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Update: Based on your feedback, we have updated the language of the statement in an effort to clarify that our response is meant to be general in nature. The statement below incorporates the changes.

We are sending along a statement that a group of VLA and VAASL committee chairs and past executive council members wrote regarding our opposition to the legislation moving through the General Assembly. Times like these call for action, and they also present an opportunity to clarify and share our values with the public. We urge you to read the statement and then help us distribute it to a wider audience. If you’re interested in submitting it to a local publication, please email Shari Henry and Lisa Varga and they can let you know whether or not that publication has already been contacted. Otherwise, please post it to your social media and other online channels. We’d love to hear your feedback along the way.

Thanks so much for standing with and for libraries as we fight for free speech and a healthy democracy.

Democracy Depends on the Freedom to Read

Daily we hear cries for book banning by elected officials across America. Sadly, Virginia is not immune. Upon convening this year, the General Assembly began proposing legislation that would give the commonwealth increased power to dictate curriculum choices across the state, by restricting what types of books and materials can be accessed and taught, rather than by utilizing in-place, accepted methods. Governor Youngkin’s Legislative Agenda includes two such bills: HB1009 and SB656.


We recognize each bill carries unique components with it, and that some feel the two bills supported by the governor’s legislative agenda represent a less drastic shift in comparison to several other proposed education bills. However slight, we warn against any course of action in the wrong direction, away from local choice and toward regulating and censoring reading. Our longstanding and deeply held professional values continue to serve as our guide.
As librarians, it’s not our first time watching government overreach by attempting to set policies into state code which are more appropriately decided locally. It’s not the first time we’ve heard elected officials claim parents should have control over their children’s education and reading material, a right parents already hold. And it’s not the first time we’ve seen the government move toward codifying censorship in direct violation of the First Amendment.
The drafting of these bills came as no surprise to those of us who fought against the passage of similar bills years ago, and watched as Laura Murphy (in a social media advertisement during the gubernatorial race) discussed her work on their behalf.
Both 2022 bills mimic those Ms. Murphy lobbied for years ago, and use the same language referencing “sexually explicit” content. According to an article from The Washington Post dated October 25, 2021 (Fight over teaching ‘Beloved’ in schools becomes hot topic in Virginia governor’s race), Murphy took “her fight to the Republican-led General Assembly, which in 2016 passed a bill with bipartisan support to give parents the right to opt their children out of sexually explicit reading assignments. At the time, about half of Virginia school districts already followed that practice, but the bill would have enshrined it in state law….McAuliffe vetoed it as well as a similar bill in 2017.”
As librarians, we stand now where we stood then. We are driven by values we believe protect intellectual freedom and democracy for all. 

We believe concerns leading to the drafting of these bills would be better addressed locally, in part, to protect the interests of all stakeholders and to provide flexibility when necessary. In Federalist 10, Madison warned against what we often call the “tyranny of the majority,” citing the harmful effects of “the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority" on government. The more locally power is exercised, the more tyranny is restrained.
We believe labeling of books and material (by policy or law) is a form of censorship, and places the weight of responsibility wrongly on teachers to judge what different parents may deem “sexually explicit.” Legal definitions of the term “sexually explicit” have been intended to prohibit criminal conduct, not reading. We do believe in parents’ rights to oversee what their children read; we don’t believe some parents should unilaterally decide for others.
We believe parents, students, and teachers can work together when disagreements arise to best choose what is appropriate for individual students. Ms. Murphy’s legislative fight was prompted by Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winning author Toni Morrison’s Beloved, a book Murphy felt was inappropriate for her son, a student in an AP 12 English class. Rather than ask for another option, move him to another class, or otherwise follow the school’s established process, she chose to use the legislative system to attempt to dictate for others, removing all “offensive materials” as defined by her and then the state.
Books that end up being challenged were selected because the content addresses experiences important to different communities.These challenges and laws often target authors of color and representatives of other marginalized groups, and are stories including such characters. While Beloved may make readers uncomfortable, discomfort does not make the book less worth reading, something true of many books. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain is one example consistently taught in schools. It’s worth noting white authors and protagonists can talk about the pain of African Americans, but when an African American author writes about it, material is deemed inappropriate.

