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When Library Boards Turn

Library trustees are powerful advocates for libraries.  Through the coordination, hard work, and determination of trustees, new libraries have been built, budgets have been restored and increased, and new respect has been generated for the powerful role libraries play in communities and on campuses. As part of a trustee board, trustees serve on a volunteer basis, can be elected or appointed to a library board for a period of time, and are tasked with the duty of helping to direct the funds and policies of an institution. In general, the library board of trustees has a role in determining the mission of the library, setting the policy that governs the library, hiring and evaluating a library director, and overseeing the general management of the library.


A library board is a group of citizens responsible for the governing of a public library. Board members are the vital link between the library and its community. Board members serve as library advocates and leaders in developing responsible and creative library service to all members of the public. 


Library Boards are guided in their duties by the Library Mission as well as strategic plans and policies. These are in turn informed by the American Library Association Library Bill of Rights, the Freedom to Read Statement, codes of ethics and more.

Library Boards that work well are virtually invisible, they exist to make sure that the Library is fulfilling its stated mission of serving the needs of the community.

Across the US there have been several Library Boards that have started turning on the Libraries that they ostensibly serve.

Mid-Continent Public Library Director Steven Potter resigned after the board led a campaign against diversity, equity and inclusion programs:

The current 12-member board, including four members appointed by each of three counties — Jackson, Clay and Platte — has been bent on blocking programs for LGBTQ youth and squashing moves to increase diversity.

The Niles-Maine Library District Board has been divided and at odds over controversial proposals brought forward by the new trustees, including the hiring of a political ally as a library consultant at $100 per hour and a freeze on hiring, capital projects and material purchases.

The changes led to the resignation of the Library Director, who in her letter of resignation warned the board that they are protectors, not destroyers, and you cannot allow anyone on the board or off the board to destroy this precious institution.

More information on the Coalition to save the Niles Maine Library can be found here:

Ideological divisions were on display at a recent ImagineIF Libraries Board retreat, with a trustee pushing against libraries offering hotspots to patrons that have no internet access and wanting to remove ALA language from ImagineIF policy (that would be the Library Bill of Rights and more. The board member went on to state that: trustees are supposed to be apolitical, and therefore being aligned with an organization that takes “leftist” political stances is not in the library’s best interest.

The neutrality of libraries is a discussion that needs to be had, but when board members openly rail against what they perceive to be “leftist stances and services” and agitate for their removal they are not being neutral, and when they try and edit library policies to silence voices and end services to patrons and marginalized communities then they are actively trying to create a hostile environment within the library service they oversee, making it unwelcoming to those they perceive as opposing their political views.

As more and more activists on the right attempt to paint libraries as havens of inappropriate materials, crawling with staff holding “leftist” views, the situation will become more fraught. Library Boards should be balanced, the moment they have a reactionary majority that views their ideological views as superior to those of others then “neutrality” goes out the window and services to underserved communities are cut and staff get forced out.

Right wing groups are working off a playbook first developed to take over school boards to control what is being taught to children and they are now focusing on libraries. With turnout in local elections traditionally low, it is easy for a group to get enough people organized to sway the vote.

Related Articles:

Libraries aren’t neutral ground in the fight for anti-racist education

Right-Wingers Are Taking Over Library Boards to Remove Books on Racism

Mid-Continent Public Library Board blasted as banned books comments suggest censorship

Is Qanon radicalizing your School Board?

Art Spiegelman’s Maus banned by Mcminn County School Board

In another shocking I can’t believe this is happening in the 21st century, the The Mcminn County School Board banned the Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel about the Holocaust.

The ban which is already garnering accusations of Antisemitism happened due to accusations of “crudity” within the seminal work. Apparently the inclusion of words like “God Damn” and “naked pictures” (illustrations) of mouse women were considered beyond the pale

No mention was made of the inhumane treatment meted out to the Jewish characters portrayed in the book.

I utterly condemn this move of cultural vandalism by an organization that is supposed to oversee the education of the children in the schools controlled by the board.

