DATE: 12/09/2004 10:32:00 AM
A Reader's Lament - A poster hanging in my local library illustrates perfectly the love-hate relationship I have with these repositories of books. The poster has a picture of Toni Morrison (strike one!) and the words "Elect to Read a Banned Book" on the top and "Campaign for the Freedom to Read" on the bottom. That's right, it's "Banned Books Week" or month or whatever at the library. Egad, I hate this time of year.
The self-righteousness with which the American Library Association promotes the idea that people are burning and banning books all over the country is off-putting to me, since their idea of a banned book all too often means a book with liberal themes being challenged by right-wing nutjob religious types - note in this site that stories about anti-Harry Potter protests are put right alongside stories about the Taliban destroying priceless statues. Think the ALA sees a connection?
If you're a parent who has concerns about their children seeing a particular book, then the ALA thinks you most likely "may not have a broad knowledge of literature or of the principles of freedom of expression" and that "regardless of specific motives, all would-be censors share one belief - that they can recognize 'evil' and that other people must be protected from it." For more condescension, read this article.
Personally, I'm not big on the idea of keeping books out of libraries. People should have the right to read what they want. However, doing commonsense things like restricting access to books with adult subject matter shouldn't be equated with a desire to 'ban' books. Keeping a book in the collection and restricting its checkout to adults is an acceptable compromise, it seems to me. Seems the ALA doesn't agree:
The American Library Association opposes all attempts to restrict access to library services, materials, and facilities based on the age of library users.Common sense and the rights of parents be damned, it seems. Your youngster wants to check out "Pet Semetary" or "Go Ask Alice?" Sure, go right ahead. And look up some hardcore pornography on the free internet access while you're at it! We're all about intellectual freedom here!
The ALA and libraries really talk a good talk about freedom of expression and the right to hear controversial subjects and read unorthodox authors. Until, that is, a conservative book is placed on the shelves. In my library, there is a table that features new or interesting books. Throughout the campaign season, the books have been reliably anti-Bush or pro-liberal ideas. Books like "Legacy" by Rich Lowry, "How to Talk to a Liberal" by Ann Coulter and "In Defense of Internment" by Michelle Malkin somehow never made it to the table.
Usually, the library will order at least two copies of books like "My Life" by Bill Clinton or "Dude, Where's My Country?" by Michael Moore. What about "Legacy?" One copy. "How to Talk to a Liberal?" One copy. "In Defense of Internment?" Not available. Self-censorship at the library? Perish the thought.
Banned Books Week would be a lot more credible if the library weren't such extremists in their positions and hypocrites about the types of ideas they presented to patrons. If you're a conservative entering a library, it's like being behind enemy lines. Which, to me, is the real scandal.