Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I'll read what I want, when I want, and without labels...Thank you!

 Censorship in any form really makes me angry and when I read this article today I was incensed. I understand a parent who doesn't want their child to read certain books and/or not be able to check them out from a school library. I've had several parents call me to make sure that I put notes on their child's library account so that a flag comes up that reminds me not to allow them to check out "Harry Potter" or "Fear Street by R.L. Stine." I follow their requests because they're the parents after all...doesn't mean though that other kids can't check them out. I also do not label books in any fashion. No stickers for holidays, historical fiction, comedy, etc. Why? Because I think kids need to learn how to use the library catalog and search for books under keywords, subjects, author name. And I think they need to browse and pull books out and spend a few minutes with it to see if it might be one that they will enjoy. Heck, I quit putting those annoying "Accelerated Reader" sticker on the spines. Because frankly, I despise AR!!! But that's a whole 'nother post!! Let me get back to the issue, which is censorship. The issue here is that this parent wants the PUBLIC library to label all YA books so that kids know what they're getting before they open it. This parent wants the "naughty" books put somewhere else. This parent wants to tell YOU and YOUR child what is acceptable to read....what do you think about that?

Here is the article, read it and tell me what you think?

This article originally appeared in SLJ's Extra Helping.

By Lauren Barack -- School Library Journal, 4/26/2010 2:10:00 PM

Dixie Fechtel wants to know the kinds of books her daughters check out of the local public library’s YA section. That’s why the Leesburg, FL, mom of two is pushing for labels on any book aimed at teens containing material that refer to illegal acts or what she calls “inappropriate.” “We’re not trying to ban books,” she says. “We just want kids to know what they’re getting into.

Leesburg branch of the Lake County Library System.

Fechtel’s fight has been a long one, starting in 2008 when she pushed for the Leesburg branch of the Lake County Library System (LCLS) to label books she felt had content unsuitable for teens. Back then, the library placed stickers that read "High School" on some books and reshelved them outside the teen reading room. But Fechtel says that’s not enough. She wants labels that delineate the content more clearly—and she wants them on books throughout Lake County. But Library Services Director for LCLS, Tom Merchant, who sat with Fechtel during her first round of requests, says she has not made any formal appeal this time through the library system.“Nor has she contacted me or anyone else directly associated with the library system,” says Merchant.Fechtel doesn’t argue that point, and instead has taken her cause directly to Lake County Board of County Commissioners, hoping to make inroads with them. She says two of them, Linda Stewart and Jimmy Conner, are both very concerned about the lack of labeling on books. Repeated calls to all five commissioners, including Conner and Stewart, the latter of whom serves as liaison to the Lake County Library System, were not returned. Fechtel has also enlisted the help of the Liberty Counsel, a self-described nonprofit ministry that provides free legal aid in “the areas of religious liberty, the sanctity of human life and the family,” according to its Web site. Through the group, Fechtel says she has provided commissioners with legal wording that could be attached to a library’s collection and development policy stating that materials mentioning illegal activities among minors shouldn’t be housed in a library.But why hasn’t Fechtel approached the Lake County Library System or the library itself?
“Been there, done that,” she says. “The system they have in place, probably dictated by the American Library Association, is not meant to accomplish anything for parents and citizens. It’s meant to wear you out.”
Merchant says that if Fechtel were to come in, he would tell her about the library’s reconsideration process. And he adds that industry-imposed labels do exist on DVDs and CDs in the library, but they still don’t affect where librarians might actually place those materials.
“Our policy clearly states that it’s a parent’s responsibility to review what their child is checking out,” he says. “It’s not our role to impose one group of parents’ idea on all children in the library.”


  1. It seems to me like she pretty much wants the library to do her parenting for her. Let's hope she won't get anywhere with it.

  2. I have 3 problems with what she is trying to do:

    1) She is trying to circumvent procedure to get what she wants. In my book (which she would probably label), it means that she wants to only deal with people who agree with her so she doesn't have to listen to opposing points of view. In other words, her way or the highway.

    2) What she is trying to do is get the library to do the work she as a parent should be doing. If she does not want her children to check out YA books that have themes she is opposed too then she should go with her kids to the library and approve/disapprove which books they check out. Most books now days have a this novel contains type of thing on it somewhere. Even if it doesn't, you can tell the general idea behind a novel by reading the back.

    3) What is the point behind labeling? I mean even if it is labeled it doesn't mean that the kids can't check it out. So what next she is going to push for restrictions that encompass everyone? I just don't see a stopping point when you try parent for everyone.

