Monday, February 16, 2009

Self-Censorship and Content

A Dirty Little Secret: Self-Censorship

How do we, librarians/readers, balance reading broadly and recommending works broadly and/or including the works into a collection that have content that is potentially difficult/dangerous/challenging? I have little to no problem including Van Til and NT Wright next to Scofield and Ryrie or including fiction by Barthelme, Brautigan, Wallace or O'Brien. I think that students, especially at the college level need access to these works, especially for research purposes. I don't think that having gender-role issue stories or sexual abuse stories are being used for research within school libraries. The argument is made in this article that books need to be included that support the curriculum. There is also the argument that states that are lableled conservative seem to have a marked absence of these perceived works which the author immediatley assumes means self-censorship. I'm not a school librarian and this is one of the reasons why, but frankly it's not your problem. If the school library doesn't want to include a book why should they have to? The ALA is not a ruling body and it is seemingly becoming more and more invasive, especially in realms of kid's lit. About 3/4 of the way through the article the author quotes
"Scales, a First Amendment advocate and former school librarian, offers these words of advice: don’t put restrictions on kids, because they’ll regulate themselves if given the freedom to read. “Children will put down what they can’t handle or what they aren’t ready for,” she explains."

Really? Because if these are the same kids I've had the pleasure of spending 8 consecutive summers with and have as siblings, then this is a body of individuals not particularly well-known for their self-regulation. As a kid, I would read anything. There was a Dracula book in our public library that I would read on the sly and it scared me. I couldn't walk into the bathroom without pulling the shower curtain back to make sure there was nothing there to pounce on me. It is possible that I am not the most prime example of the self-regulating child but I can't believe that children as a whole have matured to this extent and indeed it would a shame if they had. Arguing this from the aspect of the self-regulating child is weak at best and laughable at its worst.

If donated, would I include one of the books above in the librayr's children's lit/YA section? I am not sure and it is an area that I would need to give significantly more thought. We have a unique situation as a fucntioning academic library that married students and their familiies use. I am not required to support a curriculum with the children's lit/YA section but these are important issues being raised that will affect the world the kids will be interacting with.

People, especially parents also react horribly in these types of situations, and in my opinion need to place their hand over their mouth and think about what they are saying. If the school library gets a book you don't agree with and it is of nomical impact, keep your mouth shut. You talk to your kids about how it's not quite ready for them and/or you read it together and move on. Don't cause librarians more pain then they need.
for example I do not think Harry Potter is the devil. I enjoyed/continue to enjoy the series and will share it wholeheartedly with our children when appropriate/of age.(Once children are actually born to us)
We will read around the breakfast/lunch/snack/dinner/dessert table and exegete/discuss/argue around the same about the work to make sure understanding is thoroughly fleshed out. (Hopefully there will be a big whiteboard in our dining room and/or den for comments and diagramming for this purpose.) This wil hoepfully set the tone for family reading in future as well as establish clear methods of reading through our, as yet future, children's lives.

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