Steamrollered: when librarians are told to censor kids' books


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This was heartening to read.

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While I understand the stress being put in this situation causes, I think the librarian in this story failed in her responsibility. Censorship is ALWAYS the last resort. As such, there has to be absolute agreement that a book is inappropriate for a library’s collection and the bar for that agreement must be set VERY high. By side-stepping the issue and sending the book to another branch, the librarian missed the opportunity to explain that the book may be inappropriate for HER child, but not for ALL children. As such, it is the parent’s responsibility to act AS a parent and not the library’s responsibility to act “in loco parentis”.

Josh <-- Speaking as library board president of a mid-sized Ohio library system.


Agreed! Lovely to read when someone gets it right!

As a YA librarian, I’m always taken aback by parents that expect that it is part of our job to “screen” content for their children, simply because it is from the library. This is totally unrealistic. In my belief, it is the parents’ job to pre-screen written material or media (if they feel the need to do so). How much time would it have taken for that mother to flip through that picture book before sitting down and reading it with her child? A minute? Maybe less? The whole crisis could have been averted.

As a funny aside, I once had an adult patron (while I was working the reference desk) suggest that we ban our Slang Dictionary because it had “offensive language” in it. That one always cracks me up. What did she think was going to be in there - poetry? There are lots of people that constantly seek offense, but it really irks me when these people want someone else to be complicit in their own neuroses.


It’s been a while since I was a kid so this is actually a serious question. I always assumed Bugs Bunny and the gang would be considered kid-friendly fare. Is it currently considered too violent?

It took me a long time to realize how lucky I was to live near a library with a staff that has a Second Amendment attitude toward the First Amendment. They give out “I Read Banned Books” pins and Internet access is unfiltered.

Kids are better at distinguishing between reality and fantasy than most people remember about their own youth. I grew up on the classic cartoons and never once tried to drop a flatiron on the cat.


RE: Bug Bunny.
I have a laserdisc collection of Loony Tunes cartoons made in the 40’s.

One “Bugs Nips the Nips” bugs sets up a ice cream shop on a Island to sell hand grenades disguised as ice cream bars to buck toothed, thick glasses wearing Japaneese.

And others that feature drunk storks or my favorite drunk witch “broomhilda”

I think they have two version of that collection now on DVD…a parsed down version suitable for most library’s children section and a uncensored collection.
Even Disney has gone through and removed Cigarettes from some of it’s cartoons like Pecos Bill. (who in the original was always smoking or rolling a cigarette).

Edit: Here’s a link about Pecos Bill:

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It would be interesting to understand how they weighed up what they would be taking away from the other users of the library to placate this one parent. Unfortunately i agree that the response was an example of “taking the easy way out”. We all do that at work from time to time, but here indulging such dubious requests could easily lead to more being made.

I remember being found reading Orwell’s 1984 by my teacher when I was 10 and him taking it up with my mum. I think I was lucky she told him what he could do with his concerns, even if I didn’t get everything that was going on in the book. Learning that certain ideas are off-limits seems like a bad thing to learn in a library.


Yeah, all the parent had to do would be to ask “Do you think that could really happen?”. You get a response like “No! They’d be squished! That’s silly!” and move on.

For one of the librarians: First, Thank you!
Second, is it not possible to simply set a lock of some kind on the complainers account?
" Ban this book" Okay, YOU may not check it out. I feel the same way about some of the legislation coming out of Congress.
[mod edit: removed signature]
U.S.A. has the best government money can buy.

My dad bought me one of those Slang Dictionaries, along with a Rhyming dictionary that I’d asked for, when I was maybe 13 or 14. My mother refused to let him give me the Slang dictionary. I’d been reading adult science fiction since I was 8 years old, so I don’t think there was much in there I was unfamiliar with. Actually I remember it being kind of dull (when I was finally allowed to have it two years later). Every page pretty much had a slang term for “drunk”, “breasts”, “penis”, and “sex”.

"How much time would it have taken for that mother to flip through that picture book before sitting down and reading it with her child? "

If you look again at the article, you’ll see that the mother had already read the book to her child before she complained about it.

I worked at a small university’s library and recall the director wanting to expand our collection slightly to include some topics of interest that weren’t academic, like items on cooking, sports, and personal fitness (the school primarily taught health-services studies). Since the university was associated with a flavor of the Christian church, it shouldn’t have surprised me that two or three of the DVDs purchased were rejected by the director because their covers were “too racy” in that their covers featured women in leotards performing some of the exercises in the videos.

We ask if the person initiating the complaint had read the entire book, since many passages are problematic taken out of context but wouldn’t upset the reader if the entire book was read. Often they had not read the entire book; once they had read it they would not follow through with the request.

Somehow I imagine those asking for censorship aren’t up to that particular task.

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