Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Banned Books Week

What do we do?  Should we keep vigilant in our awareness but moderate in our actions?

I just read a blog post from the Annoyed Librarian http://blog.libraryjournal.com/annoyedlibrarian/2012/09/24/a-solution-looking-for-a-problem/ and I am not sure of her argument.  She makes the distinction between Ulysses, a book she states was actually censored, to other books that were "removed" from some libraries but not "censured" everywhere. 

I think her argument's main point rests on a distinction without a difference.

Is there a legal difference between removing a book and censoring a book under the law?  I'm not aware of one.

The Annoyed Librarian makes a great argument (one argued by govenment many times before) that if a book is available somewhere, then it is not censured.  For example, if the county commission banned Timmy's favorite book from his library, well Timmy could just a) hop on a bus and go to a different library, or b) buy the book himself.

Unfortunately, this argument often fails because the book is being banned by a governmental agency (First Amendment incorporated to the states) without a significant government purpose.  We don't look to "availability in other jurisdictions" as the appropriate test for censureship  (and let's not forget they were censuring Ulysses for our sake, just like they "removed" Fifty Shades of Grey from the libraries in Brevard County. To protect all those young mothers from this "mommy porn").

If that was the case, we could "remove" all questionable books because they would be available at the Library of Congress.

The Annoyed Librarian was right about one thing:  that Ulysses was censured.  The reason that is true is that Ulysses was the last book to be legally censured in the U.S.  This doesn't mean, however, that governments won't keep trying to censure books by "removing" them.

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