School Libraries

Attention: Fahrenheit 451 becomes a reality (sort of)

Today, there is an article in the Boston Globe that is implicitly about the general state of libraries. I am not sure if it appears in the newspaper itself, but here is the link to it online: The fact that this article is titled, apparently with no sense of apocalyptic irony, “Headmaster says eliminating books in library is working fine” is both frightening and hilarious. Basically, this private high school in central Massachusetts is trying to digitize the entire library. Several of the quotes from the headmaster of this school are just appalling (even more so considering they didn’t ask for a single librarian’s opinion). Here are two questions to start with: if all library collections are digitized, is there a point to having a building that people go to? And can this digital approach even be called a library anymore? Everybody watch out, because this might be knocking on Northeastern’s door as we speak.

Censorship and the library

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, 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. 🙂