this is how you can protect your local library

After I printed a letter from a librarian being harassed by patrons, a lot of you wrote in to ask what you can do to help protect your local libraries from threats and book bans.

Peter Bromberg, the associate director of EveryLibrary, an organization that defends and supports local libraries, was kind enough to write up the following about specifically what you can do to help.

Communities across the country are seeing a huge spike in book challenges and bans in their school and public libraries.  Censorship is on the rise, and libraries and librarians are being personally attacked, threatened, and fired, while libraries are seeing their funding threatened unless they remove books written by BIPOC and LGBTQIA authors and/or books that have BIPOC or LGBTQIA protagonists or themes.


Amidst the unprecedented wave of book banning, there is some good news. Poll after poll after poll after poll after poll after poll show that Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to book banning. Even the very conservative American Family Survey, administered by the Deseret News and Brigham Young University (both of which are part of the LDS Church) found that only 16% of Americans believe public school libraries include inappropriate books on their shelves and that just 12% of Americans think that books should be removed from libraries if a parent objects.  At the same time, there has been consistent reporting that there is a small minority of people who are behind book challenges. The Washington Post reported in May that “an analysis of book challenges from across the nation shows the majority were filed by just 11 people.” In Utah, KUTV reported that a “small group of parents utilizing new law to help ban books in Utah school libraries,” noting that in the Granite School District, “a West Valley City couple was behind nearly every complaint filed with the district.” Of the 205 filings, one couple were behind 199 of them.


That means there is a lot of space for Americans to push back, stand up for libraries, and advocate for the values of freedom of expression, freedom of thought, and the freedom to receive information. What do we do?  In short, we need to show up, and speak up.  Show up to school  and public library board meetings, to legislative committee hearings, to city and county council meetings.  Speak up for your own love of ideas, and books. Speak to your own feelings and beliefs around the inherent dignity of all people. Speak to the impact specific books — maybe books dealing with difficult topics —  have had in your life, and the lives of your friends and families. Let decision-makers know that your kids are not snowflakes who need to be protected from books. You can also speak up by writing letters to the editor, Op Ed pieces, and posting in social media.


While our individual voices are powerful, joining with others to speak with a collective voice is the only way to build the sustainable political power that is necessary to protect libraries and turn the tide of censorship. In many communities, the only long-term solution involves voting in good board members, city/county council members and mayors, and voting out the ones who wish to systematically pull books from shelves, thereby erasing or silencing people’s voices and experiences from shared public spaces.

Most Americans don’t have the skills and tools they need to effectively organize, which is why earlier this year EveryLibrary launched Fight For the First, a powerful, free platform to support grassroots organizing and action. Fight for the First empowers community members who want to support their library and librarians and oppose censorship to find each other and take collective action quickly. Fight for the First offers robust modules including groups, petitions, and events modules that enable people to do rapid supporter identification and activation – including a way to quickly build a contactable list of people in your community who care and are willing to take action (lists that can also be used in the future for things like building support for pro-library candidates standing for board seats and other elected offices).

EveryLibrary also offers free coaching and consulting on organizing, messaging, strategies, and tactics. Everyone that starts a group or petition on Fight For the First will be given an initial consultation and access to a national group of over 80 people who are leading anti-censorship fights in their local communities. EveryLibrary staff are available to answer questions, provide guidance, and offer support through text or email or live video chats morning till evening, seven days a week.


As mentioned above, standing and speaking together is always more powerful than speaking alone. In every community, there are organizations that share common cause and common concern around book banning. By asking, “Who else cares?” you can begin to identify organizations and leaders in your community who may be willing to stand with you, sign joint statements, issue joint press releases, and amplify your messaging to their constituents through multiple channels. Who else cares about equity? Civil liberties? Civil rights? Civil society? Marginalized populations? Ethical government? Student success? Create a shared spreadsheet of these organizations, and reach out to request a meeting. There are always organizations that have existing lists of supporters and an overlapping set of values or concerns that can be tapped as coalition partners.


When messaging your support of librarians and opposition to censorship, it is helpful to think about the variety of different audiences you are speaking to, and the variety of messages that may or may not resonate. One trap that some groups — even large, national groups — fall into is the “preaching to the choir” trap. Often, groups that form to fight book banning have a progressive worldview, and wind up only sharing messages that appeal to other progressives. But Americans broadly support libraries and oppose censorship, and many of them will either not respond to progressive messages or be actively turned off by such messages.

Those with a more libertarian political ideology are often staunch supporters of civil liberties, free speech and the first amendment, and generally oppose government regulations. They may respond very positively to messages that focus on letting people think for themselves, letting parents parent their own kids, and keeping the government out of it — especially since book bans conflict with the first amendment.

