Updating the Request for Reconsideration Form

Q: Do you have suggestions for changes we might make to our public library’s reconsideration process to discourage challenges from people who haven’t even looked at the materials they are challenging firsthand? It’s so frustrating when a complaint or challenge comes from someone who admits they haven’t even read the book.

Over the past few years, as public and school libraries respond to an exponential increase in the number of challenges to materials, as well as public attacks, there have been efforts in libraries and school districts to revise some of their policies and procedures related to challenges, including what is commonly known as the Request for Reconsideration form and process used when someone wants to ask that material be moved within or removed from the collection. 

Updating policies and procedures to clarify processes and intentions, and affirm professional values and the rights of everyone your publicly funded institution serves, are all good things. (See  Policies and Procedures Best Practices in School Libraries for more on this in the context of schools.) But some of the suggestions we’ve seen, specifically with regard to the Request for Reconsideration form, also seem designed to create barriers to challenging materials. The person hasn’t read the entire book? The form is invalid. They haven’t completed the entire form? The form is invalid. 

Libraries and library workers are overwhelmed; in some communities the challenges are relentless, and sometimes coming from people who, as you note, may not have seen the material they are challenging firsthand. So we are not unsympathetic to this inclination. However, making it harder for someone to challenge materials is a response that moves away from the values we embrace as a profession. Libraries that value the right to read should equally value the right to question. If we believe in intellectual freedom, we should not be looking for ways to block someone’s choice to exercise their right to challenge material. 

If this era in which we find ourselves has shown libraries and library workers anything, it’s the need to help our community members and other stakeholders better understand the work we do in curating collections and providing services that meet the needs and interests of everyone we are funded to serve. In short, we need more education, advocacy, and greater transparency, not barriers.

We were recently looking at a standard Request for Reconsideration template and it struck us that it assumes a far greater familiarity with the library than the average non-librarian is apt to have. “What do you want to have happen to the material?”  Well, what are the options?  Are there options? Isn’t it obvious I want it removed?

Why not build greater education and transparency into the Request for Reconsideration form? Why not incorporate information about some of the values and obligations that inform collection development work into the form, too,  as well as more information about the reconsideration process. 

Will doing so halt or slow down the current influx of complaints and challenges?  Probably not. But it will increase transparency, support inclusion by not putting unnecessary barriers in the way of a challenge, and provide another means of conveying information about how and why librarians do the work we do.

Approach the suggestions on the form below as a checklist of ideas to consider incorporating into your Request for Reconsideration process and form. Throughout the form, there are places where libraries  will need to refer to their existing policies and procedures and reference what they state. We have bracketed obvious instances of this, but there may be others. And of course any changes you make to your own library’s form, and/or policies and procedures, should go through the process required by your library: policy changes must be board-approved; procedural changes may not require board approval.  

Suggestions for Request for Materials Reconsideration Form: Wisconsin Public Library

[Name] Library takes concerns and complaints seriously.  This form is used to request the library consider a different placement of an item in the collection (e.g., move from children to teens) or to remove an item from the library. You may find the library’s collection development policy [link/attach] useful in gaining additional insight in how materials are chosen for the collection.

A separate Request for Reconsideration form is required for each item.

[Reference any language in your policy/procedures about effort to resolve informally, e.g., Prior to completing this form, we [ask/require] you to reach out to the library director or the department head [contact info] where the item is currently located to discuss your concern. If your concerns have not been addressed to your satisfaction through conversation or written dialogue, this form is the next step in seeking resolution. ]

Please complete as much information about the item in question as possible as this form will be shared with those charged with making a decision regarding your request. At a minimum, for your request for reconsideration to proceed, we must have your name and contact information, the title of the material, the author (if a book), details of your concern, what you are requesting happen with the material, and your dated signature completed on this form

Once you submit this form, the library’s formal reconsideration process will begin [link to more info or attach process]; this form will become part of the public record.

About You (this section is required)

Your Name:


City:                             State:                                       Zip:



I am submitting this form on behalf of (circle one):

Myself         Group/organization (Name:                                  )        Other

I have discussed this concern with the library director or another librarian on staff (please provide name if possible):  Y/N

About the Material

 I am concerned about a (circle):

Book                DVD            CD             Other (specify):

I accessed this material:  at the library           online* (e.g, database, ebook)             other

 ____I did not obtain access to this material at or through the library (if the library does not own the item, the Request for Reconsideration cannot proceed) 

  *If your concern is about an ebook or audiobook obtained through Libby or Overdrive, your complaint must be made to the Wisconsin Public Library Consortium rather than our library. 

Item information:



 Publisher/publication date:

Like our process for selecting materials, the reconsideration process will involve assessing the work as a whole in light of our collection goals and selection criteria outlined in the collection development policy [link or reference attachment of these]. Your request for reconsideration form will also be shared with the reconsideration committee.

At a minimum, for your request for reconsideration to proceed, you must answer the first three questions below.

What concern(s) do you have about the work? (Please share your thoughts in your own words rather than those from organizations or other individuals.)


Have you seen the work firsthand? Y / N


Have you read or viewed the entire work?  Y/N


If you aren’t personally familiar with the work, on what are you basing your concern?


Who do you think is the audience for this work?


Are there aspects of the work that you think have value? Please specify.


The Wisconsin legislature recognizes that libraries in Wisconsin provide “free access to knowledge, information and diversity of ideas” and are critical to democracy.  (Wisconsin Statute 43.001). [Name] Library takes this responsibility seriously and is committed to providing access to a wide range of choices to meet the many and varied needs and interests [or relevant language from library mission] of our community members. We do so knowing that no two individuals or families we serve are the same, and that a book or other item that appeals or is of interest to one individual or family may not appeal to another. Materials are located in the collection or area of the library (e.g. children’s, teens, adults) that best fits their intended audience based on professional assessments of the material.

In order for your request for reconsideration to proceed, you must answer the question below.

What are you requesting be done with the work?  

___ Move it to another collection in the library (e.g., from children’s to teens; from teens to adults)

___ Remove it from the library

___ Other (specify):


Signature and Next Steps 

 In order for your Request for Reconsideration to proceed, you must sign and date this form.

 ___  I have completed this form to the best of my ability and understand that by signing and dating below, I am formally requesting the library reconsider the material as indicated on this form; that the material in question will be reevaluated according the library’s collection goals and selection criteria; and that this form will also be shared with decision-makers as part of the reconsideration process.

 Signature:                                                                                            Date:


 Next Steps [will vary based on what is outlined in your policies and procedures]:

 Your request will be reviewed by [indicate decision-making group, eg “internal committee composed of three staff, subcommittee of board], who will read/view the entire work, and review the collection goals and selection criteria along with this request for reconsideration. While the challenge is awaiting a decision, the material will remain available in the collection.

The library makes every effort to determine and communicate a decision on requests for reconsideration within [X] days. If the library receives multiple requests for reconsideration within a short timeframe, requests will be handled in the order in which they are received and this time period is likely to be extended. 

Once the decision is communicated, the decision can be appealed to the full library board. Board decisions are final and stand for X years [e.g. 3]. Depending on the final decision, this means the item cannot be rechallenged or re-acquired for any reason for that period of time.


Again, if you decide to move forward with any of these suggestions, make sure your form aligns to your policies and procedures, and that you follow all processes required to make changes to them.

November 2023

Thank you to Merri Lindgren, Tessa Michaelson Schmidt and Caitlin Tobin for contributing to this response