West Bend librarians and community activists share censorship stories at ALA Annual Conference

Contact: Deborah Caldwell-Stone

Acting Director,

American Library Association (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF)

(312) 280-4224


Angela Maycock

Assistant Director, OIF

(312) 280-4221



For Immediate Release,

June 30, 2009

CHICAGO - Meet the librarians and community members who are fighting to keep library materials on the shelves in West Bend, Wis. at this year’s American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference in Chicago.

A special panel sponsored by the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), Intellectual Freedom Committee and Freedom to Read Foundation will feature West Bend Community Library Director Michael Tyree, Young Adult Librarian Kristin Pekoll, library board President Barbara Deters, former library board Member Mary Reilly-Kliss and community organizer Maria Hanrahan. Â

The panel, part of the IFC Issues Briefing, will take place at 8 a.m. on Monday, July 13,  in Room W194a in McCormick Place West. The panelists will share their unique experience and insights gained in addressing multiple challenges to young adult and GLBT materials in the West Bend Community Memorial Library, including a demand to publicly burn Francesca Lia Block's YA novel, "Baby Be-Bop."

The controversy arose in February, 2009, when a West Bend couple filed a request to reconsider books included in the library's "Out of the Closet" bibliography aimed at youth interested in GLBT issues, as well as books deemed “sexually explicit.” Over the following weeks and months, the couple helped to form a citizens’ group, West Bend Citizens for Safe Libraries, and circulated a petition asking the library to move particular young adult books to the adult section, label certain material as objectionable and restrict access to categories of online content.

A second citizens’ group, West Bend Parents For Free Speech, was formed to oppose the requested restrictions and to support the library’s existing policies. A third organization, the Christian Civil Liberties Union, eventually filed a widely-reported claim with the City of West Bend that asserted that the library had injured its members by placing the YA novel, "Baby Be-Bop" in the library's collection. The group asked for monetary damages and demanded that "Baby Be-Bop" be publicly burned "as a deterrent to repeating this offensive conduct."

In June 2009, the West Bend Library Board voted unanimously to retain the books in its YA Zone, “without removing, relocating, labeling or otherwise restricting access.” The five panelists, all librarians, trustees and community members directly involved with the challenges, will discuss their experiences and their plans to continue the ongoing work of maintaining unrestricted access to information for everyone in their community.