Sunday Speculation: Book Removal Awards

When I was reading about the NCAC “Celebration of Free Speech and Its Defenders” awards in School Library Journal, I got to wondering this question:

Why don’t they have awards for people who have successfully gotten books removed from libraries? 

If a person petitions the library to remove a book out of a legitimate concern for the well being of the children or the community or whatever, why not give out awards for it? If people feel that the removal of a library material is for the best interests of another, why not celebrate it? I mean, if they are doing a good deed, a moral act, a step towards the bettering of their neighbors and families, then why not acknowledge it? There are plenty of recognitions for people who work to improve the lives of others. Take a little pride in the accomplishment!

You might think I’m joking, but I assure you that I am dead serious. If you are someone who believes in their heart that they are doing the right thing by asking for a library to remove a book, that what you are doing is important, that removing this book is the best action for the community as a whole, why not stand proudly and take credit for this success? If anything, you’ve earned it considering the usual ruckus that can be associated with a book challenge. Speak with the same surety and conviction in your voice when you declare, “Yes, I am responsible for the removal of a book at the library because it was unsuitable for [insert your rationale here]!” It really doesn’t matter what other people think if you are being true to yourself, to your beliefs, and to the action that was taken. Isn’t that what is most important in the end?

I realize some people might have a problem with this idea, but my question still remains: why not give out awards for book challenges? And if there was book challenge awards, what should they be called?

10 thoughts on “Sunday Speculation: Book Removal Awards

  1. I’m guessing because censorship is frowned upon no matter what the context is. I don’t believe there are many people who want to celebrate censorship. It doesn’t matter if “a good deed, a moral act, a step towards the bettering of their neighbors” was done because, presumably, everyone who requests a book’s removal feel they are doing those very things. Like Liz stated above, it gives the image that the individual knows what is right and/or wrong for society. Personally, I’m glad there isn’t such an award because I do not want anything that promotes censorship and possibly shed a positive light on it.

    • For one, I don’t believe that the people who challenge books believe they are engaged in censorship. After all, the material is available elsewhere. They are just asking that it be removed from one place.

      Second, it is not a matter of what we as librarians think, it is a matter of what the book challenger thinks. Whether I give $10,000 to a charity for homeless kids versus getting Forever removed from the shelf, I’m acting to improve the lives of kids in both cases. For the first, I would possibly get some recognition, but not for the second?

      On the flip side, dont you think a little recognition for the challenges and the people behind them (and in turn the underlying rationales) provides it’s own value in showcasing book challenges and what they entail? Think on that one.

      • It’s one thing to limit what my own child would read until they come to the age that they should determine what they should or shouldn’t read. It’s another thing entirely to push for that book to be moved from a public space. You are imposing your judgement and opinion on a large, unknown group of people rather than a handful of people that you are personally responsible for at that time. I think one would be hard pressed to argue against donating money or materials for the homeless as an act that is not beneficial in any way. However, I think one could argue against taking a book off of a shelf. One is definitely more subjective than the other.

        And I’m fuzzy on what you’re getting at in the second part. Are you saying that the people involved and the books themselves benefit from the debate and discussion on what the book entails, the themes involved, etc.? If so, I believe that, yes, the discussion behind it can be beneficial, but mainly in regards to increasing the chance of people understanding one another through openness and understanding.

        • Oh, I’m very aware of the usual arguments for book removal. I’m not questioning the usual librarian stance on it; I’m wondering about the other side of the coin.

          The second part is more of a highlighting of the book challenges. It seems like a lot of them suffer from a lack of visibility. I think an award might actually get people’s attention and bring something more to the table in terms of awareness.

  2. I am less concerned with customers who want to ban a book than with librarians who censor their collections based on their own biases, especially anti-gay biases. Very very very few public libraries in America provide even one single book for children which shows gay parents. Even most large cities with large gay populaces have hardly any books representing this segment of their populace. Gay kids in America can only see themselves on the internet; they are unlikely to see themselves in their public libraries in most of America. And if they have no access to the internet, that’s a prescription for depression & suicide for those kids.

  3. All right. I’ve got to admit that my first thought when I read your question was, “Well, why don’t they have awards for the best acts of terrorism in a year? Because that would be crazy.” Then I thought that you were being ironic or trying to get everyone to think how book banners think as a social commentary. Then I read “Oh, I’m very aware of the usual arguments for book removal. I’m not questioning the usual librarian stance on it; I’m wondering about the other side of the coin.”

    Now, I’m a tiny bit confused as to where this is coming from, but here’s my response anyway. I think that librarians, especially, don’t celebrate book banning because it goes against the fundamental values of librarianship. That’s not to say that book banners don’t celebrate their successes. Have you ever heard of PABBIS(http://www.pabbis.com/)? It’s Parents Against Bad Books in Schools with a list of those “bad books” and how to get them out of your child’s school. They also have a ton of links with organizations that censor and information on how to “fight the dirty ALA.” It’s not an award, but it’s a site that celebrates book removals based on their value system.

    If you click through their links on the website, there some pretty strong language (not dirty, dirty swear words, but calls to action) saying that they are sure and proud of their successes and battles which is what you were asking for in the post.

    • Well, I should fess up. I was partly being facetious. But it was fueled by the idea that if people feel like they are doing the right thing by removing a book, why not celebrate it with awards?

      As to where it is coming from, it’s just a thought combined with feeling a bit argumentative. I think it doesn’t hurt to step out and try out a different line of thought.

      • Thanks for clearing it up! I had suspected, but I’m not always clear on reading facetiousness in text form. I do agree with you that it’s good to step outside your comfort zone and thought patterns. I tried to do that a little with PABBIS, although most of the site made me sick to my stomach. It’s one thing to have book banners out there, it’s a whole other thing when they’re so organized… But, anyway, thanks for making me think about this a little more!

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