Intellectual freedom, or the right of everyone to seek and receive information from all points of view, is a cornerstone of the American library. It is also one that is being constantly challenged. Almost every librarian has encountered the customer who insists that we remove an item from our shelves. Often, the depiction of sex or sexual orientation brings a book to someone's attention. Other times it is because of graphic language or supposedly anti-religious views (like the very recently challenged Golden Compass). Whether or not we, as individuals, agree that certain materials are potentially offensive is irrelevant. Librarians by profession are fundamentally against censorship and are proponents of intellectual freedom. I thought I would highlight current censorship issues on the library's blog every now and again or when one becomes especially relevant. The following two recent incidents show two different outcomes of material being challenged in a library or a school.
- The often challenged picture book, King & King, was again brought into the fray in West Virginia when a school district was accused of indoctrinating its children with positive images of healthy and loving families that are headed by same-sex parents. (And Tango Makes Three, based on the true story of two male penguins that adopt an orphan penguin, was one of the most challenged books in 2006 for similar reasons.) The court, however, dismissed the case on several grounds stating that public schools do not carry the responsibility of shielding students from views that may be religiously unsupported.
- The Nampa Public Library in Idaho recently relocated the popular Joy of Sex series to the director’s office. From now on, if you want to reference this book for any reason, you have to go through administration. Randy Jackson is quoted as saying that the books are “pornography and very detailed.” However, he doesn’t feel that all sex books should be removed. Just the ones he looks at that he finds are too detailed and pornographic.
I'll keep you posted in the never-ending saga of censorship.