Fighting Censorship Requires More Than Policy and Procedures


Critchfield and Powell’s account (2012) of a censorship ‘battle’ at the Jessamine County Public Library (JCPL) is a wake-up call for any librarian or library school student who assumes that policies and procedures provide all the support needed when faced with censorship attempts.  Highly effective suggestions are made by Critchfield and Powell, especially on page 12 of their article, concerning spokesperson(s), confidentiality, publicity, “spread[ing] the truth,” and “remaining above the fray.”  After reviewing these suggestions, other practical efforts and approaches come to mind and are listed below.

First, however, it is important to applaud the work of the JCPL circulation manager who promptly referred a concerned library staff person to a collection development committee when she believed that The League of Extraordinary Gentleman: Black Dossier (Moore, 2008) was pornographic and should not be available at JCPL.  Also commendable is the work of the committee who responded, and the astute and professional efforts of the library director who monitored an unfolding censorship scheme by employees who were eventually terminated.

Next, it is important to look squarely in the face of various individual or group perspectives.  Religious individuals can be sincere in their efforts to follow the mandates of their faith. Others may feel they have no choice but to “protect” children and others. Media outlets are (hopefully) dedicated to bringing news to their communities.

Given that the rights of all community individuals must be protected, careful and thorough policies, materials-challenge procedures, and follow-up are part of the foundation of library service. The following proactive efforts and approaches can be practiced as well by librarians and other library personnel:

  • Take the time and effort to listen intently to patrons’ concerns and opinions regarding all library matters, even if they seem minor or inconsequential.
  • Encourage library users to make suggestions or deliver complaints to the library.
  • Keep one’s superiors aware of patron concerns that become known.
  • Insist on library security procedures that immediately address the  development of  verbal or physical attacks on patrons or staff.
  • Keep current on local, regional, national, and international censorship issues.
  • Regularly review intellectual freedom materials.


Critchfield, R., & Powell, D. M. (2012). Well-intentioned censorship is still censorship: The challenge of public library employees.  In Nye, V., & Barco, K. (Eds.), True stories of censorship battles in America’s Libraries (pp.8-13). Chicago, IL: ALA Editions.

Moore, A. (2008). The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black dossier. La Jolla, CA: America’s Best Comics.

2 thoughts on “Fighting Censorship Requires More Than Policy and Procedures

    • At the reference desk, we have the opportunity to listen to informal and formal input and, sometimes, complaints. I believe patrons need to know that their ideas and feedback don’t reach a dead-end. Even in difficult situations, I’ve observed that patrons are pleased when I tell them that I will make sure their input goes to my department head. Also, I’ve learned to ask if patrons would like a reply [phone call, or otherwise] to their input. Usually they say no thanks, but I think it’s important as part of our service role.


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