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Book challenges in Massachusetts’ school and public libraries have quadrupled in just one year*, mirroring the surge the American Library Association has reported nationwide. Challenges here reflect a national agenda that targets specific members of our communities including LGBTQ+ individuals and people of color.
The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC), The Massachusetts Library Association (MLA), The Massachusetts Library System (MLS), and The Massachusetts School Library Association (MSLA) support library staff’s efforts to ensure free, equal, and open access to information, guaranteed to everyone regardless of age or citizenship status, under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. We oppose censorship and intolerance, uphold the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, and affirm:
- Massachusetts public library staff are acting in accordance with state law chapter 78, section 33 when they develop collections that reflect the breadth of the human experience, which is both diverse and interconnected. The law states, “The board of trustees of a free public library in any city or town… shall establish a written policy for the selection of library materials and the use of materials and facilities in accordance with standards adopted by the American Library Association.”
- Massachusetts public library staff cannot be dismissed for providing diverse library collections. State law Chapter 78, section 33 states, “No employee shall be dismissed for the selection of library materials when the selection is made in good faith and in accordance with the approved policy adopted pursuant to the provisions of this section.”
- Massachusetts librarians, are professionals and educators, many of whom have master’s degrees in library and information science. They are parents, former students, neighbors, teachers, and contributing members of our communities. They include people who identify as LGBTQ+ and as people of color working for inclusion to ensure all people feel seen and heard.
- Licensed school library teachers match students with age-appropriate materials to foster the love of reading and instill curiosity for academic learning. Important, since reading ability is linked to high school graduation rates*++.
- Attacks on members of our communities, targeted at marginalized peoples, are more than book challenges. They are acts of intolerance and exclusion intended to silence diverse voices and views, while holding fast to homogenous viewpoints by historically dominant voices. These acts jeopardize everyone’s access to learn from different perspectives and limit the opportunities available for those isolated in their experience to realize they are not alone. **
In Massachusetts we have a history of uniting behind what we know is right. Massachusetts was first in the nation to offer free library services to all. Today our libraries fulfill a vision spelled out in our state constitution, “Wisdom and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties; and as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in the various parts of the country, and among the different orders of the people.”
* Per state data from the American Library Association
National Dropout Prevention Center + HTTPS://dropoutprevention.org/effective-strategies/early-literacy-development/
++Library Research Service: School Libraries Impact Study HTTPS://www.lrs.org/data-tools/school-libraries/impact-studies/
** How LGBTQ+ Voices are being Erased in Classrooms HTTPS://www.aclu.org/news/lgbtq-rights/how-lgbtq-voices-are-being-erased-in-classrooms-censorship