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Librarian group fights woke 'banned books' narrative
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Librarian group fights woke 'banned books' narrative

The Association of Library Professionals wants libraries guided by public service not politics.

The banned book biz is booming.

According to the American Library Association, the number of books "targeted for censorship" rose by 65% last year, "reaching the highest level ever documented by ALA."

"You can't have a display of banned books if they never made it off the printing press."

To hear the left tell it, our very freedom to read is under attack. And the hysteria has started to spread among well-meaning conservatives.

The problem is that liberal organizations like the ALA now use the term "ban" to refer to schools restricting access to books they deem inappropriate for children. These include many LGBTQ-themed books containing explicit sexual content.

As Dave Seminara wrote last year in City Journal, books that have been "banned" from schools are widely available in public libraries as well as bookstores. What the ALA really objects to is the right of parents to "question curation decisions made by public school librarians."

The ALA's Library Bill of Rights opposes restricting access to books based on age.

Seminara suggests that conservatives "reframe the book debate by asking [the left] to define the word 'ban.' They shouldn’t let the left avoid acknowledging the explicit or graphic content of many of these books, and they should ask defenders of these titles whether they want their own children reading them."

Some states, including Seminara's native Florida, have simply cut ties with the ALA altogether.

One group of librarians is trying another tactic to free libraries from ideological capture: forming their own version of the ALA.

Founded almost a year ago, the Association of Library Professionals seeks "to guide the library profession back to its traditional duty of impartially offering books and resources to all users, while also staying attuned to the needs and interests of patrons and communities."

This includes keeping sexually explicit material out of the hands of minors, ALP's Caleb May tells Align:

"[W]e really should be the partners of the parents and the caregivers and the educators in providing well-balanced educational development ... for young readers.

"Once they're adults, then whatever they want is whatever they want. But for kids, and I've got six of them myself, you have to put special coverings on wall sockets ... you have to put up the gate so they don't go up or down stairs."

ALP President C. Erik Wilkinson points out that leftist bias in libraries tends to restrict the kind of books that are acquired in the first place.

He also notes the disturbing trend of books being "strangled in the crib" by a publishing industry loathe to challenge current woke pieties, citing the example of "white authors who have written books with characters from [different] racial or ethnic backgrounds" being deemed "problematic."

"You can't have a display of banned books if they never made it off the printing press," adds May.

The ALP emphasizes that its mission is not about being liberal or conservative but rather about restoring the neutrality of libraries.

"Our main concern is that there seems to be a lack of willingness to have all stakeholders come to the conversation," says ALP media rep Maggie Allbee.

"Certain people have been left out or have been told to be quiet and sit down. We do not believe that is right. That's not what librarians are about. That's not what libraries are about. We are supposed to be for all ideas, not for just one or two."

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Matt Himes

Matt Himes

Managing Editor, Align

Matt Himes is the managing editor for Align. He has been a copywriter and marketing consultant for the entertainment industry for 20 years. A native of Allentown, Pennsylvania, he lives in Los Angeles with his wife and three children.
@matthimes →