Community members with a more traditional conservative ideology may be responsive to messages that call out official decisions by boards or councils that are being made in the dark, or in violation of the law or policy. And they may also respond well to messaging that calls out extreme political rhetoric as not reflective of the traditional goodness of our community, and the community we want to be in the future. It may also be effective to point out that extreme political rhetoric, attacks, and bad press due to illegitimate government decisions or perceived bigotry is bad for business, and may lead businesses to locate in communities that seem more peaceful and free from extreme rhetoric or shady government actions.


Remember, if you oppose censorship, you are joined by the majority of Americans and likely by the majority of people in your community. While it may seem daunting to start a local grassroots group, it is easy to post something to your social media asking if there are others who care about what’s happening. Starting a petition/campaign at can be done in 15-30 minutes, and staff at EveryLibrary are usually available within hours to meet with you and offer support and guidance. You are not alone. If you take the first step and show up or speak up, you will quickly find others that want to stand with you in support of libraries, librarians, and the freedom to read.

{ 129 comments… read them below }

  1. Kimmy Schmidt*

    Thank you for this!

    Another simple thing to do is to use your public library and check out these types of materials. Honestly, it doesn’t even matter if you read or watch them. Just checking them out boosts circulation numbers, which are often used as evidence for why certain books should remain on the shelf. And supporting your public library by using other resources such as ebooks, emagazines, audiobooks, and attending library events also helps support the free flow of information!

    1. Kimmy Schmidt*

      Additionally, if you have a positive interaction at your library or with a library staff member, let them know! Librarians are facing a deluge of negativity, hostility, and in some instances, outright violence. The profession was already prone to burnout and vocational awe. A small note of thanks explaining which library resource you used and why they were helpful can go a long way, both in terms of staff survivability and long term funding and support for libraries.

      1. Risky Biscuits*

        And if your library has a means of collecting those kinds of testimonials in writing (a comment card or some kind of online form), I recommend doing those, too. Quotes from patrons make their way into budget presentations and things like that.

      2. It Might Be Me*

        In addition to letting the library staff know, let your elected officials know. Tell them how awesome the staff is and how important it is to support the library.

      3. Hexiva*

        What’s a good way to get positive comments to the librarians? I always say how much I love the library and how helpful they are whenever I talk to them in person, but should I like, pass them a note or send an e-mail? I don’t want to give them extra trouble by clogging up their e-mails.

        1. metadata minion*

          The vast majority of librarians would be thrilled to have their inboxes clogged up with praise! ;-)

        2. Bunny Watson*

          The best thing you can do is send a note by email, snail mail, drop-off in person, addressed to the manager, to let them a staff member (and give their name) was particularly helpful. Frontline staff and even department heads are vastly underappreciated by admin who don’t see the great things they do and often don’t know who they are.

        3. Bibliothecarial*

          Many libraries have ways to submit comments to the library board, which goes into public record. Sometimes there is a comment box on the checkout desk or sometimes a link on the website.

        4. The Dread Pirate Roberts*

          Letters to the Editor of your local newspaper are also so appreciated. It will see a much wider audience, including local politicians and philanthropists who may consider donating, and I guarantee you that if your librarians don’t see it in the paper themselves, at least five patrons will clip it and bring it in for them to display.

        5. migrating coconuts*

          I have worked for years at a local library. Definitely send something to the director. If it is a network of libraries, send it to whomever is the highest up. If there is a library board, also send it there. In my case, our library is a department of the local township, so for us, sending it to the township manager and the elected board of supervisor is the way to go. Send it to local elected officials, whether township, state or even senators and congresspersons. Local papers, local social media etc. Even better, get many of your neighbors to join you.

        6. tsumommy*

          I’m a librarian and we have an online chat service and group email. Please send any and all positive comments to the group email, and/or chat with us! Both of those avenues of communication create a permanent record, and we can forward those comments to our admin. Thank you!!

    2. BarbarianTheLibrarian*

      Here’s the deal – please use your public library. Check out what interests you, stuff you’ve heard about, stuff you want to look at or read, or stuff you heard about on the news… but please don’t check out stuff just to keep it on the shelves. Librarians use circulation data to make decisions on materials, in conjunction with other information. So if you are simply checking out stuff to keep it on the shelves because… you think it’s threatened? You’re not helping. Trust me when I tell you that we librarians know what is threatened and/or banned. You don’t need to create fake data for keeping it on the shelves. We take the freedom to read very seriously and will keep these items on the shelves.
      Also, don’t tell librarians that because you couldn’t find a particular book on the shelves the last time you were in that you assumed we banned it. That’s not what we do. (A patron just said this to me yesterday.)

      1. Throwaway Account*

        Why do you say not to check out stuff just to keep it on the shelves? At my library, we say the opposite. We need the numbers for the challenged books to be able to justify keeping them on the shelves with our board and city.

        1. Public Library Director*

          Because materials cost money and we operate with limited budgets. So we want to know that we’re spending materials on things that are actually read. A book could be the best book in the world, but if no one wants to read it, it’s just taking up space and budget. We could buy something with the same themes that might be more popular! Don’t worry, we consider this when making decisions on books that might be “read” but not checked out because folks are self-conscious.

