Public Libraries are Protecting Against Censorship and Introducing E-Sports

Within the last six to eight years, what qualifies as fact-based information has been challenged by several political groups and debates. Advocacy for censorship has been on the rise; this is especially true for young adult books involving LGBTQ+ themes and books centering around people of color. While censorship demands were predominately held in school libraries, the movement has rapidly branched out into public libraries as well.

How does not only the community but the library staff deal with issues of censorship while retaining civility to the public?

On today’s episode of DisruptED, host Ron Stefanski talks with Lance Werner, executive director of the Kent District Library, to discuss censorship, going against it, and how the current political climate is all connected.

Werner clarified that while certain groups may be prone to requests of censorship more than others, the library is not taking a political stance. Their goal is to continue with adhering to the Constitutional right of providing free flowing information to the public. The nature of civility regarding kindness, especially when LGBTQ+ and racial themes are involved, has depleted while the number of formal censorship challenges has only increased. The process of addressing censorship challenges can be a delicate matter depending on the person or group, but those apart of the public library have a duty to uphold this fundamental right to information and education.

“We are all about fighting all these challenges. whenever and wherever we can,” Werner said. “We are dedicated to training other people how to do it. And we know that this is the most important work that any of us are going to do in our career if we plan on living in a country where the marketplace of ideas is free. We’ll always do this work.”

Werner and Stefanski also discuss…

● How the debate on censorship is often used as a foil for certain political groups

● The themes/topics/genres that are the most likely to be challenged for censorship and why

● The diversity and goals of the Kent district library and how that reflects the community

“A person who keeps their dignity the longest wins when you’re having these types of arguments.” Werner said. “It’s important to always maintain that sort of dignity and always be civil. You’re only responsible for your own behavior.”

Werner has been the executive director of the Kent District Library since 2011. In 2021, he was appointed to the library of Michigan Board of Trustees. Werner earned a Master of Library and Information Science from Wayne State University, and has been recognized as Librarian of the Year by the Michigan Library Association.

It’s no longer a secret that public libraries are facing several disruptions that have affected their ability to provide essential services to the communities they serve. To get people back into the libraries E-sport has brought an innovation that will do that. “They see the big picture and understand that this is something that will bring a whole new group of people into the library and create a generation of library users that will enable us to recover some of the lost Patriots,” said Lance Werner

After the covid, it became difficult to get people to connect in a community, physically due to distancing, cleaning, and remote work taking over. In the second episode of the 2-part episode of DisruptED, Ron Stefanski brings back Lance Werner, Executive Director of Kent District Library, to talk about how Werner is bringing e-sports to his library to increase engagement and re-connect with both the Kent District Library and the community after a long period of isolation.

Where e-sports come in is to help engage people in a community just like the Olympics, where people with common goals and likes for sport come together, to plug isolated people with like minds in a community. This technology is a driver to increase library readership and participation.

The fun part about e-sports is the storytelling, which invites you to want to play a game at the library. The goal is to get as many teenagers and youths to participate in the game and the only way to play is to get a key from a community library. As there will be Esport agents in every branch, there will be parts of books integrated into the technology, so we don’t leave out the reason for the technology, which is to revive the public community libraries.

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