The American Library Association received 546 requests to ban books last year. ALA deputy director Deborah Caldwell-Stone, however, estimated that the unofficial challenges – that is, unregistered – may be closer to 2000. Many of these controversial books are queer. Chicago Free Press’ Paul Vernell offers some suggestions on how to save gay reads:
For one thing, simply be alert to news reports of book challenges and be prepared to speak up and offer support to the library and its mission of providing books for readers with a variety of interests.
Second, we can check out and read (and then return) a gay-themed book. Libraries live by circulation: It is proof that they are doing their job. Caldwell-Stone points out that one of the ways librarians can justify retaining a book is that the book is popular–that there is a clear patron constituency for the book. Don’t be reluctant to check out young adult books. Many are well written and have intriguing plots. And the children’s picture books are usually clever and, well, cute.
Third, we can issue our own challenges–not to ban a book we might not like (that would make us as bad as the homophobes) but a “challenge” or request for the library to acquire a gay book or two that it does not currently have. Or challenge it to replace a book that has been missing for a long time. Libraries–at least in Chicago–don’t seem to keep a list of the books that are missing or were taken out and never returned. So if you notice one, ask for it to be replaced.
This sounds like there’s a lot of reading involved. Can we get this on video?