Project Pericles and Bailey Library to
co-host discussion on libraries and censorship
CONWAY, Arkansas (February 20,
2023)—In observance of National Library Lovers Month, Bailey Library and Project Pericles at Hendrix College will host
a panel discussion, On the Frontlines of Free Speech: Libraries &
Censorship. The discussion will take place in the Learning Commons of
Bailey Library (building 8 on the current campus map) on Thursday, Feb. 23 from
4:10-5:00 p.m., and is free and open to the public.
The panel will feature
professionals from three settings:
- Dr. Jonathan Hancock is an associate professor of
history and directs Project Pericles at Hendrix.
- Dr. Erin Shaw is an assistant professor at the
University of Central Arkansas and coordinates the Graduate Library Media &
Information Technologies Program in the Department of Leadership Studies.
- Adam Webb leads the Garland County Library System,
which includes the city of Hot Springs, and serves as president of Advocates
for All Arkansas Libraries.
Throughout the 2021-22 school year, more than 1,600 book
titles were banned in the U.S., according to a report from the group PEN
America, which advocates for freedom of expression. The surge in book bans
is a result of a network of local political and advocacy groups targeting books
with LGBTQ+ characters and storylines, and books involving characters of color.
The American Library Association (ALA) issued a report in
September that indicated challenges to books continue to rise this academic
year. Based on their records, 1,651 unique titles were targeted between January
and August 2022, with 681 attempts to ban or restrict library resources. The
ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom counted 729 challenges to library,
school, and university materials in 2021— which rose four-fold from the prior
The trend is reflected in
Arkansas. Public library displays, story times, and collections have come under
scrutiny from members of the public. School libraries have seen challenges from
groups such as Moms for Liberty, and librarians have received death threats.
While academic libraries in
Arkansas haven’t seen as many challenges to their materials, many curricular
resources supporting teaching of race and inequity are being questioned, as is
affirmative action and its role in college admissions and the support for
offices of diversity, equity, and inclusion. In the fall of 2022, the Conway
School Board voted to remove two books from Conway Junior High that featured
LGBTQ themes. Legislation to regulate what libraries have on their shelves and
in their networks and what kind of access libraries provide to minors is
currently in committee in the Arkansas State Legislature.
“Libraries have always
supported access to information from various viewpoints and various
backgrounds, but this can create tension when one segment of the population
views materials as inappropriate or offensive,” said Britt Anne Murphy, panel moderator
and director of the library for Hendrix. “We want to be sure everyone can see
themselves reflected in a library collection, and the First Amendment ensures
that individuals have that access. But librarians also defend and respect the
rights of individuals to choose. We want individuals to make their own choices
and to make choices for their children, but we don’t want them to be able to
make choices for everyone.”
About Hendrix College
A private liberal arts
college in Conway, Arkansas, Hendrix College consistently earns recognition as
one of the country’s leading liberal arts institutions, and is featured in Colleges That Change
Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges. Its
academic quality and rigor, innovation, and value have established Hendrix as a
fixture in numerous college guides, lists, and rankings. Founded in 1876,
Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. To
learn more, visit www.hendrix.edu.