I’m a (retired) media specialist. Here are my concerns with book banning and lack of training in school libraries

As a recently retired school media specialist and past teacher of every level of student from pre-school to high school, there are a few points I would like to contribute that may clarify things for the public.

Firstly, up until the last several years, school libraries were run by certified media specialists who knew how to use professional tools to ensure their collection was appropriate for the age group they were serving, and all students could see themselves represented in their reading choices.

Many school principals have now replaced these certified professionals with either classroom teachers who have not been required to take the media specialist certification exam or, worse, a paraprofessional who barely makes minimum wage and is expected to run the school library.

This results in untrained people ordering books for the school library.  Consequently, inappropriate books sometimes end up in school libraries.  However, most school districts already have a procedure in place to challenge a particular title, and a media specialist who oversees training for all school librarians, coordinating a review process for any books that are challenged.  Lately, it seems we are allowing a handful of parents, most who have not even read the books they are demanding be removed, to drive the train for everyone.

Secondly, the word “inappropriate” is a vague term which can mean different things to different people.  Therefore I always used professional review journals to assist me when ordering books since I couldn’t read all of them and was mindful that all children and their families are different and should be represented in the collection.  I might remind our concerned parents there was a time when books containing Black children were banned from libraries.

If you don’t want your child to read a book about different kinds of families or, in secondary school, about a girl who likes a girl or a boy who has a crush on another boy...fine.  Get a different book.  There are kids whose home lives are “messy.”  Good thing there are books that deal with divorce, abuse, alcoholic parents, depression, etc. This is why we read, folks.  It opens our world a bit and allows us a glimpse into others’ experiences and, hopefully, gives us some empathy.

Yes, parents have a right to guide their children’s reading, but they don’t have the right to decide which books other children can or can’t read.  I lost touch with what my kids were reading some time in middle school, and you know what?  They are perfectly normal adults who understand that people are different and that’s a good thing.  I was just happy they enjoyed reading for pleasure and have become lifelong readers.  I consider that as having “educational value.”

All this to say, we need to stop the runaway train and get back to funding for trained media specialists in every school library, a written procedure for challenged books, and a review board required to read the books before passing judgement.

Kathy Drake
Kathy Drake

Kathy Drake is a recently retired media specialist with Leon County Schools.


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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: I’m a (retired) media specialist. Here are my concerns with book banning and lack of training in school libraries