“It will be asked whether one would care to have one’s young daughter read these books. I suppose that by the time she is old enough to wish to read them she will have learned the biologic facts of life and the words that go with them. There is something seriously wrong at home if those facts have not been met and faced and sorted by then; it is not children so much as parents that should receive our concern about this. I should prefer that my own three daughters meet the facts of life and the literature of the world in my library than behind a neighbor’s barn, for I can face the adversary there directly. If the young ladies are appalled by what they read, they can close the book at the bottom of page one; if they read further, they will learn what is in the world and in its people, and no parents who have been discerning with their children need fear the outcome. Nor can they hold it back, for life is a series of little battles and minor issues, and the burden of choice is on us all, every day, young and old.”
—Judge Curtis Bok, Commonwealth v. Gordon, 66 Pa. D. & C. 101, 110.
When I first went to college, so many years ago, I did not go into Library Science. I first was planning to be a History teacher. I always liked learning about things from the past, and how interesting it was. But, as the old saying goes, I was also learning about the things that we shouldn't repeat. I also had my love for the book. My love for the written word was always there from the time I could read. My second semester, I shifted to English Education. That did fulfill more for me. But, there was still something missing. I met a few ladies in my English classes, and they told me that I should double up on English Education, and Library Science. I thought about, and decided to do both. Eventually, my love for libraries won everything over, and here I am still. Doing what I love, and what I think I am meant to do.
As a Library Science student, you learn many things in your field. We learn how to catalog books, we learn the ideas of the library life, but we most importantly learn collection development. At times, collection development is such a daunting task. You are the one, eventually, that is picking the books that are going to appear on your library's shelves. That includes reading synopsizes', looking at covers, reading reviews, and listening to your patrons who come into the library.
I myself, look at many of those things. Yes, sometimes I just get a book because it does say John Grisham, James Patterson, or Janet Evanovich on it because I know it's going to go out. I also, have more of an advantage, because I am a public librarian. Being a public librarian, you don't have the structure and the conformity of a school system. You don't have to walk on egg shells, and fear what you put into your collection. Being a school librarian, however, is a much more difficult job.
We are taught as librarians, to have collection for all. When you say all, it means the audience that you are doing the collection for. In my case, I am collecting for babies up to adults. In a school setting, you are doing the collection for the age range of children you are collecting for. In particular, some books have such fantastic merit such as being on the bestsellers list for over fifty weeks, shortlisted for the national book award for young people's literature, and impressively awards like the Coretta Scott King Award for showing the excellence of a book for young adult or children, written by a person of color, that reflects the African American experience. As a librarian, no matter what capacity, we look for these types of books. It gives it better standards in what we choose. It gives a look into a culture that most of us in certain areas, have no idea what others other than ourselves are going through. It's a teachable moment. And we have to be there for it.
Again, I have the luxury of not always worrying about certain things in books. I know school librarians have to worry about language, about certain words, about certain situations. But, when it comes to expressions, when it comes to situations, when it comes to language, no matter what, I still think that it belongs on a shelf. Whether you choose to open that book or not, is dependent upon the person who is opening that book, or in a child's case, the parent.
I believe in intellectual freedom. Which by definition of the American Library Association says: “Intellectual freedom is the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored.” It is a basic human right to want to obtain knowledge, in both a public and a school library setting. It is not the right of one person, or a few to decide to make a choice for many. And if you are concerned about books that someone is reading, you TAKE the time to read them fully. You heard of don't judge a book by it's cover. Well, don't judge a book by a few select pages.
And I hate to burst everyone's bubble, but adults, and more so children, are exposed to adult content every single day that are not a books fault. They have access to the internet, other people, YouTube, and countless other forms of self expression. There should not be apologies for having real life experiences depicted in a book on a shelf.
This is not a can a worms that one should open. Once the can is open, it will become a greater problem. What if one person or a group of people doesn't like the color yellow for the school bus? Are we going to change it to green?
I am a proud defender of self expression, and intellectual freedom through the printed word, among other forms. I feel there are some who are afraid to share their feelings on this subject. I am writing about it, in hopes that some feel that they can say something different. That they can defend how they feel. I know some won't agree with what I have shared. And that's ok. But I can share my opinion, and fight for two things that are so important in my life's profession. One, the intellectual freedom. Two, the book. It's not always about the hate for something that you accept. It's sometimes about the hate you give.