[Libs-Or] Tuesday Topic: Dr. Seuss, Library Policies, Censorship, “Cancel Culture” & Choosing Books to Read Aloud, Display and Promote (March 2021)

Miranda Doyle doylem at loswego.k12.or.us
Wed Mar 3 10:45:08 PST 2021

Special Wednesday edition, 6 days early: Welcome to Tuesday Topics, a
monthly series covering topics with intellectual freedom implications for
libraries of all types. Each message is prepared by a member of OLA's
Intellectual Freedom Committee or a guest writer. Questions can be directed
to the author of the topic or to the IFC committee

“Six Dr. Seuss books — including ‘And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry
Street’ and ‘If I Ran the Zoo’ — will stop being published because of
racist and insensitive imagery, the business that preserves and protects
the author’s legacy said Tuesday. ‘These books portray people in ways that
are hurtful and wrong,’ Dr. Seuss Enterprises told The Associated Press in
a statement that coincided with the late author and illustrator’s
birthday.” - Washington Post
March 2, 2021

March 2021 Tuesday Topic: Dr. Seuss, Library Policies, Censorship, “Cancel
Culture” & Choosing Books to Read Aloud, Display and Promote

Many well-known and beloved authors are problematic due to racist imagery
or stereotypes. Quite a few books fall into this category, as librarians
and educators have long been aware. Examples include the “Little House on
the Prairie” books, “Dr. Doolittle”,  “Peter Pan”, and “The Indian in the
Cupboard”. Authors may also be problematic due to personal behavior and
publicly expressed beliefs -- writers such as Roald Dahl, J.K. Rowling and
others come to mind.

This week, Dr. Seuss is in the news after his estate decided to stop
publishing six of his 48 books.

Most libraries do own some or all of the six Dr. Seuss books in question. As
public institutions, libraries must abide by the First Amendment, and
cannot remove books because we disagree with the ideas in those books -
that would be censorship. Our libraries keep books unless they meet our
school board-adopted criteria for deselection (weeding/removal): they are
rarely or no longer checked out by library users, they are damaged or
unapppealing in appearance, they contain incorrect outdated facts, and so
on. Every library has - or should have - a policy and a form community
members may fill out to ask for a book’s removal; for schools, that
decision often goes to the school board.

However, while we cannot remove library books, we as librarians and library
staff can and do choose not to promote every book in the library. We choose
better, more recent, more diverse, anti-racist titles to highlight instead.
We can decide not to add the problematic books to book displays, read them
aloud to classes, or recommend them to teachers and students. We may also
let library users know about racism, stereotypes, or other issues in books,
and then suggest different titles as alternatives.

We also often select books other than Dr. Seuss for celebrations of Read
Across America Week (Mar. 1 -5). This is the approach a school district
took this year in Virginia
and it’s a good one. They did not remove any library books, they simply
made better choices for their celebration.  As Loudoun County Public
Schools said in their statement, "We continue to encourage our young
readers to read all types of books that are inclusive, diverse and
reflective of our student community, not simply celebrate Dr. Seuss.”

Choosing not to display or highlight problematic titles is not censorship
or “cancel culture.” It’s teachers and professional librarians using their
judgement to benefit children and families. When we update our curriculum
and the novels students read as a class, we also consider these issues.
There are millions of books available; why not skip books with obviously
racist illustrations, stereotypes, and other serious problems in favor of
books that will be the “windows and mirrors” for all children, as described
by Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_AAu58SNSyc>?

Many school districts and public libraries have adopted and implemented
Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion policies. We have decided that EDI is a
priority in our schools and libraries. Those decisions should and do play a
role in deciding which books we purchase, highlight, and use in our
classrooms and our library programs.

Yes, it’s possible to read a classic novel or picture book with a class or
group of children (or with your own child) and point out the racist imagery
or other problematic content. However, this does not always happen in
practice. In addition, just showing that imagery can do harm. Librarians,
teachers and parents constantly make choices as far as what to teach and
read. Professional judgement calls for knowing and using more current and
diverse children’s literature, in place of books with harmful content.

Libraries cannot and should not remove books due to content. Library staff
can, however, help educate library users. We can use our collection
development policies - which describe how and why we buy books - to add
amazing new titles. Teachers can pick the best books for their classroom
libraries and for their lessons, not books with racist, sexist, homophobic,
and otherwise problematic illustrations and text. Public librarians can do
the same for their storytimes and events. We can and must promote, display,
and recommend books that provide windows and mirrors for all students and
their families.

-- Miranda Doyle, District Librarian, Lake Oswego School District

Intellectual Freedom Chair, Oregon Association of School Libraries

doylem at loswego.k12.or.us
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <https://omls.oregon.gov/pipermail/libs-or/attachments/20210303/72e0098e/attachment.html>

More information about the Libs-Or mailing list