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Yay for librarians!

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A Colorado librarian, James LaRue, has posted an excellent letter he wrote to a patron who challenged the book Uncle Bobby's Wedding on the grounds that it attempts to "normalize" same-sex marriage.

It's a thoughtful and detailed letter; I particularly like the paragraph in which he says:

I think a lot of adults imagine that what defines a children's book is the subject. But that's not the case. Children's books deal with anything and everything.

And this from a later paragraph:

[I]f the library is doing its job, there are lots of books in our collection that people won't agree with; there are certainly many that I object to. Library collections don't imply endorsement; they imply access to the many different ideas of our culture, which is precisely our purpose in public life.

And the idea (which seems to me to be implicit in the letter, though I may be reading too much into it) that if parents are concerned about the kinds of books their kids may be picking up at the library, then they ought to pay close attention to the books their kids pick up rather than assuming that the library will vet all their books to match that particular parent's sensibilities.

This is not the first time I've seen a librarian be sensible and clearheaded and thoughtful about this kind of thing. I'm sure there are librarians out there who aren't, but I'm happy that there seem to be plenty of them who are.

And for other librarians who might need to deal with this kind of challenge, it turns out LaRue has written a book, The New Inquisition, about how to address such challenges; a Library Review review of the book says: "LaRue puts a spirited case for dealing face-on with challenges--not being defensive, meeting the emotion, getting the tone right, offering alternatives, discussing the issues, following up the user's concerns." Sounds like a very useful resource.

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I saw that some weeks ago, and was very impressed. As a college librarian, I don't have to deal with that kind of thing myself. As a general rule, though, librarians feel very, very strongly that libraries cannot and should not practice censorship. I've never met a librarian who indicated they felt otherwise.

I think I'll designate today as my personal "proud to be a librarian" day! ;-)


Yay! for encouraging people to not be defensive, etc. Boo? for a title that throws that advice to the wind.


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