Tuesday, October 19, 2010

censor the censor

I’m a total romantic when it comes to this great experiment we call Democracy. I even appreciate the uncertainty that surrounds the idea of ‘freedom’ and ‘we the people’ when it comes to the theory vs practice of our government. This is one of the reasons I find librarianship so attractive – the opportunity to submerge myself in the uncertainty is too good to pass up. I definitely have strong opinions about ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, religion, politics, etc (pretty much everything that makes life interesting), but am of the mind that if I was to be surrounded by people that thought and looked like me, I would ultimately be disappointed with my lack of experiences (albeit I would be surrounded by really good-looking people ;), one could argue that ‘experience’ comes about when confronted with ‘difference’, ). This is why a book challenge doesn’t get me too worked up. It should make sense that I am 100% against the notion of pulling titles from library shelves because of their potential for excitement (whether or not it does is possibly another larger issue confronting us as ‘information professionals…”), but the act of challenging is extremely Democratic itself. How can we possibly state that libraries and what they stand for is the very foundation of our Democracy at the same time we curse those who challenge us? I only say this and feel this way because our predecessors have set precedent as for the actions to be taken when such a challenge occurs (and if all goes well, the precedent of keeping the book on the shelf will prevail). This in part is why, for me, watching the West Bend town hall gathering, with all of its disparity regarding ‘righteous’ and ‘diabolic’ made my heart swell with appreciation for our ‘right to fight’. Granted, I say all this as a library student who would fight, tooth and nail, for the inclusion of all material, but who would also welcomes all kinds of challenges. Not only do such challenges legitimize our profession, they encourage us (as librarians) to question our own resolve, thus adding to our aptitude as professionals.

One of the most exciting characteristics of librarianship for me is, ultimately, its lack of authority. Our duty is to facilitate and make accessible our culture. No matter how much we want to, we can’t dictate the direction it takes. We can influence all we want, but in the end we are purveyors of a greater purpose. In apology to Jimi Hendrix, I take my leave with the idea that, with the power of soul, anything is possible. I applaud anybody who believes in something enough to make a fool out of themselves…including both sides of the issue of a book removal.


  1. Tecumseh,
    You make a good point that the West Bend challenge and challenges in general are a part of democracy. As a society we have diverse interests and values and sometimes those values come into conflict. I needed to be reminded of this, as I find the book banners in West Bend and their anti-gay social positions to be abhorrent. As someone who believes in the ideals of multiculturalism, plurality, democracy and tolerance it is sometimes all o easy to be blind to the fact that I am being intolerant towards people who don't share these same ideals.

    As you point out, book challenges, while no doubt professionally nerve racking, are a chance for librarians to exercise their professional chops. Also every successfully defended book or other material goes that much farther towards strengthening the Freedom to Read and IF positions of our profession.

  2. "[T]he act of challenging is extremely Democratic itself. How can we possibly state that libraries and what they stand for is the very foundation of our Democracy at the same time we curse those who challenge us?"


    But, the American Library Association disagrees and curses every single one of the hundreds who bring challenges, under the ALA's own policies for challenging, no less:

    "The Parent Trap: ALA Uses Banned Books Week to Ridicule Patrons Complying with ALA Materials Reconsideration Policies"

  3. To make sure my original post is understood as it was written, I feel as though I should reiterate that the Democratic right to dissent by no way equates a ‘right to win’. Any true dissenter understands this.