What’s the Whole Matter? More and More Book Challenges Faced By Massachusetts Librarians And Parents!

Massachusetts Librarians Are Facing Increasingly Difficult Book Issues. Research published in March by the American Library Association showed that the number of book difficulties faced by libraries nationwide in 2022 would nearly double.

Jennifer Varney, the president of the Massachusetts School Library Association, claims that the increase is even more significant in school libraries in Massachusetts. Because book challenges were “few and far between,” according to Varney, the MSLA used to cite data on book challenges from the American Library Association, according to Boston University News Services.

Book Challenges Faced By Massachusetts Librarians
Book Challenges Faced By Massachusetts Librarians

She did, however, add that when things “really heated up” in the fall of 2022, the organization decided to begin tracking difficulties in school libraries. Varney reported that the MSLA had tracked 22 challenges thus far. She said:

“Two years ago, we had zero, and then last year we had one or two. That’s a big jump.”

Varney suggests there may be unreported challenges since the MSLA only monitors reports from its members, and not all Massachusetts school librarians are part of the organization. Over eight schools, there are 14 titles with known challenges.

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A book was taken out of a middle school library by two individuals. In contrast, another book in a library catering to seventh through 12th graders was made accessible only to students in grades nine through 12. Varney’s data reveals that books related to the LGBTQ+ community face the most challenges.

Diversity is a common topic in literature, with many works featuring characters from different racial backgrounds. Communications Director Celeste Bruno has observed comparable patterns as reported by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.

According to her, book challenges have been around for a while, but there is a recent trend of challenges focusing on books and programs representing specific communities. Varney observed the nationwide change. Varney said:

“It used to be that it would just be a concerned parent. But now what we’re seeing is challenges are coming from very organized community groups that have backing at a state and national level, and have funding from a state and national level.”

Moms for Liberty is a widespread organization with chapters in 44 US states. Massachusetts boasts of a duo of chapters. Moms for Liberty was born out of Tiffany Justice’s desire to protect parental rights and combat government overreach.

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According to Justice, a “book ban” means a book that is not published or is unavailable to people. On the other hand, Moms for Liberty does not ban books as they only curate a children’s library. Libraries are a carefully selected collection. “Undeniably true,” Justice stated.

Librarians must carefully select the content for their readers. According to Justice, Moms for Liberty targets school libraries due to inadequate parental oversight. Justice said:

“If you go to the public library and there are books that you don’t want your child to have, you’re not going to allow your child to access those books. But in a public school library, parents don’t have that same kind of access… Parents are the layer of protection.”

Varney mentioned that in Massachusetts, school districts have selection policies to ensure that only appropriate books are included in their libraries. Varney remembered a meeting where a speaker claimed that only individuals with a sexual interest in children would desire a specific book to be available to them.

Varney and Bruno noted that librarians had been subjected to more personal attacks, especially via social media. She said:

“This latest uptick in challenges is not going to go away. I think fall will be a busy time for us.”

Varney expressed her belief that the school library situation will deteriorate before it improves.

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