Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Censorship in the Library

I am not surprised to see that everyone seems to be against banning books, but it does make me feel a little better anyway. I have a nagging fear, that has thankfully proven to be unmerited thus far, that the libraries and other information professions will be infiltrated by those that would, if not agree with the WBC4SL, submit to their requests in order to bring peace to the community and their library.

The idea of holocaust denial is so repulsive that I was tempted to agree with the idea of labeling the information as false, keeping it on the shelves (even in this case I would never be in favor of banning a book) but making sure whoever picked it up was well aware that the library and the majority of the world’s population viewed it as false. Not with the memory of the YouTube clips from West Bend fresh in my mind though. I will never fully understand those that wish to ban, burn or restrict books.

John Stuart Mill would say that holocaust denial literature should be included because to exclude it would be to claim are own infallibility; because there might be some truth to it; or it will better illustrate and bolster the truth of those that oppose the holocaust deniers by means of comparison and scrutiny. Just as concerning (more really – I cannot find it in me to feel that the loss of holocaust denying literature would be terrible) is the precedent it would set. If this is banned, what is next? If it is labeled it strengthens the arguments of those like the West Bend Citizens for Safe Libraries when they say, “Okay, you can keep the homosexual literature on the shelf, but we want a warning label on it.” We need to try to make people understand that we are not endorsing controversial information or books, we are not agreeing with it, but we are protecting it because it represents something larger than just that specific work. Not many things can be dealt with in absolutes, black and white, but I think that when dealing with people’s rights it has to be. Once you create an opening it is only a matter of time before someone exploits it. Although I can’t help but wonder how Dr. Joyce Latham’s (a professor at US-Milwaukee that spoke in West Bend) remarks were received that day, I wanted to cheer for her. There is a reason for what we do.

1 comment:

  1. "On rare occasion, we have situations where a piece of material is not what it appears to be on the surface and the material is totally inappropriate for a school library. In that case, yes, it is appropriate to remove materials. If it doesn't fit your material selection policy, get it out of there."

    "Marking 25 Years of Banned Books Week," by Judith Krug, Curriculum Review, 46:1, Sep. 2006.