Banned Books Week – How Challenges Offer Opportunities for Reflection

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Banned Books Week is an annual celebration of the freedom to read. 

Censorship is defined by the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom as “…the suppression of ideas and information that certain persons—individuals, groups or government officials—find objectionable or dangerous.” 

Given that libraries celebrate Banned Books Week and condemn censorship, how is it possible that the occasional challenges that Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh receives from our users are not unwelcome? 

Well, for one thing, in many cases these requests are related to a child’s media consumption. Voicing a concern shows that parents and other adults are aware of–and care about—what children are reading, watching, and listening to. And parent engagement is definitely a good thing. 

In addition, most reconsideration requests, as they are officially known, start as conversations between our users and our staff. Engaging with the children and families that use our resources is one of our most important responsibilities—and greatest pleasures.  

And having these kinds of conversations, even if they are occasionally uncomfortable, helps us to connect. 

Often that first step is the beginning and the end of the matter. Because getting the chance to express their concerns—and to get some recommendations for other materials that might be more suitable for their needs—may be all that library user really wants. 

When the initial conversation doesn’t resolve the situation, however, formal reconsideration requests give us the chance to further examine and explain our choices. After all, we don’t just pick titles at random to add to our collections. We follow our Collection Development and Management Policy and take into account professional reviews and recommendations as well as our own and our colleagues’ professional experience and expertise. 

Reexamining a title that we’ve chosen is like spot-checking a large project. In many cases, I’m happy to say, what we find when we dig deeper is that the reasons we acquired a title and made it available in a particular collection stand up to scrutiny.  

Sometimes, though, reconsidering a title does identify an area where we might want to correct our course a bit. And that makes sense. Because the policy mentioned above isn’t written in stone. It’s more like a map that we update regularly when we learn new things. 

So please don’t hesitate to talk with us about what you find in our collections. We’d love to help you locate what you’re looking for or introduce you to new stories and ideas.  

You can sign up for a free library card here. If you are new to our eResources, check out these tutorial videos on how to get started.

Looking for a good book, album, movie or TV show? We’re happy to recommend them to you! Use this Personalized Recommendations form to send us some information about what you like and we’ll curate a list just for you.

If you have any additional questions, you can contact a librarian through FacebookInstagram or Twitter. You can also call us at 412.622.3114 or email us at info@carnegielibrary.org.

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