Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Poof! They're gone...

Many library books simply disappear from circulation, suggests Judith John, a scholar who has been studying book challenges since 1993.  This isn't new, but it's a disturbing aspect of book bans and challenges and it makes it difficult for groups such as the American Library Association and the National Coalition Against Censorship to track such challenges.

Fortunately, there have been a number of publicized challenges in the last decade, which has made it slightly better for these groups to get an idea of which titles are under fire most frequently.  This also makes it possible to hold Schools and other institutions accountable for following proper procedures, something which has been ignored in a number of recent challenges.  I will cover these later in the post.

An article in USA Today, by Didi Tang and Mary Beth Marklein, takes these issues into consideration and discusses the increase in groups, as opposed to individuals, who are responsible for book challenges today.
Whereas challenges once were mostly launched by a lone parent, Caldwell-Stone says she has noticed "an uptick in organized efforts" to remove books from public and school libraries. A number of challenges appear to draw from information provided on websites such as Parents Against Bad Books in Schools, or, and, [Deborah Caldwell-Stone, and attorney with the American Library Association] says.
This can be seen throughout a number of my posts over the last month or so.  A few complaints have been made by one or two parents, but a number have come from larger organizations as well.  These groups have more clout than an individual and are therefore able to put more pressure on schools and libraries to remove texts.  The problem here is that a lot of these School Districts and Libraries do not want to be publicly denounced and so they attempt to quietly remove the books without following proper procedure.  The article from USA Today points out three instances:
• In Plano, Texas, last month, the school district collected a textbook, Culture and Values: A Survey of the Humanities, from classrooms after a parent voiced concern, then reissued the book after former students launched a social-media campaign to object. "This decision was made behind closed doors without discussion," says Ashley Meyers, 22, a 2006 graduate who had used the book.
• After the school board in Stockton, Mo., voted in April to ban The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, English teachers who assign the book said they should have been consulted about its educational value. "We expected a more thorough, well-developed process before a book was banned," English teacher Kim Chism Jasper said during a public forum in September.
• A chapter of Glenn Beck's 9.12 Project, a conservative watchdog network, was a force behind the removal of Revolutionary Voices: A Multicultural Queer Youth Anthology from the school library at Rancocas Valley Regional High School in Burlington County, N.J. The ACLU of New Jersey requested documentation from school officials regarding how the decision was made.
These controversial instances of book challenges make it possible for anti-censorship groups to track such cases.  It is necessary to see evidence of these challenges, otherwise people won't realize how prevalent it really is.  This follows the whole purpose of my blog, to bring attention to challenges and censorship issues relating to books in the hope of enlightening people to the fact that this isn't a thing of the past.

Book banning still happens, and censoring of valuable literature is still a problem.


  1. "Book banning still happens...." False. The last time a book was banned in the USA was Fanny Hill in 1963.

    I will be writing about the article I was in soon and I'll leave a link here. Basically, I will expose plagiarism by the ALA. I'm not kidding and this is not a joke. I have impeccable sources to prove it, like the National Coalition Against Censorship. Of course, it's just my opinion, of course, but the sources I will provide will be devastating to the ALA.

    Now if the ALA is going to plagiarize, do you think it will tell the truth about book banning?

  2. Hello SafeLibraries. I do not wish to engage in any debate regarding the validity of information put out by any one organization, however if you follow the news, I think you will see that books are still banned in the US. Perhaps not on a countrywide scale, but books are still being banned from classrooms and schools, and sometimes libraries. And this can all be verified by sources other than the ALA, such as the NCAC, The New York Times, and the Canadian Library Association. You can see this evidence in the recent past, in the case of the banning of "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian in Stockton. The direct quote from the local news is as follows: "The Stockton school board voted unanimously Wednesday night to uphold its April decision to ban a book from the school curriculum." This is 2010, and book banning still happens.

  3. Sigh....

    SafeLibraries doesn't seem to agree with the generally held opinion regarding what constitutes "banning." While the eNotes website comments that Fanny Hill "was the last book ever banned in the USA," citing a 1978 reference to the 1963 court case in Massachusetts, it remains true that at levels below State or Federal legislation book banning is alive and flourishing in our school systems and libraries.

    In addition to which, US government is still banning books: take for instance the 2003 case against _The Federal Mafia_, a text informing readers how to evade US taxes. Granted, this text is not only questionable on moral grounds but actually contravenes American law, but for whatever reason, it WAS BANNED. (See the US Department of Justice website:

    But it does not take a court case to constitute censorship. Why would anyone argue against the existance of challenges, banning, and censorship? It exists at all levels of our society. When a librarian makes the decision not to include a text for any of a number of ideological--rather than financial or logistic--reasons, that is censorship. When the owner of Chapters, Canada, refuses to present _Mein Kampf_ for sale in stores or on the corporate website, that is censorship (although books ABOUT the book, and the sequel, are now available online). When a teacher chooses not to incorporate picture books with alternative family structures in them, that is censorship. When a parent--mine--tells a child she can't read _A Clockwork Orange_, that is censorship. Sometimes it is the right call for parents to make for a child, but only their OWN children, who can deal with the repercussions in other ways. None of us has the right to legislate the reading habits of others, yet parents and groups continue to accost our school systems with challenges that--in Canada at least--cost the School Boards in real financial ways that our eduational system can ill afford. Ignoring that this is happening is rather like an ostrich with its head in the sand; actively claiming that this is not happening seems socially unconscionable.

  4. "[B]anning is alive and flourishing in our school systems and libraries."

    It's selection, not banning. Schools are allowed to select the books the children read, no?

    "When a parent ... tells a child she can't read..., that is censorship."

    Well, with that as the measuring stick, censorship occurs hundreds of thousands of times a week across America.

    "SafeLibraries doesn't seem to agree with the generally held opinion regarding what constitutes 'banning.'"

    I'll have to agree, but only if you think, "When a parent ... tells a child she can't read..., that is censorship."

    May I suggest taking a look at this: "It's Not Censorship, It's Parenting! -- Best Explanation Ever for What's Wrong With the American Library Association and its Effect on Public School Libraries."