‘Faced a lot of challenges over the last year’: Librarians caught in middle of book battle return to school

Texas Library Association says there are policies in place for parents to ask about books on shelves

Librarians are returning to school after many were caught in a debate over books and what students should have access to in Texas public school libraries.

SAN ANTONIO – Librarians are returning to school after many were caught in a debate over books and what students should have access to in Texas public school libraries.

Lucy Podmore is entering her 16th year as a school librarian in San Antonio and is also the chair of the Texas Association of School Librarians.

“We spend a lot of time curating a great collection that reflects the diversity of our libraries,” said Podmore. “Our goal as school librarians, of course, is to always create this magical library experience that really enhances a school experience for the student.”

Last school year was one of the most challenging for librarians because many were caught in the middle of a book battle that involved state politicians, parents and districts.

“We faced a lot of challenges over the last year with the increase in censorship and efforts around that in our Texas schools,” said Shirley Robinson, executive director of the Texas Library Association.

Robinson said an inquiry in October 2021 by Republican state lawmaker Matt Krause to review more than 800 books in school libraries put librarians in a difficult position

Krause launched the investigation over the type of books school districts have, particularly materials that could “make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex.”

“There’s not a good reason to remove books themselves that have been placed there by qualified, trained librarians using professional review services,” said Robinson. “Certified school librarians have a master’s degree in library science and have trained at least two years as a classroom educator. These are professionals and highly trained individuals who work in collection, development and supporting educators.”

Podmore says many of her colleagues were criticized and some were attacked online and on social media.

“There is a lot of really charged language that is being used with librarians who are following district policy, who are putting books on the shelves that are within our policy and that represent our community,” said Podmore. “If you’re following your district policy and you are curating materials that reflect your community, you should feel safe.”

Podmore and Robinson said there are already policies in place at school districts for parents to talk to librarians or school officials about a book they have questions about. They feel the issue became more political than educational, but getting back to basics is their focus this school year.

“Librarians do not want to come between a parent and their child. If you do not want your child to read a specific book, that is entirely your right,” said Podmore. “Where it starts crossing the line is when people start saying, ‘I don’t want my child to read this book, and I don’t want any other child to read this book,’ when they might not have the same point of view of that child or their child’s family.”

“Parents need to be involved in their children’s education. They should know and have a right to ask about what their children are reading in schools, and that information is already there,” said Robinson. “Every school has a database that can be made available to parents of what materials are there. But what we are seeing is the removal of titles without all parents consent and working through established reconsideration policies.”

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About the Authors:

RJ Marquez is co-host of KSAT News Now and reports for Good Morning San Antonio. He's been at KSAT since 2010 and covered a variety of stories and events across the San Antonio area. He also covers the Spurs for on-air and digital platforms, including his Spurs newsletter. RJ has reported stories for KSAT Explains.

Before starting at KSAT in August 2011, Ken was a news photographer at KENS. Before that he was a news photographer at KVDA TV in San Antonio. Ken graduated from San Antonio College with an associate's degree in Radio, TV and Film. Ken has won a Sun Coast Emmy and four Lone Star Emmys. Ken has been in the TV industry since 1994.