Tuesday, August 3, 2010

In Which This Cupcake Gets A Bit Riled About Libraries and Censorship

Today is a very special day. Today is the first day I am actually blogging about something directly library-related! Woohoo! As a passionate library-lover and librarian-in-training, I try to keep up to date on all that is going on in the library world. When I caught the full details on this story via the School Library Journal article last week, I knew would have to blog about it. While I am a generally passionate person who cares a great deal about many issues, there are a few issues that get me particularly riled up. Censorship is definitely one of those especially riling issues.

So what happened? Well, earlier this April the library director of the Burlington County Library System, Gail Sweet, requested the Library Commissioners’ approval in the pulling of Revolutionary Voices: A Multicultural Queer Youth Anthology from the shelves. Apparently this event was prompted by a request for the book’s removal by the 9.12 Project, a conservative group created by Glenn Beck. From emails gathered by the ACLU of New Jersey via a Freedom of Information Act, it appears that a formal request for the book’s removal was never made; Ms. Sweet and a colleague simply decided that the book should be removed from the shelves and were then supported by the library commissioners. When a librarian within the system asked the reason behind the book’s removal, Sweet replied with merely two words: “child pornography.” It might be good to note here that Revolutionary Voices was named one of the best adult books for high school students by School Library Journal in 2001 and has been recognized by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) as a unique resource that is one of the first to really be applicable to “queer and questioning youth of every color, class, religion, gender, and ability.”

So why does this rile me up? Well, first of all, my decision to pursue library science was based on a combination of factors but one of the main reasons was the American Library Association’s incredibly strong stance on censorship and our first amendment rights. Librarians are ideally the defenders of such rights who aim to work against censorship. So, librarians would ideally be the ones resisting requests for the removal of books rather than those doing the requesting. My librarian idealism is deeply offended by the concept of a librarian giving in to such a challenge in the first place. However, the ALA also recognizes the difficult situations librarians can find themselves in concerning their collections and so recommends that every library have a written policy that details the selection process used in choosing materials for the collection. Also, many libraries use a formal process to handle challenges. These measures protect against allowing a single opinion to determine the content of the library’s collection, which is a shared source of free information for diverse populations. In this situation, the procedures were all ignored; materials were completely removed from the library shelves without any official request and based on the opinions of two people supported by a committee that did no further investigation. Frankly, this behavior just undermines the authority of libraries and librarians around the country and the world to work for free speech and open access to information. And, so it riles me. I mean, not be completely cheesy or anything, but I really believe that free speech, free press, and open access to information are basic human rights and the key building blocks to a successful democracy. Libraries and librarians currently play one of the most important roles in defending these rights. And so it breaks my little idealistic heart to hear about things like this happening.

Well, there was my censorship rant. In other news, I already struggled with WFMAD by forgetting to do my writing yesterday. But I did a make-up this morning and I vow not to forget again! Laurie has posted some great prompts on her blog every day so if you are participating and running low on ideas, check it out! But, to end on a happy note, I received the coolest little gift ever yesterday: my friend sent me a Time Turner from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! AWESOME! Look how cool it is:

I can be even more like Hermione! YES! It is now one of my great geek treasures, right up there with my Jane Austen bobble-head. Anyone else out there have some favorite geeky possessions? Or an opinion about this NJ censorship business? I promise to respond to comments promptly!

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