As librarians, we hate censorship. It goes against everything we stand for. It’s part of the reason I felt such a strong sense of hatred for Dolores Umbridge. Her rules for learning the proper way and controlling to students filled me with horror. In some ways, she’s more evil than Voldermort. I want everyone to have equal opportunity in learning and above all in the library. The library is a place that should level the playing field for everyone – it’s not based on gender, race, sexuality, or economic status; you have the same access as everyone else.
Different Kinds of Censorship:
Blatant: I’m not going to buy that book because….
Situational: The library needs this book, but not in my section. (There’s a post on this coming soon)
Inadvertent: That book won’t work here because…
The blatant’s easy enough to figure out. You know why you’re not buying that book about two boys kissing or that girl who killed herself and made 13 tapes detailing her reasons.
It’s the inadvertent kind that bothers me. I never want to censor, but it happens. I’ve been trying to keep track of my own short comings and my own inadvertent censoring…and here they are.
1. Disproportional buying: I buy girly books and not enough boy books. (Yes, I hate those labels, but the fact remains that most of the pink books are not books boys are going to read. In fact, that’s a whole other blog post.) Luckily, I had a teen girl a few years ago who loved reading books by boy narrators because she already knew how girls think. She made me more aware of my purchasing choices and since then, I’ve tried to even out the books, but it’s virtually impossible.
2. Non Fiction vs Graphic Novels vs Fiction: I spend most of the YA book budget on fiction because that tends to circulate the most. I don’t spend too much on graphic novels or nonfiction unless I have a significant budget (some years are better than others). While I want to buy books that circulate, am I hurting the other parts of the collection? I used to buy more nonfiction, but it rarely circulates. I buy one or two books that are educational and the rest of the nonfiction leans more towards pleasure reading. The Graphic Novels circulate and I’m getting better at finding the ones to purchase, but it’s hard because there are so many series and so many volumes. I could dump all my money into these books and still not have enough. It’s hard to find the right balance.
3. Big Books and Award Winning Books: I fully admit that I don’t always buy these for the collection. It depends on the cover – yes teens and myself included still judge a book by it’s cover. It depends on the teen appeal in my area. What’s big in other areas isn’t always popular in my library. I don’t feel it’s necessary to buy the book if it’s just going to sit on the shelf and never go out.
And it’s not always about books. Sometimes, it’s about programming. I like to do a lot of craft programs because I love them – but many of the crafts are considered girly – so I try to buy items to make the craft go either way. But it’s not bad holding a program that will attract girls, as long as I have one that will primarily attract boys in the same month. It’s all about balance – but it’s hard. Knowing it is half the battle, trying to make sure everything is equal is the bigger half.
How do you get what’s best for your collection and your patrons while making a completely well-rounded collection?