Marty Klein on ‘America’s War On Sex, Libraries, & Librarians’

As the child of an elementary school librarian, books, reading and library visits played a key role in my childhood memories.  It wasn’t until my early 20’s, when my mom was getting her masters, that we had some conversations about censorship. It was then that I came to realize just how radical many librarians really are. Including my mom.

When Marty Klein reported on the conversations he had with librarians at the Texas Library Association annual meeting, I was into it. He was there presenting on America’s War on Sex, Libraries and Librarians. I’ve included some highlights from his post below:

From Those Wonderful Librarians By Dr. Marty Klein

And I sure learned plenty from them—some of it heartening, some of it scary. And some of what they said was sadly familiar. Just a few notes:
* A small number of people can cause a lot of trouble. 
In almost every community, some people feel terrified that people—young or otherwise—are being exposed to immoral, inappropriate, unpatriotic, or dangerous material in the library….
* Every library offers the public computers. 
And that means dealing with questions of “access”: who can watch? What can people view? How much protection do other patrons need?….
* Even cataloging books turns out to be a political task. 
Should a book about teen life go into “young adult” or “adult”? Some parents and religious leaders fear that certain novels will give kids ideas, so they want them put in the “adult” section, which kids can’t easily access….
* And the taboo stuff?
These librarians were plenty savvy on dealing with censorship….
* How’s book banning going?
Most librarians with whom I spoke wearily acknowledged that books were challenged on a regular basis—“and once in a while, someone has actually read a book that they challenge.”…. Since 2001, half the challenges are due to either “sexually explicit” material or “offensive language.” The Color Purple and Catcher in the Rye are among the most banned books each year….
* Is reading dangerous?
Inevitably we come back to this question. The biggest fear about Guttenberg’s press was that “too many” people would read. The biggest concern about mass paperback printing in Victorian England was that servants would read and get the “wrong ideas.” And today more than ever there’s concern that kids who read about other kids’ difficulties—physical abuse, alcoholic parents, drug use, rape, exploitative divorcing parents—will somehow want to pursue similar horrible lives.

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