Hidden in Plain Sight—How Libraries Hide Objectionable Materials from Parents and the Public

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Hidden in Plain Sight—How Libraries Hide Objectionable Materials from Parents and the Public
A recent virtual meeting taught librarians how to keep parents from finding out what their children are reading.

Public and school libraries struggle to become more “woke.” It is not just a matter of buying more bad books. The biggest issue is that the materials the librarians badly want to place on their shelves provoke uncomfortable reactions in many parents. A recent article in The Daily Caller describes how they try to get around these problems.

The article focuses on an online meeting sponsored by “Library 2.0” titled “Banned Books and Censorship.” The ostensible purpose of the effort was summed up in a phrase by Anthony Chou of San Jose State University, which sponsored the virtual conference. “Fight for the right to read freely.”

However, this “right” is a misnomer. Throughout the virtual conference, the focus is entirely on the books the presenters want students to read.

The Library Bill of Rights

Much of the discussion centered around a document produced by the American Library Association (ALA). Its rather grandiose title is the Library Bill of Rights.

The “Bill of Rights” was first drafted in 1939 and amended six times, the last in 2019. In summarized form, it says:

  1. Materials are provided for all community members served by the library.
  2. Materials should “present all points of view on current and historical issues.”

III. “Libraries should challenge censorship.”

  1. Libraries should work with those who promote “free expression and free access to ideas.”
  2. Library use should be available to all.
  3. Libraries should make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to all.

VII. Libraries should protect the privacy of their users.

Those words sound idealistic, but are they accurate?

Changing Forms of Censorship

Some form of censorship has always been present in public and school libraries. Librarians have always seen themselves as guardians of public morality. They still do. Unfortunately, as the condition of civilization has deteriorated, society’s moral code has changed. Today’s librarians resist books that convey the supposed judgmentalism of traditional morality. On the other hand, any deviancy is encouraged.

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One of the keynote panelists of the virtual conference was Dr. Shannon Oltman of the University of Kentucky and a past editor of the Journal of Intellectual Freedom. She has no qualms about indecency.

“I think that it’s important to know where that line [between acceptable and unacceptable] is. I think it’s important to walk right up until your toes touch it. That line’s going to be different in different states right now because of some of the state legislation that is in process. But that doesn’t mean that we should know where the line is and then take two or three steps back so we’re extra safe and cautious. Our communities need us right now. Our communities need us just like they always have.”

Nobody asked D. Oltman who “our communities” are, but the tenor of her remarks leaves little room for doubt. Traditional Christians are not among them.

Illinois Joins the Revolution

Among these activists, Governor J. B. Pritzker of Illinois is a hero. On June 12, 2023, he signed a law that denies state funding to any public library that does not “adopt the American Library Association’s [ALA] Library Bill of Rights.” It also stated that “materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.”

At the signing ceremony, he espoused the leftist rationale behind the law. “Everyone deserves to see themselves reflected in the books they read, the art they see, the history they learn.” Then he compared himself to some of his peers in other states. “While certain hypocritical governors are banning books written by LGBTQ authors, but then claiming censorship when the media fact-checks them, here in Illinois, we are showing the nation what it really looks like to stand up for liberty,”

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As if the Governor’s intentions weren’t sufficiently obvious, he posed for the signing ceremony against a backdrop of the sort of books that he wants to protect. Among them were This Book is Gay, All Boys are Not Blue and Lawn Boy.

Book Reports

The Amazon descriptions for those three books speak volumes about the reasons that they cause concerns among parents nationwide.

For instance, This Book is Gay promises a “candid, funny, and uncensored exploration of sexuality and what it’s like to grow up LGBTQ.” It “includes real stories from people across the gender and sexual spectrums, not to mention hilarious illustrations.”

Amazon promotes All Boys Aren’t Blue as “a primer for teens eager to be allies as well as a reassuring testimony for young queer men of color…. [Author George M.] Johnson’s emotionally frank style of writing will appeal directly to young adults.”

For Lawn Boy, Amazon suddenly becomes reticent to discuss the book’s indecency. It enthuses that “In this funny, angry, touching, and ultimately deeply inspiring novel, best-selling author Jonathan Evison takes the reader into the heart and mind of a young man on a journey to discover himself.” It does not mention the all-too-specific depiction of indecent homosexual acts between a grown man and a ten-year-old.

Hidden in Plain Sight

So what should the activist librarians do when they want to follow Governor Pritzker’s instructions and yet not deal with irate parents? Library 2.0 conference participant Valerie Byrd Fort has some ideas.

“At the beginning of the year, each school year, when students come in for their first library visit, discuss with them how it’s your job as a librarian to build a collection that has something for everyone in the building…. Explain how just because something isn’t for them, that doesn’t mean that we’re going to keep it from everyone else.”

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That also extends to the displays that libraries use to increase student interest in books. These should “offer a wide variety of representation, regardless of the month theme,” such as Black History, Women’s History, Hispanic Heritage and, of course, Pride. Furthermore, having students set up the displays is far safer than having the librarian do them. That way, complaining parents can be soothed with the assurance that students chose the theme and materials.

Another tactic is not to label the books with stickers that say things like “LGBT interest.” That makes them too easy for parents to find. However, a list of such books kept in a binder behind the circulation desk can be used by interested students at the librarian’s discretion.

Last, she suggested that school libraries stock “privacy covers” that students may place on books they do not want parents to know they are reading.

Hidden Power

Perhaps, the most astonishing thing is the level of power the activists assign to their opponents. According to the speakers, librarians are losing their jobs and being threatened with violence. Their adversaries indulge in “terror-like tactics.” Supposedly, a nationwide network of censors is “unifying to offend the rights of individuals.”

And, of course, those who demand anti-woke legislation are racists, homophobes and oppressors.

Those who protect children’s innocence must develop thick skins against such attacks. After all, these woke librarians that offer indecent materials are among the very people that Our Lord referred to in Luke 17:2, “It were better for him, that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should scandalize one of these little ones.”

Photo Credit: © alswart – stock.adobe.com

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