Wednesday, October 21, 2009

And now Lake County, Fla?

I've opined before on this blog about attempted library censorship in Leesburg, FL., motivated in large part by Bermudez Triangle and books in the Gossip Girl series.  That debate recently came to an uneasy compromise in which the library agreed to split it's Young Adult collection into two, creating a separate collection for high-school-aged teens.

Unable to resist stepping into a political fray, the government of Lake County, which contains Leesburg, is now considering requiring similar action within the seven libraries of the county system.  I guess they'll have to be reminded of the Counts v. Cedarville and Sund v. City of Wichita Falls court cases.

Censorship begets censorship, of course.  With each new incident I see the wisdom in vigorously resisting any censorship attempts: giving an inch just makes the censors demand a mile.

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  1. I was discussing this with a friend of mine not long ago. She said that putting advisory stickers with no other restrictions isn't all that bad, but like you said: give them an inch and they take a mile. Make that several hundred miles.

  2. Labels don't sound too bad, as long as you keep the idea very theoretical. But when you try to implement warning stickers in the real world, it gets extremely difficult extremely quickly. The nut of the problem is definitions and standards. What does the label really mean, and what standards are used to decide?

    A label is meaningless and useless if people don't have a common understanding of what the label means. Do tabooed words mean a book should get a warning sticker? Which words? How many such words must appear in a book before it gets a sticker? Does a book get a warning sticker for descriptions of sex? What, then, constitutes sex? What kind of sex and how much does there have to be before a book gets a label? How about violence? How about disrespect for authority or religion? How about occult themes?

    The point is that labels are extremely arbitrary. Once you start labeling books for one thing, you'll have to start labeling them for another, until every book in the library has one or another warning label on it.

    Completely useless, and utterly impracticable.

  3. Exactly. Because there is no one set of standards you can apply, you talk to fifty people and get fifty different opinions on what should and shouldn't be labeled. You really would have to put a little sticker on eveything.

    The AS IF! blog made an excellant analogy of that, making reference to the constant censoring of Geography Club. It basically said that if we let one person decide what everyone else reads, then everybody has to have their say, and then all we're left with is an empty library with one lonely atlas in a corner.

    This has been said a million times but it's true: Decide for yourself what you and your kids should read, and nobody else. If you're squeamish about violence stay out of the Horror section. If you don't approve of homosexuality, don't pick up a book entitled Boy Meets Boy. Honestly, is that really so hard? The (il)logic of book banning would make Spock spin in his grave.