Current World Events Discussion Series for Library Staff & Community Members

The U.S. and the world are currently facing the challenge of misinformation, disinformation and fake news in a way that is truly endangering the future of democracies and of humanity itself. As trusted information sources, librarians have a responsibility to confront this challenge. We need to help the public not only with distinguishing among misinformation, disinformation and facts but also with learning the basic tools and processes of critical thinking to analyze local, national and international events.

Whether it is climate change or immigration, the war in Ukraine or the protests in Iran, there are current world events that the public is hungry to hear discussed in a coherent, thoughtful, informative, analytical manner, rather than through sound bites or quick tidbits on the news interrupted by commercials.

Guided by PEN America’s media literacy guidelines, each session of this series will focus on a particular news topic by discussing two articles from highly reputable and credible sources such as The New York Times, The Economist, The Guardian as well as smaller news sources such as Truthout and ProPublica. Facts and events will be examined within the historical and global context in which they take place. They will also be examined from the vantage point of diversity, inclusion and social justice. Our goal is to promote global awareness and to facilitate a truly educational, fruitful and civil discussion on a regular basis. We are also aiming to discuss creative solutions to problems.

When: One Saturday each month, for 1 hour
Who: Open to library staff and their patrons! Organized and facilitated by members of the ALA Social Responsibilities Round Table’s Programming Committee
How: Join us via Zoom - specific dates and registration links below

References & Resources:

Past Events

Banned Books & the Struggle to Preserve African American History

(Feb. 10, 2024)

According to the American Library Association, between January 1 and August 31, 2023, there were 695 attempts to censor library materials and services. There were also challenges to 1,915 unique titles. The number of unique titles challenged has increased by 20 percent from the same reporting period in 2022, the year in which the highest number of book challenges occurred since ALA began compiling this data more than 20 years ago. Most of the challenges were regarding books written by or about a person of color or a member of the LGBTQIA+ community or both. Challenges to books in public libraries accounted for 49 percent of those items documented and in 11 states, challenges of 100 or more books were recorded.

According to PEN America, book bans have mainly targeted books for teens and children that discuss racism, LGBTQ+ identities, and violence. The book bans were most prevalent in Texas, Florida, Missouri, Utah and South Carolina and a growing number of book bans nationwide have been organized through advocacy groups or legislation. Despite this organized push, over 70% of parents nationwide oppose book bans.

In addition to book bans, we have witnessed Florida’s rewriting of its African American history standards that downplays the horrors of slavery. Conservative challenges to the College Board’s new Advanced Placement course on African American history have led to removing topics such as Critical Race Theory, Structural Racism, and the Black Lives Matter movement. Further, we have also seen an assault on the publication of the New York Times 1619 Project created by Nikole Hannah-Jones, which critically evaluated the founding of the United States and the continued impact of slavery in the 21st century United States.

Join us for a discussion on the responsibilities of librarians in confronting book bans and promoting critical evaluations of U.S. history, as we preserve and honor African American history and struggles for civil rights and human rights.

Suggested Readings:

  1. American Library Association (2023). “American Library Association Releases Preliminary Data on 2023 Book Challenges.” September 19.

  2. PEN America (2023). “Banned in the USA” April 20.

  3. American Library Association (2023). “Voters Oppose Book Bans in Libraries.”

  4. Cornell University (2023). “Stifling the Colors of Diversity.” CIW Reports. July 1.

  5. Yancy, George. (2023). “How Can We Resist Book Bans? This Banned Author Has Ideas.” Truthout. May 18.

  6. Silverstein, Jake. (2019) “Why We Published the 1619 Project.” New York Times. December 20.

  7. Sendaula, Stephanie. (2019) “In Conversation: The 1619 Project.” Library Journal. November 2019.

  8. Hannah-Jones, Nikole. (2021). “The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story.” Penguin Random House.

  9. Pulitzer Center. The 1619 Project Education Conference. February 17-18, 2024

  10. Jackson, Lauren Michele. (2021) “The 1619 Project and the Demands of Public History.” New Yorker.

  11. Kelley, Robin D.G. (2023) "The Long War on Black Studies." New York Review of Books. June 17.

  12. Mervosh, Sarah. (2023) “DeSantis Faces Criticism Over Florida’s Standards for Black History.” New York Times. July 24.