The Mcminn County School Board


The School Board has released a statement via the schools Twitter feed doubling down on the ban, citing nudity and unnecessary language. You can read it below.

Jummy at the River School

Jummy has won a place at the River School, the finest girls’ boarding school in Nigeria.

Nothing can dampen her spirits, not even when she learns that her less fortunate best friend Caro won’t be joining her. By the Shine-Shine River, school is everything Jummy dreamt of, with friendly new girls, midnight feasts and sporting prizes. But when Caro suddenly arrives at the school to work, not to learn, Jummy must bring all her friends together to help …

A joyful, glorious collision of classic boarding-school story with vibrant 1990s Nigeria, based on Sabine’s own experience of boarding school in Nigeria. 

Chicken House Books

This really is a classic boarding school tale, with midnight feasts, friendships and rivalries, and mean teachers. It being set in Nigeria in the 1990s gives it another layer of interest for readers who may have never been there (or never seen it in a story), with a beautiful sense of place…and the potential for crocodiles in the river to cause trouble! I absolutely loved the descriptions of food and the voices were brilliant, with a story that highlights poverty and privilege at the same time as being about tested loyalties and the importance of friendship.

I asked Sabine Adeyinka a few questions:

As it is inspired by your experiences at a Nigerian boarding school, are many of the events things that happened in real life?

The place, emotion and setting are very similar to a regular Nigerian Boarding school in the 90s. However the actual story is completely fiction. I did have a friend who wasn’t able to continue her education after primary school and that stung. Her family just couldn’t afford it and there was nothing I could do at the time.

Which of the characters were you most like as a child?

A cross between Jummy herself and Rashidat (class clown) who appears once or twice.

Who was your favourite character to write?

Ngozi was quite enjoyable to write about as she was so contrary and determined. Owolabi was great too because he annoyed Jummy and that made me giggle when I wrote about him.

Jummy was discovered through the Chicken House open submissions, has the story changed much since that point?

The bulk of the story has remained the same but the strength and consistency (for example) of the characters greatly improved with the help of Chickenhouse.

Have you thought about the kind of events you would like to do with readers (imagining no pandemic!)?

Oh I’d love to sing the songs in the book with readers and create second verses. I’d love Q&A sessions as well especially about living and schooling in Nigeria.

What are you reading at the moment and who would you recommend it to?

Children of the quicksands by Efua Traore. It is a magical adventure also based in Nigeria. I’d recommend it to lovers of Jummy at the River School as it will enhance their understanding of what its like growing up in Nigeria.

Have you any further ideas for novels?

At the moment, all I can think of is more stories about the River School!

JUMMY AT THE RIVER SCHOOL by Sabine Adeyinka is out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)

Thank you Chicken House Books for the review copy and Sabine for the q&a.

Do have a look at the official blog tour from last week!

Libraries, the new front-line in the Culture Wars

The election of reactionary individuals to the board of the Niles-Maine Public Library in May gave me chills, back in 2020 I had been thinking about how the fragmented nature of the US Library system made it vulnerable to subversion by groups with specific views, but 2020 being 2020 gave a lot more to focus on than hypothetical threats to the public library system and I shelved that thought. The thoughts about the relative fragility of the US library system germinated in an article I wrote for the UK Library magazine The Youth Library Review in 2019 comparing the UK and US Public Library systems.

2021 has not been much better for libraries with wholescale challenges to many books for young readers about gender and sexuality and more that may faintly resemble what many on the right perceive to be Critical Race Theory (CRT).

Challenging Times

The Niles-Maine takeover provides a way forward for other reactionary groups that want to control their local libraries and the recent mega challenges to entire slates of reading materials provides an enhanced template for those who wish to stifle the free flow of information to young readers (and others).

This will happen with Library Boards if we do not take notice: “Anti-CRT” school board candidates are winning

Resources to push back against challenges and how to defend your libraries

Richard Price is Associate Professor of Political Science at Weber State University created the Adventures in Censorship website that tracks challenges to books in school and public libraries:

Angie Manfredi’s article on the freedom to read and what you can do to support your local libraries from encroaching censorship:

How to Fight Book Bans and Challenges: an Anti-Censorship Tool Kit

Become a Library Trustee:

Why you should sit on your library board:

Local library advocacy group celebrates rejection of harmful library policy proposals.

