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Oregon Intellectual Freedom Clearinghouse (OIFC)

As with any public service, libraries receive complaints. One of our responsibilities is to listen in a respectful and fair manner. The complaints that librarians often worry about most are those dealing with library materials, privacy and the internet. The key to successfully handling these complaints is to be sure the library staff and the governing authorities are all knowledgeable about the complaint procedures and their implementation. From "Challenge Support", American Library Association, December 8, 2016. http://www.ala.org/tools/challengesupport

Respond to the Patron

When a patron expresses concern about library materials it's important to treat them and their request like any other patron with any request. Library staff's job is to provide them the information and resources they need.

  • Listen, smile, be open and positive, and try to stay calm.
  • Thank the patron for sharing their concern.
  • Avoid being overly apologetic, defensive, or giving a mini-lesson on intellectual freedom.
  • Provide information about your library’s collection policy.
  • Provide information about the Freedom to Read StatementLibrary Bill of Rights, and any interpretations that relate to their particular concern.
  • Provide information about your library’s reconsideration procedures.
  • If the patron is not satisfied and wants to pursue the challenge, provide them with a reconsideration form.
  • Inform your supervisor, manager, or director of the incident so the school/library can be prepared if they have to deal with any further actions of the concerned patron, the public, or media.
Follow Policy and Procedure

It is essential that library staff follow policies and procedures consistently with everyone who expresses concerns and submits a reconsideration form to pursue a challenge. Reconsideration policies and procedures vary, but in most cases:

  • The challenged material remains in the collection as usual until a final decision has been made.
  • The director or designated staff reviews the selection policy to determine if the material complies with the policy, and reads professional reviews of the material.
  • The director or designated staff decides whether to retain, reclassify, label, or remove the material based on what they learn during the review process.
  • The director or designated staff writes a letter to the concerned patron explaining the review process, informing them of the decision, and the appeals process.
  • If the patron appeals the decision of the director or designated staff, a committee is convened to reconsider the material.
  • Members of the committee read/view the material in full. Then, review the selection policy to determine if the material complies with the policy and read professional reviews of the material.
  • The committee meets to discuss and vote whether to retain, reclassify, label, or remove the material.
  • The director or designated staff writes a letter to the concerned patron explaining the review process and informing them of the committee's decision.
  • The library director or designated staff report the challenge to the Oregon Intellectual Freedom Clearinghouse.