Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Censorship has origin in instinct for survival

One of the biggest challenges regarding censorship in school libraries is that the urge to censor has its origin in a human instinct that has benefited our survival.

In its abstract of How the Mind of a Censor Works: The Psychology of Censorship by Dr. Sara Fine, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions states that “Censorship is a behavior everyone is taught at a young age, which works to keep us healthy, civilized and moral. Problems arise when we begin to try and control not only ourselves but all others and our environment as well.”

 The abstract goes on to state that people with “authoritarian” personalities have equally strong desires to both exert and submit to power. These people feel threatened by any information that goes against their beliefs. With constantly changing attitudes and “norms” in our society, these people are sure to collide with information that challenges their beliefs.

According to Suzanne Fisher Staples in “What Johnny Can't Read, Censorship in American Libraries,” the most frequent reasons cited during challenges to books were “curse words or violence, sex, homosexuality, the occult, or rebellious children.”

Reproducing an objection to a book on the grounds of homosexuality, Fisher says “the passion evident in this parent’s complaint typifies the language of formal book challenges filed with schools and public libraries all over the country.”

With the urge to censor so deep-rooted in people who live in a changing society, libraries’ best protection is to have detailed policies in place.

Our textbook recommends the library policy should address: who can submit a complaint, how does the complaint need to be submitted, what is the process for consideration, limits on complaints, and what happens to the item when it is being reconsidered.

I’d additionally recommend that any material facing challenges be reported to the American Library Association for its challenged-materials database.

Reporting this information is completely confidential and helps to document the most frequently-challenged books (and the motivations behind the challenges) for a list that is compiled each year to observe Banned Books Week.

Composed for Cuesta College’s LIBT 210, School Library/Media Center Services

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