CRT Toolkit

HOW DO YOU LIVE? by Genzaburo Yoshino

How Do You Live?: Yoshino, Genzaburo, Navasky, Bruno, Gaiman, Neil:  9781616209773: Books

First published in 1937, Genzaburō Yoshino’s How Do You Live? has long been acknowledged in Japan as a crossover classic for young readers. Academy Award–winning animator Hayao Miyazaki has called it his favorite childhood book and announced plans to emerge from retirement to make it the basis of a final film. 
How Do You Live? is narrated in two voices. The first belongs to Copper, fifteen, who after the death of his father must confront inevitable and enormous change, including his own betrayal of his best friend. In between episodes of Copper’s emerging story, his uncle writes to him in a journal, sharing knowledge and offering advice on life’s big questions as Copper begins to encounter them. Over the course of the story, Copper, like his namesake Copernicus, looks to the stars, and uses his discoveries about the heavens, earth, and human nature to answer the question of how he will live.

There are a lot of books that get given the title ‘classic’, not all of them deserve that, but for How Do You Live? that title is richly deserved! Re-edited and published in Japan many times over 80 years

For people who can only read books in English this is a rare treat! As more and more books from outside the English canon are translated we see more into the cultural milieu of other nations. The story questions militarism and the rise of martial society, which in the time it was originally written and published is really quite amazing!

Read this work before Miyazaki’s movie is released (it will give you instant street cred in the eyes of all the fans of Studio Ghibli’s works)

Power Born of Dreams: My Story is Palestine

What does freedom look like from inside an Israeli prison?

A bird perches on the cell window and offers a deal: “You bring the pencil, and I will bring the stories,” stories of family, of community, of Gaza, of the West Bank, of Jerusalem, of Palestine. The two collect threads of memory and intergenerational trauma from ongoing settler-colonialism. Helping us to see that the prison is much larger than a building, far wider than a cell; it stretches through towns and villages, past military check points and borders. But hope and solidarity can stretch farther, deeper, once strength is drawn of stories and power is born of dreams. Translating headlines into authentic lived experiences, these stories come to life in the striking linocut artwork of Mohammad Sabaaneh, helping us to see Palestinians not as political symbols, but as people.

How can something so beautiful be so heart-breaking?

I ask myself that each time I pick up Power Born of Dreams… three time snow I have read this book each time I have spent ages poring over the pages admiring the stark beauty emanating from the pages of this work of art that Mohammad Sabaahneh has created. I learned the art of linocut when I was in school, but Mohammad has elevated the simple act of slicing shapes out of linoleum he cut into the history of his time as a political prisoner and the stories of Palestinians, living their lives under a brutal occupation, fenced in with electronic eyes watching them every day and night. These are stories of heartache and loss and of hope. These are some of the stories of Palestine.

It may be the fact that I grew up in South Africa during apartheid that makes me sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinian people. Having heard the stories from my friends and fellow South Africans of colour of what they experienced the dehumanising and degrading treatment at the hands of the white minority government has made me resolute in my opposition to oppression wherever it may occur.

In time I can see Mohammad Sabaahneh joining Joe Sacco, Art Spiegelman and other cartoonists in the lists of those who have used their art to open the eyes of the world to the iniquities suffered by so many.

Power Born of Dreams: My Story is Palestine was created by Mohammad Sabaahneh and will be published in November by Street Noise Books.


This book is for everyone. Because we can all be allies.

As an ally you use your power-no matter how big or small-to support others. You learn, and try, and mess up, and try harder. In this collection of true stories, 17 critically acclaimed and bestselling YA authors get real about being an ally, needing an ally, and showing up for friends and strangers.

From raw stories of racism and invisible disability to powerful moments of passing the mic, these authors share their truths. They invite you to think about your own experiences and choices and how to be a better ally.

