Another Librarian's Book Banning Rant

There has been quite a bit of brouhaha over Sarah Palin's alleged book banning attempts. (You can read about it at The LA Times, Time, and just about anywhere else you care to trip over it on the 'net, not to mention the various librarian listservs, twitter, and friendfeed.) Let's take a moment and discuss this, shall we?

Librarians - I'm taking the liberty of speaking for all of us here, though we may differ on minor details - generally believe it is their duty to provide information. To everyone (unless the library is a special library that only serves certain people - like a law firm library). But generally, your public and academic librarians are there to give you what you need, with that "you" defined as broadly as possible.

To book-banner wannabes: for every book like And Tango Makes Three and the Harry Potter series that you'd like to ban for gay penguins and heathen magic, I have others clamoring to ban Ann Coulter and *gasp* the Bible. (Lots of war and sex and nekkidness castrating of incapacitated adults in that one, you know). Remember, we have collection development policies that guide what we do and do not purchase, but if something is in our purview, we generally purchase books on a topic from nearly *all* viewpoints. Most libraries have a mechanism in place for challenging books, but librarians usually come down hard on the side that the information is there for those who wish it.

Those who wish it. Here's an interesting concept. If you do not want to read something, please feel free to pass it by on your way to whatever it is you *do* want to read.

If, as one of the LA Times commenters says, you are worried that:

"children today need our protection from growing up too fast. As a mother of 5 children, and one of them about to have a child!, I'm guessing Sarah Palin, along with most mothers, feels the same way I do. It's like drinking alcohol. I don't think it should be banned, but it should remain in places where underage children can't get their hands on it"

I have a simple solution for you. Pay the hell attention to what your underage kid is doing. Underage children cannot "get their hands" on reading material you don't support if you're watching them when they're at the public library, folks. (Same for alcohol. Tough for an underage kid to get their hands on booze if you know where they are, what they're up to, and what sort of photos they're posting to their MySpace account.) This is also a good time to point out that libraries are not day care centers. You are not to just drop your child off and hightail it to the mall. Either watch your underage child like a parent is supposed to, or understand they may climb into some stacks and choose a book you're not happy with. just be glad some creep didn't walk away with them while you weren't doing your parenting job.

It is not a public library's job to be a bastion of morality. Morality is personally defined. That's *your* job. What we do is make information available. If you choose to filter the information your child receives - and I fully support your right as a parent to do so - then do your job. I'll keep doing mine.


Dana said…
ya for spot on indignant rants against the powers of ignorance that be! Thanks for the nice post Colleen,

Joe said…
Hey Colleen,

Great post. I've been thinking of posting anti-Palin stuff on my blogs, but I figure others are doing an admirable job of doing that for me for the most part. What I haven't seen very much is her anti-evolution, anti-stemcell research, anti-global warming mitigation, anti-choice, anti-gay, and anti-diversity stances...
Joshua M. Neff said…
Well said! Brava!
Zudora said…
Yep. I like the approach of Deborah Jacobs, formerly of Corvallis-Benton PL and Seattle PL: Don't pull the challenged books. Add more books, from opposing viewpoints. Correct Answer.
Brandi Tuttle said…
Well said and I totally agree!
Jared said…
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I agree with you here.

In my opinion some of the people who want certain books banned or television shows canceled or movies boycotted appear to me to be so insecure in the beliefs and values they pass on to their children that they are afraid any exposure whatsoever to another opinion or view would permanently and totally damage their little one.

So as my favorite author Neil Gaiman once said "It’s always best to be offended by things you haven’t read. That way you keep your mind uncluttered by things that might change it."
Well said!
Anonymous said…

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