          Yes, library collections need a wide variety of materials so that books can serve as windows and mirrors. But I don’t want a library full of books purchased based off fake statistics, because these won’t actually be meeting the real needs of my community.

    3. Throwaway Account*

      Yes, checking out the materials helps so much! It allows the library to show to their boards and municipalities that there is a demand for that individual book or item.

      You can also request titles for your library. Look up banned books or books you want to see in your library, look to see if your library owns it, and if not, fill out a request for purchase form.

      And if you go into the library, say something nice to the staff! We get a lot of not very nice things said to us. And there has been a spate of violence at libraries. At the last state library conference, we had a whole session on the violence at libraries and it was very overwhelming and scary!

  2. AnotherLibrarian*

    Thank you for sharing this. Every library conference I have been to this last year has been full of people facing real horrible things at their work and watching parts of their communities turn against them. It’s a very scary time to be a librarian.

  3. OrigCassandra*

    Thank you, Alison and Peter.

    Peter didn’t say so, but I will: EveryLibrary runs on donations. Please consider making one, if you are able. I have.

  4. not nice, don't care*

    Talk to library administrators! Lower level staff are usually the folks hearing directly from concerned patrons, and higher ups don’t always pay much attention to staff-relayed comments. When patrons take the time to contact directors & boards, they listen.

    1. Kaitlyn*

      Absolutely. I’m on my library board, and there is a lot of attention being paid to this topic across upper management and at the board level. I would add, to this excellent list, that working with your local library is a really good place to start. Gather your people and book a meeting with the library CEO to ask how you can mobilize.

  5. Deirdre Honner*

    We have a wonderful organization in Michigan – Michigan Right to Read. It has resources and letter templates for letters to the editor (if you have a paper that prints them).

    We have some pretty crazy people here going after our libraries. And I am thrilled that people are fighting back!

  6. MapleLibrarian*

    As a librarian, thank you!

    As said above, another very important thing is to USE your public library. Use it often, and advocate for others to use it too. Check out the banned books. Take advantage of the digital offerings. Ensure that *everyone* gets access-the teens, the homeless, the seniors.

    If you get to participate in stuff around taxes and whether to support or oppose things for libraries, support increased taxation for libraries. It’ll help.

    1. RaginMiner*

      Additional info: if you are a college student like me, the library local to the university will usually give you a card without an “official” address (for people living in student housing). support the local libraries in your university community!

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Also, if you have youngins, check with your school district. In ours, my children’s student ID cards ARE in fact library cards for the local library system!

        Our local library system has a crazy amount of programming – they even host a ladies knitting club that donates hats/gloves/scarves to any elementary school child who desires one (or needs one).

    2. WellRed*

      Our state tax return has an option to select a small donation of $4, $5 or $10 to go to state library fund.

  7. Rae*

    Also, consider reading a banned or challenged book, and talk about it! Ask your local library to recommend one.

    1. Word Nerd*

      Yes, for sure! Especially consider newer books that are being banned/challenged instead of some of the “classic” banned books. Newer authors need more help with bans/challenges than the authors whose books have stood the test of time for 50+ years.

      1. metadata minion*

        Ditto to this! Some books on the “most banned books” list aren’t actually being challenged in any kind of concerted way anymore. It’s not ok that someone tried to ban them in the 70s, but they don’t actually need anyone defending them specifically.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      Are the kids these days not just pulling the banned/challenged list for reading recommendations? That’s what my nerd friends and I used to do, rebels that we were. :)

    3. Beth*

      If you’re an older reader, you may have fallen into the habit of reading and re-reading familiar works and authors. Taking a deep dive into the newest banned and challenged books is a great way to broaden your reading horizons.

      I’ve found a LOT of new authors recently who are not the same (mostly white, mostly male) voices that made up most of my earlier reading, and it’s been a fabulous breath of fresh air.

  8. Puck*

    Also urge your municipal government (or whoever is in charge of library funding) to increase library funding specifically for staffing. Libraries across the country (just as many other public service orgs) are dealing with short-staffing, which combined with the above attacks is causing increasing levels of burnout. In my system, even branches that are supposedly fully staffed (i.e. no vacancies) don’t actually have enough staff to provide adequate coverage if anything goes wrong.

    1. Risky Biscuits*

      Absolutely, but always not necessarily just for hiring new staff. In my experience, library staff earn less than their equivalents in other departments. So in my case, public librarians and support staff are on a separate, lower wage scale than the rest of the city or county departments, so a library employees and other city employees doing similar work will be paid differently. I’m sure this varies from place to place, and even in my state different libraries have wildly different pay. But it contributes a lot to turnover and burnout.

      1. NerdyLibraryClerk*

        Yes, please advocate for library workers to make a living wage. One of the reason libraries struggle to keep staff is relatively low wages, particularly in higher cost of living areas. Half of my monthly income goes to rent and I’ve been working in my library district for over ten years. True, my job is non-degreed, but the librarians aren’t fairing much better, and they have student loans to pay off!

