All posts by Mary Wilkins-Jordan

Preparing for a Challenge (Banned Book Week series #3)

Freedom to read is a core of our profession!

When a patron comes to your library, upset about a book or some of your materials – are you prepared with an answer? It can be hard for you to respond quickly unless you have a policy and are comfortable with the procedure for working with patrons who challenge your materials. Fortunately, in our profession, we have several resources available to help you to respond well to patrons!

As a profession, one of our core values is Intellectual Freedom. “We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources.  ALA Policy Manual, B.9.16 (Old Number 54.16) ( ALA Code of Ethics, Article II)” We believe in providing information to the community, and letting them make choices about their consumption of it. In our Code of Ethics from the American Library Association, this same sentence is Statement Two. Our profession believes in protecting people’s right to choose material, not to restrict it.

Your library needs a policy for this issue, and also to have some training for everyone on their role in challenges. A patron may come to anyone in the building to start a challenge, so everyone needs to know how to either proceed with it or who to pass the patron to for better assistance.

All types of libraries can receive challenges to their materials, so everyone needs to be ready to respond in the best way. The ALA has a set of strategies here, for any library to use in preparing a policy and starting some staff training. There are good tips on effective communication styles, both for the patron in person and when dealing with the media.

It is important to take seriously the concerns community members bring to your attention. Creating and following a procedure can help to assure patrons that you are respecting their rights to share their opinions and to voice their concerns.

As you begin to write your policy, or to do the regular edits necessary for policies, you may find this information helpful from the ALA. They discuss some justification for having a policy, then help you to walk through the basic format of a policy with information you may want to include. Every library is different in focus and in the community it serves; so all policies will need to have different language and information to make them fit your needs.  If you have a challenge hearing, some steps on the procedure are given to be sure you are thinking through this process before a need for it arises.

While each library is different, it can be helpful for you to look at the policies other libraries have created. These are often included with their Collection Development polices, as potentially controversial materials are not collected just to be controversial, but because they are adding to the overall collection. Here is an example from the Pikes Peak Library District. This site gives you some specific information on collection development, including sample policies, for school libraries. And here is a Prezi presentation on reconsideration of library materials policies for school libraries. Here is a policy from the University of South Carolina; scroll down to the “Intellectual Freedom” section for the challenged material sample.

Part of your process may include education for your community on the rationale for including controversial materials in your collection. This is some material from the National Council of English Teachers, discussing some reasoning for teaching challenged materials. There are also other links on this page to give you some information and ideas about providing materials that may be challenged.

Handling a materials challenge can be hard: you want to do the right thing for the patron, for your library, and for the profession. It is a lot to balance! But you do not have to do it alone. The resources from the ALA are here, and there are more on these sites linked above. And the CMLE is available to help member libraries as you create and revise policies, or to help with training for your staff to help everyone feel more comfortable with this topic – and ready to handle challenges well!

We Want You!


Blog with CMLE!


At CMLE, we want to provide our members with information on all kinds of issues that they may encounter in their library workplaces. And we want to be sure we have a wide variety of voices here to pass on information, experiences (good and bad!), suggestions, tips, and just general information that others could find helpful. Everyone has a story to share, experience to pass on, and ideas to contribute to make us all stronger!

We are actively soliciting for members to share their stories with us! We want to get all our CMLE members to share with each other here on our blog.

What could you write about?

  • a program that was fantastic, everything went smoothly, and you think other libraries could adopt
  • a program that was a disaster from start to finish, and you have a cautionary tale to terrify other libraries (Halloween is coming up, after all)
  • a program that fell somewhere between these two extremes
  • a database your users really like
  • a new technology you tried
  • some collection development or cataloging strategies you have developed over the years, that could make things easier/faster/more efficient for other people
  • a problem you are facing, where you could really use some advice from other people who have also been there
  • your library’s garden
  • your library’s pet
  • your library’s pet rock
  • quick tips to make scheduling easier
  • the cutest thing that happened last week
  • the scariest think that happened last week
  • the marketing plan you just wrote
  • your special, patented, never-fail strategy for ensuring your printers never jam! (okay – if you have this one, we DEFINITELY want it!)

