By Mercy Austin, staff writer

On Thursday, March 17 from 3-4:40, PPCC will host a virtual speaker panel featuring college faculty as well as directors at the Pikes Peak Library District (PPLD) to discuss the actions of a newly elected library board member.  Salt has come under fire recently for attempting to remove materials from the children’s and juvenile sections that he deems objectionable, which includes books addressing topics such as race, gender, sexuality, and more.

There are five confirmed speakers so far:

  • Yolanda Avila: Colorado Springs City-Councilmember
  • Melody Alvarez: Director of Family and Children’s Services, PPLD
  • Joanna Nelson Rendon: Director of Young Adult Services, PPLD
  • Sara Goroski: PPCC Librarian
  • Gloria Nikolai: PPCC Professor of Sociology

The panel will be led by Emily Forand, who is an associate professor of English at PPCC.  In it, speakers will reveal which stories are under attack and examine the types of censorship that are occurring, as well as opening a broader discussion about the role of public libraries and children’s rights to readership.

Community members have expressed concern in light of Salt’s history of anti-diversity campaigns.  He was recently elected as a Director to the District 20 School Board, and much of his campaign was built on rejection of Critical Race Theory and Anti-American indoctrination, as well as opposition to hiring an equity director.  For some, these positions tie into a history of a lack of diversity in the Children’s Literature industry.

In particular, Forand cites the work of Emily Knox, an associate professor at The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne and the author of Book Banning in 21st Century America.   In an article with the School Library Journal, Knox makes the argument that censorship is often used as a mechanism to silence minority people groups.  “Diverse books, by definition, center of the experiences of people who are not dominant in society, and these stories include experiences that may make the reader uncomfortable in some way.”

Through this lens, banning diverse literature has been seen as a form of marginalizing children, many of whom undergo a myriad of experiences that they aren’t allowed to read about for being too ‘adult’.

“Children’s Literature is the most important literature we have,” said Forand.  “We transmit our literacy and cultural heritage to new generations through it … I hope the panel illuminates our responsibility to protect the stories available to all children in our community.”