Something has been challenged ... now what?
When a patron complains about an item in your library, it can be a customer service opportunity. You have the chance to listen to their concerns and respond in a positive manner. You can give them concrete steps and a timeline to follow because it’s all written down in your policies and procedures manual. Right?
If the answer is no, you need to get organized. It’s better to be prepared ahead of time for what can be a stressful event. People who challenge library resources are often asked to submit their concerns in writing.There’s a sample Reconsideration Form on the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom’s website: http://bit.ly/d4Sh4v .
After a challenge has been submitted, it’s too late to change your policy. Read it now. Does it give you enough time to gather information? Does it cover non-book resources? Patrons may challenge website access, movies, music or magazines in your collection. The same basic steps can be followed for all resources, but only if your reconsideration form is broad enough to include them. Be sure that any body designated to help with the process, like the library board or principal, knows what to expect. If your policy calls for a large review committee, recruit potential members ahead of time. You can streamline the reconsideration process by having all the pieces in place.
Have you read the book (or watched the movie, or been to the website) in question? Gather all the information you can about the resource, including reviews and a list of other resources in your library that agree and disagree with the viewpoints in that resource. Be prepared to show that your library is the place for freedom of choice for everyone in your community.
When you face a challenge, remember that you don’t have to face it alone. Contact the Tennessee Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee (current co-chairs are Karyn Storts-Brink and Kristen West). They’re in contact with the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee and can help with additional resources and moral support.
Wendy Cornelisen is Special Projects Coordinator at the Tennessee State Library & Archives.