Are we worried about perfection in writing up these stories? Nope!

Are we looking only for people who are amazing, perfect writers? No way!

Are we available to brainstorm with you, help with writing, and do the formatting and such to get your work posted and shared with CMLE? You bet!!

You can contribute a paragraph, a page, or longer! Not all information to be shared needs the same amount of discussion, so things are flexible here for you.

In addition to being open to almost anything you guys want to share and discuss, we are putting out a call for some specific topics. CMLE will be offering Monthly Topic themes, with blog posts and training focused all in an area that should be helpful to our members. We really want to hear from you and to share your stories, ideas, suggestions, and whatever else you have to share on our monthly topics. You can get your material ready any time, and we will hold onto it until the topical month comes up.

Our upcoming Monthly Topic schedule:

  • October: Hiring (including recruiting, writing job ads, interviewing, succession planning, and more)
  • November: Advocacy (including strategies for finding your stakeholders, templates for emailing legislators, practicing your elevator speech, and more)
  • December: Stress Management (including relaxation tips, work/life balance ideas, strategies for avoiding burnout, and more)
  • January: Grants (finding them, writing the application, managing programs, and more)

We will keep announcing topics before the month in question, so you can have time to think about your contributions.

Do you have an idea you might want to share? Call or email Mary or Angie, and we will work with you to get it created, scheduled, and shared!

2015 Frequently challenged books (Banned Book Week series #2)

Celebrate Banned Books Week

This is always a difficult count to make, because what gets challenged and/or banned may not get mentioned in the media or reported to the ALA for inclusion. Libraries may be embarrassed at getting a book challenge, or uncertain of a procedure they could follow to respond in a professional way. Ideally, this is a time to connect with community members, to talk about intellectual freedom, and supporting a parent’s right to individual choice – not choice for all. Tomorrow we will talk about strategies for writing your policy to handle challenges; today we will look at some of the most challenged material, to start thinking about conversations to have both within the library with our colleagues and also with the communities we serve.

From the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom:

Over this recent past decade, 5,099* challenges were reported to the Office for Intellectual Freedom.

  • 1,577 challenges due to “sexually explicit” material;
  • 1,291 challenges due to “offensive language”;
  • 989 challenges due to materials deemed “unsuited to age group”;
  • 619 challenged due to “violence”‘ and
  • 361 challenges due to “homosexuality.”

Further, 274 materials were challenged due to “occult” or “Satanic” themes, an additional 291 were challenged due to their “religious viewpoint,” and 119 because they were “anti-family.”

Please note that the number of challenges and the number of reasons for those challenges do not match, because works are often challenged on more than one ground.

1,639 of these challenges were in school libraries; 1,811 were in classrooms; 1,217 took place in public libraries. There were 114 challenges to materials used in college classes; and 30 to academic libraries. There are isolated cases of challenges to library materials made available in or by prisons, special libraries, community groups, and students. The vast majority of challenges were initiated by parents (2,535), with patrons and administrators to follow (516 and 489 respectively).

From the OIF’s page for Banned Book Week, here is a list of the ten most frequently challenged books of 2015: (links go to GoodReads, for more information about the book itself; go the the OIF page for specifics of the challenges for each title)

  1. Looking for Alaska by John Green
  2. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
  3. I Am Jazz by  Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
  4. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
  5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
  6. The Holy Bible (there are many different versions of this book; this is just one example)
  7. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
  8. Habibi by Craig Thompson
  9. Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan by  Jeanette Winter
  10. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan


Thinking through your own strategies for responding to challenges, or in thinking about material that might be challenged, can be difficult. Know that there are resources available to help you as you write your library’s policy, and in handling challenges and collection development complexities. The ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom is available to help you with challenges. CMLE is available to help you with policy creation and strategies for working through your ideas for challenges and effective collection development.

