Parenting is a daunting task these days, and it is likely that an active parent will find something to object to on a library shelf. That is their prerogative and right as a parent. Technically, the ALA defines a challenge as “an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.”
The public school library differs from the public library in that we serve at the pleasure of the Board of Education, and often work in what is referred to as “loco parentis” – or having a parental role educating the whole child as demonstrated in character education programs. That is why the school libraries often encounter more challenges than the public library sector. We might even agree with the parent’s concerns but have to step back an take a professional approach to the situation.
The following are general guidelines on how to proceed if you encounter a challenge:
o challenge support, and
· Try to find common ground with the challenger, to defuse hostility and acknowledge their concern as active parenting. This simple process will help communication, rather than build an immediate wall.
· Inform the challenger that your district has a formal process, if they are interested.
· There are some unique data-gathering aids that a school librarian can use to assess whether the concern has any merit. Consider:
o Search the Union Catalog and print the record of all other schools that hold the title. Examine the school versus your own (grade level, etc.)
o Do a lexile reading level search of the book and determine the readability scores, lexile value, etc. of the book.
o Examine the vocabulary in the book to assess whether this book has educational merit.
o Print the professional journal book reviews
o Inquire whether the book is on any recommended reading lists.
o Meet with a library committee to discuss the issue. The library committee should include members of the school teaching staff, administration, and parent volunteers that can address the challenge from an objective viewpoint.
Some sample policies and forms:
AASL - template for writing a policy: