When the Librarian Crosses the Line

by Elizabeth on November 10, 2010 · 4 comments

in banned books week, censorship sucks, librarians, librarianship, libraries

I wrote and published this last year on my old student library blog.  I think it’s really interesting and still relevant so I wanted to share it with you today.

Last year I came across a story about a book challenge in a public library in Kentucky.  Not so unusual, right?
Wrong.  This article was scary.  The reason it was scary?  A library staffer was the one challenging the book.
The situation is this: A library staffer in a county public library in Kentucky came across the graphic novel The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume IV: The Black Dossier in the children’s/YA section of the library. She felt that it had way too many sexual situations and was not suitable for children, so she took it to her director.  Her director disagreed with her challenged and returned the book to the shelves. 
The library staffer’s next step to stop children from checking out the book was to check it out herself, and keep renewing it. This was working fine for almost a year until she went to renew it on September day and discovered that an 11 year old girl had requested the book. The library employee was so distressed that a child would want to read what she considered inappropriate material that she asked a colleague to override the hold (can we say invasion of privacy?!?!). The director found out about this and both women were fired from the library. You can read more about the story here.

I obviously find a number of things were distressing about this story. But the worst thing (to me) is that this woman took it upon herself to decide what is appropriate or inappropriate for children. Who gave her this right?

It is not up to the library, the school, the teacher, the government, or the general public to decide what is or what is not okay for children to read. The only person who can make that decision is the parent of the child in question. This is why fighting censorship and promoting things like Banned Books Week are so important.  No one has the right to take a book of the shelf without a legitimate complaint.  That’s what makes this story so striking to me and why I feel the library board did the right thing in firing the staffers; not only did they violate censorship policies, they went against the director’s wishes. 
Do you think this library worker crossed the line? She and another colleague were fired for accesses records and removing a hold request on the book. Do you agree with the library board that firing these women was the right thing to do?  I do, but I want to hear your opinion!

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jennifer November 10, 2010 at 4:28 pm

Totally agree!


2 Christine November 10, 2010 at 5:25 pm

In my humble non-librarian opinion…this is ridiculous! You are absolutely right that no one but a child's parent should make this decision.


3 Colean November 10, 2010 at 9:21 pm

I'm glad they were fired. I'd be crazy upset if someone took it upon themselves to decide what was best for my children (should I ever have any).


4 Jon November 11, 2010 at 1:26 am

Why do you bother to have a Children's section? It seems they should have just moved it to the adult section. Am I missing something?


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