Monday, April 19, 2010

Liberation Bibliography

I came across an article that Bloody Bookaholic references out of Florida that deals with the topic of censorship, and it got me thinking. I am a mother of two girls under the age of 3, so on one hand I can see what motivated the mother to go to lengths she did to censor the library literature that her teenager could be accessing, but on the other hand, I have to wonder - did it even occur to her to just tell her daughter "No" ? In essence, she is trying to turn librarians into parental figures instead of being the parent herself. The first BIG clue is that she is only targeting Young Adult literature, and ignoring everything else. What she ought to be doing is teaching her daughter how to distinguish right from wrong in what she reads and make good choices for herself when she frequents the library. The stuff she can find in a library won't be any worse than what will be found on her Required Reading lists from school. I will never forget the book Invisible Man: A Novel by Ralph Ellison, which I was required to read in high school, for an incredibly horrid graphic scene, but I would never dream of censoring it either.

This modern society that we live in suffers from a blame game of epic proportions, and when that blame game enters into the world of books, censorship ala Fahrenheit 451 emerges. I am a bookworm to the bone, and if there is anything I hate more, it's the censorship and banning of literature. So many take the ability to read for granted in our modernized society when there are approximately 759 million adults worldwide lacking minimum literacy skills according to UNESCO. That translates to 1 in 5 adults, and two-thirds of them are women. In addition, 72 million children can not attend school. These statistics should be telling us to value our literacy and expand on the literature available as much as possible, not limit and hinder the culture of books!
I found this great article on that addresses the concept of intellectual freedom in libraries. The article coins the term "Liberation Bibliography" and I like it! As the article describes, "Liberation bibliography rests on the idea that the role of libraries is not just to provide access to information but to provide access that is liberating. And to be liberating, information at some level must be free, whether it wants to be or not."  The existence of libraries depends upon the human right of intellectual freedom, which is defined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." As soon as that right gets taken away, then a domino effect ensues, trampling the easy, free access of information and taking with it the importance of libraries and even the World Wide Web.
The motivations for banning or challenging books have fallen under the headings of political, religious, or moral.  I find it sad the number of classics that are still being challenged and even banned in some communities today, great works such as To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Perennial Modern Classics), Lord of the Flies (Faber Firsts), 1984 (Signet Classics), Brave New World, and others listed on the ALA site. The most frequently challenged books of 2000-2009 were the Harry Potter series, which I can thank for getting my older sister interested in literature again, as well as raising her oldest son's reading level to his grade level.

"...There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. Every minority, be it Baptist/Unitarian, Irish/Italian/Octogenarian/Zan Buddhist, Zionist/Seventh-day Adventist, Women's Lib/ Republican, Mattachine/FourSquareGospel feels it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse. Every dimwit editor who sees himself as the source of all dreary blanc-mange plain porridge unleavened literature, licks his guillotine and eyes the neck of any author who dares to speak above a whisper or write above a nursery rhyme...." -Ray Bradbury


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