This week is "Banned Book" week and I took this picture at the Palomino Library which is located on the Desert Mountain High School campus. The exhibit is, of course, pure bunk. None of the books have been "banned." The books make the list if a group of parents questions the age appropriateness of the book and suggests that it not be made mandatory in a class room, or in some cases available in the school library.
Ironically, those who label these books as "banned" will be quick to tell you that some books are not appropriate for all ages. No one wants to see "Fifty Shades of Grey" in an elementary school library, and the fact that Playboy is not available in a high school periodicals room doesn't mean that Playboy has been "banned."
I've asked the librarians why the library insists on creating an annual "banned book" exhibit when the reality is that none of the books have actually been banned and I get vague responses about marketing and raising awareness that eventually morphs into an excuse that while the display isn't accurate, it's not really harmful.
But propaganda like this IS harmful. The first problem is that some kids actually believe that it's true. If the library lists Catcher in the Rye as a book that's been "banned" then kids assume that at some point in this country, the book was, well, banned. That is, of course, not true. The book has always been available but that doesn't mean that every junior high library in the country needs a copy.
The second problem with setting up a bogus display is that kids will eventually figure out that it was bogus and the trust that they had in teachers and librarians will be diminished. Of course, this is inevitable because much of what's taught in school is incomplete, papered over or bogus. Which is why college history classes come as such a shock to freshmen.
But the real problem with claiming that these books have been "banned" is that the display is a subtle way of undermining and denigrating those of us who have stricter standards than those who made the display. After all, "banning books" is bad and those who advocate banning books are bad. So if you and I agree that Fifty Shades of Grey is inappropriate for an elementary school library, but you believe that it's ok for a high school library, and I disagree....I'm a book banner.
The display is simply an ad hominem attack on people who have a more conservative view of what material should be made available to their children.
So the folks who pride themselves on getting accurate information to patrons and in promoting an open and tolerant society have created an inaccurate display in order to villify those who disagree with them on the age appropriateness of certain titles. Classic. And, by the way, your tax dollars at work.