Censorship in Libraries

Interesting article in the NY Times today about the Brooklyn Public Library stashing their copy of Tintin au Congo in a locked back room.  Evidently the one thing we politically correct librarians won’t tolerate is racism in books for children (see the comment below the article about Little Black Sambo). 

I must admit that I loved the Tintin books as a child – we’d grown up playing with rubber figures of Captain Haddock and Professor Calculus.  My mother was a librarian and bought as many Tintins as she could find.  Along with the Asterix and Obelix books, they were enormously popular as they were the only “comic books” in the library.  I didn’t notice the offensive images and portrayals then, but looking at them now, they are obvious. 

Still, they are products of another time.  We still circulate Birth of a Nation along with plenty of other materials that include gender, racial and religious stereotypes, so it’s interesting that Tintin was singled out. 

Of course, we do restrict access to materials – see Michael Ravnitzky’s comment about how librarians deal with problematic books.  It’s still true that we put books that are frequently stolen behind the counter.  We put Caves of Colorado (an out of print title frequently stolen by environmentalist spelunkers intent on keeping cave locations secret) and Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition (also stolen and not easily replaced, but we finally realized, keeping it behind the reference desk meant only library staff read it) back there.  The Anarchist’s Cookbook was there too (at the time it was out of print and not available online), and I must admit to being very uncomfortable handing that book two teens on the day of the Columbine massacre.  I guess the reason we didn’t lock up all the GED and SAT books is that we can replace those (test databases really are saving us money there).

What types of materials, if any, do you think shouldn’t be in libraries?  What materials are hidden behind your service desks?

Thanks to Hank Long for posting this link on Libnet.

8/21 – Since the whole Tinton thing started with a patron, I thought you might like to see this map of library material challenges and how we handled them…

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