True Stories of Censorship Battles in America's Libraries

ALA Member
Item Number
ALA Editions
AP Categories

Primary tabs

You don't need to be an ALA Member to purchase from the ALA Store, but you'll be asked to create an online account/profile during the checkout to proceed. This Web Account is for both Members and non-Members. 

If you are Tax-Exempt, please verify that your account is currently set up as exempt before placing your order, as our new fulfillment center will need current documentation. Learn how to verify here.

  • Description
  • Table of Contents
  • About the authors
  • Reviews

Intellectual freedom is a core value of librarianship, but fighting to keep controversial materials on the shelves can sometimes feel like a lonely battle. And not all censorship controversies involve the public objecting to a book in the collection—libraries are venues for displays and meetings, and sometimes library staff themselves are tempted to preemptively censor a work. Those facing censorship challenges can find support and inspiration in this book, which compiles dozens of stories from library front lines. Edifying and enlightening, this collection

  • Tells the stories of librarians who withstood difficult circumstances to champion intellectual freedom
  • Touches on prickly issues such as age-appropriateness, some librarians' temptation to preemptively censor, sensitive cultural expressions, and criminality in the library
  • Presents case studies of defenses that were unsuccessful, so librarians facing similar challenges can learn from these defeats

There are fewer situations more stressful in a librarian's professional life than being personally confronted with a demand to remove a book from the shelves or not knowing how to respond to other kinds of censorship challenges. Reading this book will help fortify and inform those in the fray.

Foreword, by Ellen Hopkins

Part I: Sometimes We're Our Own Worst Enemy: When Library Employees Are Censors
Chapter 1 Where There Once Was None


Lucy Bellamy

Chapter 2 Well-Intentioned Censorship Is Still Censorship: The Challenge of Public Library Employees



Ron Critchfield and David M. Powell

Chapter 3 If I Don't Buy It, They Won't Come



Peggy Kaney

Chapter 4 Mixed-Up Ethics



Susan Patron

Part II: How Dare You Recommend This Book to a Child: Reading Levels and Sophisticated Topics
Chapter 5 Clue-less in Portland



Natasha Forrester

Chapter 6 Vixens, Banditos, and Finding Common Ground



Alisa C. Gonzalez

Chapter 7 Long Live the King (Novels)!



Angela Paul

Chapter 8 Parent Concern about Classroom Usage Spills Over into School Library



Laurie Treat

Chapter 9 The Princess Librarian: An Allegory



Sherry York

Chapter 10 The Complexity and Challenges of Censorship in Public Schools: Overstepping Boundaries, Cultivating Compassionate Conversations



Marie-Elise Wheatwind

Part III: Not Only Boy Scouts Should Be Prepared: Building Strong Policies
Chapter 11 I Owe It All to Madonna



Lisë Chlebanowski

Chapter 12 The Battle to Include



Gretchen Gould

Chapter 13 Pornography and Erotica in an Academic Library



Michelle Martinez

Chapter 14 Reasonable Accommodation: Why Our Library Created Voluntary Kids Cards



Matt Nojonen

Part IV: When the Tribe Has Spoken: Working with Native American Collections
Chapter 15 Cultural Sensitivity or Censorship?



Susanne Caro

Chapter 16 Developing the Public Library's Genealogy Euchee/Yuchi Collection



Cathlene Myers Mattix

Part V: Conversation + Confrontation + Controversy = Combustion: Vocal Organization and Publicly Debated Challenges
Chapter 17 32 Pages, 26 Sentences, 603 Words, and $500,000 Later: When School Boards Have Their Way



Lauren Christos

Chapter 18 The Respect of Fear



Amy Crump

Chapter 19 Sweet Movie



Sydne Dean

Chapter 20 Censorship Avoided: Student Activism in a Texas School District



Robert Farrell

Chapter 21 I Read It in the Paper



Hollis Helmeci

Chapter 22 Uncle Bobby's Wedding



James LaRue

Chapter 23 A Community Divided



Kristin Pekoll

Chapter 24 The Author Visit That Should Have Been



Karin Perry

Chapter 25 One of Those Not So Hideous Stories of a Book Challenge



Kathryn Prestidge

Part VI: Crime and Punishment: When Library Patrons Have Committed a Crime
Chapter 26 A Serial Killer Visits the Library



Paul Hawkins

Chapter 27 Books, Bars, and Behavior: Censorship in Correctional Libraries



Erica MacCreaigh

Part VII: Perhaps It Is Possible to Judge a Book by Its Cover: Displays
Chapter 28 The Ghost of Halloween Past



Kathy Barco

Chapter 29 The Neophyte in the New Age



Rosemary J. Kilbridge

Chapter 30 Gay Books Display Brings Out High School Faculty Prejudice



Nadean Meyer

Chapter 31 Censorship Looms Over the Rainbow



Cindy Simerlink



Discussion Questions


Valerie Nye

Valerie Nye is the Library Director at the Santa Fe Community College. She previously worked as a library director at the Institute of American Indian Arts and as a library consultant at the New Mexico State Library, where she started researching and training others on intellectual freedom and banned books. She has coedited a book with Kathy Barco, True Stories of Censorship Battles in America’s Libraries, and a literary research guide with R. Neil Scott, Postmarked Milledgeville: A Guide to Flannery O'Connor's Correspondence in Libraries and Archives. She currently serves on the board of Amigos Library Services and holds an MLIS from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Kathy Barco

Kathy Barco is a Library Consultant, having recently retired from Albuquerque's public library system, where she was Literacy Coordinator. She contributed to Thinking Outside the Book: Essays for Innovative Librarians and wrote the foreword to Librarians As Community Partners: An Outreach Handbook. Barco’s READiscover New Mexico: A Tri-Lingual Adventure in Literacy won a New Mexico Book Award. She is on the board of the New Mexico Library Foundation and received the New Mexico Library Association’s Leadership Award in 2006.

"These stories, which are all short and well-written, provide some inspirational examples of librarians who are fighting for user access to materials."
--Information Today

"An impressive work of considerable and diverse scholarship ... mandatory reading for library professionals, as well as free speech advocates and library patrons with an interest in library censorship issues."
--Internet Bookwatch

"In the introduction, editors Nye and Barco write: "We hope that this book provides insights into how librarians protect the First Amendment in their communities.' The editors have succeeded, as readers of this book will understand that many librarians have learned that defending the First Amendment can be stressful and difficult — though ultimately rewarding."
--First Amendment Center

"Serves as a valuable reminder for librarians to be aware of the varied forms censorship and our own cultural contexts and biases, while recognizing that libraries belong to everyone."
--Colorado Libraries