13 May 2009

Oooh, It's a Big, Long Rant

I've recently developed a laissez faire attitude at work. Circulation staff still unclear on magazine procedures? Oh, well. Events staff still ignore the lovely pictures I draw them to illustrate meeting room set ups? Doesn't matter. Guy who wears the bike helmet still sings Celine Dion songs and discourses on the future of hover boards? I just let it be. It's the unfortunate side effect of having less than six weeks left as an employee. I discovered today, though, that there's one thing I cannot let be. I can never let it be. I will fight it to the end of time. Censorial patrons will never be okay with me.

I got a materials complaint this week from a parent who picked up a book her daughter checked out of the teen collection. The mother skimmed part of the book and discovered a chapter in which teens engage in underage drinking and strip poker. She would like us to throw away the book because the "whole thing is trash." Yeah, I saw that and I wanted to punch something. Possibly someone.

I read part of the book today and it's pretty mild. There's no profanity and no sex and no violence and no adult themes. It's pretty much a fluffy, plotless book that in no way glorifies either of the behaviors the mother objects to. If this is the kind of book she wants us to throw away, she needs to step away from my teen collection right. now. because if she doesn't she's going to find far more scandalous content than underage drinking and her head will explode and the number of complaints she'll have to file will deforest the entire northern hemisphere.

I don't endorse underage drinking or teens playing strip poker, but it's ridiculous to expect a library to be a collection of completely sanitized reads, and underage drinking just strikes me as one of the least offensive scenarios to encounter in teen fiction. Does this mother send her child to public school? Because if that child's school was anything like mine, she can watch some real live underage drinking in the girls' bathroom any old time she wants. And then inhale some second-hand pot and hear about the cheerleaders' sexual exploits from the previous weekend.

If I were a parent, there are things in literature that I would want to steer my children away from at certain ages (or at least be sure to talk to them about), but I hate the attitude that I don't agree with something I read so the book in which I read it has no value for me OR FOR ANYONE ELSE.

Allowing someone to read about an objectionable behavior is not the same as encouraging it. In fact the opposite is often true. Literature is a safe place for teens to experiment with risky behavior and its consequences. I loved teen pregnancy books as a middle schooler and all these years later, still no illegitimate children.

18 comments:

Alice said...

Thank goodness for no illegitimate children. It would make your future travel very awkward!

Breanne said...

lol - that last sentence: case in point! Great post, I absolutely agree.

Kirsten said...

aaaaarrrrrrgggggghhhhh. Why do people feel they have the right to engage in censorship? Because if I had that right, my first act of censorship, everything by Anita Stansfield, there wouldn't be one book of hers in any library in America and the world.

We're now going to find out if Anita surfs the internet looking for mentions of herself on blogs and websites.

JAMES said...

why did you love teen pregnancy books?

JAMES said...

Also, listen...I find it strange that violence is more acceptable than sex in film, literature, real life, etc. Would that woman find it acceptable for her daughter to read about war? Probably. War and violence are far more destructive than sex, but the theme is less taboo. Did you see that film Prince Caspian? That thing was the most violent movie I've ever seen and it was for kids! Crazy! I am getting old, huh?

MBC said...

James--I don't know why I loved teen pregnancy books. They were just interesting to me and so different from my own life . . .

I didn't see Prince Caspian, but I know what you mean. I send Ender's Game on lists of clean reads all the time, and I think, "Really, you didn't find the part where the boy tortures animals to be upsetting and inappropriate for younger or sensitive readers?"

Lori said...

No illegitimate children? Wait, what about that little girl on your voice mail? Hmmmm?

Annie M. said...

You hussy you. You advocate DIRTY books?? Chaucer! Rabelais!! Balzac!!!! How scandalous!

Nemesis said...

In my library system the rule is that whomever gets the lucky task of responding in writing to the complainer also has to forward it to all the rest of us. I don't know why this is, but I LOVE reading all the letters called "Hi, sorry you didn't like this book, but we're not taking this book from our shelves. Neener."

Sean said...

Oooh, I hate censorship. And it usually boils down to, "The mere possibility that my innocent flower of a child might stumble across this in the adult section and have their pure, fragile mind warped for life outweighs ALL OTHER CONSIDERATIONS." The implication that children (or teens, or adults) are that delicate and that other patrons' information rights are that unimportant is just so incredibly aggravating to me.

Nemesis, I really really wish that were the rule where I work. As it is I have to subsist on hearsay and gossip. SPOKEN communication, as if this were the Dark Ages.

Yankee Girl said...

Grrrr and Amen!

Anonymous said...

I always thought that if my children were smart enough to READ something, they should be able to read it. Watching it on the screen is different, because it is so effortless and visual. Mom

chou said...

I like your brilliant suggestion that parents actually read what their kids are reading. A whole world of dialogue awaits. Now. Are you coming out here before you abandon the American continent in favor of more European climes?

MBC said...

Chou--Yes, I'll be out there the day before I leave and then for a few days at the end of my trip.

Heidi said...

I'm so glad there are so many who understand the annoyance of censorship. Yay!

Eliana said...

Your mom is wise, in case you were doubting it. Her comments always make me want to go talk to her.

joanna said...

amen!!
also, hi!! I haven't commented on your blog in a long time, so i'd thought i'd drop in. you are still going to be traveling this summer, right?

MBC said...

Eliana--True. She's the best.

Joanna--Hey! Post more! I love reading about your Danish adventures, and, yes, I'm still traveling this summer.

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