Award-winning librarian Martha Hickson at the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice to enlighten us about the state of censorship & what YOU can do to defend the right to read (& with a very special guest appearance by Daniel Handler AKA Lemony Snicket!)
In schools & libraries around the country, extremists are attempting to ban books & trample students’ First Amendment right to read. In a discussion designed to educate, aggravate, & activate, Martha will deliver the latest news on censorship, share the strategies she used to fight back here in NJ, & provide you with tips & tools to keep free people reading freely.
As the extraordinary Martha sez her own self, “Defending the right to read is not a one-person job. The Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice with its commitment to diverse voices & safe spaces is the perfect ally for libraries & by partnering with the Center we will fight the Ed Scare affecting our schools, libraries, & the greater community.”
Join BRCSJ Community Liaison Martha & Chief Activist Robt Martin Seda-Schreiber in community-buildin’ conversation that promises to be equally empowerin’ & entertainin’
Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice HQ
12 Stockton St.
Princeton, NJ 08540
If you find this program & the work we do meaningful & believe in the mission & vision of the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice, please consider donatin’ whatever is within your means & within your hearts to help us continue to build this extraordinary new home our community needs & deserves. It’s hard to be a safe-space without a space…
The First Amendment protects the freedom to read. Everyone is entitled to express their opinions about a book, but they don’t have the right to limit another person’s access to information. This kind of censorship is most effective when people don’t act to stop it. Here are some fundamentals to help protect your rights when it comes to freedom of speech and the right to read!
Teachers are the foundation of our free society. Their proximity to younger readers also puts them on the front lines in free expression battles. If you’re a teacher, you should understand that your rights can vary by school or school district, so be sure to get acquainted with your institution’s collection development and challenge policies. If your school lacks such policies, volunteer to help craft them. Reach out to NCAC or NCTE for guidance in drafting clear, effective policies. Public and private institutions have different First Amendment obligations. Government entities like public schools are bound by the First Amendment, but private schools can have a narrower set of guidelines.
Generally speaking, parents can object to assignments and request alternatives for their children, but they can’t make you remove content. A single complaint shouldn’t override the professional judgment of educators in shaping curriculum.
Public libraries provide resources for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people in their community. The American Library Association provides a vast range of resources, policies, and best practices to help support your ability to serve the community. Among the principles articulated in ALA’s Library Bill of Rights:
- Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.
- Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.
- Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access
View the full Library Bill of Rights at http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/librarybill
The First Amendment protects the right to sell all kinds of material, including material for adults and mature readers. Key principles that ensure you and your staff are safe:
- Establish good policies and follow them. By having some specific guidelines in place and making sure every member of your staff is on the same page, you can help defuse a First Amendment emergency.
- Thoughtfully display content. Every community is different, so be deliberate in how you display material. It may be helpful to segregate material for younger readers into its own section, rack mature titles on a high shelf, or even keep some more adult material in its own section.
- Talk to your customers and be involved in your community. It sounds like common sense, but if you’re well-established as part of the community, people are more likely to try to work out a solution one-on-one than to take an adversarial approach.
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund recently released Selling Comics, a guide to comics retailing that also includes several chapters on the freedom to sell comics. Get a copy here. CBLDF’s Retailer Rights Workshops provide hands on information. If you are interested in hosting or participating, contact CBLDF at firstname.lastname@example.org
The American Booksellers Association has created a number of tools to help retailers advocate for various causes, including free expression. Find out more at http://www.bookweb.org/abfe
Readers (AKA All of Us!)
Whether you’re age 7 or 107, the First Amendment protects your right to access information. Here are some ways you can help uphold that right:
Stay informed! Keep in touch with your local librarians and educators to find out about book challenges in your community. Subscribe to news publications dedicated to the First Amendment and free expression, such as email newsletters from the members of the Banned Books Week Coalition.
Report censorship! Reporting challenges when they happen helps free expression advocates gather necessary information about what materials are at risk. The members of the Banned Books Week Coalition are ready to help fight challenges in your community, but we need to hear about them first! The best way to fight censorship is to call it out when it occurs. Several members of the Coalition have resources for reporting censorship:
Speak up! Attempts to ban books rarely succeed when people speak out against them. Whether it is a school board, PTA, or library meeting or a public hearing, be there to speak up for the First Amendment and the right to read. Write letters to your local administrators, politicians, and newspapers supporting the right to read. Remind your fellow citizens and officials that no one has the right to restrict access to books, and be prepared to stand up for all books, even those you may not like. Any successful book ban opens the door to more censorship.
Source: CBLDF Banned Books Week Handbook 2017, http://cbldf.org/librarian-tools/cbldf-banned-books-week-handbook/