This is the end
My only friend
With a big thanks to Jim Morrison and The Doors from providing me with a song to bow out of the blog with.
I have handed in my last assignment for my children’s lit paper (due yesterday) and so the blog need no longer lurk in the back of my head and nudge me to write. I started this resentfully but am ending slightly sadly as I began to secretly quite enjoy having a space to cathart (pretty sure that is not a verb but I have made it one just cos I can) at.
So you will be safe from me blathering on about what madness is happening at the library, which latest YA book has made me miserable/uplifted/amazed. Enjoy the peace and thanks for following me along this journey.
And to end this I will leave us on a rant about censorship (because I do enjoy a good rant).
Libraries are purveyors of open and free information. We say down with restrictions, boo to banning books, and a big old hiss to people who call us out for controversial material in our collections. That is clearly all we need to say about censorship in libraries.
Ah. You were hoping for something more insightful? Something potentially closer to the truth for those of us on the front lines, curating and presenting the public with the collection?
Well, that gets a bit more complicated. Back in the days, when I was young, when the dinosaurs roamed the plains according to my teenager, CYA books were filled with shenanigans, spiffing adventures, the occasional baddie, angry people shouting damn, and a lot of talking animals. Quite likely, everyone was white, heterosexual and married. The world was apparently simple.
And now? Well it has been argued by commentators and critics that literature has gone to hell in a handbasket. CYA books now have the audacity to espouse tolerance, diversity and a wide range of lifestyles and views. We just have to look at picture books such as A tale of two mummies, Daddy, Papa and me, and Tango makes three, and I am Jazz to discover that families and relationships are not necessarily married heterosexual couples. If we delve into YA novels such as Into the river, the Hate U give and two boys kissing, you read about the heart breaking systemic racism, bigotry and violence that some young people face daily. Thirteen reasons why and The playlist for the dead both tackle the devastation of teen suicide and its consequences. The novel George features a ten-year old protagonist who is struggling to tell the world that they are transgender. This is the complex world of CYA literature today.
The American Library Association compiles an annual list of challenged books including the rationale behind it and according to their infographic for 2017, the number one reason material was challenged was LGBT content, closely followed by violence, sexual explicitness, racism and profanity. I will confess that I am not that keen on the idea of young innocent children, unblemished by the world coming up against sex, violence, and bigotry. Sadly, our children are not living in this idealised utopia. They livie in a world where these things are part of the wider community. If your child is fortunate to not be directly faced with these challenges, then understanding the perspective of others less fortunate is surely an essential part of developing empathy. I am not suggesting that we should encourage our ten-year olds to read Thirteen reasons why but reading George could provide them with an insight about children in their peer group who may be struggling to fit in.
We need to tell our communities that they should trust their librarians to get the right books into the hands of the right people. It is that simple.
So, in conclusion, let’s chant “down with censorship”
But before we go off and give ourselves a clap for being so very objective and down with the cool anti-censorship kids, let’s pause.
It has been argued by blogger the Annoyed Librarian, and Daniel Kleinman, on his Safe libraries website, that the ALA’s indiscriminate fight against all censorship, ignores the fact that some material is not suitable for a collection. The Annoyed librarian challenged ALA supporters to subscribe to a pornographic magazine, place it somewhere within the CYA collection and fight for its inclusion. An unselective belief in open access to all information can be argued to support this approach.
Organisations such as the ALA’s Office of Freedom, the Freedom to Read Foundation, and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund provide support and resources to fight against any form of censorship. Clearly, librarians will fight for the right to read what they choose.
Except (and shhh…. let’s just keep this between us) when we don’t. Because, and I am not sure if you know this, but librarians are people. Shocking huh?! We suffer from biases and prejudices just like everyone else. We could discuss librarians being professionals and thus objective curators, but there are a couple of problems with that.
- Libraries are increasingly hiring non-librarians and providing them with job descriptions that contain traditional ‘librarian’ tasks, including collection development. Back in 2011, the Canadian newspaper The Star reported that Toronto Public libraries were considering privatization. One of the key money saving methods that the private company was reported to use was hiring paraprofessionals and maintaining control over collection development.
- Passing a course does not necessarily mean that you will follow the ethics. I am pretty sure that Harold Shipman would have agreed to the Hippocratic oath of do no harm but he killed more than 200 patients.
You see, it is not censorship if your library simply does not purchase an item.
The collection team for the library is at the pointy end of selecting material with the limited funds available. And maybe you feel uncomfortable with the sexual content and the seeming glorification of suicide in Thirteen reasons why. There are a lot of books being published, library budgets are getting tighter and who needs the hassle of dealing with irate parents, community groups and a media storm. So….just don’t buy the book. The School Library Journal reported that in the U.S., school librarians are increasingly self-censoring this way with 90% of primary and 75% of high school librarians choosing not to purchase material that is potentially controversial.
Say you already have the book on your shelves? Well, is there a way to legitimately ‘weed it’ from the collection. You could pop it somewhere and accidently forget to put it back on the shelf, then it would appear on a list of material not being borrowed and ‘poof’ we need to weed it. We need the space. Maybe it is super popular and constantly going out? Well, it might be getting tatty and so let’s remove it from the collection due to ‘condition’.
Unfortunately, I am going to leave you with questions rather than answers in the children and young adult collection debate. How should we respond to challenges to our collection? Should we save ourselves money and time by sidestepping potentially controversial material? Goodness only knows any of the answers. I am much better at questions and ranting than solutions sadly.
And with that I will bow out of the blogging game (until the next paper that drags me back in).
So long, and thanks for all the fish