What’s happening?

The same legislation that is threatening to limit students’ access to books is also being used to limit access to the resources within research databases. Laws are being considered and/or passed under the guise of protecting students from material that is “harmful to minors.” When complying (or sometimes over-complying) with this legislation, database companies sometimes end up blocking access to age-appropriate material. The resources being blocked are frequently related to LGBTQ+ identities. As the rhetoric around limiting access to educational materials escalates, it is not difficult to imagine that access to history about Black, Indigenous, and other people of color will also be caught in the net.

Censorship within databases is especially difficult to uncover. Database companies typically will not share their lists of stop words, and the sheer volume of content within a database makes it difficult to tell when content has been removed. We don’t know when content is still in a database but is not discoverable via search. And we don’t know if changes made in one state will impact what students in other states are able to access.

Database companies are in a difficult position if they want to maintain the state contracts – but we need to demand transparency from them, and push them not to proactively bend to this legislative strong-arming.

Further reading

Lawmakers, Fired Up Over What Schools Teach, Target Library Materials

The next book ban: States aim to limit titles students can search for

Why The School Wars Still Rage | New Yorker

Book Banning in 21st-Century America