Where Does Censorship Stop, And Who Sets The Standards?


By Jay Michaels

Twin Falls, Idaho (KMVT-TV) The PayPal company has asked the electronic book seller Smashwords to not sell books and stories that deal with incest, rape, and bestiality. But Smashwords says even the Bible could be banned, because it contains scenes of rape and incest.

We talked to some local librarians about how libraries choose which books to buy.

The science fiction novel "Fahrenheit 451" was published almost 60 years ago. It's billed as "the temperature at which book paper catches fire and burns."

The story by Ray Bradbury depicts a society where reading is outlawed and books are burned. Fortunately, we haven't gone that far – yet.

Vivian Wells, Librarian at Twin Falls High School, says, "We are totally for the support of the curriculum, which means that we will have controversial materials. One, for those students who are doing research topics, they must access those things that are debatable and controversial."

Wells says two of the books that have consistently been in the top ten books asked to be removed from library shelves are "Catcher in the Rye" and "Huckleberry Finn."

She says there's bad language and bad situations in many of the books that are coming out now, but that can cause a conflict for many parents.

Patty Metcalf, Director of the Jerome Public Library, says, "We don't restrict who checks out what. Parents are responsible for guiding their childrens' selection of the material in the library. Parents give permission to their children to have library cards, and then are taking responsibility for the kinds of materials their children check out. So we leave that decision to the parents."

Both Metcalf and Wells says if a parent wants to complain about a specific book, there's a form they can fill out. The parents can specify the page number and which parts they object to. Then a committee can take a closer look at the book to see if it meets the standards established for choosing books to buy for the library.

Wells says, "They review the material to see if it in truth really does need to be withdrawn, based on our local opinion, and not necessarily a national morality that someone wishes to say."

Mar. 7, 2012.

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