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How to vet fiction books for sex, drugs, etc?

Hi all
I'm getting a lot of donated fiction that I don't know. Without reading it cover to cover there's no way of knowing about contentious content. I'm considering dividing my fiction into 3 age groups (yr7-9; yr10-11; yr12-13) as we've had parent complaints. But if I don't know a book where can I get a school library sensitive review?

There must be some agency out there doing this but I haven't found it yet.
What does everyone do?

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Hi Alan,

I believe the ChildLitWiki also includes a section in their review for "concerns" about the title. Is this the type of information you need?

Do you have access to the online database Novelist from EBSCO? This gives lots of information including reviews by school librarians.
After reading your questions my first thought was do you have a formal selection policy for your school library? This would be useful to refer to when making decisions about what materials should be in your library, whether donated or purchases. There are plenty of excellent examples to be found online to help you draft one but chances are your school district already has something in place. This should be sanctioned by the District so that you have backup support in handling any challenges. Along with the selection policy you would have a reconsideration form for parents to complete and lodge a formal challenge if they don't agree with the materials you have in the library.

It sounds like you are allowing parent concerns to guide what resources you house in the library and dividing your library collection into three sections seems a protective reaction to their comments. May I suggest that you visit the ALA site and check their statements on intellectual freedom and their wonderful collection of articles about challenges and censorship just to give yourself the opportunity to see this issue from a different perspective. Also Asheim has written a classic article called "Not censorship but selection" which may be found at which I highly recommend reading. Another site I love is the IFRT online newsletters which may help you find the words to respond to parent concerns regarding challenges at

I also struggle with donated items because though they may look attractive or are in good shape it doesn't necessarily mean these books should be in the library. Using your selection policy and consulting reviews as a guide, you should treat them the same way you would any resource you would consider adding to your collection. Sometimes I find Amazon's reviews helpful because they list School Library Journal, Booklist, etc. but also have comments from readers. I hope that I have offered you a few ideas and wish you luck.
Follett's Titlewave ( ) is also a good place to go for reviews, and they also list interest levels of most of their books.


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