News - MLA
Thursday, December 15, 2022 02:46 PM

Note from MLA Staff

As the MLA staff reflected on our work in the past year, a few things were very clear to all of us - we are thankful for the right to read and we are proud to work on behalf of all Michigan libraries and Michigan residents to stand up for intellectual freedom and oppose censorship. We wanted to take a moment to share how the right to read and access to books have impacted our lives and thank the library community for the work you do every day to make sure everyone in your community is represented in your collections! 


I am grateful each and every day to work for an organization where my freedom to read is protected, my choices are my own, and my values are matched by the sheer intensity of purpose of MLA’s membership and leadership. 

When did censorship begin to matter to me? As a parent of a high school student back in 2007, several books that were part of the curriculum in my daughter’s English class were subjected to a challenge – one of which was “The Freedom Writers Diary” – a true story with real, candid, and very personal diary entries written by “at risk” students at a Los Angeles high school and their teacher, Erin Gruwell, who inspired them. 

It was the right book for my daughter to read. 

That particular book (along with a few others) was challenged by members of a local group, the Livingston Organization for Values in Education (LOVE), because it contained sexual themes, gang and racial violence, racial slurs and profanity. The fight was long and intense, even resulting in an FBI investigation that reviewed the book for any violations to obscenity laws. Ultimately, the school board (and the FBI) made the right decision, from an educational and constitutional perspective, in supporting students’ freedom to read. My daughter and her classmates’ voices were heard, their values were solidified and upheld. 

It was the right book for my daughter to read. 

That book continues to resonate with our family and we recognize its positive effect and transformative power on our lives. After reading this book, my daughter's worldview changed. She knows now that not everyone grew up in the same kind of environment and household that she did. She was able to critically think about and apply the contents of this book to other areas of her life. She learned that being a loud and proud activist and speaking from the heart is always best. And best of all…she exudes empathy and compassion for others in ways that make me so proud to be her mom. All from one book.

It was the right book for my daughter to read.

I love that our libraries allow and encourage me to explore the world around me and find wonder and sometimes negativity in experiences that I have not had through the books on your shelves. I am grateful that these materials have informed, entertained, and/or allowed my family to see the world in a new light. Many of these books have added to the empathy my family feels for our fellow humans by allowing us to intellectually and emotionally witness (and grasp) the effects of events that are all too familiar to some but not to others.  

Thank you to our libraries for the joyful and delightful, the thought-provoking and the grave, the momentous and the sobering stories that grace your shelves for every Michigander to digest. There truly is something for everyone and we all have the freedom to choose what is right for us. Wishing you all a beautiful and well-read holiday season.


Deborah E. Mikula 
Executive Director


I have always been thankful for my local library, and my appreciation has grown stronger since being employed at the Michigan Library Association. I am so grateful for the opportunity to walk into my community library and pick out any book I want to read. Reading is a way I like to escape from the everyday routines of life.  Often, I can relate to the characters and the challenges they may be facing. It’s helpful to know others may be going through the same thing and it’s very comforting to know I am not alone. Books have opened a whole new thought process in helping me to realize I just may have been misinformed about a certain topic or issue. Having the privilege to read books that have been censored, has taught me greater empathy and a better understanding of those who are underrepresented. 

When individuals or groups disagree with the content or subject matter of a certain book or group of books, they have every right to that opinion. What that opinion should not allow is the imposition of those beliefs onto anyone else. All books are tangible sources of knowledge and a cherished part of our first amendment rights as American citizens. Freedom to read any book is a gift that needs to be protected. Special thanks to all of you who work so hard every day to make that possible. 


Lisa Buttigieg 
Administrative Assistant


The end of the year is a time to reflect in gratitude and look forward to the future. This year, I am thankful for the right to read. My whole life, I have had the opportunity to choose books for myself. Being allowed autonomy in my reading choices was a gift that allowed me to explore a wide range of topics at my own pace. As a child, I didn’t even realize many of my favorites (Scary StoriesJulie of the WolvesHis Dark Materials) were considered particularly scandalous by some adults.

Not everyone is as lucky as me. Now more than ever, I see many people, especially young people, being deprived of the same opportunity. Growing up, I would have benefited from the perspectives of MelissaThe Hate U Give, and many other controversial titles. Having access to many stories is enriching, and self-determination is empowering. Restricting the right to read stifles creativity, confidence, and empathy.

I hope that someday everyone will share my good fortune to be able to read and speak freely.


Keeley Briggs 
Database Coordinator



Visibility is essential for acceptance and understanding, and books can be priceless windows into the lives of others. I have multiple trans loved ones, and while I am so proud of them and want to support them, there is a limit to how much I can understand their journeys from my own narrow perspective. Access to (banned) books like Melissa by Alex Gino, Gender Queer by Maia Korabe, and Tranny by Laura Jane Grace have given me a much wider lens into the struggles faced by those I love. They are perspectives I am eternally grateful for so I can be a better ally, friend, and partner. 

Communities without access to resources and stories like these lack the benefit of those windows, and as our world grows increasingly polarized those windows feel more important than ever before. We need access to diverse books, storytellers, films, and other resources so we can better understand ourselves, our peers, and those whose voices are often not heard over the roars of oppression and marginalization. 


Amber Sheerin 
Program and Event Director


It’s difficult to imagine a world where I can’t access whatever books I feel like reading, where I can’t be curious, where some ideas are off-limits to me, and some thoughts just too dangerous. I really don’t even want to think about living in a society where this is a possibility. And that’s one of the many reasons I will be a lifelong supporter of libraries and the library profession. 

There is so much I love about libraries. I am thankful for all the individuals that work in libraries and everyone that dedicates their time and energy to stand up for intellectual freedom and support the freedom to read. I am proud to be part of the Michigan Library Association and thankful to know many amazing individuals in the Michigan library community. Thank you for not giving in to pressure to censor the stories of Black and Brown people and those who identify as LGBTQIA+. Thank you for the work you do to make sure everyone is welcome and belongs at the library. 


Rachel Ash
Membership and Communications Director


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