Book bans and attempts at censorship are currently spreading across the U.S. and are disproportionately impacting diverse titles and authors from historically marginalized communities. Both as publishing professionals and as readers ourselves, the NetGalley team stands against book banning and wants to ensure our members have tools at their disposal to fight back against censorship in their communities. Book banning touches every member of the NetGalley community from library workers and educators to authors and readers, and all can use these tips to work together to protect intellectual freedom.
Listen to those most affected
The impact of a book ban is far-reaching and touches different communities in unique ways. It’s important to listen to those affected in order to put your own efforts towards making a positive change.
Although not exhaustive, here’s a short list of places to start listening and learning: The Stacks Podcast has an excellent series of interviews—featuring authors, students, educators, politicians, and booksellers—that explore everything about book banning from a legal standpoint to activism. Former librarian Kelly Jensen’s coverage of the ongoing bans is incredibly informative and packed with resources and action items. Penguin Young Readers put together this document of resources for educators and library workers.
Request books from your library
If you see certain books or authors missing from your branch’s shelves, ask your local librarian about submitting a request for the library to acquire them. This not only helps put those books on your library’s shelves, but it’s a trackable measurement of community interest that library workers can use if a certain book is challenged.
Find out when your local city council, library board, and school board meetings are being held. Attending these meetings allows you to stay informed and gives you the opportunity to not only speak out against book bans but to voice support for the library workers, educators, and politicians in your community who are working to protect intellectual freedom. Your voice can be a source of much-needed support to those who are pushing back against censorship.
As you begin to attend meetings, you may find yourself wanting to take an even more active role. Consider joining your town’s council, library, or school board.
In the upcoming elections, use your vote to support candidates who are actively working against censorship. Pay close attention to local elections, which have a major impact on your community. If you notice that a candidate doesn’t have information available regarding their stance, ask!
Keep your community informed
Chances are that your friends, family, and coworkers care about these issues as much as you do. Invite them to attend board meetings with you, or if they can’t attend, update them on what you learned. Talk together about candidates you think will make a difference in the community and make a plan to go vote together.
Follow and support those making a difference
Whenever you find yourself frustrated and wanting to help make a change, first look to those who have already been hard at work making a difference. Organizations such as the National Coalition Against Censorship have valuable resources for readers, library workers, educators, and students to use when facing censorship in their community.
You can also look to organizations such as We Need Diverse Books, a non-profit that advocates for inclusive changes to the publishing industry. They’re currently offering grants to educators who need financial support for diverse literature programs, as well as those impacted by COVID. You can donate to support those here.
Donors Choose allows you to help specific educators in need. Teachers share what their classrooms and children require—including many requests for donations that will go towards stocking classroom libraries.
Attend your local school and library board meetings.