Toni Morrison is among the greatest American writers because she writes about the human condition. Sanitizing stories and prohibiting students from reading about hardships, inequities, gender identity, sexuality, and experiencing authentic emotions in response, ignores they face these issues, ask these questions, and advocate for these communities.
Six books on the American Library Association’s 2020 Top 10 Most Challenged list were written by authors of color. Increasingly, challenges target material dealing with racial inequality and LGBTQIA+ issues. Silencing these voices means the majority culture drives what is allowed in schools and is endorsed as knowledge. Plus, decreasing the number of perspectives diminishes intellectual rigor.

In 1860, Frederick Douglass declared, “No right was deemed by the fathers of the Government more sacred than the right of speech…Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one's thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist.” Douglass was right. We are left asking what good utterances are if no one can read or hear them?
We believe liberty is meaningful where people are able to decide for themselves what to utter, and to exchange their thoughts and opinions freely. We not only fail our students when we strip them of this right, we fail America.

Christina Harris
Virginia Library Association
Chair, LGBTQIA+ Forum
Shari Henry
Virginia Library Association
Chair, Advocacy Task Force
Olivia Hasan
Virginia Library Association
Chair, Librarians of Color Forum

Martha Hutzel
Virginia Library Association
Past President

Kelly Miller
Virginia Association of School Librarians
Information Freedom Chair
Keith Weimer
Virginia Library Association
Past President

-February 25, 2022


2022 VLA Scholarships: Application Now Available

Deadline for application packets to be received by VLA: March 13, 2022

2022 VLA Scholarship Application
2022 VLA Recommendation Form

Submit completed application by e-mail to Lisa Varga at [email protected]

The Virginia Library Association will award three $3000 scholarships for students pursuing a Master’s degree in Library Science at ALA- accredited schools.  The Clara Stanley Scholarship is awarded by the VLA Professional Associates Forum (VLAPAF), and the VLA Scholarships are provided by the Virginia Library Association.

The eligibility requirements for VLA Scholarships are:

  • Residence in the state of Virginia or currently employed in a Virginia Library.
  • Undergraduate degree.
  • Acceptance by, or currently enrolled in, an American Library Association accredited library school.  MUST be earning a Master of Library Science Degree. Membership in the Virginia Library Association. Click here to become a student member. Annual fee is $15.00; or join VLA and the American Library Association as part of the Joint Student Membership program.
  • For the Clara Stanley VLAPAF Scholarship: current employment at a Virginia library is required.

The major factors considered in making the awards are:

  • Evidence of commitment to a career in librarianship in Virginia.
  • Financial need.
  • Potential for outstanding achievement in the library profession.
  • Academic excellence.
  • Membership in the Virginia Library Association.

In order to be considered, your application, including two (2) references, is to be submitted by March 13, 2022. You must have two (2) references. One (1) of the two (2) references must be a librarian or other information professional employed in the state of Virginia. A link to the Recommendation Form is available on the VLA website. This form must be submitted by the reference persons themselves. 

The Scholarship committee will review applications during the spring and you will be notified of the Committee’s decisions in May of 2022.  If you have any questions about any aspect of the application process, please contact:  Kelsey Cheshire, Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries, at [email protected].   


2022 Virginia Library Leadership Academy: Apply Now

The application is open for the 2022 Virginia Library Leadership Academy. Apply now! Past graduates include library directors, administrators and managers, VLA officers, and many conference speakers. VALLA will be held April 5-6 at Hotel 24 South in Staunton, Virginia. **Deadline EXTENDED through February 7, 2022**

The theme of 2022 VALLA is “Breaking Down Barriers, Building Up Communities”. Dr. Angela Spranger (Assistant to the President for Equity and Engagement Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer at Christopher Newport University, Newport News, VA) will be leading a discussion and break out groups on the topics of change management and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Dr. Nan Carmack (Director, Library Development and Networking at The Library of Virginia) will be working with attendees on the subject of project management through a DEI lens. Attendees will be tasked with creating and completing a long-range project that will affect positive change in their workplace or community. Attendance fee ($300) includes meals* and overnight stay at Hotel 24.

