Banned Books Week is an annual celebration of the freedom to read.
Censorship is a serious concern for many people and according to statistics from 2016 it may be on the rise.
So how can I suggest that the occasional challenges that Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh receives from our users are not actually a bad thing?
Because in most cases these requests are related to a child’s media consumption—and they show that parents and other adults care about what children are reading, watching, and listening to. And parent engagement is definitely a good thing.
Most reconsideration requests, as they are officially known, start as conversations between our users and our staff. And while that can be uncomfortable, that first step is often the beginning and the end of the matter. Because having the chance to express their concerns—and to get some recommendations for other materials that might be more suitable for their needs—offers satisfaction and closure in many cases.
When the initial conversation doesn’t resolve the situation, however, formal reconsideration requests give us the chance to further examine and explain our choices. After all, we don’t just pick titles at random to add to our collections. We follow our Collection Development and Management Policy and take into account professional reviews and recommendations as well as our own and our colleagues’ professional experience and expertise.
Reexamining a selection we’ve made is like spot-checking a large project—it keeps us focused and, every once in a while, identifies an area where we might want to correct our course a bit.
When we find that our patrons’ concerns have brought to light an error in our judgement, we take action. Like the time we discovered that a Spanish-language picture book included some choice curse words, a detail that definitely didn’t appear in the reviews we consulted. Funny and clever? Si. Appropriate for our collection? No.
In most cases, though, I’m happy to say that what we find when we dig deeper is that the reasons we acquired a title and made it available in a particular collection stand up to scrutiny. Because we care about what children (and teens and adults) are reading, watching, and listening to too. And we’re committed to making sure that our collections “support intellectual freedom by providing free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored.”