Dealing with Challenges to Young Adult Materials

Immediate Help

Immediate help with challenges can be obtained by contacting ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF). For assistance, contact  Angela Maycock, assistant director, 800-545-2433, ext. 4221, or OIF, Office for Intellectual Freedom, 800-545-2433, ext. 4223, Also contact your state library association for local assistance.

Challenge Resources

The Office of Intellectual Freedom’s Web site offers many resources for dealing with challenges to library materials.

For information on coping with a challenge, including advice on dealing with individuals and the media, see OIF's suggestions for coping with challenges.

Most important points for dealing with concerned parents or other individuals:

  1. Listen.
  2. Be sympathetic, but don’t agree that the material in question is objectionable.
  3. Explain that libraries are committed to providing material for all members of a community.
  4. Frame the conversation in general terms; for example, explain that freedom of choice is an important value.
  5. Be prepared to explain your library’s collection development policy and challenge procedure in an easily understood manner.

The Office of Intellectual Freedom also maintains a page devoted to IF issues involving youth and library materials.

Key points for young adult materials:

  1. Library users have different standards; to limit a library’s collection to one viewpoint or restrict access to certain materials denies others the right to information they may feel is important.
  2.  “Ownership does not equal endorsement.” In other words, the fact that the library owns a particular item does not mean the library endorses the viewpoint of the author or creator.
  3. Young adult collections provide materials for teens of all ages. What may be appropriate for an eighteen-year-old may not be appropriate for a twelve- or thirteen-year-old.
  4. For these reasons, parents are ultimately responsible for their teen’s use of the library.

Other Topics

Collection Development Policies

The best tool in the event of a challenge is a current collection development policy. Many libraries have placed their collection development policies online.

Graphic Novels

Because images are often felt to have a more immediate impact than text, graphic novels may be viewed as an especially controversial element of a library’s collection. To learn more, OIF offers specific information about challenges and graphic novels, excerpted from Graphic Novels: Suggestions for Librarians (PDF), jointly created by the National Coalition Against Censorship, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and the American Library Association.

Other Resources

For more information, consult OIF’s clearinghouse for information on library challenges.