One of my favorite quotes about censorship is from the great American, Mark Twain. He says “Censorship is telling a man he can’t have a steak because a baby can’t chew it.” I hear the following statement quite frequently: “I don’t believe in censorship, but…” I am sorry, you either believe in freedom to read or you do not. Once you add that “but” on the end of that statement you are really saying “I do not believe anyone should censor me, but I should be able to tell others what they can and can not read.” Now before I go too far, I’m not talking about viewing obscene or pornographic materials, these are controlled by law.
“But” they say, “some people just are not ready to handle (insert topic to be feared or controlled here)”. Now by “some people” they usually mean children. The reasoning goes like this: Some child will see something on some ‘dangerous’ topic and this will inflame them and cause all sorts of unwanted behavior.
Books are supposed to inflame, at least some of them are. Often the same books inform, enchant, entertain, stimulate, arouse, invite and amuse. It is sad when you do not get anything out of a book. Since we are talking about children, what about the parents? Don’t parents have some responsibility to monitor and guide their children? “Ah” they say, “those parents don’t do that!” Why don’t those parents teach their children they ask. Would it not make more sense to answer that question and try to fix the root of the problem rather than create fear and hysteria over what might happen? Let us try to solve the problem rather than the symptom.
Public libraries collect books on a spectrum. The Library has books with little words and big pictures as well as scholarly tomes. The idea is one can find a book on a wide diversity of topics that is written at a level which you want. A person doesn’t always need something written at a doctoral level just the same as something written for a third grader does not always give enough information. One can choose to stretch one’s intellect, or not. The key is, each individual, or their parents, get to choose.
Speaking of censorship, Banned Books Week, Sept.22-28, 2019, celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular. The Montrose Regional Library District does not ban books, but seeks to be inclusive of all thoughts. The District tries to follow the 80/20 rule, 80% of what we select is for the mainstream, 20% for those ideas on the fringes, thus covering the entire spectrum as best we can. Banned Books Week stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where these two essential conditions are met. Read banned books: it’s your freedom we’re talking about.