Welcome to the AAS Celebration of Banned Books Week!
Every day this week, we will be bringing news of book banning from across the divisions and around the world. Banning Books Silences Stories, and our community has more than a few stories of censorship, either from a home country, a place we’ve lived, or from family and friends.
Take a moment today to appreciate your right to your personal story, and your ability to see it in literature and on film, and feel free to share this message with anyone you choose.
Today’s topic: the subtleties and the details.
It’s easy to be outraged at widespread book challenges and banning, but the majority of cases that librarians see are secret, subtle, and whispered to one another. For every case that we see in the news, there are many times more that are unreported. Sometimes, teachers fear retribution. Sometimes, it doesn’t feel worth the fight. Sometimes, it is a private affair, not even known through the school community.
One of our teachers had one sentence removed from a library book. It doesn’t seem like a problem, unless you know that the sentence was the only reference in the story to the idea that a family could have “two mommies or two daddies.”
As librarians, we’ve noticed in several libraries that some books just go missing. Perhaps a person is taking a book home in private to explore a topic, but sometimes that book is secreted away because someone disagrees with the content. We’ve seen books returned with blackout marks, with pages glued together, or just never returned. Both Kris and K have found themselves in the stacks discovering a topic previously unknown, and believe that the library is a place to discover information about topics that are difficult to research online.
Every person has the right to their own choices, both for themselves and for their family. One of our teachers is a relative of the author of “Amber Brown,” a popular series for younger readers. The books are loosely based on reality, with Amber tackling some topics in the books that our teacher didn’t exactly experience. Her brother chooses not to have those books in his home, for his own children, believing that the books are “too much” for his kids. It is his right to do so, his parental decision.
In much the same way, we as professionals are choosing where to place the books so the “right” group has the “right” access. Educators are deciding what to put in their classroom, how to find that just right balance of interesting and accessible for the kids that spend so much time in that room. As librarians, we decide what to purchase, where in the library it goes, what books may have notes. Teachers make those choices as well.
One high school student this week mentioned that books don’t have a rating system like films do. There are no systems of parental controls that influence our library either. We place a lot of trust in our patrons in knowing what they are interested in, what they are ready to experience, what they prefer for that moment. Giving that trust can be very scary, but books are a safe place to explore topics that we struggle to make sense of in our real lives. They are a safe place to feel scared, to talk about grief, to think about choices, to develop empathy.
Here at AAS, we are fortunate to have educators who trust the library. And we would like to thank each and every person who has shared a story with us, spoken about a tough topic with a student, or just came up to enjoy the literature with us.