Normally my posts are fairly lighthearted, and the ones that aren’t are more personal posts where I talk about depression and anxiety. I’ve thought long and hard about whether even to hit “publish” on today’s post, but I think, as writers, it is an apt topic for us all to consider.
Namely: Book banning.
I positively loathe all manner of internet debating, which is why I initially shied away from this subject. But it has been weighing on me for a while now. This post isn’t intended to spark a debate necessarily, merely a question of discussion. A few weeks ago, an acquaintance on Facebook shared a link to this article written by a parent from Florida who inadvertently found the r-word in one of her children’s books.
In addition to agreeing with the article’s author that the r-word has no place in a non-fiction children’s book, I fully support the author’s decision to vocalize her concerns to the book’s publisher. She was exercising her First Amendment right to send a message to the publisher. This product has a problem! You don’t have to fix it, but if you don’t, I will stop buying your product, and many other parents will too.
The publisher, in turn, made its own statement by choosing to change the book based on the feedback of concerned parents. We hear your concern, we agree, and we’ve changed it.
So far, so good, in my opinion.
However, there was one little line in the article that virtually all the comments I’ve read are ignoring. One line that has nothing to do with the rightfully concerned parent or the appropriately apologetic publisher.
I did stop into the boys’ school library to see if they had the book, and the librarian offered to take it off the shelf. (emphasis mine)
Immediately upon reading the librarian’s alleged offer, my jaw dropped.
According to my novice research on the legality of banning books in the United States, public school libraries are not allowed to remove books from shelves simply because a group of concerned parents object to their content, because as public entities they must abide by the first amendment. According to everything I have researched on the topic, first a citizen or group of citizens must challenge a book, and only after lengthy review may a book actually be banned from a public library or public school library. Various statistics I’ve come across indicate that the majority of book challenges — well intentioned though they may be — are unsuccessful in leading to a ban from that particular library.
If anyone reading this post is a lawyer specializing in the first amendment, please correct me if my interpretation of the various Supreme Court rulings on public school book bannings is inaccurate.
So, without knowing if the author’s children attended a public or private school, I have no way of knowing if what the librarian allegedly offered to do was technically illegal or not. I would like to hope that this was a private school library, where the chain of command for challenging and banning books is not (presumably?) subject to the same laws as public school libraries.
And who knows, maybe the librarian didn’t actually offer to go so far as to remove the book. Maybe the author is exaggerating for effect, and what the librarian really said was, “Well, I can personally see your objection. Here, let me walk you through the process of challenging a book.”
If it was either of these two scenarios — private school library or exaggeration in the article — then I’m content. But if this were a public library and the librarian truly did even offer to remove the book after one parent’s complaint, then I must say I am quite disturbed. In that case, I am in agreement with the mother’s objection to the word, and in agreement with the publisher’s reaction, but frightfully disturbed by what would appear to be the librarian’s unconstitutional offer to ban the book.
Tell me, what are your thoughts on book banning in general, especially if you do not live in the US and the book banning laws where you live are different?