Monday, June 18, 2007

Librarian Fundamentalism: Quintessential Censorship

As a follow up to my previous post about two librarians who used their power to keep two books off their shelves and out of the reach of overly curious high school students, I thought that I would post part of the the Library Bill of Rights:

I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.


And now for an interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights, entitled "Diversity in Collection Development":

Throughout history, the focus of censorship has fluctuated from generation to generation. Books and other materials have not been selected or have been removed from library collections for many reasons, among which are prejudicial language and ideas, political content, economic theory, social philosophies, religious beliefs, sexual forms of expression, and other potentially controversial topics.

Some examples of censorship may include removing or not selecting materials because they are considered by some as racist or sexist; not purchasing conservative religious materials; not selecting materials about or by minorities because it is thought these groups or interests are not represented in a community; or not providing information on or materials from non-mainstream political entities.

Librarians may seek to increase user awareness of materials on various social concerns by many means, including, but not limited to, issuing bibliographies and presenting exhibits and programs. Librarians have a professional responsibility to be inclusive, not exclusive, in collection development and in the provision of interlibrary loan. Access to all materials legally obtainable should be assured to the user, and policies should not unjustly exclude materials even if they are offensive to the librarian or the user. Collection development should reflect the philosophy inherent in Article II of the Library Bill of Rights: “Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.”


Note that this clearly states that a failure to "select" is a form of censorship. Note that minority viewpoints should be especially protected.

The librarians who banned the books discussed in my previous post used the same vilification tactics that many in the past have used to justify their censorship. What is clear to anyone who follows these issues is that this involves highly controversial topics. Both sides accuse the other of distorting the facts and both sides accuse the other of politicizing the issues. This issue is at the heart of the culture wars. This is precisely the situation where librarians need to be on the side of open debate and discussion and free access to alternative viewpoints- even viewpoints with which they disagree.

5 Comments:

At June 19, 2007 6:36 PM, Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

It is noteworthy that the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover did not even attempt to have the ID book "Of Pandas and People" banned from the school library but only sought to have the book and the book's mention -- along with the rest of the ID statement -- banned from the science classrooms. In opposing the Rutherford Institute's application to intervene in the case, the Dover plaintiffs actually bent over backwards by arguing against banning the book from the school library:

. . .Applicants can allege a colorable constitutional claim only by mischaracterizing plaintiffs’ complaint. Applicants claim that plaintiffs “seek to remove supplemental textbooks from the school library.”. . .This misreads the complaint, which seeks only to remove the book Of Pandas and People from the High School’s ninth grade biology class. See Compl. at 22-23. (Prayer for Relief). The mischaracterization is not surprising because the Third Circuit distinguishes removing books from a library and removing books from a classroom: “‘special characteristics of the school library make that environment especially appropriate for the recognition of the First Amendment rights of students,’ for the library, unlike the school classroom, is a place for voluntary inquiry and study.” See Kreimer v. Bureau of Police for Town of Morristown, 958 F.2d 1242, 1254 (3d Cir. 1992) (Plaintiffs’ Response to Rutherford Institute Motion to Intervene, pp. 10-11. Filed February 4, 2005)

The Darwinists are of course going to again move the goalposts for the definition of "banned book." Before, the Darwinists claimed that Judge Jones did not really ban "Of People and Pandas" because he only removed the book from classrooms but did not remove it from the school library. Now the Darwinists are going to hocus-pocus that "Darwin's Black Box" and "Darwin on Trial" were not really "banned" from a school library but were merely "rejected" by what Stephen A. Newman calls "legitimate selection processes." Or they will hocus-pocus that these two books do not officially qualify as "banned books" because they were not banned by a judge. I am not going to waste my time trying to get those Wikipedia control freaks to add these two books to the Wikipedia list of "banned books."

 
At June 19, 2007 7:07 PM, Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Lawrence Selden wrote:

>>>>> Note that this clearly states that a failure to "select" is a form of censorship. <<<<<<

The case of "Darwin's Black Box" and "Darwin on Trial" was not just a "failure to select" but was a rejection of books that were donated to the library.

 
At June 21, 2007 6:38 AM, Anonymous Lawrence said...

Larry,

Thanks for the info. However, some would still say that "removal" is different than "failure to select," and that rejection of donated books is not "removal."

The fact remains that these are books about a very significant public controversy, by credentialed academics, who are supported by many other credentialed academics, who represent a minority position. These are exactly the books that librarians should be protecting, not banning.

I could give plenty of other reasons why the librarians' actions are wrong, but I think they are pretty obvious to those who are aware of the facts, as opposed to misinformation and conspiracy theories.

 
At June 21, 2007 11:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You guys are a hoot. You seem to think that public school libraries should be forced to accept every book donated from every single wacko group out there, without paying any attention to the fact that public school libraries have limited shelf space, specific educational goals, and usually have preexisting and specific collection policies about donated books.

If libraries didn't have these policies, it would be chaos as every group with an axe to grind attempted to stuff the shelves with their ideology.

 
At June 22, 2007 11:58 AM, Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Anonymous said...

>>>>> without paying any attention to the fact that public school libraries have limited shelf space, <<<<<

Limited shelf space was not mentioned as a factor in the decision to reject "Darwin's Black Box" and "Darwin on Trial." Anyway, it is difficult to argue that there is no shelf space or backroom space for just two more books.

>>>>> specific educational goals <<<<<<

-- i.e., specific educational goals to give students just one side of a controversy.

>>>>>> and usually have preexisting and specific collection policies about donated books. <<<<<

The library that rejected those two books obviously did not have a policy of not accepting any donated books. Public libraries -- including public school libraries -- should either accept all reasonable book donations or accept none. When these libraries accept some donated books but arbitrarily reject others merely because of disagreement with the ideas expressed therein, that's discrimination.

>>>>> You seem to think that public school libraries should be forced to accept every book donated from every single wacko group out there <<<<<<

The constitutional principles of freedom of speech and freedom of the press were intended precisely for the purpose of providing protection from attitudes such as yours.

Also, as I said in a previous comment, it is noteworthy that the Dover plaintiffs did not even attempt to have "Of Pandas and People" removed from the school library and even bent over backwards by arguing against such removal. Furthermore, around 50 copies of the book -- not just one or two -- were donated to the library, showing that the main purpose of the donation was not merely to diversify the library's collection but was to provide supplemental reading material for the science courses.

 

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