Banned Books Week, a coda: Selection as censorship?

Banned Books Week officially ends today but I’m still thinking about it and I’m leaving my display up probably for the whole month. Why? Because a week isn’t long enough to process all of these thoughts and issues for me. And because I’m lazy. Putting up a display takes some doing, and since I’ve started doing two simultaneous ones during the month, I don’t want to do another. Plus, I also think it takes patrons a little while to notice things.

So I’m leaving up the display for a while which may make me a bad librarian, but I’m ok with that.

I have been thinking this week about book buying and how that can be considered censorship in some ways. I’m trying to get my YA collection to be in a good place. I want it to have something for everyone and all the necessary things that it needs, like books for assignments, or the classics, or #253 in the popular vampire series that I will get run out of town on a rail by an angry, be-pitchforked mob of teen girls if I don’t buy. But it’s hard. I only have so much money and there are a lot of good and important books out there that I would like to buy. Over and over again, I find myself pushing back buying nonfiction books that would be great for projects or nonfiction pleasure reading over an important, well-reviewed fiction book about bullying or self-acceptance or zombies. It’s really hard to make those decisions. I do have guidelines in place that help me decide what to buy such as trying to buy x% of nonfiction or graphic novels but those guidelines can be so fluid. And I really like zombies, so it’s hard not to buy a bunch of those books.

As I’m thinking about this a post from TeenLibrarian’sToolbox comes up about “selection as censorship.” I love Karen (as I’ve said before) and I do think I understand what she is trying to say, but sometimes selection is just selection. If you aren’t buying a book because it sounds terrible, is poorly reviewed, and you don’t think there is an audience for it, does that count as censorship or are you just being smart with your money? Obviously, not buying a book because of perceived or actual questionable, inappropriate, or offensive content could be considered censorship, but it’s not like you are preventing any library from buying the book. Or trying to burn all the copies. Does that mean you’re a terrible censor or just a bit wussy? I’ll freely admit to being a bit of a wuss but I still can’t remember a book yet that I haven’t bought because it seems too controversial.

And sometimes, as I mentioned earlier, it’s just not right for your audience. Is realizing that a novel might work better in the Young Adult section than the Children’s section censorship? Or is that selection and collection development? Is it censorship when you can check out any book you want from any section? I know that some people will say that putting things in sections creates a sort of “age limit” mentality people feel like they can’t transcend their section to go somewhere.

It’s an interesting question, and Karen’s post is certainly thought-provoking. Maybe I’m a terrible, horrible censorious person who’s trying to prevent everyone from having their fun. Or I’m just trying to make the best decisions I can with the money and resources I have.

Now for book reviews!

On the YA front, I read The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart and finished The Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin and Flesh & Bone by Jonathan Maberry. As far as recommendations go, if you’re looking for a great book about a boarding school, hijinks, one kick-ass girl, and some gentle feminism about what it means to be a girl in a boy-dominated world, read Frankie. It’s great, hilarious, and totally heartwarming. I’m quite gruntled after having read it –  if you do read the book, you’ll learn about all the new words Frankie creates.

The Masque of the Red Death was alright. It’s sort of based on the Poe story of the same name, where the rich party in masks while the poor die of a plauge outside, but then there’s really two plagues and a borderline abusive love interest. Oh and it’s a series kickoff. The combination of those things made it sour for me a little bit. I mean, really, what it is with the borderline abusive love interests/boyfriends. Girls, listen, if a guy is moody, dismissive, and treats you like dirt, he’s not dreamboat material! He’s just a jerk and you shouldn’t date him. Sigh.

Finally, Flesh & Bone is the third of four books in the Benny Imura zombie series which I absolutely adore. It was really hard reading this book because I feel so attached to the characters that I was worried that something horrible was going to happen to them. Horrible things happen to them in all the books, so I shouldn’t be surprised but I just want them to be ok! Maybe in book four, everything will turn out alright. But seriously, read it. It’s so great.

Next up is new BFF Libba Bray’s The Diviners. I’ll tell you how it turns out. I’ve heard it is really scary, so I may have to sleep with the light on!

One thought on “Banned Books Week, a coda: Selection as censorship?

  1. That’s an interesting question. I see selection as being on the censorship spectrum, and whether I think it is permissible depends on the reasons behind the selectivity. If the librarian or school board is selective due to budgetary concerns (and it’s not pretext for viewpoint discrimination), then I’m okay with it. We all have to make choices in life. Not all of them are based on impermissible discriminatory factors.

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