February 17, 2018

Shawna Thorup | Movers & Shakers 2007


Up to the Challenge


Shawna Thorup loves to write and revamp library policies. She says it’s ‘intellectually stimulating and has a real impact on the staff and customers.’ As assistant director of the Fayetteville Public Library (FLP), she’s shown how valuable that passion for policy can be.

When Fayetteville school libraries were facing a large-scale book challenge, Thorup realized that FPL, which owned almost all the titles on the ‘hit list,’ might be the next target. In addition to attending community meetings and building support among community leaders, she instituted a plan of defense.

Thorup asked the reference staff to create a file of reviews for every title and have it readily available for public viewing. Then she set to rewriting the library’s policy statements for collection development and reconsideration of materials, both of which were inadequate to defend against a serious challenge.

The new reconsideration policy ensures that customer protests are both carefully documented and fully heard. It combines a strong statement of philosophy with detailed procedures for those who seek to have materials removed, as well as for the library’s director and board. Director Louise Schaper says the revised policy has become ‘a model for other libraries around the state and was used in the revision of our school district’s policy.’

Thorup also trained all library staff on how to handle customer concerns about items in the collection. ‘We did some fun role-playing with that!’ she says. Though FPL ‘never did become a target, we were totally prepared,’ says Thorup. She plans to follow up with an event that will allow Fayetteville to grapple with the issue of censorship: the citywide Big Read title will be Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Thorup has booked the head of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, Judith Krug, to hold a ‘public conversation with one of the involved high schools’ librarians.’

For Thorup, the chance to write policy is like dessert, a ‘reward for getting all the other stuff done.’ She’s likely to be served dessert quite frequently.




CURRENT POSITION Assistant Director, Fayetteville Public Library, AR


RECONSIDERATION POLICY www.faylib.org/information/pdf/policies/plc_reconsideration.pdf

REVIEWS LJ‘s Christian Fiction columnist 2002 – 03