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Friday, September 25, 2015

Nobody Should Ever See This!

Working with students of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds makes purchasing, promoting, and developing a library collection very interesting. I need to account for the readers with low and high abilities, readers with varied interests, and staff members asking for supplementary material for their classrooms (again at a variety of different reading levels). But one thing I keep in mind is that the school library, like a public library, should have something for everyone.

There is a great quote by Jo Godwin which says “A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone.” This doesn't mean that a library's job is to offend people. It means that a library should contain all points of view on a variety of subjects, some of which may be offensive to patrons of the library.

In celebration of the idea that libraries are a place to celebrate the freedom to read what you want, the American Library Association sponsors Banned Books Week every year. We celebrate the books that have been challenged by communities around the country as being too offense to be part of a library collection. We don't say you have to read them, we say that people should always have the option to read them. We celebrate the fact that we live in a country where the freedom to write, publish, and read any idea is an inalienable right. We celebrate the fact that books, magazines, newspapers, TV shows, movies, and the internet all exist to share and discuss stories and ideas from every viewpoint. 

Many mediums have mechanisms in place to help students, parents, and the community decide if something should be read, watched, or listened to. Movies and TV shows have ratings; so do video games. Music has a warning if it contains explicit content. The internet and books are a much less restricted. We all need to be responsible consumers of stories and information and decide for ourselves if it meets our personal values and ethics. 

So if you see something out in the world or if something comes into your home that offends you, don't go with the knee-jerk reaction to say "Nobody should ever see this!". Take the time to read/listen/watch the material and then have a discussion about what you find offensive and why. Take that teachable moment to reaffirm your own beliefs or help your child build a framework for their beliefs. 

Here is a great video from author of the Captain Underpants series, Dave Pikey, who happens to have one of the most challenged books of the recent decade.


We live in a society that values the sharing and discussion of divergent viewpoints. It's a good thing that our libraries provide the opportunity for students and parents to discussion those viewpoints. Take the time to talk with your child about what they are reading, what messages does the book have, what things do the characters values. Those discussion can help your child make better choices in the future, not just about which books to read, but about what choices they should be making for themselves.

If you would like further information about Banned Books Week visit www.ala.org/bbooks/banned.

And as always, DFTBA!

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