Thursday, March 09, 2006

A Decrease in Book Challenges?

The ALA has announced its annual list of the year's most challenged books. Interestingly, the number of official challenges has decreased since last year. Alas, I personally don't think this means anything, since most challenges are not reported (let's face it: if a librarian pulls a book from the shelves after a complaint, she or he is not necessarily going to write the ALA saying, "Guess what? I just banned a book!").

My sense of things is that things have gotten much, much worse lately, if only because the book challengers, who seem to be mostly conservative Christians, now have the ear of the government. And that government is taking their "concerns" very very seriously.

Here's an example. A bill in Oklahoma would withhold state money from public libraries that do not move age-appropriate gay-themed children's books out of children's areas.
Jeanie Johnson, president of the Oklahoma Library Association, said the bill "flies in the face of the idea of a public library."

"Every parent has the right to monitor what their children are reading, and should," she said. "But I don't have the right to choose for another parent what is right for their child."

The bill is similar to a non-binding resolution passed by the House last year and led to libraries in several cities moving gay themed books.

These bills are being proposed, and they're passing. And, frankly, because they deal with whole ideas and inquiries of study, they're a bigger threat to intellectual freedom than the challenge of any one individual book.


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