The National Coalition Against Censorship is concerned about the recent removal of two books from the library in Llano County, Texas: the award-winning health education book, It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris; and In The Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak.
It has been reported that a librarian removed these books under pressure from local politicians, against the library’s book challenge procedures. It is highly problematic for book removal decisions to be made by a single person. This action increases the likelihood that a book will be removed for improper reasons, such as personal hostility to the perceived message of the book. Moreover, libraries have a public mission to serve all of its community, and of course, every library book may not appeal to all readers. When book removal decisions are made by a properly constituted committee, it is more likely that all patrons’ needs will be incorporated into the library’s collection. It is less likely that decisions will be the result of political pressure or other improper considerations.
Both of the books in question have been in publication for decades, and are in the collections of libraries across the country. Both were presumably selected for inclusion in the library’s collection pursuant to library policy, which states, “Materials with an emphasis on sex, or containing profane language should not be automatically rejected. Selection should be made on the basis of whether the media presents life in its true proportions, whether characters and situations are realistically presented, and whether the media has literary value.”
Moreover, the library policy states that ”responsibility for the use of materials by children and adolescents shall rest with their parents or legal guardians. While a person may reject materials for himself or herself and for his or her children, he or she shall not exercise censorship to restrict access to the materials by others.” Had the library submitted the books to a committee, the reviewers might have decided that, notwithstanding certain brief sections that may be controversial when taken out of context, the needs of its users are best served by retaining the books on library shelves.
NCAC is urging the County to return It’s Perfectly Normal and In The Night Kitchen to the shelves until it has conducted a formal review of the books.
Read NCAC’s letter to Llano County Commissioners below. Click here for a full screen view: