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Book Résumés: A Tool for Defending the Right to Read

by on March 22, 2024

Amidst the alarming surge in book bans nationwide, an important new resource has emerged: Book Résumés . Anne Mavian, Chair for the Intellectual Freedom Committee for North Carolina, and a contributor to Book Résumés, sheds light on this crucial new resource. Mavian currently serves as a Branch Manager at Charlotte Mecklenburg Library in Charlotte, NC.

What are Book Résumés?

Book Résumés  started with an initial group of sixty-three publishers who met with the Office of Intellectual Freedom and Unite Against Book Bans to create defense resources for the most frequently challenged book titles. Each book résumé contains a book synopsis, reviews, awards, media, and recommended age ranges. “It originally launched with 175 books and new books are being added every 4-8 weeks,” said Mavian. Each book résumé is uploaded to the site as a PDF, which can easily be printed and distributed at board meetings. This resource was created in response to the increase in censorship of titles, especially those with themes around people of color and/or LGBTQIA+, which have historically been underrepresented in print and on library shelves. Mavian shared her personal favorite frequently challenged title  Are You Their God, It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume. Check out it’s book  résumé here.

Why are Book Résumés needed?

This resource is designed for use by schools, libraries, the staff members that work in those institutions and the community members they serve. Mavian pointed out, “Typically when a book is being challenged, the entity or organization must respond to the challenge in a very open way. It takes a lot of work. In a big system like Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, we are lucky to have a whole Access Services department with a team of people who take on this work. At smaller systems, they may just have one person to do everything.” Mavian shared that the best defense for why we want to keep a book on our shelves is to show why it was written, who the intended audience is, and what awards it has won. She emphasizes, “…to gather all that information can be very time consuming.”

What else do we need to know?

The number of people challenging titles and the numbers of items being challenged by each individual person is increasing. Mavian explains, “It’s not just one book that is getting challenged. It is one person bringing a list of 200 titles. To consider responding to each individual title can be a lot and that’s why this resource will make a real positive impact in our schools and libraries.” In response to this change, the American Library Association has changed the way they report statistics to differentiate between how many challenges we’ve had and how many individual titles have been challenged. In 2022, 2,571 unique titles were targeted for censorship, a 32% increase from the previous year.

An exhaustive list of publishers, organizations and individuals who contributed to the creation of Book Résumés can be found on the acknowledgements  section of the website. This includes many big names such as Penguin Random House, Macmillan, Harper Collins, and more. Mavian shared that the idea originated within the publishing world out of a desire to prevent these important works from being banned. On the Unite Against Book Bans website, there is a call to action inviting those interested to sign up to receive news and updates to help defend the freedom to read.

Further Information

  1. https://bookresumes.uniteagainstbookbans.org/
  2. https://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/by-the-numbers








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