Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Friday afternoon I found myself in an unfamiliar spot--sitting in the school library telling the librarian that I thought a book should be removed from the shelves. I read a graphic novel from the library that was, I thought, way too graphic. It deals with a girl whose father is a sexual predator and who is, understandably, traumatized by confusing sexual messages as she grows up. The book is also full of sexually explicit pictures, rather ironically subjecting its high school reader to similar traumas. The book bothered me a lot so I scheduled a meeting to talk with our high school librarian about why it's in the school's collection.

This is not a familiar or easy position for me to be in. I believe wholeheartedly in personal censorship--that individuals and families have a right and responsibility to be selective in the books they consume--but I also believe that libraries should be a marketplace of ideas. Some of our family's most meaningful discussions have come out of books with which we disagree: it's valuable to look at your own opinions and beliefs in the light of another viewpoint.

But. This was a book in a high school library. In a private school. About pedophilia. And it was full of pictures that deeply disturbed me (and I didn't even look at most of them!). I'm not sure it even belongs in a public library.

So Friday I sat across from the librarian telling her why I thought the book didn't belong in our high school library. It actually ended up being a great discussion. She told me about why she thought it belonged there and about where she would draw the line. In the end, we agreed to disagree about that particular book but found we do have a lot of common ground. So the book I hate remains on the shelf, but I'm glad I had the conversation.

3 comments:

Adrienne said...

School libraries are entirely different from public libraries (where I work), but it's true in any library that even librarians face the issue of having to make the decision to stock materials that they, personally, dislike or disagree with for one reason or another. I select and weed books from my library's collection every day, so, on the one hand, it's routine work. On the other, it's some of the trickiest work I do. Anyway, it's interesting to hear how folks outside the profession see things, and I'm always really, really happy to see thoughtful discussions like yours happening.

Coleen said...

Way to go! I'm glad you had the courage to speak up on the issue. I'm completely with you on your opinion. I think it is good to inform about the pathology of sexual dysfunction for the protection of innocent would-be victims, but seeing it, is as you say, subjects the reader to the same experience. Even informing can be done with some discretion. also.

Nate said...

I heard a similar interesting discussion on Oregon Public Radio as I was coming home from work. It was in "On the Media" and was about free speech vs libelous speech and what ought to be protected. It reminded me of the video thing at the Anne Frank Museum, how startling some European reactions were, and subsequent discussions with our Dutch friend Rosa about the same.

Oh, and it is so nice to have you back...