Monday, July 7, 2008

Banned Blog Week?

A mini tempest over the blog caught me completely unawares last night. Someone had posted to LM-Net asking about ideas to read up on in preparing for a job interview as a high-school librarian. She received some excellent advice, including catching up on Web 2.0 , and I sent her the link to this blog as a good place to get some specifics on the different tools available.

Apparently, all she saw was the Iraqi death toll widget on the right there. She sent me an email that she also posted to the list-serv, saying I used the blog as a subterfuge for advancing my own political agenda, and that other unwary LM-Netters needed to be warned.

Now, it has all blown over; we've exchanged emails, taken the high road and agreed to let by-gones be by-gones. Ironically, as with all such contretemps, my blog hits increased, literally, 1,000 fold. According to my stats, I average around 30 hits per day (and most of those last less than 5 seconds!). Yesterday I had close to 700. Yeeha! Curiosity is a wonderful thing; some of those viewers may even become regular readers.

Anyone involved in such an issue, however, can't help pondering censorship, freedom of speech, and where we must stand as librarians. If my blog isn't necessarily political, this post definitely is.

According to the ALA Library Bill of Rights,
  1. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.
  2. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.
As librarians we have a moral and civic obligation not only to guard against personal bias in our choice of materials, but also to actively protect diverse points of view and freedom of speech. As Supreme Court Justice Brandeis stated in his decision on Whitney vs. California, "It is the function of speech to free men from the bondage of irrational fears."

This small spate with my blog is only a tempest in a teapot and is pretty much over. Yet it reflects a larger issue. When The Higher Power of Lucky won the Newbery last year, I laughed over the uproar caused by the anatomically correct word, "scrotum." There will always be those willing to be 'shocked! shocked!' at insults to their sensibilities.

I was less amused however, when I read in the NY Times that librarians--librarians!!--promised to ban the book from their libraries on the basis of a single word used appropriately and in context. No doubt some of these promises came from an unwillingness to face the inevitable parental challenges. While I don't believe we should buckle to the forces of intolerance, I at least understand the decision.

What I neither understand nor condone is the decision to completely ban the book from the library. Not keep it for more mature upper-elementary readers, but omit it from the collection altogether. To impose a personal set of values upon the reading materials of an entire student body. This goes against everything we, as librarians, not only should stand for, but MUST stand for.

If we allow the dictates of a vocal minority to threaten and bully others into adopting their limited agenda, we are all intellectually the poorer for it.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Jeri for an intelligent conversation about so many things! Everything can be considered political in this day and age; and the last time I checked freedom of speech was still part of our precious American experience