Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Book Chat: Library Censorship

Today as I was leaving my daughter's story time at the library, I mentioned to the children's librarian that I have a bunch of YA books I would like to donate.  She said great.  Then she mentions that she just got a big box of  books  from another donator but she had to "pass most of them off" because they were not appropriate.  "You know I have to screen any donations, most of these books for teens are about vampires and demons, and they just aren't what parents want their children to read", she tells me. 

Hmm, as I consider what is in the box of books I have for donation, I don't think they would make her cut. 

She told me that they had a complaint from several parents about the content of the books and said the teen section should have more Christian fiction and less paranormal books. 

They do carry The Twilight Series, The Immortal Series, and Vampire Academy.  I have been trying to borrow the VA series, but there is always a wait.  That in itself should be an indication of what type books are in demand. 

Do you think the public library should be so selective about what books they carry? 

I know several of you are librarians, what is your opinion?  Do you screen the titles?

*Please note, this is not a slam against the librarian.  I think her actions are a result of her superiors and people in the community.  I just don't agree, I think if kids or adults for that matter are reading, then good let them read what they want.  It is a PUBLIC library. 


jacabur1 said...

Elie, I think the public library system is given a bad rep most times for "limiting" certain genres and or not allowing certain books to ever grace their shelves. I am not a parent and since grew up reading anything that I wanted to far be it from me to police anyone else's choice of reading material! I do however think that certain books should not be made available to children in the public library system even with their parents approval to read them simply because some kids need to be limited on the "popular" books and or books that contain entirely too much adult content.
That said it is still a wonderful thing to go in a library and find the book you want and check it out and bring it home and curl up and enjoy the reading adventure no matter what your reading preference happens to be.
The more readers out there the better our country will be, books promote learning and using your imagination freely and in my mind you can never have too much of that!!!!

Juju at Tales of said...

Interesting. I have to consider this one.

Ann Elle Altman said...

Nope, I dont think they should limit books. If parents don't want their children reading those books, perhaps they could have that conversation with them rather than make the library babysit.


Angela said...

ACK! As a librarian, I was taught in library school to NOT do exactly what that library is doing. Yes, a certain amount of common sense is needed when selecting books for children and teen sections in the library but it drives me nuts to see those in power (in this case the selectors of the books) imposing their morality standards on the population they serve.

On the other hand, I'm happy that the library is actually putting some of the donated books into their collections. In most libraries I've been in, the donations go straight to the Friends of the Library for the books sale. While this does benefit the library, I don't think it is what most of the people donating books thinks happens to them.

Elie said...

jacabur... I do agree about the books that contain too much adult content, sometimes I do think books need a rating system like movies.

Ann Elle are right, parents who have concerns need to be more active with their kids.

Angela...I believe that is exactly where the unappropriate books were going, straight the sale box.

Stacy said...

Do you live in my town, Elie? ha ha. I haven't asked the people in my library why the selection of books is so limited, but I assumed that that was the reason, they didn't think it was suitable for the children. I find it as a disappointment because I love to check out books from the library (especially in the economy) and they just don't have much of a selection in the small town I live in. Granted, I do not have any kids so I can't speak for those parents, but if I was a parent I think I would monitor what they were checking out if that was a concern.

I am not asking for erotica, but is a few YA paranormal books too much to ask? Even their adult section is pretty can find all the Danielle Steel you want but they just recently got Charlaine Harris. It is frustrating. I am sure funding is tight but it would be nice is they spread it out a bit.

Roxanne Rhoads said...

I am totally against censorship in any form. I think that library needs to go work for a Christian library if that's all she thinks people should read.

I am for freedom of expression and the availability of books for the masses. A public library is not the place where morality should be set or taught.

If this was a school library I could understand it a little better but a public library????

I am thankful that my local library does not place morality standards on the books they offer. My library and the whole library network is very large and I can usually find any book I want- YA, urband fantasy, even erotica within the network.

But they do offer the parents the ability to monitor and refuse to let kids check out adult books. As it should be- the power should be with the parents not the system.

I monitor what my daughter reads because she is only ten so I don't let her read the older YA books and definitely no the adult books.

Elie said...

Roxanne, that is interesting. Is the monitor on the library cards?

Kathy Martin said...

I support the Library Bill of Rights as seen here. I am a school librarian and buy what my students want to read within the constraints of the budget given to me for materials.

Parents may certainly choose for their own children what is appropriate to read based on family values and their best knowledge of their children. However, I do not think parents or other interested adults should be able to choose for all children what materials will be available in a library.

As far as donations go, if something is donated that I think the students will read, I put it in the collection.

This is just my opinion.

~Jennifer~ said...

My county's library system carries just about every book out there. There may only be one copy and you might have to wait a long while to get it, but you'll get it eventually.

I recently revisited my old elementary school's library and they too have a wide variety of the current popular paranormal YA books.

I'm thinking I may just be lucky to live in an area that is good with keeping censorship to a minimum.