Apply here:


Tuesday, April 5
9:00 am - 10:00 am Breakfast and Check In
10:00 am - 12:00 pm Introductions and Part I with Dr. Angela Spranger
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm Break for lunch (provided by VLA in Hotel 24 restaurant)
1:15 pm - 3:00 pm Part II with Dr. Angela Spranger
3:00 pm - 3:30 pm Break
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm Part III with Dr. Angela Spranger
6:00 pm - ? Group dinner at Hotel 24 restaurant

Wednesday, April 6
8:00 am - 9:00 am Group breakfast at Hotel 24 restaurant
9:00 am - 10:30 am Part I with Dr. Nan Carmack
10:30 am - 10:45 am Break
11:00 am - 12:00 pm Part II with Dr. Nan Carmack, including wrap-up
12:00 pm End of Program

*dietary restrictions will be gathered before the event and communicated to the hotel chef and culinary staff.



Mental Health Workshops Available on YouTube

The VLA Professional Associates Forum's (VLAPAF) free mental health workshops are now available on YouTube for anyone and everyone to watch! Please feel free to share, watch, or listen to any that might be useful to you or your colleagues.

Contact one of the VLAPAF Board Members if you have any questions or ideas for the future. VLAPAF Board Members can be found on the forum's web page

Click here to start watching the mental health workshops.

Workshop topics include:

  • Healthy Eating and Mental Health
  • Guided Stress Relief Session
  • Drama-free Communications
  • Moving Forward with Compassion
  • Chair Yoga / Reboot your Health and Wellbeing
  • Morale and Mindfulness Workplace Sanctuary

Book Challenges in Virginia


November 12, 2021

Hello VLA members,

You have likely already seen in the news that Virginia has been experiencing a number of book challenges in schools. We wanted to let you know we are working with the Virginia Association of School Librarians (VAASL) as well as the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom and their Public Policy Office; we have also been in touch with the National Coalition Against Censorship (which is working on its own statement.)

I’ve attached two letters here that VLA has sent recently. The one to the Virginia Beach City Public Schools was sent just before the VLA conference last month; the one to the Spotsylvania County Superintendent and Board members was sent this morning. Harrisonburg’s Superintendent also pulled a book from shelves this week without receiving a formal challenge; we will be addressing that as well.

Libraries have procedures and policies in place for users to submit challenges; we are seeing a pattern of those procedures not being followed. We will speak up, as an association, any time we see book banning, censorship or (in the case of Spotsylvania) threats to burn books. In the past couple of months, there has been media attention surrounding the “Beloved” bill from a few years ago. I’ve included some links below as a reminder of the actions we took then, and what we will continue to do. If you want to talk to someone about what has been happening in your libraries, please contact Lisa Varga, or reach out to the Office of Intellectual Freedom at ALA. We are here to help.

We will send you updates as we have them. Thank you.

KT Vaughan, President
Kimberly Bray Knight, Vice President/President Elect
Jennifer Resor Whicker, Past President
Maryśka Connolly Brown, Secretary
Zachary Elder, Second Vice-President
Kyle Binaxas, Treasurer
Lucinda Rush Wittkower, ALA Councilor
Lisa R. Varga, VLA Executive Director


Spotsylvania School Board orders libraries to remove 'sexually explicit' books:

Amid controversy, superintendent pulls graphic novel from school library:

ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom:

ALA's Public Policy and Advocacy Office:

Library Bill of Rights:

VLA Intellectual Freedom Update: VLA letter to members February 1, 2017:

Finding Advocacy Allies: Library associations in Virginia team up to fight bad bills:

NCAC Objects to Removal of Lawn Boy and Gender Queer from Fairfax, Virginia, School Libraries:

Lisa R. Varga, MLS
Executive Director
Virginia Library Association
PO Box 56312
Virginia Beach, VA 23456
757-689-0594 (w)

[email protected]


Virginia Library Association • PO Box 56312 , Virginia Beach, Virginia 23456, United States

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