Helpful Responses to FAQ

Question: How do books get selected for school libraries?

Response:

In Texas, certified school librarians have a bachelor's degree, a Master's degree, and at least 2 years of teaching experience. School librarians take up to four state certification tests. School librarians also receive graduate-level training in library collection development which is the purchasing of resources like books and online resources.

Certified school librarians follow their local Board of Trustee policies approved specifically for the selection of instructional materials known as Policy EF. Anyone can go to their school district website and look up the selection policies for instructional materials for their schools. These policies address that books and other library resources be age-appropriate, in some cases used as supports for the curriculum, provide information or pleasure reading on a wide range of topics and perspectives, and reflect the diverse backgrounds of the students and families that they serve as well as representing those In the world at large.

Selecting books to purchase for school libraries is a lengthy process. School librarians spend hours reading professional book reviews, surveying teachers and students for their input, and monitoring publishers' new releases to find the absolute best literature to add to the library shelves. It can take months to curate a list of high-quality books that represent a wide range of authors, genres, topics, views, and experiences.

There are multiple organizations at the state and national level that select school librarians to read through hundreds of books every year with the goal to create award lists and recommended book lists for every age level. School librarians attend webinars and network with other school librarians to learn about new books and what students are reading and loving. In addition to all that, school librarians also read the books that are appropriate for the level of students they work with in order to be able to recommend books and talk to teachers and students about the books selected for the school library. School librarians recognize not every book is for every student; the goal is to provide choices for all students in the school.

School librarians understand the immense responsibility for choosing books and library resources for all students, teachers, and stakeholders the campuses they serve. School librarians are highly qualified and deeply invested in curating quality collections which reflect the many varied perspectives, experiences, and information that compose the complexity of the human experience. School library resources connect all students to the world around them. Our students deserve the #FReadom of access and choice and it is their first amendment right. "In the Supreme Court case Island Trees School District v. Pico (1982), the Court held that the First Amendment limits the power of junior high and high school officials to remove books from school libraries because of their content."

Question: How do I respond to a social media post by a person with concerns about a book?

Response:

"A book doesn't have to be for everyone, but It can be for someone." -Ashley Hope Perez

We collectively believe In the right of ALL students to have free access to information and books in school libraries. Certified school librarians carefully choose books and resources for students to access in their school library. If you have a concern about a specific resource In your child's school library In the school library in your community, contact your campus librarian and have a discussion about the resource. We want all parents to know your school librarian Is a resource for you and your child and wants to be a partner. Talk to them, they want to hear your concern and help you seek a resolution to this concern that works for everyone who uses your school library.

A school librarian shared this on Twitter, and we think It resonates completely with our response.

"Dear school librarians, We see you. Dear parents, We hear you. Dear students, We’re all fighting to protect you even when it looks bad and the way we talk to one another is really ugly. Of these things we agree:

  • Parents are the ultimate authority to determine with their child what books are appropriate for them based on their family’s values and the needs of the child.

  • School librarians are highly trained in selecting books for children without bias from personal views. This ensures no voices are left out of the collection. We use tools to help us make the best selections for you based on age, maturity, reading level, interest, and need.

  • Sometimes, adults disagree about difficult things to define like 'age-appropriate' and 'maturity.' And, that’s okay.

  • Librarians and parents want to work together to solve these tough questions, but sometimes fear and anger get between us. And that’s scary for us and not fair to you.

Most of us choose to believe Anne Frank: 'Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.'

Lastly, we know we can do better. Because you are too precious, too important, for us to fail. And stories can heal. Books can empower. Libraries can lead. We are hurting, but we are hopeful. We see you. We hear you. We have the same goal at heart." -Audrey W. Youngblood

Question: Why are there books with ____ In our school library?

Response:

Young adult (YA) and middle grade (MG) literature have an interesting history, and the long version is over on Teen Librarian Toolbox: A Brief History of YA Literature, an Infographic by Karen Jensen.

The short version is this: The world and the whole of humanity both in the present and the past is vast and complex. Schools are a microcosm of the human experience. “Everyone deserves to be seen and valued for their full and authentic self. We want that complexity represented in our school libraries through books and information which contain so many perspectives.” NancyJoLambert

School library collections consist of but are not limited to, newly-published fiction, nonfiction, memoirs, graphic novels, and other content to provide a wide range of resources for students and faculty that present varying levels of difficulty, diversity of appeal, and a variety of points of view for voluntary inquiry and reading. When parents or community members single out a book from a school library collection, they are not taking into account how that book contributes to the vastness of other perspectives along with the thousands of other books in that library.

According to the Texas Association of School Boards, instructional materials and library books are not the same. "While instructional materials and library books are both considered instructional resources, they are not the same and the terms shouldn't be used interchangeably. Since school and classroom libraries are viewed as places for voluntary inquiry, library books are treated differently from instructional materials used in classroom instruction." This distinction has legal significance. Our students have the #FReadom of access and choice under the first amendment. "In the Supreme Court case Island Trees School District v. Pico (1982), the Court held that the First Amendment limits the power of junior high and high school officials to remove books from school libraries because of their content."

Question: Why are politicians saying there is pornography In the school libraries?

Response:

School libraries do not have obscene or pornographic materials. Using these terms to describe books, singular words, or small portions of a book is fear-mongering and an effort to undermine the value of books, public education and educators, and particularly school libraries and school librarians.

From ALA:

"Sexual expression is a frequent target of censorship. The Supreme Court has shared material is not obscene unless a judge or jury finds that an average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the material appeals to the prurient (or morbid, shameful, and unhealthy) interest in sex (note that, by its definition, the Court implicitly recognized that there is such a thing as a healthy interest in sex!); that it depicts or describes certain sexual acts defined in state law in a patently offensive way; and that a reasonable person (community standards do not control this last element) would find that the material lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. All three elements must be present for material to be judged by a judge or jury as obscene and, therefore, illegal.

