Welcome to Library Lions Special Edition Spotlight. Teen Services Librarian, Hayden Bass, is here to Roar for Banned Books Week. Welcome Hayden!
What’s your deal?
I am a Teen Services Librarian Seattle Public Library, Central–also known as “that big glass thing downtown.”
It’s a fun place to work because the interesting architecture gets people excited about libraries. It helps us re-imagine what libraries can be. I pretty much have the best job on earth because I get to work with teens every day.
I lead a fantastic teen advisory group that blogs, reviews books, creates videos and podcasts, and generally tells us how we should run the library. They always impress me with their great ideas and articulate, thoughtful discussions. I also visit schools to teach students how to do good research, or to talk about good books.
Recently I joined our Social Media Team, which means that I get to Tweet and Facebook the library. And I love creating personalized reading lists through our Your Next 5 Books service.
What’s the deal with these banned books?
So, first let’s get the definitions out of the way: A “challenge” is an attempt to remove or restrict access to materials, while a “banned” book has actually been removed from access.
Every year, dozens of books—many of them written for teens or children— are challenged or banned.
(Banned Books Display Seattle Central Library)
Why should we care? Because we all have a First Amendment right to the freedom to read, and freedom of access to information. Librarians, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers everywhere all come together during Banned Books Week (now in its 30th year!) to call attention to censorship. We advocate for your right to decide what you want to read about, and how you want to learn.
Plus, librarians love a good fight. (Not really! Well, kind of.)
In any good library, there’s something to offend everyone. There are many books in my library that I don’t like. I might find them racist, sexist, homophobic, or just plain dumb. But that doesn’t mean I’m allowed to remove them. If we all removed all the books we didn’t like from the library, how many would be left?
How do you spread the word?
Besides creating displays (Like these, done by Erica Delavan and Janie Arnold at our Northeast Branch).
(Erica Delavan and Janie Arnold)
and blogging about banned books, librarians sometimes visit schools and other places in the community to talk about the freedom to read. I ask students who THEY think should get to make these decisions. The government? The library? Would they let their younger brother or sister read anything they wanted? Why or why not?
This is a complicated and difficult issue. We all have to decide for ourselves what the right answers are.
What can Library Lions readers do to roar for Banned Books Week?
Think! Take a few minutes to ponder: Why is it important to stop censorship? What will happen if free access to information is lost?
When you’ve done that—and maybe started a conversation with a friend or two—make sure you use and support your library.
We often hear that libraries are no longer important because everything is on the Internet. But you know what? It’s not true. Most good, factual information—from newspapers, journals, and books—is not available online! That’s because this stuff costs money, so publishers don’t give it away for free. The only place to get it for free is your local library. And the people protecting your right to access that information? Your local librarians.
Without libraries, only the wealthy would be able to afford access to ALL of the very best books and information.
Highlighted banned books
People are often surprised that children’s picture books are constantly being challenged and banned.
The Carrot Seed is a classic by Ruth Krauss published in 1945. A little boy faithfully waters and cares for a carrot seed, despite the fact that his elders tell him it probably won’t grow—resulting in a lovely big fat carrot. This book has been attacked for showing “contempt for authority, and in particular . . . children not respecting their parents.”
Maurice Sendak’s much-beloved Where the Wild Things Are has been challenged for “having witchcraft, supernatural elements, and a child who yells at his mother.”
Most of us agree that these are books we think children should have access to. However, there are some children’s books that I personally would rather not see in the library! For example, here’s a book that I personally wouldn’t mind banning:
This is a children’s book that portrays homosexuality as a psychological problem that can be “cured.” This book was challenged at The Seattle Public Library in 2003, but was retained as representative of an alternative view of homosexuality.
Do I think this a wonderful book? No.
Do I defend everyone’s right to access it anyway? You bet.
Thanks, Hayden for your inspiring Roar for Banned Books Week! Since Banned Books only lasts a week, we’ll keep this post up until mid October to make the roar last.
Note to Readers: Love Libraries? Give a Roar in “Comments” below.
Note to Librarians: If you’re a Youth Librarian working in a school or public library we’d love to hear about you and your library. Email Janet on the Contact page on this website for an interview.