30 Days of How-to #14: How to Look at Policies

Recently I was looking online at public library behavior policies. I was astonished at how negative many of the policies were—full of “don’ts” and “These activities prohibited.” Now, I understand that libraries need standards. I also understand that library workers are often confrontation-averse, and prefer to have a written rule to point at when telling a patron not to do something. The fact that teens in particular are inclined to respond to a reprimand with a “Where does it say that?” adds to the desire to have everything written clearly. Continue reading

Have a challenge? Need a policy?

With all of the talk about the banning of Angry Management by Chris Crutcher and the removal of the ban on The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie, it seems like it’s a good time to talk about policies. I hope that everyone has a Policy for the Reconsideration of Library Materials, or some other similarly titled policy. If not, the time to form one is yesterday.

Check out ALA’s resources at http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/banned/challengeslibrarymaterials/index.cfm. There you’ll find a sample form to give to patrons challenging materials, and tips for how to talk to the patron with the challenge. Everyone, not just those who would ultimately handle a challenge, needs to know what to do when a patron wants to ban a book. At my library, circulation staff are instructed to immediately refer the person to a manager or a reference librarian and to not say anything in defense of the material or the library. Because our circulation desk is right by the front door, circulation staff are most likely to have first contact with the patron, and they need to know what to do.

When a patron has a challenge, you should be ready with the form for them to fill out, as well as copies of your materials selection policy and selection procedures. If they still want to proceed, make sure your library has a process for reviewing the material and making a recommendation to administration, and if the patron is still not satisfied with the decision, make sure that the appeal hearing is made public. ALA also has tips for talking to the media during the challenge process.

Depending on your library’s procedures, you may be involved a lot or very little in the challenge process, but considering that YA novels make up most of the top ten of the most frequently challenged books each year, we as YA librarians need to be aware of how to handle these challenges effectively.