For immediate release | February 9, 2012

Censorship battles from the library front lines

CHICAGO — Intellectual freedom is a core value of librarianship, but fighting to keep controversial materials on the shelves can sometimes feel like a lonely battle. And not all censorship controversies involve the public objecting to a book in the collection—libraries are venues for displays and meetings, and sometimes library staff themselves are tempted to preemptively censor a work. “True Stories of Censorship Battles in America's Libraries,” edited by Valerie Nye and Kathy Barco, compiles dozens of stories from library front lines, helping fortify and inform those in the fray. Published by ALA Editions, this edifying and enlightening collection:

  • Tells the stories of librarians who withstood difficult circumstances to champion intellectual freedom;
  • Touches on prickly issues such as age-appropriateness, some librarians’ temptation to preemptively censor, sensitive cultural expressions and criminality in the library;
  • Presents case studies of defenses that were unsuccessful, so librarians facing similar challenges can learn from these defeats.

Nye is the library manager at Santa Fe University of Art and Design’s Fogelson Library. She previously worked as a library consultant at the New Mexico State Library, where she started researching and training on intellectual freedom and banned books. She has co-authored two guide books with Kathy Barco and one literary research guide with R. Neil Scott,Postmarked Milledgeville: A Guide to Flannery O’Connor’s Correspondence in Libraries and Archives.” Nye is a trustee on the board of the New Mexico Library Foundation.

Barco is currently a children’s librarian with Albuquerque’s public library, following five years as youth services coordinator at the New Mexico State Library. She contributed to “Thinking Outside the Book: Essays for Innovative Librarians” and wrote the foreword to “Librarians As Community Partners: An Outreach Handbook.” Barco’s “READiscover New Mexico: A Tri-Lingual Adventure in Literacy” won a New Mexico Book Award. She is on the board of the New Mexico Library Foundation and received the New Mexico Library Association’s Leadership Award in 2006.

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