I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about Banned Books Week until I read this somewhat-maddening column in The Wall Street Journal that paints the American Library Association as a well-funded, reactionary bully attempting to silence “a few unorganized, law-abiding parents.”
Yes, those awful, awful librarians!
The opinion piece, by Mitchell Muncy of the Institute for American Values, goes on to characterize citizens who challenge books as underdog patriots “petitioning the government for a redress of grievances” — granted, a poem by challenged YA author Ellen Hopkins provided the fuel — while librarians hand down “hidden verdicts” as they stigmatize any who dare oppose them (presumably while rolling, Uncle Scrooge-style, in a money-filled room).
Oh, and then there’s the whole table-turning moment, when Muncy asks who’s actually the censor: the mean librarian or the ordinary citizen. Hey, it’s to be expected. You don’t win sympathy, or rouse the faithful, by portraying yourself as Goliath (no matter what your cause is).
What really irked me, though, is this part: Without a hint of irony, Muncy tsk-tsks the ALA’s use of “loose language,” then asserts that books aren’t truly banned in this country because if you can’t find a title at the local library or bookstore, you can always track it down elsewhere: “Not even the most committed civil libertarian demands that every book be immediately available everywhere on request — though in the age of Amazon that’s nearly the case.”
If I were playing Muncy’s game, I might portray him as a big-city elitist with little appreciation for the child whose small town may not have a Borders, and whose family budget may not permit participation in “the age of Amazon.” For that kid and others, the forced removal of a book from the local library is, truly, a banning.
More outrageous still is the implication that the wishes of the complaining party take precedence — hey, let everybody else be inconvenienced — and that having a book pulled from the shelf is an acceptable alternative to monitoring what your child is reading and explaining why a title might not by appropriate for that child.
Banned Books Week continues through Saturday. Celebrate by going to your local library and checking out a title on the ALA’s frequently challenged books list. While you’re there, donate some books, and thank a librarian.