The primary responsibility for rearing children rests with parents. If parents want to keep certain ideas or forms of expression away from their children, they must assume the responsibility for shielding those children. Governmental institutions cannot be expected to usurp or interfere with parental obligations and responsibilities when it comes to deciding what a child may read or view."

The First Amendment, Obscenity, and Pornography & Legal Definitions

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. The Supreme Court and other courts have held conclusively that there is a First Amendment right to receive information; the right to receive information is a corollary to the right to speak. Justice William Brennan elaborated on this point in 1965:

“The protection of the Bill of Rights goes beyond the specific guarantees to protect from Congressional abridgment those equally fundamental personal rights necessary to make the express guarantees fully meaningful. I think the right to receive publications is such a fundamental right. The dissemination of ideas can accomplish nothing if otherwise willing addressees are not free to receive and consider them. It would be a barren marketplace of ideas that had only sellers and no buyers.” Lamont v. Postmaster General, 381 U.S. 301 (1965)."

Obscene, or offensive refers to recognized standards of decency. Obscenity refers to a narrow category of pornography that violates contemporary community standards and has no serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. There are two types of pornography that receive no First Amendment protection: obscenity and child pornography. Materials can be classified as “harmful to minors” (or obscene as to minors), even though adults can have access to the same material. The term obscene is applied to written, verbal, or visual works or conduct that treat sex in an objectionable or lewd or lascivious manner.

The current obscenity test offers these guidelines and is called the prurient-interest, patently offensive and serious-value Miller test. This test came from Miller v. California (1973) where the Court adopted this three-part test:

  1. whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest;

  2. whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law;

  3. and whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

Pornography is the depiction of sexual behavior that is intended to arouse sexual excitement in its audience. Pornography has been regulated by the legal standards that govern the concept of Obscenity, which refers to things society may consider disgusting, foul, or immoral, and may include material that is blasphemous. Pornography is limited to depictions of sexual behavior and may not be obscene.

*FReadom Fighters are not lawyers and have no expertise in law or legal matters and therefore this page should not be used for legal defense. This is information only.

Question: How can I as a ____ (parent, educator, community member, student, etc.) help support school libraries, school librarians, and student access to Information and books?

Response:

On the #FReadom website, we have resources you can use to make social media posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, or anywhere else to help your community understand what's happening and spark positive dialogue about school libraries, school librarians, and book access. We hope you will write to your local school board In support of school libraries, school librarians, and book access. Sharing personal stories about how books and access to information and a school librarian impact your school are messages school boards and administrators at your school need to hear. Positive messaging are what is needed on social media.

The tweet thread below was shared by Ashley Hope Perez on Twitter on November 13, 2021. We believe this response answers this question as well.

"We need to unite behind a clear, forceful message. First: This is not just an attack on books. It's an attack on kids. It's an attack on schools. It's an effort to paint teachers and librarians as 'the enemy.'

Second: ALL of our kids belong in public schools. ALL of our kids deserve to find themselves in the books they seek out in libraries. ALL of our kids have parents whose 'rights' matter, not just white, straight kids.

Third: Students--especially those with the identities represented in the books under attack- have faced unprecedented challenges through the pandemic, and these garbage games from the right are diverting essential school resources from the work of getting kids back on track.

Fourth: School leaders need to calmly follow existing policies for content review (including the curricular value of diverse lit) instead of opening libraries to attack by folks who don't read but do want to erase history, progress, and the very existence of non-dominant people.

Now, these points are already too nuanced for circulation as wide or fast as the shriek, 'There's porn in the schools!' That's why we need more advocates, including PROACTIVE messaging to school leaders and School boards before demands for book removals come to them.

The condensed, diplomatic version of this position is this: 'Let's focus on ALL students, not just these parents' kids. What response to these parents' concerns protects the interests of all students and supports the diversity of perspectives that is foundational to democracy?'

We don't react to shrieks of, "PORN!" "PEDOPHILIA!" "FILTH!" We focus on a positive message about students and the positive role of school libraries in providing support for navigating the complex realities of our world. We say, 'Wouldn't we rather kids read than watch TikTok?'

Students benefit from thoughtful engagements with the issues and experiences that matter to them. When they are denied access to books that do this, they resort to unmonitored access to less reputable sources--the Internet, locker room, Snapchat. Books serve them better.

And, there is dark money behind what is being painted as spontaneous parent concern, money for everything from burdensome information requests that verge on harassment of school admin staff, to bounties on teachers and librarians, to bankrolling lawsuits: Secretive ‘dark money’ network launches anti-critical race theory campaign." -Ashley Hope Perez

Inspiring Parent

As school librarians, we know not every parent can be this Dad. However, we hope many of you will do what you can to put positive messages into the world along with also sending those same messages to your local school boards.

And because we know we won't be able to see all those messages and social media posts directly, we just want to take this opportunity to thank you. Together, we are #FReadom Fighters 🟡 🔴 🔵

Instructional Materials and Library Books in Texas Public Schools Document Link

What You Need to Know | Published online in TASB School Law eSource

This FAQ document has been developed to help Texas school board trustees and district administrators better understand, and speak to, some key differences between instructional materials used in the classroom as part of required curriculum and library books used for voluntary inquiry.

The document will also outline what has traditionally been the practice in Texas for the review, selection, and approval of instructional resources and the rights of parents to challenge those chosen resources.