There are no easy answers, but this book helps you ask better questions. Self-reflection prompts, resources, journaling ideas, and further reading suggestions help you find out what you can do. Because we’re all in this together. And we all need allies.

A donation of 5% net sales in the UK will be donated to The Black Curriculum


By coincidence, I received a copy of this title in the same week as I read a post by Dr Muna Abdi about the term “allies” and its limitations, so had that in mind when I started reading…and the very first chapter, DANA’S ABSOLOUTELY PERFECT FAIL-SAFE NO MISTAKES GUARANTEED WAY TO BE AN ALLY by Dana Alison Levy addresses the same issues in brilliant fashion. The collection of essays is wide ranging, eye opening, and thought provoking, including contributions from Shakirah Bourne (co-editor alongside Dana Alison Levy), Derick Brooks, Sharan Dhaliwal, Naomi and Natalie Evans, I. W. Gregorio, Lizzie Huxley-Jones, Adiba Jaigirdar, Brendan Kiely, Dana Alison Levy, Cam Montgomery, Andrea L. Rogers, Aida Salazar, A. J. Sass, Eric Smith, Kayla Whaley, and Marietta B. Zacker. The stories they share are both personal and powerful and will encourage readers to think critically about what allyship means to them. The authors are from all across the globe, with uniquely personal essays, and include UK based Lizzie Huxley-Jones, to whom I put some questions!

What do you think of the term ‘ally’?

I think ally as a phrase is useful in terms of reminding people who aren’t part of marginalised groups that they should care about the struggles of people within those marginalisations, literally to ally their aims and work to the community’s own aims. As with all language, it evolves really quickly and we will drop certain words over time (and some people have suggested moving on from allyship to solidarity), but I think the overarching concept of allyship, or solidarity, is really important! We cannot be complacent within our role as supporters, and over identifying *as* something without doing the work to *be* something is always a danger when we’re talking about stepping out of our comfort and privileges. Every day must be a learning day.

Have you read the other contributions? If so, did any particularly strike you?

I was lucky enough to get a proof of the US edition this week which I just finished reading. Each essay was really brilliant and made me think a lot. Naomi & Natalie Evans’ essay about being an ally in a racist situation made me think a lot about how easy it is for people to be bystanders – this is something I touch upon in my essay – and Eric Smith’s piece about finding a chosen family and his culture was beautiful. I think Dana’s essay that sets the tone of the book is really great, and Adiba Jaigirdar’s piece about racism in feminist ‘safe spaces’ really resonated with me. Basically, everything is extremely well written, interesting and important. I’m so honoured to be a part of such a key activist text.

The essays are very personal, did you find it difficult to write yours or did it come easily *because* it is so personal?

I’ve had seizures for basically my entire adult life, and have been on Twitter pretty much since then. When I was having video telemetry (a fun process where you live in a tiny room wired up to scanners for a few days to see if you have any seizures) I turned to Twitter for comfort and friendship but to talk about my experiences – this was back in like 2008. I think because I’ve been openly and frankly speaking about  my seizures for a long time, that confessional aspect wasn’t too hard. It was strange to write about during the pandemic, though. And I really did start to worry about what it’d be like as things started opening up, whether people would help more or less. I think that was the hardest part, really.

You have edited your own anthology, Stim, of stories by autistic authors, what, do you think, is the appeal of anthologies?

I think there’s a few things – the opportunity to access a lot of different voices in a small book, plus the focus on a particular topic but from multiple viewpoints. I personally also love mixed anthologies, so you’ll read something, not entirely sure if it’s an essay or fiction – sometimes that blur can make it really interesting when, for instance, a selkie turns up like in Robert Shepherd’s story in Stim. They’re just a really great way to explore a topic, I think, and a good anthology can keep you interested for a long time. I also really like that you might not enjoy every part of an anthology, though I know not everyone feels that way, as to me that’s part of the process of coming across different voices. I also edited 3 anthologies at 3 of Cups Press, On Anxiety, On Bodies and On Relationships, so I’m a big antho fan, haha!