        1. Sleepy in the stacks*

          Yep, had to get a Masters for my librarian role, and I’m being paid barely any more than the non-MLIS clerks.

    2. Tybalt's Cat*

      Came here to say this. Find out where funding for your library comes from (city, county, state, etc.) and contact those people to tell them how much you value the library. In many places, libraries are funded by property taxes, so when you vote for tax cuts, the library is one of the first budgets cut. Tell the people who hold the purse strings that that’s not what you want.

    3. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

      This may be harder than you think. Many states have regulations delineating how a public library’s funding must be divided (sometimes this looks like “at least 20% of yearly operating funds must be spent on materials”, and sometimes it is more restrictive). Grants also sometimes use overall funding and budget division as a way to evaluate whether a library is an eligible recipient. Telling the municipal government to increase simply one area of funding can create problems, especially for smaller libraries where budgets are small, and increases can have more pronounced effects (these are also the libraries where a lot of these book banning attempts are happening).

      All of which is to say, do advocate for your public libraries to receive funding increases – they are almost always needed – but please avoid trying to earmark funds for specific purposes unless you’ve done some research on the impacts and feasibility beforehand.

  9. Annie Oakley*

    As one of the many librarians who are devoted AAM readers, I thank you for supporting libraries and helping others learn how to get involved!

  10. Czhorat*

    Thank you for this!

    We haven’t had this battle at our public library (yet), but we HAVE had the same fight at our High School and Middle School libraries. There’s an ongoing and loud movement attacking books with LGBT content but they are, as you said, a tiny minority.

    I’m glad to see so many others on the right side of the conflict.

  11. NonProfitAdvocate*

    THANK YOU! This is a great resource to have all in one place. Love to our librarians and our libraries!

  12. Trina*

    As a librarian who has gotten tired of seeing her own workplace in the news (hint: John Green), thank you for all the support and love, everyone! And yes, GO TO BOARD MEETINGS! Even in our case where (most) board members were themselves the problem, public pressure and vigilance are slowly turning this ship around. It was a community member that tagged Green in a tweet discussing the books that had been moved, it was another community member that documented a secret meeting with some of the board members and the library’s legal council, and it’s been community members that are complaining to the governing bodies who appointed these board members in the first place.

  13. Retired MT*

    Thank you!! As a library board member trying to be proactive, I appreciate all your advice. I will share this with my fellow board members and our local school board.

  14. just a reader*

    My library has a very unique situation when it comes to book challenges. Yes, there’s only one or two people who drive the majority of the challenges with a focus on LGBTQ and “woke” materials. But they’re organizing to get more people to make challenges. They also call book bans a lie since books can be moved to an adult section and are therefore not banned. (I thoroughly disagree of course, it tells everyone that queer content isn’t for children and objectionable.)

    Their main tactic is this: getting more conservative content into the library. They want books outright condemning anything on gender, socialism, environmentalism, and more blind patriotism, among many others. Several titles have already been placed by city council endorsement/donation. It’s an exhausting and dehumanizing situation to have cute picture books about pronouns going to adult books, but meanwhile a picture book about an elephant pretending to be a bird in an anti-trans allegory goes to the children’s section.

    So, please, yes, speak up wherever you can. Please.

  15. Texas Librarian*

    Thank you for this. In my county we have had a slew of reconsideration requests from one person – ONE – in a county of 300,000+. It affects everyone. I’ve been a librarian for 30 years and let me tell you I don’t like every book we have – I don’t like selecting some of the titles I do, BUT we have them because we serve everyone. If you don’t like a book for yourself or your family don’t read it – I support you in that.

  16. Frodo*

    Thank you so much for this!! The library is the quintessential safe place, open to everybody, free for everyone and a beloved community hub.

    Also, if you’re not following @mychal3ts, you’re missing out on a great librarian. They’re fantastic!

  17. FormerBookKid*

    This is amazing. Thank you for sharing this. So many of my queer librarian friends are leaving their jobs because their communities don’t have their backs, and while the job requires advocacy and community work- none of them signed up to be doxxed, harassed, and outed. People need to be showing up for them.

    I’m also going to throw out that this is a great time, if you have the money, to be supporting indie bookstores. As someone who just left the industry, a *lot* of my peers are facing similar harassment and fighting alongside librarians.

  18. BuffaloBuffaloBuffalo*

    Just came here to say that my local library in Central NJ while growing had “Banned Book Week” every year and would display all the books that other libraries would ban and state that they do not ban any books.

    Was a constant throughout my childhood in the 80s and 90s and my understanding is that it remains today….

    1. dulcinea47*

      I suspect your library was participating in national Banned book week, which is still a thing and has been for decades, and featuring books that have been banned in various places (mostly school libraries) all over the US. New Jersey isn’t some special place where books never get banned.

