Certain folks within the ALA like to talk about censorship as if that’s really a thing that goes on in America. That’s because “censorship” sounds much more ominous than “somebody complained about a library book.”
Nevertheless, the ALA has never documented a case in decades where a book challenged or removed from a public library isn’t widely available for sale or even for borrowing from just about every other library in the country.
While definitely not censorship, some rube in Missouri challenging a book in the Smallsville Public Library because he hates gays would at least be a significant act if that led to the book being removed from every public library in the country. Unless that can happen, the complaint, or even the removal, is just an insignificant blip on the national library radar screen.
Just to show the contrast between the lack of censorship and the widespread availability of “banned books” in American libraries, let’s take a look at someplace where a single gay-hating rube can have a broad effect.
For example, Singapore, where the National Library Board decided to remove the gay penguin book and others from libraries, and which has now decided to pulp those books.
As far as I can tell, the NLB controls all the public libraries in Singapore, so what they say affects the entire country.
The books were removed after local Singaporean rube Teo Kai Loon complained to the NLB. I’m assuming Loon doesn’t have the same connotations in Singapore as it does here.
Thus, one local rube complaining is responsible for getting copies of three books removed from every public library in Singapore and having them pulped. They certainly know how to give their fanatics power in Singapore!
The NLB claims to promote “reading, learning and information literacy [for heterosexuals] by providing a trusted, accessible and globally-connected library and information service through the National Library and a comprehensive network of Public Libraries.”
But they also claim to be family-friendly, which means they don’t want books about gay penguins in their library, although they do probably distribute crayons with their menus, which is about the only definition of family-friendly in the U.S. I’ve been able to make any sense of.
Even though it’s the central government directing the removal and pulping of the books, I still don’t think it can be called censorship. If nothing else, Amazon USA ships to Singapore, and even has something called AmazonGlobal Saver Shipping to make it cheaper. And Kindles are available there as well.
And according to Google Maps, not only are there bookstores in Singapore, but there are a LOT of bookstores in Singapore, just like in places where one rube can’t get all the books he doesn’t like removed from every public library in the country. So the banned books are definitely available elsewhere.
However, it does provide a striking contrast with the U.S., and one that leaves the hollow “censorship” rhetoric from the ALA shriveled as well. Not only is censorship of books nonexistent, but even the worst challenges are nationally insignificant.
If nothing else, I’m unaware of any books actually being “banned” from public libraries in large metropolitan areas, where most Americans actually live. Sure, the 2500 residents of Tinyville, Kentucky might have to fork over $11 to read And Tango Makes Three, but the overwhelming majority of people can still get their book for free and save that $11 for a light breakfast or something.
On the other hand, it’s possible nobody really believes all the censorship guff and they just use it to get publicity. Nothing like an imagined crisis to draw attention to yourself.