Why We Still Need to Talk About Censorship; Or, I Feel the Need to Rant

On this week’s Book Riot podcast, host Jeff O’Neall asked if it was worthwhile to keep talking about reports of censorship, book banning, and related topics—after talking about three different cases around the country. Even after asking this question, O’Neall was incandescent by the third case.

My second reaction—my first reaction is expressed by the picture above—was of course, we need to keep talking about this. Only a few weeks ago, at my university library, I was helping a student find something to read in our young adult section and she told me, after not finding anything that was tame enough for her taste, that we (the librarians, presumably) should just censor that stuff out. I’m not the only person who hears things like this:

Screenshot 2015-11-04 19.32.13

If anything, the issue of censorship and intellectual freedom has gotten more fraught in the last few years.

Programs like the Book Riot podcast raise the profile of censorship stories. Readers who tune into the podcast get fired up—at least I do—and talk to other people about the news. Talking about censorship and why people try to ban books and monitor access to information can get us all thinking. Later, it can get us acting when we need to step in to keep books in children’s hands where they belong.

What bothers me most about the fight against censorship is that it’s gotten more subtle over the last few years. There are still straight-up requests to take books off school and public library shelves. Now we’re not only fighting for the right to read, but also against the new “right” to not be offended. Or, in Florida, librarians are required to let parents see what their kids are checking out. And how do you argue that people should be occasionally offended (or perturbed or whatever synonym you care to use)? Or that parents’ shouldn’t see what their kids are getting from the library?

We need the talking to get to the thinking so that we will know how to argue when we need to. Jeff, keep talking about censorship and book banning and preserving everyone’s right to read and see and think about what they want.

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