      1. ErinB*

        This feels like a really unkind response that doesn’t advance the discussion in any way when Buffalo was just sharing their experience.

    2. Risky Biscuits*

      Banned Book Week is actually marketed by the American Library Association, and they produce posters and educational materials for libraries to use for it. So some variation of it is pretty widespread, even in some of the libraries where books are challenged (although I have observed that some libraries will sort of lay low with it by sticking to old classic books rather than highlighting currently-challenged items).

  19. LibrarianLady*

    Thank you! Another tip is to check out diverse books so we know to order more, and if you notice that we don’t have a book you want, please tell us and we’ll probably order it!

    1. GrimLIHEAPer*

      I love submitting purchasing suggestions to my county library system, they have only said “no” once and it was for availability reasons. I’ve probably added 20+ books to the YA graphic novels section for my youngster and I like to think they were all quality adds that increased the diversity of offerings. Sometimes I go peek inside the books on the shelf to look at the due date slips and see how often they’ve gone back out. Thank you for working with your local patrons to get the books they need on the shelves.

  20. TootSweet*

    There should NEVER be a scary time to be a librarian. Thank you so much for this! I know that one group in particular is making a lot of noise on the other side of my state, but it doesn’t seem to have reached my side yet, and I’m thankful for that. Judy Blume’s books got me through my teenage years; I’m sure there are many others who survived that awkward time through her and others’ books.

    1. dulcinea47*

      Judy Blume spoke at the big library association conference this year- you are right about her influence. It was interesting for me to learn about the challenges to her books when they came out, b/c of course at ages 10 to 12 I had no idea.
      Except, “Forever” was the only book the librarian ever asked my mom if it was okay for me to read. Mom said yes w/o even looking up, I’m sure she had no idea there was S-E-X in it heheh.

    2. Risky Biscuits*

      > There should NEVER be a scary time to be a librarian.

      Unfortunately, even before this particular set of challenges, it could still be pretty scary to be a librarian, depending on the library, just due to the way that public libraries have become a de facto front line for social services (despite frequent underfunding and lack of training).

      As an aside, I don’t know what kind of music you like, but you may like the gist of the song “Judy Blume” by Amanda Palmer. Should probably avoid seeing the album cover when at work though.

      1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        Agree on the Amanda Palmer song. It’s a great song.

        And, in case anyone is wondering about the album art, it is a very lovely photo of the artist fully nude. It is not sexual, but it is full frontal and without any literal or metaphorical fig leaf.

    3. Trina*

      This isn’t even the first time that librarians have had to deal with widespread book challenges – the original version of the ALA’s “Freedom to Read” statement was created largely in response to McCarthyism, specifically the chilling effect it had on library collections. That public libraries survived that era has given me hope to hold onto that while there are some battles being lost currently, I think we will still be here in the long run.

  21. Jigglypuff*

    Expanding on what other librarians have said, please use your library! It’s a resource that you already have available. If you don’t have time to go in, you can probably download ebooks onto your phone to read or listen to for free.

    If you do have time to go in, please check out materials that are important to you or that interest you. We aren’t going to quiz you when you return them, so if you just glance through them or don’t have time to read them all, that’s fine! The fact that you checked them out helps us know that those materials are important, so then we have reasoning to buy even more.

    If you want to help even more, write a letter to the director or library board expressing your gratitude for the library and its offerings. This helps the people with the most power to protect your library to know how important it is to you.

    1. metadata minion*

      If you’re like me and are terrible at returning books on time (despite, in my case, being a librarian…) library ebooks and audiobooks magically disappear from your phone/computer when they’re due and you don’t have to keep track of them ;-)

    2. datamuse*

      Also, newspapers and magazines! I subscribe to publications I read regularly but for one-offs, often the library has them in an online database. Paywalls don’t have to be an obstacle.

  22. Donkey Hotey*

    To amplify what others have said about using your library: If you didn’t know, many libraries have free audio books and e-books through Libby. I’ve listened to 40 audio books this year alone. So not only is it good for library engagement, it’s good for me I’m that I save hundreds of dollars on Audible subscriptions and the like.

    1. dulcinea47*

      Rather than “free”, think of them as “pre-paid with your tax dollars” (and everyone else’s). (they’re actually super expensive for the library b/c publishers are…. not kind. not generous. that’s putting it mildly.)

        1. Dulcinea47*

          I don’t put it as eloquently as my former coworker, a public services librarian who would enthusiastically explain to people that these are already their DVDs (etc.) to borrow! (yes, we have DVDs, tons of them due to being in a county where a lot of folks can’t afford high speed internet and a lot of people live outside the city where there isn’t any.)

          1. Middle of HR*

            Things get taken off of streaming platforms all the time, there are movies that are currently impossible to stream but available on DVD. Hard media is important! I’m in a major metro but I love when libraries have movies/tv to borrow. This is especially important for indies and documentaries.

    2. Throwaway Account*

      And libraries have streaming movies and LinkedIn Learning and digital magazines and programs and so much more!!

