A Win For Utah Students and Teachers – EBSCO Access Reinstated
We are excited to announce that on October 19th, the Board of Utah Education Network (UEN) voted unanimously to immediately reinstate access to EBSCO K12 databases for over 650,000 students in Utah.
The Board had previously taken action on September 21 to remove access to the database, based on a single unsubstantiated claim from a self-described concerned parent that pornography was available in the database. The offending material was later reported to be:
- a picture of a two women kissing
- a picture of a woman showing her buttocks to the camera. She is clothed but wearing only underwear
- a picture which shows two men kissing and touching a topless woman on a bed (the woman’s breasts are exposed but covered by pasties.)
The initial action to pull the plug on access to EBSCO K12, a vital database that supports information literacy, research, and digital citizenship curricula for students across the state, was taken with no official action by the Board, and in the absence of any policy or process for responding to constituent complaints. The UEN Board subsequently held an emergency Board meeting on October 4th, voting 6 to 1 to maintain the ban on EBSCO while they researched the claims.
The Utah Library Association (ULA) immediately went into action with a goal of convincing the 13 member UEN Board to reverse their decision at their October 19th meeting. ULA reached out to EveryLibrary for assistance. EveryLibrary quickly mounted an online petition that generated an email directly to each Board Member, making it easy for supporters to quickly and effectively express their opinion with key decision-makers. EveryLibrary funded a paid Facebook campaign to target the petition to Utah residents whose Facebook profiles indicated support of libraries and education. ULA also promoted the petition directly to their membership, and worked with coalition partners, The Utah Educational Library Media Association (UELMA), and The Utah Education Association (UEA), to promote the petition.
Within two weeks, the petition had garnered over 530 signatures, generating almost 7000 total emails to the UEN Board. One Board Member commented that the emails they received ran 20:1 in favor of reinstating access to EBSCO. Without doubt, this clear and voluminous expression of support from Utah residents for reinstating EBSCO was a significant factor in Board's decision. This type of "rapid response" -- the ability to quickly engage supporters, and activate them to take action -- is something that EveryLibrary is uniquely positioned to do, and was key to ULA's success in this fight.
While we are pleased that the UEN Board voted to restore access to the K12 research database for Utah students, there are indications that there may be more fights to come. The "concerned parent" who initially complained is, in fact, a conservative blogger who had already been working with parents, and with Family Watch International, in Colorado to ban EBSCO from schools. On October 10th, the blogger, writing about "the international database scandal" for a conservative but mainstream publication said, "schools and libraries have been categorized by the United States as “safe places” for children. Sadly, the majority of these “safe places” are exploiting children by spoon feeding them pornographic images, videos, and illicit sexual articles through databases" and implored her readers to not only look at school library databases, but also investigate public libraries, and colleges because it is "a lie" that the databases are safe.
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Furthermore, a representative from Family Watch International, which is designated as an anti-LGBTQ extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, told KUTV News that they are, "organizing with dozens of conservative organizations to shame Utah into ending their contract with EBSCO" and went on to say, “We’re hitting it nationwide within the next week,” Boyack said. “In fact, I just talked to our lobbying firm today and they are trying to have a congressional hearing on it within a couple of weeks."
We were proud to lend our networks, funds, tools and resources to help the Utah Library Association coalition get library database access restored for hundreds of thousands of students. We know that our methodology works because we’ve put it into action fighting for public and school libraries across the country. We know that the threats to libraries are not over and that we need to keep fighting by building the tools and resources that libraries need to win. We also know that we need to continue to identify library supporters across the country so that we can activate millions of Americans anytime a library is threatened in the United States. That is just what the first and only national political action committee for libraries should do.
If we want to continue to support libraries, we need your support. There are two important ways that you can help. First, please take a moment and invite your friends and family to like our Facebook page. If we can reach one million Americans through Facebook whenever a library is threatened, we’ll be able to apply significant pressure to any politicians who want to close or defund libraries, or censor access to vital information sources. Second, please consider starting a monthly donation of just $1, $3, $5 or $10.