There’s some “censorship” afoot in the Palmetto State, and I’m not talking about the recurring attempts to remove the Confederate flag from the state capitol grounds. Besides, if they removed the flag, the rest of us might have to stop laughing at South Carolina, and where would the fun be in that.
The director of the Greenville County Library removed a graphic novel from the adult collection of the library after a parent complained about the book. I briefly mentioned this a few weeks ago after reading this article, calling it a stupid decision, but the latest article on the topic makes it a puzzling decision as well.
The basic facts are pretty clear. A teenage girl checked out the book Neonomicon from the adult section of the library using someone’s adult library card.
Adult book. Adult section of the library. No porn. No children watching it as they pass through the library.
Later her meddlesome mother discovered there were some unsavory parts of the book and complained to the library and asked that the book be removed. Not from the children’s section, but from the entire library.
A committee met to review the complaint, and elected to keep the book because it was award winning and in line with the library’s collection policy. The director overrode the decision. What I can’t figure out from the news account is why.
There’s a brief video of an interview with the director where she tries to explain the decision by not explaining the decision at all. It’s a minute of her saying things like, “we removed a DVD once because it wasn’t as popular as we thought it would be.” Um, okay.
There are also very strange things like this: “James said the situation is the polar opposite [of the library as “a place to provide a wide range of information to people of all beliefs and backgrounds]. She doesn’t — and didn’t — take the situation lightly. Banning a book goes against everything she’s built her reputation on….”
So she didn’t take the decision lightly. Okay. And she “banned” the book, but “banning” books goes against her reputation, or something. This isn’t making sense yet.
There there are some lines that are probably out of a self-help book that wasn’t banned. ““It’s not easy,” she said. “Every decision you make, you hope is the right one. You face challenges every day.”
Okay. Making decisions is challenging. It’s probably even more challenging when you just make random decisions without knowing why.
There’s a library collection policy that states: “The library recognizes that many materials are controversial and that any given item may offend some. Only individuals can determine what is most appropriate for their needs.”
No, wait, that’s not helping anything. That’s probably what led the committee to keep the book.
The closest we get to an explanation is this:
“It was disgusting,” she said, declining to label it obscene or pornographic.
She acknowledged the library has many books that deal in such detail with the very same subject matter — racism, rape, murder, sex — but for her, the pictures gave her pause.
So it’s not obscene or pornographic, but it is “disgusting,” and it has pictures, but they’re not porn.
I wonder if there are any books in that library with pictures of cockroaches, rats, maggots, or other things people find disgusting.
Seriously, “this book is yucky” might be an understandable reason for a third grader to avoid it, but it sounds pretty silly as a reason for a library director to override her own collection policy and the decision of her staff.
All the ALA-type talk about censorship is nonsense, since the book is available for sale. However, the situation is bizarre because the director seems incapable of providing any kind of intelligent justification for her decision.
Some intellectual freedom advocate compared this to the Fifty Shades of Grey controversies, but the only library I saw banning that had a reason. Their collection policy said no porn and they considered the book porn. Everyone arguing against that director ignored the only question worth asking.
This director doesn’t have a policy or a reason for her decision. She just sort of makes it up as she goes along and then evades the question of why.
The news article says “she looks every bit the librarian she is,” playing on those stereotypes, but let’s hope making arbitrary decisions with no rational explanations isn’t part of the stereotype.
The “censorship” is only a controversy for librarians who like to play fast and loose with words. That irrationality shouldn’t be met with more irrationality.
My book challenge is this: that library director should at least provide an intelligible explanation for her decision. There are all sorts of reasons for removing books from libraries, as she mentions. So why not give us one?