Sunday, October 17, 2010

Banned, Challenged, and Challenging Books

Oh banned books..... My mantra when it comes to this topic has always been and always will be is that our professional role is to be librarians, not parents. I myself have never dealt directly with a book challenge, but I think there are several things to keep in mind. First of all, as Mel (and the Atlas article) mentioned, our best line of (pro-active) defense is to have a procedure for dealing with challenges in our collection development policy and to know what that policy says. I think our second line of defense is to simply listen to the person who is making the complaint and to explain to that person that everyone has the right to decide what they/their family should read and that they should not take that right away from someone else. These two actions will probably stop 95% of book challenges then going any further than a conversation between the challenger and the librarian.

Of course, there are the 5% of cases - like the West Bend example - that do go beyond a simple conversation. I have to agree with my classmates who say that this case really scares me. I do think that best thing libraries can do is reach out to professional organizations (such as the ALA) for support. West Bent did this - as evidenced by the statement by the UW-M professor (

Onto the other two issues of intellectual freedom we examined for this week - Holocaust denial literature and the anatomy atlas. I honestly am not as sure what I would do in these cases since they seem to be more applicable to academic libraries (my interest is more in public libraries). Of the three options presented by the articles on the issues (Exclude, include, or label) I think there is one thing we should absolutely not do - and that is label. Labeling items as "false" is a very slippery slope. There are some people who would say that the Bible should be labeled as false and others that would argue that books on evolution should be labeled as false. Do libraries really want to get involved in these kind of debates?

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