library rant #1

Censorship and the Trouble with Penguins…..

Public libraries are amazing because they are the embodiment of freedom. You can walk into a library and check out whatever you want for free. Yes, you have to return the items and YES, if they are overdue you have to pay a fine. But come on, it’s still a pretty sweet deal. And most libraries nowadays are much more “hip” than in the past. At least, mine is, anyways. At our library, you can check out books, magazines, DVDs, music CDs, audio books, and even video games. And if we don’t have what you are looking for, we can get it for you from another library. Amazing! Most people have no idea what libraries can do. And the best thing is that public libraries do not censor. This of course depends on who does the book orders, but it is true for the most part.

I like to order books that challenge and educate and inspire – or, I try to anyways. It is so important to have something for everyone. Of course, there are always people who don’t appreciate this. But, to each his own. I once had a patron who complained about the movie Monster, starring Charlize Theron. If you haven’t seen this movie, I will tell you that it is amazing, but very violent. And I had assumed, wrongly, that it was the extreme violence that the patron had a problem with. Nope. It was the lesbian relationship between two main characters in the movie. I remember being a bit stunned. I can’t remember exactly what I said to this patron. I think I pulled out a copy of our collection policy and mentioned something about censorship through clenched teeth.

In the Children’s Room, one of the biggest offenders tends to be And Tango Makes Three  by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. A true story about two male penguins who hatch an adopted egg and raise a baby girl penguin. This book is one of my all-time favorites and makes me a little teary every time I see the illustration of the two penguins sitting on a rock and wondering why it isn’t hatching. (sniff) Unsuspecting parents pick up this book (which is often displayed) and put it in their library bag to check out. They don’t bother to flip through or read a little bit of it. The illustrations by Henry Cole are so cute – and it’s easy to assume that these two penguins on the front are a male and female. That’s the trouble with penguins.

But then the parent takes the book home and starts reading it to their children. Again, they haven’t looked through it, or read it to themselves beforehand. About halfway through they suddenly realize what they are reading and close the book, to the surprise of their children. Thank goodness they caught it before any permanent damage was done! They then bring it back to the library and take me aside and tell me that they almost read this evil book to their children and why is something like this in a public library? When I ask if they read it alone, before they started reading to their children, they sheepishly tell me no, but defend themselves by saying they shouldn’t have to. I hand them a copy of our collection policy, say something about censorship and tell them to read the book first. (This also goes for kids who get scared easily. I always tell parents to watch the movie or read the book first because every kid is different. One kid is scared of the clown, while the other thinks it’s hilarious. Same principle.)

Then I like to smile sweetly and tell them how much I personally love this book and that I was the one who purchased it for the library. It just makes me happy.


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Filed under Authors, Children's, Interesting Patrons, LGBTQ, Library, Picture Books

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