Thursday, September 29, 2005

Freedom to read ?

Have you heard about 'Banned Books Week'? Well, the name may be misleading...... the intention is to raise awareness that Americans should not take for granted the freedom to read.

Historically, many attempt of challenges have been made by people on books and on authors. Things that conflict with or disagree with anyone's belief. The attempt to remove or restrict access to 'objectionable' children/teen materials are often very prominent. Somehow, individuals and groups seems to be setting a much higher standard for children/teen materials.

In the American libraries, librarians are to challenge censorship. Librarians are guardians to the freedom to read. Library Bill of Rights empowered the librarians to be responsible. What is the delicate balance between freedom to read and ensuring our children/teen are not reading 'bad' materials?

Personally, I'd experienced the frustration of censorship which is the result of an individual or a group's point of view - such as pornographic versus artistic; blasphemy versus perception....thus, freedom to read is not a bad thing. On the other hand, from the perspective of a parent or teacher, we know the influence reading materials can have upon the young minds. How then can we practise the freedom to read?

One thing I discovered is the assumption on library materials. Many assume that all materials from the library should be 'safe' for children/teen. We can only start embracing freedom to read when parents or teachers are aware that libraries' responsibility is not to protect readers from 'bad' materials. Their main and professional responsibility is to provide information and enlightenment ; that includes challenging censorship.

It is the responsibility of individual to decide what they want or do not want to read! For children/teen who are not ready to make such decisions, parents can decide on their behalf. However, when a parent disapproves of any book, he/she should only attempt to stop his/her child from reading it; not attempt to restrict or even remove access.

Just like a book can have very different effects on individuals; the take on freedom to read can also spark many different responses. Are you so comfortable without the freedom to read that you wanted censorship? Or are you a frustrated librarian that wonders why you must remove or restrict access to yet another book?


tromperie said...

Talking about banned books, the book "100 banned books : censorship histories of world literature" by Nicholas J. Karolides ... et al. gives us some background about why some books were banned. Interesting read.

(can be found at the Central Lending Library (CLL), or as reference at LKCRL & WRL)

tromperie said...

Just to share some sites that talk of censorship. (Singapore is mentioned!)