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MLA Intellectual Freedom Committee Letter to the Cameron School Board President and Superintendent

June 11, 2024

Dear Cameron School Board President Ice and Dr. Robinson,

As Missouri librarians and members of the Missouri Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee, we would like to express to you our concern over the recent method of the school board on reviewing, evaluation, and the removal of books using BookLooks reviews, as well as  the demand to cancel orders on books that highlight people of color and those of the LGBTQ+ communities. This is deeply concerning. If the administration is going to defer to pre-existing review websites, there are a number of rigorous and professional publications curated by experts in children’s literature, child development, literacy, and librarianship. These include Kirkus, School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist.

In our professional opinion, BookLooks is not a rigorous source for accurate reviews and is driven by an ideology which is exclusionary of diverse voices and experiences in its various critiques (which contradicts Cameron School Board policy in the objectives of selection of library materials detailed in IIAC-R1 in the school board policy manual). BookLooks’ rating system is idiosyncratic, and provides no real holistic explanation of a book’s content, instead progressing from the premise that censorship is inevitable or necessary in the realm of children's literature.

Of particular concern is the platform’s use of “gender ideology” as a criteria for requiring added scrutiny of books. This is an example of the aforementioned bias and exclusionary criteria, and should not be used to rate children’s literature. Instead, we encourage you to rely on librarians, your resident experts on what books are appropriate for children from a developmental, social, and cultural perspective. We further encourage you to allocate to your librarian the time and resources necessary to do the work based on their networks and expertise. We further promote Gateway and Truman awards, which are chosen by Missouri residents based on thoughtful criteria, and have a place in any collection in this state or elsewhere.

We are further concerned that decisions made to remove or restrict could cause harm to the trust that children and their families have in the schools they attend, as well as the students’ ability to pursue inquiry and access materials (see again IIAC-R1 in the school board policy manual). LGBTQ+ students need access to authentic representations of Queer experience to provide context for growing up in a predominantly “straight” society, just as cis/heterosexual children benefit from perspectives from non-binary characters that help them empathize with and understand the broader scope of human experience. We ask you to consider why someone would want to restrict access to these perspectives, particularly as our social context becomes increasingly global and interconnected, and individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ participate in an increasingly open and integrated way in our society. We ask you to consider if restricting or removing these works truly serves all the students in your district in their pursuit of knowledge and growth. 

Please know that in our MLA statement on intellectual freedom, we outline the necessity of protecting the opportunities for access to diverse perspectives of which our students avail themselves of available resources to be well-rounded citizens and empathetic participants in contemporary society. As with other challenges in the state, we ask you to consider the irreparable harm that undermining intellectual freedom causes to students and their trust in public institutions that come between them and attempts to understand their world. 

We support those teachers, librarians, and employees working toward maintaining and promoting inclusive library collections, and those who cultivate spaces for free inquiry and curiosity to flourish in schools. We support parents working to promote access to materials in your district, and applaud their efforts to support their kids during this fraught time. We lament the amount of abuse, stress, and other negative consequences students and hardworking teachers and librarians suffer as these regrettable censorship campaigns continue. Please support your students by reconsidering your recent decision to integrate BookLooks into professional practices, and please reinstate book orders of Gateway and Truman titles for the upcoming year.

While we understand the inclination to safeguard students from certain topics, we firmly believe in the right of each student and parent(s) informed by the expertise of your librarians to decide what is right for each individual. In prioritizing students’ developmental and intellectual needs, we believe you can begin regaining the trust of your community as well as step back into best practices in education and librarianship. Serving your students’ developmental and intellectual needs should be your first priority, your recent choices merely mirror the biases and moral panic sweeping our country, and ultimately have no benefit to your community or patrons. 


Missouri Library Association- Intellectual Freedom Committee (MLA-IFC)

2023 Winners of the Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award


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