  23. VP of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

    Regarding banned books, I recently saw the following in a meme…

    “When the Viennese government compiled a catalogue of forbidden books in 1765, so many Austrians used it as a reading guide that the Hapsburg censors were forced to include the catalogue itself as a forbidden book.”

    1. Lana Kane*

      In 1937 the German Nazi government staged a Degenerate Art exhibit, with artwork confiscated from German museums “insult(ing) German feeling”. Over 2 million people came to see it.

    2. Another Library Worker*

      The problem is that the book banners are going after more than just public libraries. They’re going after book stores, school libraries, and school classrooms. And let’s be honest here, we’re seeing fewer physical book stores in general (I have two I can think of in the large, metropolitan area, where I grew up, but the larger, metropolitan area where I currently work (not far from my hometown) has none), the cost of everything is rising, and not everyone has the financial or accessibility means to even access a book store, online or otherwise. For example, as a high schooler, I didn’t drive or have a car, and my mother would *never* have let me bring most of the books getting banned right now inside the house. I would read them at the school library, since the public library was too far away and ebooks didn’t exist yet.

      1. Dulcinea47*

        School libraries have always been the easiest target, b/c they have to follow the rules for school content, not the rules (or lack of) for library content.

  24. Kay*

    I’ll also say—if you think it can’t happen where you live—it can. I’m in a notoriously liberal area and the local school district just verrrrry quietly removed a book from high school libraries. It’s everywhere, and we all have to pay attention.

  25. Another Library Worker*

    Don’t forget that if you’re in the US, this is where your vote can really, truly count. The groups that are banning books are also backing people running for school boards, library boards, and the other organizations that may run libraries (mine, for example, is a local government department). It may be an off-year for major elections, but it might just mean that there are people running for the boards that are actively participating in book censorship right now.

    1. BlueberryGirl*

      Yes, 100% this. Our local elections just happened and we managed to not re-elect both school board and city council members who had attempted book bans. Local politics might be occasionally frustrating, but they really matter and you have to pay attention.

      1. WellRed*

        Yes local politics affect us more directly in many cases far more than anything at the state or federal level.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      I was just reviewing the school board candidates for the upcoming election and anyone who mentioned removing “objectionable content” from libraries was an easy filter for who would not be getting my vote.

      My child, who identifies as LGBTQ+, was absolutely thrilled to see a display with books about people like them in their school library. They had not been a big reader in the past, but they signed up for their school’s annual reading challenge and have really been enjoying what they picked up. Their school librarians are also do personalized recommendations based on interest surveys and ratings of what they’ve read, and it’s wildly popular with the kids.

  26. Fleur-de-Lis*

    Thank you for sharing this, and thank you to Peter for writing this up! EveryLibrary is an important organization that can do more direct political action and lobbying than the American Library Association can (it’s about the way that each organization is incorporated under non-profit laws and tax regulations). Support BOTH, and most especially, support your local libraries – public libraries, K-12 school libraries, and academic libraries at colleges and universities!

  27. Csethiro Ceredin*

    Thanks so much for posting this and for the added suggestions! My local library said they’re not currently having issues with bans/abuse, but I’m afraid the poison will spread so I’m grateful for all these ideas.

  28. WeAreHoldingOurOwn*

    Unfortunately, the part about book banners being a tiny minority is not really correct,

    From one of the polls cited in the article: “the majority of Republican respondents — 58% — said that there’s a time and place for public school classrooms or school libraries to ban books or novels.”

    This mindset certainly applies to the far right and banning books at public libraries. Too often these marginally-literate right-wingers (and I used to be a Republican) will recast “banning books” as “protecting our children”. As in most social science research, how you phrase the question will elicit VERY different answers.

    The point is that while many book-banning attempts are driven by the most motivated of the wingnuts, there is a great deal of support among the ‘regular” wingnuts. These attacks on the education and liberty of all Americans is indeed supported by wide swaths of the US far-right. These are not people to be reasoned with.

  29. It Might Be Me*

    I echo what was said about showing up at library board meetings, city council meetings, county commission meetings, etc. It’s one thing to say something on social media, but if the only people actually going to the meetings support book bans, they have more impact.

    The part about focusing on the message is good too. I recently had to leave an anti-censorship group because they spent too much time mocking those with religious beliefs. I’m sorry, but I’m not there to be made fun of. I’m there to protect the right to read.

  30. Ellis Bell*

    I was really taken aback by the first letter and some of the comments which indicated that they have to allow filming simply because they are in a “public place”. Sure, photographers in the UK also don’t have to ask for permission to film in public places like the street, but taking it to the extreme that indoor, managed spaces don’t have the right to ask you to stop behaving like a jackass just because camaras have been deemed sacrasant by the few, seems absurd. Simply because they’re publicly funded spaces? GTFOOH. It seems like librarians need some organisation and back up around the difference between “filming” and “harassment by camera”. It wouldn’t be okay to film a young child reading close up, or to indulge in upskirting if a woman was stocking high shelves, so why is it okay to divulge the identity of public servants to online extremists?