You’ve also written a non-fiction children’s title about David Attenborough. Do you favour any particular style of writing?

I’m really a fiction writer at heart! Nothing definite I can talk about now, but hopefully in the future you’ll see some fiction from me on the shelves. I do love essay writing though, so I think Allies has spurred me to think about writing more of those in the future.

What are you reading at the moment and who would you recommend it to?

I just finished All Our Hidden Gifts by Caroline O’Donoghue which is a The Craft esque modern witch tale about a girl who discovers a lost set of tarot cards. What struck me about it is that it’s also very much about modern Ireland and the pushback against queerness we are seeing all around us from fundamentalists and transphobes, particularly against trans people. The love interest, Roe, is a non-binary femme who I completely love. I’d recommend it to fans of Moira Fowley-Doyle and Deirdre Sullivan. The next YA book on my pile is Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé, which I’m so excited about. It’s Gossip Girl meets Get Out. Outside of YA, I’m listening to a lot of memoirs that touch on disability and are laced with humour. I’ve really been loving Samantha Irby’s three books of essays, and right now I’m in love with Keah Brown’s The Pretty One.

What will we see from you next?

Hopefully, some fiction, but you’ll just have to wait and see!

Lizzie (Hux) Huxley-Jones is an autistic author and editor based in London. They are the editor of Stim, an anthology of autistic authors and artists, which was published by Unbound in April 2020 to coincide with World Autism Awareness Week. They are also the author of the children’s biography Sir David Attenborough: A Life Story (2020) and a contributor to the anthology Allies: Real Talk About Showing Up, Screwing Up, And Trying Again (2021). They are an editor at independent micropublisher 3 of Cups Press, and also advise writers as a freelance sensitivity reader and editorial consultant. In their past career lives, they have been a research diver, a children’s bookseller and digital communications specialist. They tweet too much at @littlehux, taking breaks to walk their dog Nerys. They are represented by Abi Fellows of The Good Literary Agency.

ALLIES was published in the UK on 29th July 2021. Thanks to DK for sending a review copy and Antonia Wilkinson for organising the interview.

The Jhalak Children’s & YA Prize 2021 Shortlist

The Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year by a Writer of Colour is an annual literary prize awarded to British or British-resident BAME writers. £1,000 is awarded to the sole winner. The Jhalak Prize launched in 2016 and was created by writers Sunny Singh, Nikesh Shukla, and Media Diversified.

The Children’s & YA Prize was founded in 2020, and, like it’s sister award it celebrates books by British/British resident BAME writers. The inaugural shortlist was announced today. The authors on the list are:


Take Three Girls

Mean stuff spreads so fast. One click. Post. Send. Share. Online bullying = sometimes suicides, so all the private schools have strategies for dealing with it. At St Hilda’s, it’s Wellness classes. We greeted the idea with genuine enthusiasm. Why not? Everyone loves the chance to slack off.

Elevator pitch: If you enjoyed Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu then this book will be right up your bookshelf! Wait you have not read Moxie? Dang… ok wait a moment don’t leave this elevator yet Read Moxie and also Take Three Girls – it does not matter which one you read first as they are both brilliant! Take Three Girls is a wonderful portrayal of female friendship, strength and a fierce critique of anonymous, online shame culture

Three girls, one popular, one sporty and one smart, one day student and the other two are boarders (it is a private boarding school with day students), each student written by a different author, this works wonderfully! Each character is wonderfully realized and they each come to life on the page.

Take Three Girls is one of the first Australian YA books I have read in years, it may be your first one too so please do pick it up! Cath Crowley, Simmone Howell and Fiona Wood are superb writers! This book can be used to show that girls and young women all over the world face the same issues and struggles and that by working together they can begin to overcome the misogyny ingrained in many (lets be honest it is most, if not all) of our institutions!

You can get your hands on a copy today!

Take Three Girls is published in the US by Sterling Teen and is available from today!

Show Us Who You Are

When Cora’s brother drags her along to his boss’s house, she doesn’t expect to strike up a friendship with Adrien, son of the intimidating CEO of Pomegranate Technologies. As she becomes part of Adrien’s life, she is also drawn into the mysterious projects at Pomegranate.

