Libraries offer children a chance to engage in the pleasure of reading, offering them a wide section of books to choose from. These include books aimed at all age groups with an extensive range of content, some of which may not be considered suitable for children by society generally. This reflection considers whose responsibility is it to decide if a book is suitable for a child and if not, should they be prevented from borrowing it. Although specifically focussing on books this can apply any product, program or service offered by the library.
Censorship can be defined as limiting free access to information or resources (Duthie, 2010) and overcoming censorship challenges can be problematic (Peck 2014). This is in opposition to the tenet of librarians for the rights of all members of the community, including children to have free and open access to information (Duthie, 2010):
“Information professionals typically feel that they should provide access to information regardless of content or conflict with their personal points -of- view” (Isajlovic-Terry & McKechnie, 2012)
However, the issue of censorship still remains an emotive one effecting many values including religious, social, professional and ethical (Duthie, 2010). Does the librarian have a duty to protect the child from potentially harmful material or is the act of restricting access unethical? (Duthie, 2010)
There is also the potential problem of a challenge by a concerned parent (Isajlovic-Terry & McKechnie, 2012), as it is often the parent who is concerned about a books content, rather than the child (Duthie, 2010). In order to mitigate for this, it is important for the library to have policies in place to defend themselves against such a challenge, such as the selection policy and any particular policies they have in place for lending books to children (Peck, 2014, p.100). These policies should be in concord with free access to information by all and a right to select material without censorship and should be in agreement with the concept of intellectual freedom (Dalgetty, 2012). They also have a right to privacy in their book choices as they may be researching a subject they are not ready to discuss with their parents such as sexuality
It is important for librarians to realise it is not their role to control and monitor what children are reading, but that of the parents (Isajlovic-Terry & McKechnie, 2012). To that end many libraries require the parent to sign a consent before the child is issued with a library card, which can detail the library’s policy on lending material to children (Peck, 2014). The parent is often in a better position to decide what is suitable for a child, as all children are individuals and are thus deal with content in books differently.
The librarian’s role is not that of a censor but that of a provider and facilitator of information. It is a matter purely between the child and its parents to decide and monitor what is appropriate material for the child to be accessing.
Dalgetty, C. (2012). Teen rights in the public library. Felicitr, 58(2), 76-77. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/docview/10114841
Duthie, F. (2010). Libraries and the ethics of censorship. Australian Library Journal, 59(3), 86-94. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/docview/751836919?pq-origsite=summon444524685280
Isajlovic-Terry, N., & McKechnie, L. (. F. ). (2012). An exploratory study of children’s views of censorship. Children & Libraries, 10(1), 38-43. Retrieved from http://gateway.library.qut.edu.au/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1013523555
Peck, P. (2014). Crash Course in Children’s Services (2nd Edition). Oxford, GBR: Libraries Unlimited. Retrieved from http://site.ebrary.com/lib/qut/detail.action?docID=10928453
(Created for student blog: Semester 2, 2015)