Why people try to censor books

First aired on Radio West (02/28/12)

library-book-175.jpgCanadians tend to pride themselves on having a country where there's freedom of information and freedom of choice. That said, there will always be disagreements between people on what's appropriate, and that debate is quite evident at our local public libraries.

Radio West's Rebecca Zandenberg recently spoke with Prince George Public Library's service manager Mark Saunders about what happens when people try to censor books. It's not that common, but Saunders says he'll receive formal complaints about books five or six times each year.

"In most cases, it's parents that are concerned about the content of books they think are not age-appropriate for a particular part of the library," he said. "Sometimes [books are] challenged because someone finds a particular book offensive for any wide variety of different reasons."

These books are then examined in a formal review process.

"We call that a request for reconsideration, and what we do, going through that process, is that we have one staff member, along with me, review the material. We check reviews, we see what has been said about it on the internet, and by the authors themselves, and then we consult with the chief librarian and then we make a final determination."

Some books that recently made their way through this process were Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott and Ashes by Kathryn Lasky. Saunders said it's rare that an item gets banned from the library, and while they don't ignore complaints from parents, removing a book is a measure not to be taken lightly.

"We can never take it for granted that we have the ability to read what we want when we want and to formulate our own opinions. Public libraries are here to serve all ages, sexualities, different types of orientations and beliefs, and so it's so easy for different people to try to impose these views."

Ultimately, Saunders said parents are in charge of keeping an eye on what their children are reading or viewing, not the library.

"We're here to provide these materials and we do our best to make sure they're age appropriate, and if the parent makes a really good case that a DVD or a particular book is not age-appropriate, then we listen to them."