Iowa Library Association shares concerns about efforts to remove books from libraries

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JOHNSTON, Iowa — Some controversial books are starting to become ideological battlefields, and the association representing Iowa’s librarians is calling for a ceasefire.

The Iowa Library Association released a statement as efforts to remove some books from libraries or lesson plans intensify across the state.

“Since May of 2021, I’ve communicated with ten different libraries in Iowa; half are school libraries and half public libraries,” said Amanda Vazquez, who heads the Iowa Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee. “It’s mostly been challenges to materials that represent marginalized groups.”

One of the most notable challenges occurred in Johnston last month, where a school committee ultimately decided to keep two novels in its lesson plans after a parent’s complaint: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

In its statement, the Iowa Library Association made the following claim:

The freedom to read is under threat. Calls by organizations, as well as elected and non-elected officials to dispense with policy, disregard individual rights, and to castigate and intimidate library workers freeze Iowans’ abilities to exercise their own right to read and access information freely.

Iowa Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee

“School librarians are trained to provide materials and make decisions about what is and isn’t appropriate,” Vazquez said. “Just because an individual might disagree with sexual content or profanity or depictions of certain marginalized groups in materials, that does not mean they are obscene.”

Vasquez said the association is not opposed to book challenges in principle, as long as they are run through a formal reconsideration process such as how the Johnston School District handled its complaint.

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