Sam Droke-Dickinson, NAIBor and co-owner of Aaron's Books, participated in the education session on Banned Books at NVNR's 2022 annual conference. Sam, along with ABFE executive director David Grogan and Amy Sarig King, NAIBA author of Attack of the Black Rectangles, had an intense, passionate, interactive discussion on the state of book bans in the country, as well as the danger of the bans and organizations who perpetrate them. The panel also shared resources and ideas for booksellers and parents to take immediate action against book banning efforts, as well as resources to aid in standing against censorship and advocating for your community and beyond. Special thanks to Sam for sharing the following with us:
Sam’s Tips for Bookstores Helping Fight Against Censorship in Your Community
- Decide how vocal and involved you want to be. Be aware of the repercussions - your mental health, retaliation against the store, internet trolls, loss of customers (but also gaining new customers), possible loss of school sales (but also maybe more from teachers).
- Pay attention - most challenges are happening AT school board meetings.
- Go to school board meetings, or at least read the minutes, for all your surrounding community, not just your town. The titles and arguments against the books will trickle down to your town. The push to ban Gender Queer nationwide started with ONE viral video at a Northern VA school board meeting and was picked up by Moms For Liberty (a dangerous Christian Nationalist group with the mission to keep diversity out of schools)
- Smaller local papers sometimes have more detailed minutes than the board posts
- Who is on the school board? Write to them. Who is running for school board? Is there a candidate that you personally can support? Can your business host after hours events for them?
- When you hear of a book mentioned as “problematic” at a school board meeting, get copies in. Let the “right” people know you have it.
- Get to know who is speaking out against the book challenges at the meetings; reach out to them. Most of the organizing on both sides is happening on Facebook. There are more and more parent groups forming, including banned books book clubs.
- Make displays of recently challenged books, local and nationwide. Let people know you carry the books they are hearing about. You are a resource for people who actually want to READ THE BOOK before making a judgement on it.
- Make posts on social media speaking out against censorship… there are lots of great materials out there you can quote.
- Follow ALA and other groups on social media - ALA Instagram has a great weekly recap of challenges and censorship issues.
- When official challenges are made in your community let ALA and ABFE know.
- If you feel comfortable, speak at board meetings; send letters to editor; make statements on social media.
- Become a trusted resource for the parents, librarians, and teachers in your area.
- Donate the books to parent groups, little free libraries, local non-profits. Yes, this will dip into your profits some. But getting the books into the hands of the children is an investment in your community and future.
Most importantly, do what you feel comfortable with. If it is just a display during banned books week, then that is what you do. Your mental and physical health is most important! This is an upsetting time, and it is not going away anytime soon. Your allies (fellow booksellers, librarians, teachers, students, parents) will appreciate whatever level your involvement.
Important Websites and emails:
American Booksellers For Free Expression: https://www.bookweb.org/advocacy#abfe
Have many resources linked, including statements you can adapt for your store/community. You can sign up for alerts, see current petitions, and find your local elected officials on this site.
National Coalition Against Censorship/Kids Right to Read: https://ncac.org/project/the-kids-right-to-read-project/
Report Censorship: https://ncac.org/report-censorship
American Library Association: https://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/
Report Censorship: https://www.ala.org/tools/challengesupport/report
Lots of lists and resources of current and historical challenges. Materials for distribution during Banned Books Week.
Watch the NVNR Banned Books education session: https://youtu.be/vf5UbeiZTYs