      1. Dulcinea47*

        US laws aren’t state laws, and it varies by state what you can legally record w/o consent *and* what constitutes harassment.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        Even though it’s a very new law in the UK, it’s never been an thing happily and cheerfully allowed by custodians of safe spaces; “Hey come on in and be creepy and intrusive with your camera” is not a reasonable stance that anyone should be asked to endure. Laws or not, policies can be put in place. It’s really common for public servants everywhere to be stiffed, undervalued, and unsupported and this is one thing people should really be supporting them on.

    1. Extreeeeemely Anon for This*

      Yeah well…last year I was part of a group of friendly volunteers there to keep an eye on an event for children at a library that had had some threats, who blocked a neo-N*zi group from rushing the library to barge their way into the event. I literally had guys hit me and slam me against the door while screaming “It’s a public place, you have to let us in!” in my face. As it turns out, credible safety threats are an exception to this and it would have been hard to argue that those guys weren’t a credible safety threat, but a lot of people in the US think certain rights in public spaces have no exception.

      (For the record: This was in a blue city and state with lots of people who think “it can’t happen here,” not the type of place that the “it can’t happen here” people would assume it happened)

  31. Hexiva*

    One thing that I wondered that isn’t addressed here: how do I know if my public library is under attack? I’m in there pretty regularly and I haven’t /seen/ anything like the letter described. Do I have to be active on Facebook/Nextdoor communities for my local area? I hate those websites.

    1. metadata minion*

      Ask the librarians! Even if your library isn’t being harassed, just asking about it would be a much-welcomed gesture of support.

    2. Dulcinea47*

      Just assume they are. Because either they are, or they are spending time getting prepared in case they are, and I guarantee you the employees are scared and stressed by the overall environment. (I worked in a public library for seven years and left less than 2 months ago. I’m a cataloger, which means I don’t interact with the public much. But it effects everyone’s morale who works there! I’m really not a fan of being called a “groomer”!)

      Otherwise, pay attention to the local news, sometimes it makes it there but by that time there’s usually been an escalating situation for a while and things are dire. But your local librarians are talking to people and responding to negative comments all. the. time. and going through a set procedure for challenges. Most people drop it when you ask them if they’ve read the book and to write down exactly what they object to. But these recent attacks are by people who have all the time in the world to try to ban childrens books and they don’t give up.

    3. Bibliothecarial*

      BookRiot has weekly reports (every Friday) of all the censorship issues going on around the US. You can also generally read library board meeting minutes – the comments from the public can be illuminating.

    4. AnotherLibrarian*

      Consider joining your local Friends of the Library group. They often have a list-serve or newsletter and they are the first “line of defense” for most public libraries.

  32. Sloanicota*

    On the 11 people filing most of the bans … I guess this is what everybody in my tiny super liberal organization means that with that Margaret Mead quote in every email signature (“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world …”). Too bad it’s not what they’re hoping for.

  33. Bibliothecarial*

    Thank you for this! Alison, I didn’t think it was possible to love and appreciate your work more…I was wrong.

  34. NerdyLibraryClerk*

    Thank you! Please support your local libraries. We offer more than you might realize and mean so much to so many.

  35. Tammy 2 (former librarian, author)*

    Thank you, Alison, and to all the commenters for caring so much about this issue.

      1. OrigCassandra*

        Quite. And concealing where we are, pretending we’re somewhere anodyne, helps no one — particularly not libraries and librarians.

  36. BenAdminGeek*

    Great post. I love the point about tailoring your message to the audience you’re reaching- it’s very easy to get caught up in why I oppose book bans, but making sure you’re explaining to a variety of viewpoints is so critical.

  37. atypical*

    Thanks for this. I’m a trustee for my local public library and have lots of thoughts about what I wish people would do to support libraries and librarians, who are true bastions of democracy and civil society.

    First, find out if your local public library is an independent nonprofit or a municipal library. If it’s a nonprofit, then all you have to do (in addition to the things Allison mentioned) is be responsive to requests to help with fundraising and the like.

    If your library is funded by your city, town, or county, then you have a larger role to play. Those are the libraries most often targeted by censorship campaigns, as the politicians who control the funding are more likely to be persuaded than librarians themselves.

    Here are some ways you can help with that:
    (1) If your library has appointed or elected trustees, throw your hat into the ring.
    (2) If your city, town, or county has a budget process that includes citizen input, volunteer to serve on the relevant committee or show up to offer public comments at budget time.
    (3) Be sure to tell your representative(s) at the relevant governing body that you expect them to fully fund the library. Because, sadly, not everybody understands why libraries are essential public institutions, be sure to tell them WHY.
    (4) Pay attention to local elections and vote for candidates who are likely to support the library without trying to interfere in its operations.

