Unite Against Book Bans Launches Book Résumés for Challenged Titles

Unite Against Book Bans—the national initiative launched by the American Library Association (ALA) in 2022 to help readers, libraries, publishers, and other institutions in the fight against censorship—this week launched a free collection of book résumés “to support librarians, educators, parents, students, and other community advocates in their efforts to keep frequently challenged books on shelves.” Separately, OverDrive subsidiary TeachingBooks last month announced the launch of a new Book Résumés Toolkit at ALA’s LibLearnX conference in Baltimore.

Unite Against Book Bans Book Resumes logoUnite Against Book Bans (UABB)—the national initiative launched by the American Library Association (ALA) in 2022 to help readers, libraries, publishers, and other institutions in the fight against censorship—this week launched a free collection of book résumés “to support librarians, educators, parents, students, and other community advocates in their efforts to keep frequently challenged books on shelves,” according to an announcement.

Designed to be easy to print and share with administrators, book review committees, and the public, the book résumés feature information provided by publishers, librarians, and School Library Journal, including a synopsis of the title, reviews from professional journals, any accolades and awards the book has received, any age or grade range suggested by the title’s publisher, links to additional resources and relevant media, and more. In cases where a title has been successfully retained in a school or public library following a challenge, that information is included as well.

Hundreds of the book résumés are already available at bookresumes.uniteagainstbookbans.org, and UABB plans to add more in time for National Library Week, April 7–13. After that, according to the website’s FAQ page, UABB plans to add new book résumés and updates to existing résumés every four to eight weeks. If a library is experiencing a challenge to a title that isn’t listed, UABB encourages librarians to report the challenge to them and to ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) to receive support. Data on frequently challenged titles will be shared with publishers to guide the creation of new book résumés, according to the website.

“Book résumés can assist librarians and educators in several key ways,” Eric Stroshane, assistant director of member services for OIF, told LJ. “One of the first things librarians have to do when a title’s place on the shelf is challenged is demonstrate that it meets the library or school district’s board-approved selection criteria. By pulling together awards, plaudits, and rave reviews each title has received, the résumés do just that. This can be a tremendous time saver, especially in situations where multiple titles are challenged concurrently. More generally, we’re seeing attacks on books and the librarians who select them based on excerpts taken entirely out of context. These résumés bring back the context and show the impact and educational value the books have through the words and accolades of those who have read them in their entirety. They’re something community advocates can pull from when they speak out at board meetings in defense of their freedom to read these books. They’re something reporters can turn to when they need to know more about titles that have become the center of manufactured controversies. We know that the titles being most frequently targeted represent the views, voices, experiences, and groundbreaking literary accomplishments of members of marginalized communities—these books deserve the chance to find their audience through libraries and we all deserve the chance to find them there.”

Stroshane said that the book résumés were inspired by “the pioneering work of Easter DiGangi and Melinda McKenzie at the Virginia Library Association…. Skip Dye [SVP of library sales and digital strategy for Penguin Random House] saw the work they were doing and rallied a large coalition of publishers around the idea—he and Carmela Iaria [VP of school and library marketing for Penguin Random House] were pivotal in getting all of these partners working together with us to create the book résumés hosted on our site. Melinda and Easter were kind enough to assist us with this project and are leading the team handling quality control for the book résumés publishers are submitting. As we continue to expand the number of resources available through the site, their team will also help fill in any gaps that emerge between what’s needed in the field and what partnering publishers are able to provide.”

Director of OIF Deborah Caldwell-Stone said in an announcement that UABB’s partners “recognized a need for easy-to-access free resources for the many librarians, educators, and community advocates, who are working so hard to ensure that readers can always access an inclusive, diverse collection of books. The work they’re doing—defending the freedom to read—is difficult and hard, and we want to make the task of gathering the information needed to do that easier.”

Separately, OverDrive subsidiary TeachingBooks—a subscription-based database of digital resources such as author and illustrator interviews, video book trailers, audio book readings, book discussion guides, and more for children’s and YA books—last month announced the launch of its new Book Résumés Toolkit at ALA’s LibLearnX conference in Baltimore. Subscribers to TeachingBooks will now have access to book résumés for more than 90,000 titles.

While the company is not marketing this new resource as a means to fight censorship of challenged titles—instead describing the résumés as tools that “empower educators and library staff to feel confident about both their existing collections and forthcoming purchases”—there is some overlap in the assessment information offered by UABB’s résumés. TeachingBooks’ résumés include unabridged reviews licensed from eight sources including Library Journal, School Library Journal, The Horn Book, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, and Audiofile Magazine; details about awards and state list recognitions; at-a-glance metadata about reading levels, Library of Congress subject headings, and more; and digital previews via audio and ebook excerpts, according to an announcement. Like UABB’s résumés, these are designed to be downloaded as PDFs that are easy to print out and share.

“Book Résumés provide a time-saving solution to generate consistent, authoritative book information as part of a process to determine which books are right for someone’s collection,” TeachingBooks founder Nick Glass said in an announcement. “Feedback from early users has been encouraging, with many sharing that Book Résumés are providing consistent, credentialed information that support library staff and educators review their existing materials and titles for future purchases.”

According to ALA and UABB, 2,571 unique titles were targeted for censorship in 2022, a 38 percent increase from the previous record of 1,858 set in 2021. Book challenge data for 2023 is currently being compiled and will be released in early April during National Library Week. Both organizations expect another significant increase in titles targeted for censorship and removal from libraries.

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Matt Enis



Matt Enis (matthewenis.com) is Senior Editor, Technology for Library Journal.

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