The Issue of Banned Books Week: Not Rated

In honor of Banned Books Week, I recently finished The Perks of being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, which is seated eighth on the ALA’s charted list of top ten most challenged books in the year 2013. The reasons for censorship, according to the ALA, were due to the use of drugs, alcohol, and smoking as well as homosexuality and sexually explicit scenes, all of which were deemed unsuited for the marketed age group. While I believe Chbosky’s novel needs to stay on our libraries’ shelves, I also want to critically examine the motivation behind the challenge to ban books and a potential way to amend the issue without the necessity to ban.

The ALA Office of Intellection Freedom and its offshoot, the Freedom to Read Foundation, shares a mission to protect the first amendment, provide resources to help local libraries with certain challenged materials, and stand against the dangers of censorship. In the context of my reaction to The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I was not surprised to find the explicit content right there between the pages. Nevertheless, I agree with ALA’s key messages on challenged books like this one: libraries are meant to provide ideas and information across the spectrum of social and political views; libraries are one of the great democratic institutions and provide freedom of choice for all people; parents are responsible for supervising their own children’s library use (Maatta Smith, 2014). In other words, I believe that libraries have just as much right not to ban books as people have the right to challenge them.

Yet critically examining the motivation behind challenged books can reveal an important, generally unaddressed issue. Statistically, from 1990 to 2010, the three leading reasons for challenged books were (1) sexually explicit content, (2) offensive language, and (3) unsuited to age group. Perhaps the real issue here is concerning the safety and protection of children, not the first amendment. The three places where books were challenged most were schools, school libraries, and public libraries. Parents are responsible for supervising their own children’s library use, but I also allege that parents can use some help.

There might be alternative methods to amend the conflict of challenged books without needing to ban them from schools and libraries. I strongly believe intellectual freedom in our libraries should not be limited or banned in any way. Yet, I think it might be helpful to rate books for the sake of parents. Generally speaking, a parent does not have time to sit down and read a book to determine whether it is appropriate for his or her child. However, just as ratings are given to feature films (G, PG, PG 13, R), I wonder if such a system could be applied to books as well. In this way, the books can still be circulated, yet parents will know by looking at the back cover whether there is “challengeable” content inside, and therefore be given the means to use a better-informed personal judgement. While this solution will not stop the challenging of books, it might empower parents to protect their children from content that may be unsuitable.

References

Maatta Smith, Stephanie. (2014). Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read [PDF Document]. Retrieved from https://blackboard.wayne.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-4795393-dt-content-rid-1488793_2/courses/LIS_6010_1209_001/Banned%20Books%20Week.pdf

Advertisements

Personal Goals/Objections for My Studies

I was drawn to library science because I love academia. However, although I am an English major, I did not want to teach, which is the number one question all English majors are asked ensuing graduation. I am thankful for my choice in Library and Information Science. The possibilities within librarianship covers a broad spectrum, and I am headed toward the desk of an academic library. My decision to pursue library science was fairly recent. I wanted a stable job I could invest myself in where I would be able work with people on a day-to-day basis, particularly in an academic setting.

Within an academic setting, I still plan to write; this is a goal requiring proactive work on my part. I plan to write and do research during my graduate studies and get as much published as I can, then eventually write book reviews for librarian resources like Voya, The Horn, and Library Journal. One of my colleagues has a column in a library magazine, which is something I could see myself getting involved in, too. Currently, I am working with one of my professors editing academic essays from European authors. In the future, whether helping out with the university newspaper/magazine, getting involved in the campus writing center, or submitting essays to academic journals, I plan to continue writing throughout my career.

Concerning the location of the university I am hoping to work in, I have my mind set outside the U.S. for the first couple of years. I would like to work in a different country while I am young and acquire more library experience in a different cultural setting. I have yet to narrow down the country and city, but I have time to weigh my options. Flexibility is a key component to job hunting. There are employment opportunities, I just have to know where to look. I believe in loving what I do. Inevitably, I am going to invest my life into something; I intend to enjoy the hours poured in, not just the money earned. From the onset, refusing to settle for “just any job” requires patience and persistence. I am a firm believer that, with a little imagination and determination, my MLIS degree has the potential to take me anywhere and provide a sustainable income in the process.

During this class, my learning objectives are to understand of the basic philosophical principles of the profession (as well as to develop my own). I want to know the effects, issues, and challenges of librarianship and relate this understanding to my career goals in order to develop a professional conceptualization of my role as a librarian and a global citizen.

Introduction: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” -Socrates

I am entering my first semester of library school at Wayne State University. I am learning, and this blog is where I will be recording the process. At twenty-two years old, I do not possess an extensive amount of life experience, and my developing knowledge within the library environment is further set in its infancy. As a result, entering into this new undertaking (i.e. graduate school) directly after finishing my undergraduate studies this past spring has left me with questions, ideals, and hopeful expectations. Being a librarian will never be my identity, I do not self-identify with my occupation, and yet, l am drawn to librarianship due to a couple different assumptions I believe. I believe that the historical origin of librarians give their profession more meaning, that librarians are respected, valued, and powerful contributors to the world of academia, and that their lifework can be rewarding merely by its nature as a service to the needs of a certain community.    

Firstly, librarians have played a critical role in the organization and preservation of historic facts and documentation that endears them to the postmodern world where life is more fragmented and subjective than ever before. I am drawn to the idea that librarians and libraries have a unique history of their own wrapped in global history. I may be idealizing librarians, yet I am attracted to their historical roots, and the ability to stay (for the most part, as far as I can tell) true to their original purpose while keeping afloat above the ever-changing development of the technological tides.

Secondly, librarians are acknowledged and have respect in the world of academia. Despite the all-too-common public understanding of what it means to be a librarian (and perhaps the obsolescence therein), among the doctors and professors of academic universities and colleges, and throughout the medical fields, librarians are valued for their ability to access and share information.

Thirdly, the work librarians do has the potential to be rewarding in nature. For individuals who love books and academia, but do not have the desire to teach full-time, nor devote their lives strictly to writing and research, becoming a librarian offers a happy medium. An academic librarian, which I am most interested in becoming, has the opportunity to teach at times. She also helps students with research and works with students one-on-one and has the ability to get involved in campus activities.

Examination is necessary, both in life and the classroom, and so as I pursue this master’s degree, I want to tread thoughtfully. I have no intention of blindly diving into something as heady as a MA with only the single-minded intention to pass my courses. I want to understand the purpose of what I am learning and how I can apply it to my work. I want to be good at what I do, and I think that requires time and careful self-examination. While my beliefs might be false or only partly true, I am looking forward to unpacking them more thoroughly, developing the truth in them as a personal philosophy, and experiencing them in the reality of the library world.