Freedom to Read: Getting Involved! (Banned Book Week Series #1)

Today the library profession begins Banned Book Week! CMLE will provide information to you each day this week, from September 25 − October 1, 2016.

This is the week we band together to draw attention to the issue of books and information being banned from our patrons. As a profession devoted to distributing information, and connecting great materials with our patrons, any sort of censoring of that process is troublesome to us. We support the freedom to read, and intellectual freedom, across genres, platforms, and formats.

Support the freedom to read!


Today we are looking at the resources the American Library Association’s website provides to us.

Do you have questions about this topic? A handy Q&A has been provided for you. Talking about censorship, banning books, and restricting freedom to read for some or all patrons can be tough. It can be hard to bring it up in your library with your colleagues, and hard to discuss with patrons. ALA provides you with some content to share and discuss, and some suggestions about spreading ideas of intellectual freedom. You can also follow the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom on Twitter. It is filled with facts and information, as well as fun displays and activities libraries around the country are doing!

How can you get involved in publicizing banned books? Check out this information about making your own videos for the Virtual Read Out! Your library can participate, and you can bring in your patrons if they want to share in the video making experience.

Many libraries are doing interesting programming for this week, and there is a lot of great information being shared in advance. You can look at the things libraries and librarians are contributing here. And you can share the contributions from your library here.

Sadly, book challenges happen all the time, so we need to be aware of banned book information the other 51 weeks of the year. You can get involved, and learn more about the issue – before you have professional problems in your library.

Does all of this make you want to have Banned Book Week swag in your library or for yourself? The ALA has you covered! Check out all the material available, and see what you might want now, or get started planning out next year’s displays!

Intellectual freedom is a continuing struggle, and libraries of all sorts are on the front lines. You need support and information to help you in providing the best possible resources to your community, and CMLE and the ALA are here to help you!

Continuing Education from CMLE!

Learn new things!

At CMLE we take our commitment to providing our members with information and continuing professional training opportunities very seriously. We will continue to build on the courses and seminars we have offered, and hope to expand things for you. The library field is fast-moving and ever-changing; and we are here to help our members to keep their skills sharp, and to be able to better serve patrons’ needs.

We have set up a Continuing Education page on our site, with a Google calendar of all kinds of events that might be interesting to you. Most of these are offered as webinars, or online classes; and a few are in person seminars or conferences. Many are free, and some require payment. We will also include professional conferences, so you can keep up with the ideas being shared in your area of the library world. No individual person, or library, will be interested in all of these; but we will have a broad range of topics, to be sure you have all kinds of possibilities for building new skills and making yourself more valuable! And, seeing some of the things other libraries are discussing – even if you do not want to participate in the class – may give you some ideas about new things to try, or new people to contact to talk further about a topic.

We will also be offering regular continuing education programs through CMLE. We want to be sure our members have a chance to talk about topics of specific interest, or frustration; and to be able to gather and connect with their local colleagues. So, we will offer monthly training at the CMLE Headquarters, as well as streaming it through Go To Meeting for members to attend virtually.

To build on the training we will offer each month, we will offer additional material on our blog posts on the same topic. In October, our Topic Of The Month will be the broad subject of Hiring, including recruiting plans, succession plans, writing successful job ads, and motivating staff once they have been hired. In November, we will cover Advocacy. In that month, we will look at connecting with your funders, identifying stakeholders, writing an advocacy plan for your library, and provide templates for you to use to contact people to share your good library news. And in December, our monthly topic will be Stress Management. By the end of the year, and in such a busy season, we know everyone will need some tips on stress and relaxation, avoiding burnout at work, and ways to increase your professional satisfaction in your workplace.

Take a look around the calendar, and feel add it to your own Google calendar for easy viewing any time! (Just click the blue plus sign in the bottom right corner of the calendar.)

Do you have other suggestions for training? Email us! We always want to hear from our members!