True Stories of Library Censorship Battles


At 7 p.m. Thursday, April 26 in the Upstairs Rotunda of the Mesa Public Library, Kathy Barco and Valerie Nye will present True Stories of Censorship Battles in America’s Libraries as part of the Authors Speak Series.

April is a special month in the literary and library worlds, honoring both poetry (National Poetry Month)  and libraries (National Library Week is April 8-14). In recognition of the role libraries play in providing free and open access to information, the Mesa Public Library Authors Speak Series presents a timely book on challenges to what is included in library collections.

True Stories of Censorship Battles in America’s Librariesis a compilation of essays edited by librarians Valerie Nye and Kathy Barco, who have experienced challenges to remove material held in their own libraries’collections.

For seven years Nye and Barco have presented sessions on banned books and library censorship to librarians and social organizations around the United States.

Four years ago, while attending a conference in Mississippi where Judy Blume was the keynote speaker, the two were inspired to begin work on a book called True Stories of Censorship Battles in America’s Libraries, a book published by the American Library Association in January 2012. 

The authors will speak about their experience of co-editing, compiling essays from a diverse group of writers, and publishing the book. They will also share some of the stories from their book; intriguing tales of murder, theft, and legal battles.  Learn how librarians and library supporters continue to fight for the intellectual freedom of all Americans.  

Valerie Nye. Courtesy Photo

Valerie Nye is a native of New Mexico and has been the library director at Fogelson Library at Santa Fe University of Art and  Design for two years. Her first book was  coauthored with her mentor, R. Neil Scott and is entitled Milledgeville: A Guide to Flannery O’Connor’s Correspondence in Libraries and Archives.

Kathy (Falconer) Barco grew up in Los Alamos. She left the Land of Enchantment for college and life as a military wife, mom and freelance writer in various locations, including Guam. A craving for green chile and  mountains drew her home to New Mexico. Currently a children’s librarian with the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Library System, she was Youth Services Coordinator at the New Mexico State Library from 2001-2006.

She and Valerie Nye have co-authored two guidebooks, Breakfast Santa Fe Style and Breakfast New Mexico Style, in addition to collaborating on True Stories of Censorship Battles in America’s Libraries.

From the American Library Association (publisher of the book) website:

Intellectual freedom is a core value of librarianship, but fighting to keep controversial materials on the shelves can sometimes feel like a lonely battle. And not all censorship controversies involve the public objecting to a book in the collection—libraries are venues for displays and meetings, and sometimes library staff themselves are tempted to preemptively censor a work. Those facing censorship challenges can find support and inspiration in this book, which compiles dozens of stories from library front lines. Edifying and enlightening, this collection

  • Tells the stories of librarians who withstood difficult circumstances to champion intellectual freedom
  • Touches on prickly issues such as age-appropriateness, some librarians’ temptation to preemptively censor, sensitive cultural expressions, and criminality in the library
  • Presents case studies of defenses that were unsuccessful, so librarians facing similar challenges can learn from these defeats

There are fewer situations more stressful in a librarian’s professional life than being personally confronted with a demand to remove a book from the shelves or not knowing how to respond to other kinds of censorship challenges.

Recently named the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression’s Book of the Month for April, please read an interview with Kathy Barco and Valerie Nye on the ABFFE website about their book.

The Authors Speak Series is a monthly event featuring New Mexican authors speaking about their writing on a variety of subjects such as local and state history, travel, outdoor activities, New Mexico fiction, Native American history and culture, poetry and more. 

The 7 p.m. talks are free, so come by and relax, listen to and meet each one in the fascinating lineup of authors. Most of the talks are scheduled for the fourth Thursday of each month and are held in the Upstairs Rotunda of Mesa Public Library.


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