Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Intellectual Freedom and Those Who Love It

By Lisa G.

The library I work at doesn't observe Banned Books Week. Their thinking is "Don't rock the boat; what the patrons don't know can't hurt us." In other words, if we raise the profile of banned books people will realize we have them. That will give them the opportunity to complain, if they'd be wont to.

And that is true. If you point out the fact you're harboring banned or challenged books fundamentalist conservatives may just come out of the woodwork and complain. Being a firm believer in intellectual freedom I may not agree with that position, but knowing I'm a small fish in a big pond I haven't raised a fuss. I respect the right of the administration to stand where it will. So I'm turning to my blogs to vent on an issue near and dear to my heart.

Banning or challenging books really gets under my skin. Every time I read or hear a story about this subject I feel my blood pressure rising. As with so many issues my take is, "If it offends you don't/read it or do it, but don't tell me I can't."

Book banning is ignorant. Should inappropriate or disturbing material be kept out of the hands of children? Of course, but there's a grey area there. That's where parents come in. It's not the responsibility of the library to deem all material appropriate or inappropriate for children, or any other group of people. In the case of minor children it's the parents who need to make that call. No library would dare intercede, nor should it. With adult materials, those over 18 are presumed to have already developed their personal values and tastes. They may choose to read or not read as they wish.


The library chooses which books to order. Nothing spewing hatred or advocating violence toward any group of people would be purchased by a librarian with any degree of sense. But that's not book banning; that's using public money to buy materials which will be used and appreciated by the patrons of that library. There's a difference.

Is there a grey area here? Certainly. Life is filled with grey areas. Librarians do the best they can. Patrons who want materials the library hasn't purchased can search the world to find them. Librarians do that, too. And if no one has the material, or doesn't want to lend it, that's how it goes sometimes. You can't please everyone. Budgets are a reality.

For a list of banned or challenged books visit the American Library Association's website. I encourage you to choose a book or several from the list and read it/them. In fact, for everyone who does that, and sends me a short review of a banned or challenged book, I'd be happy to post that here. Then I'll send you a review copy from my pile, if you'd like. That's a win/win situation.
Read a banned book, and encourage everyone you know to consider how banning books is a violation of and an infringement on intellectual rights and freedoms.

Ignorance is not bliss; it's just ignorance.


J.S. Peyton said...

I've just finished looking over one of the "banned books" lists and what struck me is that I must have been a pretty daring reader when I was younger! More than half of the books I've read on that list were read when I was in the sixth through tenth grade. Since then, my reading must have become pretty bland. I've only read all of two banned books, one of which, Slaughterhouse-Five, I only read this year. In fact, since I loved it so much, I think this being Banned Book Week is the perfect excuse for me to read it again. =)

April Boland said...

Great article. Most of the best books of all time have been banned. Personally, if I was never assigned a banned book in high school I might not have developed the love for literature that "Catcher in the Rye," "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and "Song of Solomon" stirred in me.

Chris said...

Very well said!

Jodie said...

Great feature!