Wake County Changes Process for Reviewing Book Challenges

A nine-member committee of librarians will now review requests for materials to be relocated or permanently removed from Wake County Public Libraries’ collection, according to a new process approved today.

“The updated process ensures we have opportunities to receive diverse input before making any decisions,” said Mike Wasilick, director, Wake County Public Libraries. “Our mission is to instill the love of reading and foster the pursuit of knowledge for the residents of Wake County – and we are committed to doing so in a clear, inclusive way.”

Staff updated the Wake County Board of Commissioners on the proposed revisions to the process during a work session on Feb. 28. Further discussions were held over the past few weeks, and the County Manager’s Office approved the new process today. It goes into effect immediately, and it will be revisited and reviewed every two years.

How it Works
Patrons who want to challenge a publication should first speak to staff at their local library about their concerns. If the patrons decide to move forward with their complaint, they’ll receive an official “Request for Reconsideration” packet.

The request will be reviewed by a committee consisting of the WCPL selections manager, a materials selector and seven professional librarians – two adult librarians, two youth librarians and three librarians with expertise in areas relevant to the challenged material.

Committee members will read the challenged book completely, gather information and consider supporting documentation. This could include:

  • Information provided by the American Library Association;
  • WCPL selection criteria;
  • Reviews and awards/nominations;
  • Data and trends related to its circulation; and
  • Anything presented by the requestor in support of reconsideration.

After reviewing each challenged book or other material, and the supporting documentation, the committee will make a recommendation on whether it should be removed or returned to the collection based on:

  • Wake County Public Libraries Selection Criteria; 
  • Collection development policy (i.e. number of copies, age of copies, etc.); and
  • Whether the material constitutes unprotected speech unprotected speech.

The committee will consult the County Attorney’s Office on any questions of law related to the review before a final decision is made and in any decision in which the committee recommends removing material from the library.

After these reviews are complete, committee members will vote to retain, reclassify or remove the items in question. The decision and the criteria supporting the action will be shared with the requester. The decision is final, and the material cannot be rechallenged for a period of five years.

Read the full policy here.

Best Practices, Diverse Input
The decision comes after questions arose from the community about WCPL’s decision to remove “Gender Queer,” a graphic novel by Maia Kobabe, from circulation in December.

As part of the effort to update the process, a diverse group of 12 library staff reviewed best practices from the American Library Association, as well as other libraries of similar size from across the country, including Austin, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Fairfax County and Boston.

The group received input from the Wake County Library Commission, County Attorney’s Office, Community Services Administration and Library Leadership Team. More than 500 WCPL employees also reviewed the draft process.

“Gender Queer” was returned to library shelves in January. “Lawn Boy,” a novel by Jonathan Evison, which was part of the same removal request, remained in circulation. WCPL will now use the new policy to re-evaluate both books.

Press Release