Over the course of a week, I have been reading and seeing information about censorship in the library (c/o my MLS courses). The issues of controversial books, censorship, and professional ethics have all come into play. Take a simple children’s book for example: And Tango Makes Three. This heartwarming book chronicles the relationship and family life of an unusual pairing of penguins: Roy and Silo, two males. Traditionally, every year a female penguin and male penguin find each other and create a permanent attachment to one another, similar to that of a human relationship. However, one year, two male penguins created a bond outside of the traditional boy-girl pairing. As their relationship developed and they began nesting like all the other penguin couples, they realized that there was something missing from their duo: a baby chick. After being given an abandoned egg from a zookeeper, the pair began to care for the egg diligently and finally the baby chick, named Tango, was hatched from the egg to become the first baby at the zoo to have two daddies. And Tango Makes Three cleverly describes a male homosexual relationship in the animal kingdom world to young children. We actually have this book at Snell Library in the Favat section (see link above). According to Worldcat.org, in addition to Northeastern, there are about 1800 other libraries around the world that also own this book. However, this book has some very controversial topics (namely homosexual realtionships) and they are being presented to young children, which may not sit well with some parents and even librarians who select children’s materials. It wasn’t until I read Debra Lau Whelan’s article A Dirty Little Secret: Self-Censorship for one class, that I realized there may be censorship of this book going on, despite the number of libraries who own it. According to the article, it appears there is a “quiet” censorship that happens outside of the more public act of removing a book from the shelf due to controversy. Librarians are simply not buying materials for the library because of the backlash the materials might recieve from the community (what would ALA say, re: VI and VII?). This may not apply to an academic library in liberal Massachusetts, but is And Tango Makes Three an appropriate book for children and ultimately a school library? Are there libraries out there that might “self-censor” this book? Do libraries actually have the right to “self-censor” books because of the fear of backlash, or is it a required part of professional ethics that they put aside those fears and personal convictions? You know, in case people wanted a little “light” discussion. 🙂
I saw this article on book burning that I thought might be of interest (“A teen book burns at the stake”). A group of citizens in West Bend, Wisconsin has been trying to remove Baby Be-Bop from the shelves of their public library. When the Library Board decided not to comply with their request, it looks like several members of the board were ousted. Another group, the Christian Civil Liberties Union, has filed a lawsuit against the town and library, and have called for the book to be publically burned. The author in question, Francesca Lia Block, is actually one Natalie had mentioned earlier.