  13. Goldstein, Dana. (2023) “A.P. African American Studies Finalized.” New York Times. December 7.

The Global Migration Crisis: Causes & Solutions

(Jan. 13, 2024)

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are currently over 110 million forcibly displaced people worldwide. 62.5 million are internally displaced, 36.4 million are refugees, and 6.1 million are asylum seekers. 43% of the global population of forcibly displaced people are children. Half of the refugee population are from Syria, Afghanistan and Ukraine.

Various factors have accounted for the massive increase in the forcibly displaced and refugee population in the past decade. These include growing authoritarianism, wars, and global warming. At the same time, we are witnessing the increasing dehumanization of refugees and the growth of anti-immigrant and racist populism in various parts of the world even as the need for immigrant labor has increased after the tragic losses of human life during the COVID pandemic.

In the U.S., we are facing a humanitarian crisis at the Southern border where refugees fleeing poverty, violence, authoritarianism and climate change are attempting to enter the U.S. in search of work and a better life, but mostly face rejection, arrest and detention. Those who do enter and are undocumented are subjected to exploitation as workers and as women, including as child laborers.

Due to the U.S. Congress’s inability to ratify comprehensive immigration reform, neither those who are arriving now nor the nearly eleven million undocumented immigrants who have been living, working, and paying taxes in this country for years, are able to find a pathway to legalization and citizenship.

Join us for an analysis of these problems and possible solutions.

Please be sure to check out these articles/media for background information:

Other Suggested Readings:

Gun Violence in the U.S.

(Nov. 18, 2023)

In 2022, over 48,000 died by guns in the U.S. Over half were suicides. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, firearm violence has become the number one killer of children and teens under the age of 18. While mass shootings account for a small percentage of gun deaths, mass shootings are on the rise--over 500 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2023. At the same time, the U.S. Congress does not have enough votes to ban assault weapons.

Why is U.S. society so ridden with gun violence? What are the connections between gun violence, domestic violence, racism, policing and the overall violence and abuse in our society? What are the historical connections between the Second Amendment and slavery? What efforts have been made to address the rise in gun violence? What can each of us do?

Please be sure to check out these articles/media for background information:

Additional Sources:

Discussion on Israel and Palestine War

(Nov. 4, 2023)

The world has been shocked by the October 7, 2023 massacre of 1,400 mostly Israeli civilians by Hamas, and the subsequent renewed Israeli bombing of Gaza which has led to the death of over 7,000 mostly Palestinian civilians and an intensified blockade that deprives Gaza's population of food, water, fuel and electricity. This carnage has once again brought the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the fore. What are the roots of this conflict? What is the state of Palestinians in Israel and in the occupied territories? What efforts have been made toward promoting the idea of an independent Palestinian state side by side with Israel, or a binational state of Palestinians and Jews? What have been the barriers to these possible solutions? What are some immediate and long-term solutions to this conflict? What are the regional and global ramifications of this conflict?

Please be sure to check out these articles/media for background information:

Additional Sources:

Abortion and Reproductive Rights

(Oct. 28, 2023)

On June 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court ended the federal right to abortion that U.S. women had gained after the 1973 Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision. What changes have taken place in the U.S. in terms of laws and public opinion and activism since then? What is the state of access to abortion and reproductive rights? What is the state of reproductive health? What are the debates among reproductive rights activists about the vision and future of this struggle?

Please be sure to check out these two articles for background information:

  • Kate Zernike. “How A Year Without Roe Shifted American Views on Abortion.” New York Times. June 24, 2023
  • Emily Badger et al., “States with Abortion Bans Are Among Least Supportive for Mothers and Children.” New York Times. July 30, 2022

Additional Suggested Readings:

  • Systemic Racism and Reproductive Injustice in the United States: A Report for the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination.
  • Reproductive Justice: A Reading List

War in Ukraine

(Oct. 7, 2023)

We discussed the war in Ukraine: the facts and historical context surrounding this conflict, as well as the role of misinformation & disinformation in times of war, and more.

Please be sure to check out these two articles for background information:

  • A Year of War in Ukraine: The Roots of the Crisis (New York Times)
  • The War in Ukraine Is a Colonial War (The New Yorker)

Additional Resources: