Friday, 31 May 2013

Censorship: a dilemma

Censorship has always been something I've been quite intrigued and interested by, but have never really had a chance to apply to a real life situation. Until now!

There has been an adult fiction series- The Assassin's Creed that has been extremely popular with primary school aged children. I know that the video game has a rating of at least R16, so naturally staff are concerned that the content wouldn't be appropriate.

We had a discussion about it and decided all we could do was let the parents know if we happened to see them that the content may be too violent or explicit etc for the children. One of our concerns is that parents may question why staff are letting these books go out to junior borrowers.

I looked back over my old Children's Literature paper I did through the Open Polytechnic and most of the readings said that librarians are there to encourage intellectual freedom. I completely agree with this but also feel that there is a fine line between being neutral and non-judgemental  when it comes to what borrowers choose to read and making sure everyone feels that the library is a safe place for families to go.

I remember my Mum not letting me read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban when I was 11 because she thought it was too dark. At the time, I thought it was ridiculous (and I was already halfway through it!) but now I realize it was a form of censorship that parents have a right to impose. As librarians we have a different role but I still feel that we should be looking after our impressionable younger borrowers while still giving them freedom to read whatever they choose.

Of course, the dilemma I mentioned in the title is that we aren't sure what to do about this series. Do we just ignore the fact that kids are getting the books out and leave it to the parents to censor? Do we put a restriction on the series? Do we direct them to another series similar to it but more age appropriate? Is this any of our business and should we just let it be?

What are your thoughts on this library issue? I'd love to read your comments/feedback here on the blog or send me a tweet @JuliadeRuiter with the hashtag #censorship



  1. We had an instance of a 12 yr old good reader who sweet rather than street-wise, reserving adult vampire fiction because she'd read all the teen ones.

    I agonised a bit, then rang her Mum, who said funnily enough the girl's older brother had expressed concern - "Mum do you know what she's reading?!".

    With Mum's permission I had a quite word and explained that some of the books might not be what she thought they were and, if it was okay with her, she could keep ordering anything ad we'd look at them and some might not make it into her hands. She was happy, Mum was happy, we were happy.

    Have never done it since, but would if I felt the need. I think being in a small community where I knew both mum and daughter helped though...

  2. That's an interesting example Cath- thanks for sharing :)
    I think a lot has to do with the community you are in, there are definitely perks living in a smaller place & of course the librarians discretion always comes into play.