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Why I banned a book
July 19, 2013 4:20 AM   Subscribe

How censorship can impact a learning community
posted by episodic (18 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
A few people have called this lesson unethical, but the really unethical part of what happened here was that many people simply sat back and said nothing in the face of the outright suppression of a book.

And next time, when a book really is banned, an even larger percentage will sit back because "it's only an attention-getting stunt".
posted by DU at 4:37 AM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Aren't there enough problems with books getting censored that we don't need to invent them?
posted by empath at 4:49 AM on July 19, 2013


I made the announcement—a simple two-sentence memo (on letterhead), placed on our Facebook wall.

I guess the scheme wouldn't have attracted attention as quickly if the ban hadn't been announced, but it seems more likely that banned books would quietly disappear from shelves without any official acknowledgment. It probably would have been a better experiment had they simply removed all their copies and instructed librarians to knowingly tell any students looking for them that the books "weren't available" but then there was always the chance that the ban might never be noticed, as is probably the case with many examples of actual censorship.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 4:54 AM on July 19, 2013 [12 favorites]


What an excellent way to draw people's attention to the issue and remind them that censorship is still all too real.
posted by Annie Savoy at 4:55 AM on July 19, 2013


I think the more important point from this, and the one that should maybe be focused on in future years 'Banned Book Weeks', was the bit about how:

"The overwhelming number of comments were complaints about how they felt betrayed by this action or their frustration with the administration. Some used Facebook as a forum to make rude comments from the relatively safe distance social media provides."

But: "...on a campus of 3,000, only eight people actually asked for a meeting with me to discuss the reasons I banned the book and to discuss what could be done to reverse the ban."

People love to rush to social media to complain about a issue or topic because it's fast and easy but when it come's to actually DOING something that could have an effect....well...you know....people are busy and stuff and those farmville crops aren't going to harvest themselves.
posted by Captain_Science at 5:10 AM on July 19, 2013 [12 favorites]


When the (only) 8 people met to discuss this, what were they told was the reason that this and only this book was banned?
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:39 AM on July 19, 2013


Back in the day, when I was a teacher at a very small secondary school, I spent the day prior to Banned Books Week taping little paper censorship strips around all the books in my library that had ever been banned. Kids came in and were puzzled, and slightly concerned. Then, I started packing them up, and they got really riled. Why are you doing this? Well, I'd been ordered by the administration. They say these books are inappropriate for you.

I was pretty proud that the protest was swift and loud. I had to admit it was all a stunt by the end of the day, because kids were seriously upset.

I kept those little paper strips on the books though. As the students borrowed those books, they took great pleasure in ripping off the paper.
posted by RedEmma at 5:48 AM on July 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


It's pretty interesting how quickly people focused the blame on the administration. I see this happen a lot, in situations where the administration is culpable and in situations where it has no idea what has been done. We seem to have gotten to a point where everything garners reflexive blame. And it weirdly seems to prevent anything from getting any real traction, as if outrage and mistrust are so enervating that nothing, no matter how awful, generates effective protest.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:21 AM on July 19, 2013


people are busy and stuff and those farmville crops aren't going to harvest themselves.

Or alternatively, people are busy and their children aren't going to feed themselves.

Collective action is hard. Maybe you should stop bitching about it on the internet and find a way to make it easier and more understandable for people.
posted by TypographicalError at 6:30 AM on July 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Not to sound overly dramatic, but I think the trust inherent in the relationship between a librarian and a library user is extremely important, different in degree certainly than doctor-patient or lawyer-client, but maybe not so different in kind. That relationship is at the core of our professional ethics, and I don't like to see it trifled with, even in a good cause.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:00 AM on July 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


On a lighter note, I sure never thought I'd see C&RL News get an FPP on MetaFilter. ACRL open access policy for the win!
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:01 AM on July 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


How "censorship" can impact a learning community give your buddy's book free publicity
posted by Sys Rq at 7:38 AM on July 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure how the librarians of public institutions are supposed to decide which books to stock, but here's how the book begins: "The roar echoed across the New Mexico valley as the bullet ripped a hole into the lower belly of the man's figure. She hated the noise, but there was nothing to be done about that. Guns were like the men who created them -- heavy, cold, loud and deadly." Is it a normal practice for libraries to buy anything written by a member of the institution's staff?

Anyhow, how was anybody suposed to know that "ask for a personal meeting" was the response he was looking for? If I were a student there I'd probably assume that the policy got handed down from higher up (how often are librarians the ones demanding that books be removed?), so I'd go to the administration with my complaints. This whole thing sounds like an exercise in smugness.

(Also, a lot of the Amazon reviews on that book look reeealy reeeealy fake.)
posted by ostro at 8:00 AM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Captain_Science: “People love to rush to social media to complain about a issue or topic because it's fast and easy but when it come's to actually DOING something that could have an effect....well...you know....people are busy and stuff and those farmville crops aren't going to harvest themselves.”

Er – yeah, they said that in the article, but it's not really fair, is it? I mean: the only place they made the announcement was on Facebook. Isn't it sort of to be expected that people generally reacted to the announcement on Facebook? That's where I would react to it.
posted by koeselitz at 8:21 AM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure how the librarians of public institutions are supposed to decide which books to stock

University libraries at smaller schools often serve as the institution's archives, so collecting books by staff would certainly be in scope. In addition, lots of public and university libraries collect local authors.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:22 AM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I made the announcement—a simple two-sentence memo (on letterhead), placed on our Facebook wall.

Surely you mean Facebook's Facebook wall. You're the product being sold etc. etc. Why institutions give official standing to a private service with unpredictable policies and which reasonable people may wish to opt completely out of escapes me.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:50 AM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


People love to rush to social media to complain about a issue or topic because it's fast and easy but when it come's to actually DOING something that could have an effect....well...you know....people are busy and stuff and those farmville crops aren't going to harvest themselves.

Confrontation is easier when it is shouted at the target from a distance while standing in front of the choir.
posted by davejay at 11:05 AM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


How do I find out if a book has been quietly banned in my library? I read a little 1 inch article in the paper one time that Stephen King's The Shining had been banned about 20 years ago. I just checked. They still don't have a copy of the book. I've thought about donating it, but donating it doesn't guarantee that it will be put on the shelf, right? Also, when I asked the librarian on duty at the time, she said they don't ban books...

And yet... That book by an author who is a household name still isn't on their shelves.
posted by CarlRossi at 11:28 AM on July 20, 2013


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