Friday, February 16, 2007

Censorship, the Newbery and those darn parents!

A Fuse #8 Production: Oh, Doggone It

Thanks to Fuse #8 for pointing me in the direction of this article from Publisher's Weekly about some discussions on the LM_Net list serve of school librarians choosing not to buy this years Newbery winner the Higher Power of Lucky because the word "scrotum" is used in the story.

Stories of censorship and book challenges really RILE me up. The recent craziness of a mother in the area where I live (and in the school district I will be working in next year) who tried to get Harry Potter books taken off the shelves of the school libraries in our district, just makes my skin crawl! Thankfully, she lost on the school level, lost on the local school board level and lost on the State school board level, but is STILL going. I think this woman needs a job or something!

I believe that parents need to monitor what their child reads and if they deem any book inappropriate for THEIR child, whether due to subject matter, or reading level or maturity level of the child, then it is the PARENTS decision to make and also the parents responsibility to explain to their child why they deem a certain book or books inappropriate for them. As a parent, I do this with my children not only with books, but with movies and tv shows and toys, isn't that my JOB as a parent?

BUT.. with that said, if you have ever been in a situation where a parent is involved and wants something taken out of your collection , things can get ugly, especially if you do not have support from your administrators. Luckily, I have had only a few minor run-ins with parents about books, most of the parents did not want to go through the process of officially challenging a book and the issue was dropped and for the most part my administrators were supportive. I rewrote my schools collection development policy and materials challenge policy three years ago and I think that has helped this school to have a clear cut set of steps to follow when a parent makes a formal complaint about a book. I have had fellow media specialists go through full blown book challenges and it is not pretty. I think that these media specialists on the LM_Net list serve (of which I used to be a member of, but the amount of mail everyday was overwhelming) went about protesting this book in the wrong way. It is one thing to say that because of your population (be it student population or parent population) you choose NOT to buy this book for your collection, it is another to say you are not buying the book because of one word in the book. I will admit, that I have chosen NOT to buy some titles because I know that if we put the book in our media center, I will have a pack of parents by months end banging on my door demanding the book be removed. To me, that is not so much as censorship, as understanding my population that I am purchasing materials for (a Catholic K-8 school). Does it make me mad that I don't have Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants in my collection because I know that some of my parents would hang me by my toes if their middle school student checked it out, YES, but that is a decision I have had to make for MY particular school and my school population.

I think part of the reason that I am so picky in choosing what I will add to my collection (other than the money aspect) is that once I buy a book for my collection, I want to feel that I can defend this books place in the schools collection, no matter what parent or administrator comes in and complains about it. I think the article gets it right, in that school libraries are under a much tighter microscope than public libraries and it is because these days parents feel that THEY have the right to determine what their child learns and what should be in THEIR school libraries. Earlier this year my Principal actually had a request from a parent to preview EVERY BOOK that I bought before I put it into the collection. Luckily, the Principal told the parent he could not do that, but it amazes me that a parent would even ask that in the first place.

boy, this is too heavy of a topic for a Friday!

Oh and by the way, I HAVE bought Higher Power of Lucky for my collection and actually have it in my bag to read this weekend, I can't wait!

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