I have a 9 year old daughter who has her own library card. She is allowed to borrow anything she wants as long as she'll at least try to read it. She's shown no interest in YA books so far, but when she does it'll be completely up to her what to read. I'll recommend books but she has to develop her own interests. If she chooses interests that are different from mine, more power to her.

When the library starts marketing straight up, hardcore erotica in the children's section is when I'll worry. Until then, libraries should offer what the public is interested in.

It's called a public library for a reason.

GMR said...

I am not a parent, nor a librarian...but I do put in some hours at our local bookstore. Honestly, I don't think they should police the titles coming in. So long as they are Young Adult genre, the final decision on whether to read the book or not to read it should be made between the parent and the teen. In today's world, I would be happy to applaud the fact that they ARE reading.

miss cindy :) said...

I think the library should have all kinds of books, and have no limits.
I would expect the parents who do not want their children reading certain books to set the limits.

Elie said...

Kathy... that was very interesting, thanks for linking it.

GMR...sounds like a fun job.

miss cindy...I agree with you about parents setting the limits. I wonder how many parents actually pay attention to what their teens are reading.

The Book Owl said...

It's a PUBLIC library. Not everyone shares the same viewpoints and ideals. They shouldn't limit people's reading experiences. I understand school libraries censoring books, but not at public libraries.

I feel that if they censor "controversial" books, they're... well, lying. Why (I know this is about vampires, but I'm expanding the topic. haha) ban books about race or sexaul orientation or other topics? Those things are real and they shouldn't be limited. I think censoring them only creates a facade that you can avoid those things. But you can't. In real life, you deal with those things daily. I think banning books on touchy subjects gives people the wrong idea. It makes kids think that whatever subject is being talked about is bad, though that's not necessarily true.

hcmurdoch said...

I am a Teacher Librarian and I order books that are reviewed well, that the students request, award winners, etc. I work really hard at not censoring. If people don't want to read a book, they shouldn't read it, but they have no right to stop others from reading a book.

Jenn (Books At Midnight) said...

Oh, ouch, harsh censoring. But I agree with you, it's not the librarian's job to limit the books that feed into the library. It is his/her job to group it appropriately, but if there really has to be judging on whether a book is truly appropriate for a teen, it should be left to the parent and/or teen. Great topic! :)

Elie said...

Jenn, you raised a great point-grouping. The teen section covers such a broad section, maybe it needs a teen section and a YA section. That way books with questionable material can be seperated.

Nickles said...

At my library, there isn't that kind of censorship and I don't think there should be at public ones. There are some books that are a little more restricted or have certain rules but there is never total censorship. And since it is public, I don't think a library should be promoting certain views, religious or otherwise.

Donna said...

Public libraries are funded by the state therefore an imbalance of Christian fiction is unconstitutional. Yes, librarians feel pressure from their superiors and parents but they have to stock what's being read. The fact that they're ignoring their stats and listening to ignorant parents speaks loads about book banning and censorship.

Michelle @ The True Book Addict said...

This harkens back to the old banned books situation. I think it's the library's responsibility to make all manner of reading material (exceptions of pornographic materials, etc.) to the public. There are families out there that are not Christians. The library is a "public" domain. If a particular parent has a problem with certain books, well then they should not let their children read them. Leave the libraries alone with complaints about inappropriate books and don't ruin it for everyone else.

Martha Lawson said...

Hi! I am a librarian, also. We DO NOT censor books in our library. There is so few kids and teens that read in my small town, that I'm thrilled they are reading. My library system is really good about getting things the teens like to read. Parents should bethe one to limit their children's reading material, not the library!! The way tv is now, with cable and satellite, I don't worry too much about the books. They can see and hear most anything on tv!!

titania86 said...

It's a library's job to make books available, not censor or limit that selection. I think that librarian is incredibly hypocritical for having many supernatural books there, but not taking ones that are inappropriate in favor for one's with "Christian messages." My sister is a librarian and she feels the same way. Books are complained about sometimes, so she takes them off the shelf for an hour or two and then returns it. It's the parents' job to limit or not limit what their children read, not a librarian's.

pippirose said...

I think that censorship is wrong.
If it were in a Christian school library, that's one thing.
Public library?
Give me a break.
Teens are exposed to so much sex and violence via movies, tv shows, video games...and the internet. Myspace, Twitter, digital phones.
We need to encourage kids to READ--get them away from mind-numbing electronic gadgets.
We need to get MORE books that interest them into libraries...not LESS!
Good grief...

Jennifer G. said...

Public libraries shouldn't be censoring anything, end of story for me. If parents don't want their kids reading certain books, they should keep an eye on it themselves, not tell the library what they can have, and by extension tell me what I have access to. I hate it when people cave to this kind of small-mindedness. I'm not saying it's small-minded for a parent to monitor what their kids see, but it is small-minded to try to dictate what everyone should read.

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