Advancing IDEAs: Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, 9 July 2024

The following post is one in a regular series on issues of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility, compiled by a team of OCLC contributors.

Several books stacked on top of each other.
Photo by Kimberly Farmer on Unsplash

Discussion on confronting book bans

On Wednesday, 31 July 2024, the University of Chicago Library (OCLC Symbol:  CGU); the University of Chicago Divinity School; the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture at the University of Chicago; and the School of Information Sciences at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (OCLC Symbol:  UIU) will present a free virtual webinar, “Confronting Book Bans:  A Panel Discussion.”  In addition to the live presentation 10:00-11:30 a.m. Central Time on July 31, an online recording will be made available in August.  University Librarian and Dean of the University of Chicago Library Torsten Reimer will moderate the discussion between American Library Association 2023-2024 President Emily Drabinski, who is Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies at Queens College (OCLC Symbol:  Q7L) and Emily J.M. Knox, who is Associate Professor in the iSchool at Illinois.  Currently the Critical Pedagogy Librarian at the City University of New York Graduate Center (OCLC Symbol: ZGM), Drabinski has been a regular contributor to Truthout, the independent nonprofit news organization dedicated to social justice issues.  In 2023, Knox’s book Foundations of Intellectual Freedom was awarded the ALA Intellectual Freedom Round Table Eli M. Oboler Prize for best published work in the area of intellectual freedom. 

Drabinski and Knox are two of the library’s world’s most prominent and knowledgeable scholars fighting book bans in the United States. This discussion promises to offer historical background, analysis of the current struggles, and advice about dealing with censorship.  Contributed by Jay Weitz.

Task group addresses metadata related to Indigenous Peoples of the Americas 

In Descriptive Notes, the blog of the Description Section of the Society of American Archivists, Katherine Witzig (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma) gives an update on the Program for Cooperative Cataloging’s Task Group for Metadata Related to Indigenous Peoples of the Americas (Taking on the Challenge: PCC’s Metadata Justice Work for Indigenous Communities). The group has written a preliminary report, but Witzig acknowledges there is more work to do including creating statements to contextualize the harm of inappropriate metadata and to encourage work in the field. Other groups are working on recommendations for subject headings and the Library of Congress Classification system. A survey is available to gather input from all who work with Indigenous metadata, and will be open until the Association for Tribal Libraries, Archives, and Museums (ATALM) 2024 conference in November.  

I am so impressed by Witzig and their co-chair Brandon Castle who are not only new professionals but started doing their work as task group leaders as graduate students (Castle has recently started a position as Native American & Indigenous Studies Librarian at the University of Massachusetts Amherst). The scope of the work is daunting, but the group’s energy and enthusiasm are inspiring. Contributed by Merrilee Proffitt

BookNet Canada produces blog series on the impact of book bans 

BookNet Canada, a non-profit organization that develops technology, standards, and education to serve the Canadian book industry, produced a three-blog series written by researcher Aline Zara on book banning and censorship in Canada. The first blog, “Tracking banned books in Canada,” was published on 16 November 2023 and demonstrated how Canadian book sellers began tracking banned books in its distribution metadata. The second blog, “Buying banned books in Canada,” was published on 22 February 2024. Based on the research in the first blog, Zara identified the top 10 individual books and top 10 book series that had been identified as banned or challenged. Altogether, sales of these banned books decreased 23% from July 2020 to June 2023. The final blog, “Borrowing banned books in Canada,” was published on 27 June 2024. Looking at the same 20 books and book series, Zara found that loans of these banned books steadily increased 690% from July 2020 to June 2023 and library holds for these banned books increased 32% over the same period. While Zara does not draw any conclusions from her blog posts, it appears that while book bans affect book sales negatively, they increase interest in library patrons, making it even more crucial for libraries to keep these books available to users. 

“Every reader their book. Every book its reader.” Ranganathan’s second and third laws of library science continue to resonate throughout this period of increasing book bans and challenges. Readers continue to rely on libraries to provide materials that allow them to gain new perspectives and grow as citizens. Contributed by Morris Levy.   

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