Thursday, February 5, 2009

Censorship or Collection Development?

There's an interesting article on the School Library Journal website this week (thanks to Debbie Reese for the tip) about library censorship. It corresponds with a quote I've mulled over: "If you don't have a balanced collection, it's just censorship disguised as collection development." (I could swear that I read that as a sourced quote from an author, editor, magazine publisher, or something? If anyone knows the source, please let me know. Google just shows it as a quote from an anonymous librarian.)

The idea of "banned books" is fascinating to me, because there seems to be so little information about what constitutes an actual "ban", and there's so seldom a distinction made (for the general public) between "banned" and "challenged". One of my favorite examples is the appearance of Go Ask Alice on a "challenged" list, because a parent had wanted it pulled from an eighth grade curriculum; as I've said elsewhere, unless they were using it as an example of how a publisher can try to manipulate readers to a make a point (and money), I'd agree that it had no place in the curriculum. I've also noticed that "reading banned books" is something that makes us all feel like we're supercool... without really doing anything.

Since I don't know much about collection development, maybe Laurie A-B will write a response to the article. I get the sense that there's a lot to unpack here. I appreciate that SLJ published the poll results (although, quibble: you have to deduce which columns are "yes" and which are "no"), though there's a lot more I'd like to know.

One point that annoyed me: "And it’s not just right-wing conservative Christians. Politically correct lefties challenge books, too. Like when a progressive mom asked that [Judy] Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (Dutton, 1972) be removed from her daughter’s class because it included a scene with a dead turtle. “She said, 'Don’t you know that reptiles have feelings, and reptiles feel fear?’” Blume recalls."

Yeah, I'll agree that challenges come from all sides of the political spectrum, but the challenge above is not because of "progressive" political beliefs. That's just plain old crazy.

This article is of particular interest to me because of the issues I wrote about with After Tupac and D Foster a few days ago. It would be interesting to know how many school libraries are purchasing that book, and whether they're elementary, middle, or high schools.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

Word on crazy != progressive.

I work with Haymarket Books, which faced an organized censorship campaign against our first book for young readers, Elizabeth Laird's A LITTLE PIECE OF GROUND.

A lot of what the censorship has looked like, though, is simply teachers and librarians saying, or thinking, "I can't carry this book set in Palestine because I might face some opposition somewhere, so why not buy this other, non-controversial, great book instead?" So, I'm sensitive to the issue you're discussing. Thanks for the link to the SLJ blog; I hadn't seen the post.