The Massachusetts library community has been working together to address library needs for information around intellectual freedom topics.

Over the past few months, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC), Massachusetts Library System (MLS), Massachusetts Library Association (MLA), and Massachusetts School Library Association (MSLA) have been meeting to discuss opportunities to assist library staff in this work and to clarify roles. We began our collective work in the summer, partnered with the automated networks to share news in the fall, and are proactively planning for 2023.

The four primary means of support provided are: advocacy, training, policy planning, and consultation.

At the forefront of this work is the acknowledgement that while reconsideration requests, First Amendment audits, and informal challenges are not new, they all have increased substantially in recent months. There has also been an increase to the organization of challenges as well as a disregard for following established processes at all library and municipality levels. This work can also take an emotional and mental toll and it is important to acknowledge the effect it can have, for both you and your staff.

The MBLC provides consulting services to library directors and trustees on the statutory requirements of a collection development policy and executing the policy when presented with a reconsideration request. This works in done through individual consulting and trainings through the ongoing Trustee Deep Dive series. These are topical sessions, and the Collection Development and Intellectual Freedom one is recorded. MBLC also has connections with the Massachusetts Municipal Association and is ensuring that they are aware of these challenges. The MBLC has sponsored our state’s membership to United for Libraries, a division of the American Library Association, which offers recorded webinar, tip sheets, and information on intellectual freedom topics, all available at no cost to library workers and supporters. MBLC staff also conducted a recent survey to gain a better understanding of both formal and informal challenges and disruptions happening in MA libraries.

MLS focuses on providing support by offering a robust training suite and consulting support around policy development. We encourage staff at all levels to learn about the importance of intellectual freedom in library work and hosted an introduction to the topic with Dr. Martin Garner, available for viewing on our Vimeo site. We’re currently working on a new series of online trainings covering these topics in more depth in the new year. Library managers and directors are also encouraged to review and update their collection development policies. Our resources for this work includes our Policy Collection resource guide and a recording of our library Community Chat on Intellectual Freedom: Challenge Considerations.  MLS is also a partner of the Unite Against Book Bans campaign. To connect with your library’s specific MLS Liaison, please visit our Library Liaison contact site.

MLA and MSLA are our state’s professional library workers’ organizations. When challenges arise, they offer peer to peer consultation, advocacy, and support.  Both organizations encourage you to contact them when a challenge in your library happens.

MLA: email the Intellectual Freedom/Social Responsibility roundtable at
MSLA: Book Challenge Tracker

Additionally, MLA and MSLA can assist with preparing directors and school librarians for hearings, writing letters of support, and with reporting challenges to ALA.

All these resources and lots more are available on our Intellectual Freedom Resource Guide.

Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners-
Massachusetts Library
Massachusetts Library Association Intellectual Freedom/Social Responsibility Committee-
MA School Library Association-