I was on my soap box last week, and guess what I might have stayed on it. Who am I kidding? This article should be titled Stacey’s Soap Box. Thank you, Bryan!
This week is going to be a controversial one; censorship. Yep, I have touched on this before and we are back again. We include Intellectual Freedom as one of our library policies. The policy is written by the American Library Association and includes the Library Bill of Rights and the Freedom to read. My favorite section is the following, Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.
Generally, this is not an issue. We have been fortunate, since I have worked here, not to have any material challenged. Now do we have comments or concerns, yes. Questions over questionable videos, CDs and the occasional book. I actually remember one time, where the book was not the issue, but Stephen King had written a review and had used the f word. Being a librarian can be a challenge at times. It is important to meet the needs our community, but refer back to my favorite part of the Library Bill of Rights. It is kind of like walking a tightrope. Most of the time I see the rope as a big ol’ plank, others do not.
I have already mentioned that when we weed we look at circulation use. I have to be careful, because this can border on censorship. If our community doesn’t read it, should I get rid of it? What if it is highly recommended to be on the shelves?
This is when the rope can start to look thin for me.
To be honest the biggest issues tend to arise when kids are involved, and rightly so. Parents are concerned about what their children are exposed to, again, rightly so, their job is to raise and protect their children. When children first come to the library their first check outs are our easy books. Easy books generally are just that, easy, no big agendas, no controversial subject matter. Then they move to primers and chapters, again, usually pretty tame, simple vocabulary and short sentences. No one is trying to change the world in the easy part of the library. Then they head into the adjacent room. This room houses the juvenile and young adult section. As the books and vocabulary get more difficult so does the subject matter and the language. Juvenile you are usually safe from language, young adult, not so much.
Young Adult books are a newer division of the library. It was not a format when I was younger. I jumped from Little House of the Prairie to the Dead Zone. No worries, I made it. Or maybe, for some of you, I am a shining example of why transition is important. I refuse to exclude books because of subject matter that is uncomfortable or language that is not church appropriate. I don’t care for explicit books; violence, sex or an overuse of profanity. But, I do not get to build the collection based on my beliefs or opinions. We will have books that offend, we will have books that I love and books that I think are a waste of paper. We are a PUBLIC library; censorship has no place here.
Now, back to our kiddos. I can offer you this, targeted audiences. We will start listing the targeted audience in our YA books. Juvenile books target 2 different age ranges: 3rd-4th grade (ages 8 and 9) and 4th-6th grade (ages 9-11). YA books also target 2 different age ranges: 7th-9th grade (ages 12-14) and 10th-12th (ages 15-18). If you would like to know the targeted audience and it is not listed, please ask one of us at the circulation desk.
I do not judge those who have concerns or are more conservative than me, but I will tell you this, marking an item based on questionable content, only makes it more enticing. My responsibility, as your library director, is to protect intellectual freedoms. It is your responsibility to research and make the choices you feel strongly about. You will receive no judgement from me, I just ask for the same in return.