At first, she’s intrigued by them – Pomegranate is using AI to recreate real people in hologram form. As she digs deeper, however, she uncovers darker secrets…

Cora knows she must unravel their plans, but can she fight to make her voice heard, whilst never losing sight of herself?

Knights Of
Cover design by Kay Wilson

A Kind of Spark was one of my top 5 books of 2020, an outstanding debut, so I was anxious to not have too high expectations of Show Us Who You Are…but I worried for nothing because it is completely different but equally brilliant! I asked the author, Elle McNicoll, a few questions (which she answered brilliantly):

In SHOW US WHO YOU ARE, artificial intelligence is not shown in a particularly positive light. Did you do a lot of research into the technology or did a piece of tech news spark the idea?

I think it’s the humans controlling the AI that are not shown in a particularly positive light, but I’ll leave that to readers. A lot of AI stories are about AI vs humans and a sentient new being rising up to take over the world. I think that’s a fear that powerful people have about the marginalised–that they will rise up if granted humanity. An interesting fear that says a lot, but not what my AI Grams do. It’s not something that happens in Show Us Who You Are. The AI are very innocent and reactive and the uprising happens elsewhere. The idea was sparked by Prince’s death, when people said they wanted to show a hologram of him performing at concerts. I thought it was a revolting idea.

It feels like SHOW US WHO YOU ARE came extremely quickly after your debut! Had you started writing the idea before A KIND OF SPARK was published or did it come to you all of a sudden?

I was writing it from March 2020, so it was something to get me through the first lockdown. I had Covid and was stuck in my room, feeling horrid and wanting to write about a future with no virus and lots of adventure. I was deep into Show Us Who You Are when A Kind of Spark came out, so 2020 was a very eventful year. 

Both of your protagonists are autistic, and wonderfully different, were you thinking about stereotypes that you wanted to challenge or did you simply want to create representative characters?

I think the latter. I always want to create dynamic neurodivergent heroines who are full of brains and heart and have complete agency over their story. 

In both your books, a growing friendship plays a really important part in the story. Why does it matter so much, do you think, to include such relationships?

Being general here, but a lot of neurodivergent children experience extreme isolation and loneliness. I had a very difficult childhood when it came to making and maintaining friendships and I was bullied a lot for being different. So, that need for connection and being understood is very strong in my work. Adrien and Cora sort of save each other by becoming best friends. They’re kindred spirits and I think it’s essential for ND readers to know that they can find their people someday, and that they deserve to be celebrated. Not just tolerated.

Publishing two books in lockdown has…not been ideal, but have you found remote events a positive thing?

I’m grateful for virtual events, they’ve been wonderful. Doing virtual school visits has been fantastic. But it’s deeply frustrating to have fallen into two lockdown periods. I’ve never been able to walk into a bookshop on publication day. Never met a reader in the flesh. It’s really demoralising and makes it harder to go home and write uplifting things. I’m so grateful to Twitter for allowing me a way to speak to readers. 

When things are “back to normal”, have you thought about what kind of events you might enjoy doing with readers?

I’m desperate to do physical events where I can talk for more than ten minutes about my work and why neurodivergent representation matters. I wrote a middle grade so that I could have these important conversations with young people. Awards have been lovely, but I need to be able to speak to readers and young people about why these books are needed. So I’d love to do more events with booksellers, schools and libraries. That’s the dream.

What are you reading at the moment and who would you recommend it to?

I’m about to start Crater Lake: Evolution by Jennifer Killick. If you love comedic horror, she’s for you. I’m looking forward to seeing her fab characters again.

What’s next for you?

I am writing two books I’m really passionate about at the moment. One is a YA, so will need to go out into the world and find its home. I’m the only one that believes in it right now, but I have the same feeling that I did with A Kind of Spark. So, I’m following it.

Show Us Who You Are by Elle McNicoll is published 4th March by Knights Of in paperback original (thank you Ed PR for sending me a copy and organising the interview).