Facing the Challenge: Intellectual Freedom in Libraries


Image of padlocked books.

As libraries continue confronting unprecedented attacks on the freedom to read, the Public Library Association (PLA) invited library colleagues to participate in a virtual town hall on March 4, 2022. As those who have faced book banning attempts and related legislative efforts know, the experience is often isolating and stressful. During this event, speakers participated in facilitated conversations that explored effective responses to the coordinated attempts at censorship currently sweeping the nation.

Originally presented March 4, 2022.

Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of this on-demand virtual town hall, participants will be able to:

  • Support colleagues in local school libraries who are facing challenges;
  • Advocate for the role of public library staff in making selection decisions and managing requests for removal, in accordance with established library policy; and
  • Amplify and support community voices not heard during challenges, especially from historically marginalized groups and students.

Who Should Attend

This free on-demand virtual town hall is intended for library staff affected by, or concerned with, recent dramatic increases in book banning attempts.


Deb SicaDeb Sica, MFA, MLIS, has been in the research, education, and library fields since 1993. She’s worked as an archivist, an academic, and now as the deputy county librarian at Alameda County Library (Freemont, CA). Sica spent the last decade and a half in public libraries working to transform dated, discordant practice and policy into more inclusive and socially just campaigns for full inclusion. She continues to advocate for literacy, intellectual freedom, critical thinking, and engaged social progress. She serves on the Executive Board of the American Library Association’s (ALA) Rainbow Round Table, is the liaison for PLA to the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, is a member of the ALA Budget Analysis and Review Committee (BARC), and is on ALA Council. Sica lives with Renee, her wife of twenty-three years, and, Gaetano Giovanni, her beloved eighty-pound dog baby, in Vallejo, CA.


Cindy HohlCindy Hohl is the director of branch operations at the Kansas City (MO) Public Library, supporting eight of its ten locations. A member of the Santee Sioux Nation of Nebraska, she is the immediate past-president of the American Indian Library Association (AILA); and is a steering committee member for the 4th National Joint Conference of Librarians of Color (JCLC 2022). In July 2021, Hohl joined the board of the ALA-affiliated Freedom to Read Foundation, a non-profit legal and educational organization that protects and defends the First Amendment to the Constitution and supports the right of libraries to collect—and individuals to access—information.


Kathy CarrollKathy Carroll is a newly-elected member of the ALA Executive Board and the immediate past president of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL). She currently serves on the AASL Board of Directors, the ALA Council, the ALA Nominating Committee, and the ALA Transforming ALA Governance (TAG) Task Force. Carroll was on the PRAXIS National Advisory Committee for School Media Specialists in 2020 and is a former Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) site visitor. She participated in the Toyota International Teacher Program in South Africa and was a Fulbright Teacher-Scholar in Tokyo, Japan. A 2007 ALA Spectrum Scholar, Carroll is a school librarian at Westwood High School in Blythewood, SC. What is her dream job? She has it!


Melanie HugginsMelanie Huggins is PLA president and executive director of the Richland Library in Columbia, SC, which received the 2017 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation’s highest honor. Huggins was named a 2018 Woman of Distinction by the Girl Scouts of South Carolina – Mountains to Midlands for her lasting impact in the community, and was named a 2018 Woman of Influence by Columbia Regional Business Report. In 2018, she was the first woman to win the Stephen G. Morrison Visionary Award from One Columbia for Arts and History. Huggins has been included on Columbia Business Monthly’s list of the Fifty Most Influential People for the past three years and was selected as an entrant to the Hall of Fame. Her work is influenced by her belief that libraries are uniquely positioned to make communities more livable, resilient, and inclusive.


Important Registration Information

An ALA eLearning account is required to register for this free webinar. Don’t have an account? Create one for free by going to the “Log in” menu located at the top right corner of your screen. No membership is required to create the account.


This on-demand webinar is closed captioned in English (United States).

If you have a physical or communication need that may affect your access to this on-demand webinar, please contact us at plawebinars@ala.org or 800-545-2433 ext. 5PLA (5752) prior to registering so we can attempt to provide appropriate accommodations.

Tech Requirements

To playback this archived recording you should use a browser with native HTML5 support. Please use the most up-to-date version available of Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Opera, or Edge. A fast Internet connection and computer is recommended.


This virtual town hall is presented by the Public Library Association (PLA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA).

PLA members make it possible for us to provide continuing education opportunities like this webinar at no cost. We thank our members for their continuous dedication to the advancement of the public library field and our association.

If you have questions or problems accessing a recording, send a message to plawebinars@ala.org or call 800-545-2433 ext. 5PLA (5752).

Public Library Association (PLA) logo


This virtual town hall is presented with support from:

Logos: American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom; Freedom to Read Foundation; and The Merritt Fund.