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SCSD librarians worry about increase in book ban attempts

Students in a library
New York State Education Department
Students raising their hand while being instructed in a library

The American Library Association reported a near doubling of book ban attempts in 2022. In 2021, there were 729 book challenges reported. In 2022, there were 1,269.

Sharon Oliver, a librarian at Salem Hyde Elementary, said that the report is hair-raising.

"Librarians are never fans of banning books," Oliver said. "Librarians are fans of choice. So anytime we hear that the hairs on the back of our necks stand up."

Katie Frawley is a librarian at Syracuse STEM at Blodgett Middle School. She said that book bans limit the voices that kids hear. As a result, the empathy they feel for others different from them can diminish.

"If they can't gain empathy for somebody who might not be like them, then how do we create a society where people can peacefully relate to each other?" Frawley said.

Both Frawley and Oliver say it is a common misconception that librarians hold an "anything goes" mentality when it comes to providing materials. In fact, one area where they take the most care is choosing which material is appropriate for their kids.

"School librarians are trained to think very carefully about the materials that we put in our school libraries," Oliver said. "We are thorough about reading book reviews. We want to provide as much information as we can and as broad of a view of the world as we can for our kids, in a level that is appropriate for them."

Both librarians said that the issue of book challenges has not reached them directly, and they believe that multiculturalism in the Syracuse City School District and unwavering support from the district are reasons for that.

Although they have not experienced a book ban attempt, Frawley and Oliver have been asked by parents to monitor what their kids are reading. They encourage these types of requests, as they are happy to work with parents to reach more amicable solutions.

Laddie is a graduate BDJ student at Syracuse University