Week 12. Issues based reflection: censorship of children's library choices.

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    • #2523
      Deborah Fuller

      Libraries offer children a chance to engage in the pleasure of reading, offering them a wide section of books to choose from. These include books aimed at all age groups with an extensive range of content, some of which may not be considered suitable for children by society generally. This reflection considers whose responsibility is it to decide if a book is suitable for a child and if not, should they be prevented from borrowing it. Although specifically focussing on books this can apply any product, program or service offered by the library.

      Censorship can be defined as limiting free access to information or resources  and overcoming censorship challenges can be problematic . This is in opposition to the tenet of librarians for the rights of all members of the community, including children to have free and open access to information :

      Information professionals typically feel that they should provide access to information regardless of content or conflict with their personal points -of- view

      However, the issue of censorship still remains an emotive one effecting many values including religious, social, professional and ethical. Does the librarian have a duty to protect the child from potentially harmful material or is the act of restricting access unethical?

      There is also the potential problem of a challenge by a concerned parent, as it is often the parent who is concerned about a books content, rather than the child . In order to mitigate for this, it is important for the library to have policies in place to defend themselves against such a challenge, such as the selection policy and any particular policies they have in place for lending books to children These policies should be in concord with free access to information by all and a right to select material without censorship and should be in agreement with the concept of intellectual freedom They also have a right to privacy in their book choices as they may be researching a subject they are not ready to discuss with their parents such as sexuality

      It is important for librarians to realise it is not their role to control and monitor what children are reading, but that of the parent. To that end many libraries require the parent to sign a consent before the child is issued with a library card, which can detail the library’s policy on lending material to children. The parent is often in a better position to decide what is suitable for a child, as all children are individuals and are thus deal with content in books differently.

      The librarian’s role is not that of a censor but that of a provider and facilitator of information. It is a matter purely between the child and its parents to decide and monitor what is appropriate material for the child to be accessing.

    • #2620
      Katherine Lee

      Great post, Debbie. It is such a difficult issue to deal with. I liked your conclusion that it is the role of the parent, not the librarian to monitor what a child is reading. Although I sometimes feel that children are best able to decide whether a book is right for them. I think children are quite good a self-censoring and tend not to engage with certain subjects unless they are ready to deal with them. Some children’s maturity levels might be higher than others and they might be ready to read books that deal with more adult themes. In those cases I feel those children have a right to make an informed decision to read books that engage with those subjects as long as they feel comfortable.  Having said that, I do believe that some care needs to be taken by librarians and parents to make sure that there is some obvious differentiation between children, YA and adult sections.

    • #2651
      Deborah Fuller

      Thanks for your feedback Katherine, I do agree that children should be able to self-censor what they read to a certain extent. I feel that if any censoring does take place it should be performed by the parents, as it is to be hoped that they would know better than the librarian what they can cope with it. I don’t feel that they should blame the librarian if the child borrows a book that they disapprove of. It is a very tricky  and  potentially contentious area, particularly as I have no children.

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