In the library world, 2022 may go down as the year of the organized book challenge.  And as reconsiderations go, the worst materials challenge is the one for which we are unprepared.  With that in mind, ICfL has been writing blog posts addressing school library and public library challenges, posting resources, and holding statewide chats, but since many libraries are facing challenges now, perhaps it’s time to turn attention to what to do when a challenge happens.

During recent statewide chats where we discussed challenges and participants shared resources and experiences, Idaho librarians came through with helpful advice, insightful questions, and a must-see list of resources to help navigate the mine field that is a materials challenge.

Before diving into resources, though, it should be mentioned that it is crucial to follow the policies and procedures that the library board or school district has approved and adopted.  Short-cutting or ignoring adopted policies with soft-censorship practices can land a library or a school in unconstitutional hot water.  It might seem easier to just quietly remove an offending item or avoid trouble by not purchasing a needed item in the first place, but that can blow up in a very expensive way.  So, when someone files a challenge, the first thing to do is consult those policies and follow the procedures!

It is ideal for patrons, librarians, and library boards to work together when there is a disagreement about a particular item.  But if the situation sours, it’s good to know who is in your corner. The American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF) offers librarians support during a challenge, and librarians here in Idaho have found the OIF helpful.

Take a look at these documents and services found on the OIF website:

These resources are available in Idaho:

  • Organizations that are members of ICRMP may be able to rely on them for some limited legal advice, and they also offer some classes that may support your efforts.
  • Don’t forget to rely on your own school district, city, or library district legal counsel.

Knowledge is Power:

It is helpful to learn as much as possible about the issue, strategies to manage challenges, and techniques to help diffuse emotional situations.  ICfL and others offer free webinars, Niche Academy courses, blogs, and articles that are good places to start:

Available on Saturday, February 26, 2022, only:

  • Building a Materials Challenge Toolkit:

Understanding Library Policies, Procedures, and Protocols webinar from Future Ready Librarians and All4Ed.
February 26, 2022, at 9:00am – 11:00am MST/ 8:00am-10:00am PST
Register here – it’s FREE, but you must attend live.  This event will not be recorded.

Available 24/7:

  • Webinar: Managing and Addressing Book Challenges in Your Community: Law, Policy, Advocacy. Thank you to ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom and the Freedom to Read Foundation for providing this recording:

Meeting Recording:
Access Passcode: FTRF120921!
Slide deck PDF:

Read the Entire Statute:

Some concerned parents and other adults have sent schools and libraries the text of Idaho Code 18-1515, but neglected to attach Idaho Code 18-1517.  Check with your organization’s legal counsel to learn about Idaho’s obscenity laws, the First Amendment, and your library.

Another hot topic in our Statewide chat was professional development around this topic. A few upcoming events to watch for are:

  • The Idaho Library Association has plans in the works for a statewide webinar in April addressing materials challenges; and
  • ICfL will host another For Your Reconsideration Chat in the next few months.

In the meantime, watch ICfL’s blog posts and LibIdaho for new information and resources as they become available.

Thank you for all the important work you do every day for Idahoans!