When someone objects to or challenges a library resource you've selected, it's helpful to have a process for handling the situation. Balancing your aim of an inclusive collection against the diverse opinions in your community needs good communications.
What a challenged resource is
Occasionally resources in your library collection, including print and digital content, may be called into question by a member of your school community. A complaint about a specific resource is called a challenge. Challenges to school library resources are serious matters. They can be controversial, personal and, on rare occasions, can polarise people in your community.
The American Library Association's (ALA) definition is, 'A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group.'
ALA — Challenge support
Librarians aim to give people access to information free from censorship. The International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) includes this in their code of ethics.
Librarians and other information workers reject the denial and restriction of access to information and ideas most particularly through censorship whether by states, governments, or religious or civil society institutions.
— IFLA Code of Ethics for Librarians and other Information Workers
The ALA Library Bill of Rights explains that the freedom to read is an essential part of democracy.
Freedom to read statement
Documenting your complaints procedures
Your library guiding documents usually explain how challenges to library materials are handled. Having agreed procedures helps library staff deal confidently and fairly with any users who express concerns. As a result, a complaint is less likely to become controversial.
The information should include:
- the steps that make up the complaints procedure
- who is responsible for handling the complaint at each step
- what documents you share with someone who complains — for example, your guiding statement or selection criteria.
Library guiding documents
Find out more
Be prepared with a challenged materials policy — a blog by Rebecca Cruz for the Public Library Association
Challenge support — a guide, developed by the ALA, to handling challenges
Book censorship in schools: a toolkit — how the community can respond if an item is going to be removed from your collection