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TL v67n4: Intellectual Freedom
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Viewpoint: Intellectual Freedom

 


The Hate U Give, or How to Not Gain Nationwide Media Attention

Heather Duby

Often, it is with some disdain, or even outright boredom, that many Library Boards of Trustees or other policy makers attend their annual policy review. Discussions--often heated ones--ensue about grammar and wording, but most libraries finish the policy review satisfied by a job well done and rest assured that the review period is the only time that year that the policy manual will even be cracked, which is usually the case. However, when a procedure is called into question, that carefully formulated policy manual becomes the savior of many a Library Director or Board of Trustees because everyone involved has a set of guidelines to follow and, while everyone may not get through the situation happy, it is to be hoped that everyone will leave the table comfortable with the compromise that has been reached and the library staff will breathe a sigh of relief that the policy succeeded in being the intended safety net. In these days of Homeland Security, when a patron’s checkout record becomes subpoenable and libraries are under gag orders when that happens, policies can be a lifeline. Thankfully, most of us do not have to deal with situations that serious.

When the policy manual most often comes into play is in the cases of materials challenges, and this is why it is so important that each library have a written collection development and materials selection policy that is regularly updated. Additionally, it behooves all policy makers to prepare for the eventuality that the library will face a materials challenge and create a policy that codifies what steps the library staff and administration will take when an item is challenged. In my years as a librarian, I have, thankfully, only been witness to three challenges: two while working in an academic library (I was a paraprofessional at the time) and one in the public library where I currently serve as Library Director. In all three occasions, the challenge wound its way through the written policy and the items remained on the shelves. The collection development policy at the academic library came in handy when the library was questioned on why it had subscribed to the popular LGBT magazine The Advocate. If you flip through past issues of Tennessee Libraries, you will see many an Intellectual Freedom Viewpoint concerning book challenges, which speaks to the necessity of being prepared for same.

However, what happens when a library has a policy in place that was carefully crafted to be the safety net--a policy intended to protect both the patron and the library, and the library chooses not to follow it to the letter? An independent school district in Katy, Texas found out recently when officials made the decision to remove Angie Thomas’s critically-acclaimed novel The Hate U Give from its library shelves and, in doing so, they gained nationwide media attention. Publications such as the Boston Globe, Bustle, and Library Journal all published stories about this challenge, the news of which broke on Twitter. By all accounts, the book has been removed from the shelves pending review and it has not been outright banned by the school district. This is not the precedent the district wants to set.

Unfortunately, the THUG challenge is not the only challenge that we will see in the nationwide media. Therefore, it becomes imperative that all libraries follow their written policies. As libraries continue to face funding cuts at the local, state, and federal level, we all want to make sure that we put our best face forward in our local communities, on social media, and in the press. Let the public know your library for all the good that your library brings to the community, and for fairly and impartially handling challenges as they come up by following the policy set forth by your Board of Trustees.

 

References

Katy Independent School District. (26 May, 2017). Instructional resources. Retrieved from https://pol.tasb.org/Policy/Download/594?filename=EF(LOCAL).pdf

Locke, K. (2017, December 2). ‘The Hate U Give’ pulled from Texas school district’s shelves. Retrieved from https://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/names/2017/12/01/the-hate-give-book-banned-texas-school-district/8C2XDJ2rGSK2jjwyajmKJK/story.html

Price, G. (2017, December 5). Texas: “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas removed from all libraries in Katy Independent School District. Retrieved from http://www.infodocket.com/2017/12/05/texas-the-hate-u-give-by-angie-thomas-removed-from-school-libraries-in-katy-independent-school-district/

Trombetta, S. (2017, December 5). ‘The Hate U Give’ By Angie Thomas has allegedly been banned by a Texas school district. Retrieved from https://www.bustle.com/p/the-hate-u-give-by-angie-thomas-has-allegedly-been-banned-by-a-texas-school-district-6756858

 


 

Heather Duby is the Library Director for the Sullivan County Public Library. She can be followed on Twitter (@Kelshei) and may be contacted at slchduby@gmail.com.

 

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