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What Kansas City librarians have learned since 1995's book-banning effort in Olathe

This display for Banned Books Week 2021 drew criticism from several library board members.
Mid-Continent Public Library, North Independence Branch
Banned Book Week is marked by libraries around the world in support of the freedom to read.

In 1995 the Olathe School District lost its case to remove a book about teenage lesbian love from its schools. Protecting students' First Amendment right to such materials in their libraries is still ongoing.

In 2021 the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) tracked 729 challenges to library, school and university materials. Those resulted in more than 1,500 individual books being challenged or removed.

OIF Director Deborah Caldwell-Stone says her office is seeing what seems to be a well-organized campaign by advocacy groups with "a particular agenda." Most commonly these groups focus on books dealing with LGBTQIA stories, Black persons and persons of color, and African American perspectives on the history of racism and slavery.

What Caldwell-Stone is seeing now is reflective of what happened in Olathe, Kansas, over "Annie on My Mind" when, without following proper procedure, the school board pulled the book from school libraries over a complaint about its content. The board was found to be in violation of students' First Amendment rights and "Annie" was returned to shelves.

According to Caldwell-Stone every parent absolutely has the right "to guide their child's reading." However, she said, "That parent shouldn't dictate what's available to the entire community."

To find additional information on the 1995 Olathe "Annie on My Mind" case, visit the Federal Bar Association Chapter for the districts of Kansas & Western Missouri. You can also view a retrospective of the case and other related videos on the chapter's YouTube channel.

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