    1. A librarian*

      I am a library employee. I am aware of how much our board members do for us, either for free or for a very nominal payment. Every seat on our board taken by someone who just wants to facilitate reading in the community saves hours and hours and hours of staff time, and thus taxpayer money, because that seat is not filled by someone with a book banning agenda who will force us to spend our time defending ourselves from unreasonable challenges and explaining our collection development policies over and over instead of getting on with our jobs. I’m so grateful for what you are doing for your community. Thank you so much.

  38. Kathy the Librarian*

    As a librarian of 33 years…. THANK YOU!!
    We believe in the First Amendment.
    If you don’t like the book, you don’t have to read it. But you don’t have the right to tell others they can’t read it.

  39. No Yelling on the Bus*

    ALSO – my library hosts “Banned Book Week” semi-regularly. Where they highlight all the books being banned in other places, make extra copies available, and then host discussions about why those books are controversial. It’s intended to enlighten us all to the complexities of (1) literature and (2) the current state of American culture.

    I don’t live in the kind of town that bans books, it’s been highly progressive since it was founded 200 years ago (literally, the founding plaque acknowledges that they stole land from Native Americans!) so this isn’t the same spirit as what Alison is talking about, but it’s what you can do to counteract book bans if you live somewhere that they’re not happening. Educate the next generation about WHY.

  40. McFizzle*

    I work for a school district, and they need this level of support as well (for our school librarians / libraries / staff / board members. Our televised board meeting routinely devolve into personal insults, attacks, and utterly baseless claims from “activists”. The demoralization is *real*.

  41. SB*

    I am so sad that this is happening in the US. We are regular users of our local library here in my Aussie country town & we do not have the same sort of issues. I did look for LGBTQI books when I was in last & the librarian showed me the new section she had started. It isn’t huge, but it is there. At this stage it is mostly the self help style with a few romance titles, but she has applied for funding to expand the range. She said she was happy to see the section being used pretty regularly & said there had been no negative comments, no complaints, no protests.

  42. frostipaws*

    Become a Friend of the Library and/or donate. I have been giving a little every month. One of the staff called and asked if I was paying fines because they don’t get many donations.

  43. Punk Book Jockey*

    Adding more librarian thanks for this! I love my public library work, but it can get exhausting, and the book banners sure aren’t helping. I am especially tired of the fear mongers spreading false information across the internet. If you get into conversations with loved ones, please tell them sincerely, there is not porn for children lurking in the library stacks.

  44. Coyote River*

    I appreciate the part about tailoring the message, as I’m probably a bit further to the right than many on this site and I think this is a message conservatives need to hear, too. Banning books is government overreach, and in my opinion impinges on individual freedoms. If you don’t like a book, speak with your wallet and don’t buy it.

    1. datamuse*

      Thank you for saying this. I think there’s a difference between disliking or disagreeing with something, and trying to remove it from the public sphere.

  45. Ice Princess*

    While this advice is good overall, this is not really a *library* thing. It’s a general anti-government thing. The Jan. 6th crowd has a movement going where they basically go harass and film various government employees in various settings attempting to get a reaction out of them and have their “1st amendment rights” violated. For good measure they are also leaving belligerent voicemails so there is an appropriate amount of tension already there by the time they show up in person. I am a government employee myself and we recently had this happen (not at the library and not in my department). It was a literal Jan. 6 insurrectionist who has been traveling the state doing this.

  46. Isingthebodyelectric*

    Mid-career librarian here. Last year I moved up into an administrative position, finding it incredibly difficult, questioning all my life choices… but Ask A Manager has helped me so much to weather the storms!

    We’ve only had to deal with a little of this (one book challenge, one first amendment auditor, and a few responses to our recent survey about the “woke lesbians” running the library LOL). Our library is in quite a liberal suburban community, but we’re still preparing ourselves for more, and I do think it will get worse before it gets better.

    I’m a first time commenter and just wanted to say THANK YOU for the post and to all the folks here who asked for it. Y’all are the best.

  47. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

    One thing that wasn’t mentioned in the article – a public library board is often elected by the local community, and is typically the final arbiter of book banning discussions. If you care about the freedom to receive information and the library in general, please consider running for those positions – you can do a lot of good with relatively minimal commitment, and the positions typically are not highly contested (which is how a lot of people who do want to see these materials removed get on them).

  48. Introvert Teacher*

    Does anyone else wonder whether the hateful rhetoric against librarians isn’t just about some groups trying to remove gender/sexual orientation/progressive content from the shelves, but also to undermine voter support for what is essentially a free service to taxpayers? Honestly, public schools, libraries… it’s just speculation, but sometimes I wonder.

    Thank you for all you do, librarians.

  49. Liz*

    Thank you for posting this! The uptick in book censorship is frightening and we need more people to push back against it.

  50. Friend_to_books_and_logic*

    My father is one of these book banning advocates and I would just like to apologize for my blood line.

Comments are closed.