Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Date of this Version

Fall 9-30-2023

Document Type



The article addresses the possibility of minimizing instances of book banning, program protest, director firing, and library defunding in conservative Republican communities. The aim is to suggest ways of reducing strife while preserving the maximum possible local access to socially just public library collections and services. It begins with an exploration of the causes of the present day’s seemingly irreconcilable confrontations in conservative communities over the socially just services of many public libraries. The influence of contemporary versions of the “library faith” and religiously inspired “callings” on disputes over children’s books and programming is examined. Finally, the article goes beyond the library and information literature to explore the effectiveness of pre-dispute, or early dispute, informal and formal negotiations as a means of avoiding deep divisions over the role of the public library. In conservative communities and states such an approach might develop acceptable, albeit sometimes imperfect, resolutions of problems that are tolerated by both library professionals and conservative critics. In too many instances the perceived alternative to negotiation is likely to be a public library caught up in censorship clashes with unpredictable results for socially just service.