To Censor or Not to Censor?: How Libraries Can Support LGBT+ Youth

To Censor or Not to Censor?: How Libraries Can Support LGBT+ Youth.                           

Access to accurate information has become more important than ever as US states
navigate new laws criminalizing life-saving reproductive and gender-affirming care.
Conservatives continue to assert that children and youth are too young to learn about LGBT+
topics;, however, censorship only makes it more difficult for young people to navigate these
topics safely.

While the American Library Association (ALA) believes that providing youth with the
tools to analyze and understand information is  the best way to protect them, many in the US
government and many others feel the best way to protect youth is to limit the information they
can access. Teen internet use and sexuality are seen as social problems in need of fixing. Adults
often respond to these fears by limiting teens’ agency and discouraging them from learning about or exploring their identities. Additionally, many news organizations spread harmful
misinformation about gender-affirming care and continue to assert that youth are not old enough to know who they are.

Furthermore, libraries in the US often must comply with The Child Internet Protection
Act (CIPA) to receive federal funding. This makes it harder for them to uphold values such as
access and privacy. Many LGBT+ teens express a need for confidentiality and reassurance that
they will not be “outed” to their parents, other patrons, or authority figures. In the digital age,
concerns around privacy are becoming increasingly important. As anti-LGBT+ campaigns
increase, queer youth will need people and institutions to advocate for them and fight against
misinformation. For decades, public libraries have prided themselves on being “neutral,”;
however their communities need them to be advocates and allies of liberation movements

Working with LGBT+ youth often requires unlearning or rethinking many preconceived
beliefs around gender and sexuality. Queer youth challenge many traditional ways of thinking
and being in the world, which is often why they face so much backlash. Supporting LGBT+
youth depends on challenging norms around gender, childhood, family, and sexuality that
exclude them.

Libraries can also play a role in making LGBT+ youth and families feel valued in their
communities. They often connect youth and families to helpful resources and community
organizations. Not only does this improve event attendance and impact, but it also creates safer
communities and environments for marginalized people.

There are also many ways libraries can improve their services to LGBT+ youth,
such as creating gender-neutral restrooms, lessening restrictions on library cards or use of library services, and including LGBT+ books and resources in their collections.

LGBT+ teens across the country are fighting against harmful policies and politicians.
And while many of them are winning their cases against school boards and state legislatures,
they shouldn’t have to spend their teen years advocating for us to see their humanity and protect them from harm.

Seeking and creating information are important forms of self-expression and identity formation for youth. They need adults to honor their agency and join the fight against censorship campaigns.


Subscribe to Our Newsletter!

Sign up to keep up to date on our latest blog posts and articles

We don’t spam!