www.ALA.org/advocacy/bbooks for more information about the American Library Association, censorship attempts, and Banned Books Week.