Your school or district should have selection and reconsideration policies. If it does not, use the ALA Workbook for Selection Policy Writing to help you create them.
Here are some policies you might want to look for:
- Purpose of the Educational Program
- This policy should guide all decisions made at the school level. It might provide you with some information about how the school should meet the needs of students, including not only academic needs but also social and developmental needs.
- Selection of Materials
- This policy should offer guidelines on how to choose materials, who is responsible for selecting materials, criteria for selection, and what are acceptable selection tools.
- Reconsideration of Materials (may also be called Parental Inspection and Objection)
- This policy should offer guidelines on how to proceed if someone objects to the inclusion of a work in your collection, including paperwork, committee proceedings, and the appeals process.
Policies are important!
A well-crafted policy provides several safeguards for you, your institution, and your students. Your collection development policy makes your selection process transparent and accessible to all of your stakeholders. By documenting your decision-making process, you make it easier for students, parents, and administrators to understand why you have selected specific works and that your decisions are made deliberately in light of your professional training and expertise. The law provides special protection for librarians who are following their collection development policies and broad deference to your documented professional judgments.
A formal policy for filing and reviewing book challenges minimizes the effect of personal prejudices and emotion in a potentially volatile situation. Requiring a challenger to put their complaint in writing may discourage casual complaints and challenges based on vague or unsavory motivations. Further, simply offering an official response make help a challenger feel “heard” and reduce adversarial feelings between the challenger and the library.
A formal policy also gives you a plan of attack. Rather than having to respond in the moment, you have a clear set of “next steps” to guide your response. The scripted nature of your response should reduce your own anxiety and that of your administration and reassure the challenger that their concerns are being taken seriously. Following an existing policy also helps assure that all appropriate stakeholders have a voice in the process. Your administration may feel pressure to “just make the problem go away” but following a policy assures that the rights of all students and the values of academic freedom are not sacrificed to placate one angry individual.
Finally, a formal policy that includes documentation of the process creates a record for later review. Colleagues in your library will have the benefit of past experience, administrators will have precedents for understanding the review process, and, in the unlikely event of litigation, your attorney will have access to documents that clearly spell out the facts of the case so they can best represent you.
- Next: Paperwork