ALA Launches Policy Corps Cadre for Proactive Advocacy on Book Banning

For Immediate Release
Fri, 04/07/2023


Shawnda Hines

Deputy Director, Communications

Public Policy & Advocacy Office

American Library Association

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, the American Library Association (ALA) Public Policy & Advocacy (PPA) Office, in partnership with ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, announce a new initiative for proactive advocacy to combat book banning and censorship in America’s libraries. A cadre of the ALA Policy Corps will boost efforts across library types and states to showcase how libraries and library workers provide essential information resources to their communities while increasing awareness about the importance of intellectual freedom and its centrality to American democracy and society. This cadre met at the ALA Washington Office on March 20-22 to develop plans for concrete action for the coming months.

The ALA Policy Corps aims to expand the Association’s ability to advocate on key policy issues on behalf of the library community. Participants in the Corps focus on issues for which deep and sustained knowledge are necessary to advance ALA policy goals and library values among policymakers.

In 2022, a record 1269 attempts to remove books from schools and libraries were reported to the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom. These challenges targeted 2571 unique book titles, the vast majority of which were written by or about members of the LGBTQIA+ community or Black persons, Indigenous persons, and persons of color.  Of the overall number, 90% were part of attempts to challenge multiple titles at a time – evidencing coordinated efforts to restrict or remove books about marginalized groups and deny each reader’s freedom to choose.  More than half of states also have seen the introduction or passage of legislation that would severely restrict access to library materials, including withholding funding for libraries or criminalizing the professional activities of library workers who fail to comply with the likely unconstitutional demands.

“From official letters advocating on behalf of libraries and librarians to decisionmakers to hundreds of hours of team counseling to free digital infrastructure and technical assistance for activism, ALA is supporting dozens of libraries and library associations facing challenges,” said ALA President Lessa Kanani'opua Pelayo-Lozada. “And we know more is needed. These attacks demand active, organized support from peer professionals like this cadre of Policy Corps coordinated with cross-sector partners mobilized by ALA through the Unite Against Book Bans campaign. Together, we are an antidote to the pervasive censorship poisoning our communities.”

ALA Senior Fellow Kent Oliver leads the cadre with ALA Senior Fellow Christopher Harris as advisor. Initial membership of the volunteer cadre includes:

  • Becky Calzada, Texas
  • Todd Carpenter. Maryland
  • Nicolle Davies, Colorado
  • Sonya Durney, Maine
  • Sharon Edwards, Tennessee
  • Lori Fisher, Maine
  • Tiffeni Fontno, Tennessee
  • Ursula Gorham-Oscilowski, Maryland
  • Sonnet Ireland, Louisiana
  • Christy James, South Carolina
  • Qiana Johnson. New Hampshire
  • Amanda Kordeliski, Oklahoma
  • Erin MacFarlane, Arizona
  • Tim Miller, Oklahoma
  • Larry Neal, Michigan
  • Mary Pellicano, Maryland
  • Hallie Rich, Ohio
  • Deborah Rinio, Alaska
  • Sarah Vantrease, California
  • Lisa Varga, Virginia

The current effort is envisioned as a pilot that is expected to expand—both within the Policy Corps and to incorporate other advocates by the end of 2023. Cadre members will initiate and guide a broad range of activities such as presentations at professional conferences and other public gatherings; meetings with government officials; interviews with the media; meetings with stakeholders beyond the library ecosystem; publication of letters to the editor, op-eds, blog posts, articles, and social media posts; and recruitment of new advocates and active supporters. The cadre will promote and advance the goals and messaging of the Unite Against Book Bans initiative.

To learn more, please join us at the program “Changing the Narrative: ALA Policy Corps Takes On Book Banners at the 2023 ALA Annual Conference in Chicago on Saturday at 9 a.m. Also, look for updates on PPA’s Twitter account @LibraryPolicy and sign up for the Unite Against Book Bans initiative if you or your organization has not yet done so.