  3. Is she the parent, or does she want the library and the rest of society to do it for her???? geez.....they mention guns and rape in 'to kill a mockingbird' ... would she like to have that banned while she's at it so her kids never read that...grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr....i'm with U girl....stop making the 'laws' do your parenting and do it yourself..... :):):):):):) i knew i loved u....i swear u and i could go on for hours on this kinda stuff!! lol! :):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):)

  4. That woman sounds crazy! She should be happy her kids want to read. If she thinks a book is questionable, she should read it along with her child, so they can discuss the content. People like that just want to control everything!

  5. I don't like those sticker labels either. My public library uses them and I would have missed a few great books because they had "horror" or "science fiction" stickers (two of my least fav genres).

    It is a parent's responsibility to know what their kids are reading and to talk to them about why they think it is not appropriate.

    I do applaud that you work with the parent in following their requests about certain books.

  6. As a parent you are the ones that can set the rules for your child but you can not have the whole world bend to your rules. Life just doesn't work that way. (though sometimes it would be lovely).

    If you don't want your child reading a certain book then discuss that with them. But having the library "hide" the books you think are bad, is just not reality. Your version of "naughty" can be completely different than someone elses.


  7. I hope this parent has labels on her television as well! Oh, and she might as well put one out in the yard, so when her child goes outside in contact with real life, there's adequate warning!

  8. Hmmm...Staci I agree with all that was said here, by the librarians I mean. People just have no clue, first of all, how much work it would be to put specialized labels on all the YA books. I know some libraries do this, but it seems like this person wants even specialized-specialized labels.

    I was constantly amazed at what the public would ask of librarians and expect to happen. I could tell you stories.....

    I disagree with censorship in every regard. It is each parent's responsibility to guide their own child. They should read their books, check out what they see on the internet, and keep informed by volunteering or helping out at their child's school or library.

    The last statement is what I believe. It is the parent's responsibility.

  9. Staci,

    Thanks for this post. I had two incidents about censorship this year where I had to defend a book I teach and a book chosen for our local Area Wide Book Battle.

    The book I teach has some profanity in it, but clearly represents the character (much like Holden Caufield)and helps point out characterization and character motivation. It also has a disturbing scene at the end where the Watcher is saved from her abusive father. These two things were what the parent had problems with. We do always send home a permission slip before we read this.

    The other was Unwind, where a parent wanted it removed from the library because the one scene in the book upset her child.

    I like the last quote of this article though, and tell my parents at the beginning of the year pretty much the same thing: that if they do not like a book their child is reading from my library, (which is more liberal than the school's library) that I will of course understand. The books on my shelves are meant for independent reading anyway.

    I do think that the labeling this mother is asking for might occur though. It could be just like the R rating on movies and TV. It's when a parent or parents what a book removed (such as Catcher in the Rye, Tom Sawyer or any other frequently banned books) that I really begin getting hot, hot, hot, then these people are stepping on my freedom of choice!

  10. Very infuriating! It's definitely a form of censorship, and like Lilly says, she wants everyone else to accept responsibility for instilling HER values in her children.

    Don't get me started!!

  11. My parents would never even have though about doing that, I came home with whatever I wanted and knew what I did not want

  12. First off...LOVE the haircut. It looks adorable and frames your face well. Tres chic! (I have a very similiar style, my sister from up north)

    If this woman is so concerned with what her children are reading, then she should check the books out before her kids do. Why must everything be labeled? I understand times have changed but labels can make people feel good or bad. Like the romance label on some of my books. Sometimes it's a bit much.

    Then you want to file some books here and some books there according to label. Please! We already have general categories and some by age. I think that is plenty.

    If you have raised your children to the best of your ability, at a certain point you need to let them go. They need to learn how to make decisions on their own. They need to make some mistakes in order to learn. It's difficult, but you can't do everything for your kids, otherwise they will never be their own person.

  13. Ugh, here we go again :\ I think Lilly's comment says it all.

  14. I think that this parent needs to do the research herself and if she doesn't want her daughter to read a book then she needs to monitor that herself. With so many cuts in public libraries it's unreasonable to expect this type of service which is geared toward a few. I don't believe in censorship either. I do believe parents need to be self informed of what their kids are reading if this is an issue for them.

  15. I have to agree with the others. Sounds like she wants some else to do the her job as parent for her. I don't believe in censoring books at the public level. That's up to parents as you said. Half the fun of picking out a book is browsing, reading the back to find out what is is about. Putting labels on the books would pretty much destroy the value of the books for other people.

  16. Rather than trying to limit what everyone else's children have access to reading she needs to police what is happening in her own home. I hate censorship and completely disagree with these kinds of schemes. I just read Fahrenheit 451 not long ago so I must admit I am a bit sensitive on this topic.

  17. Maybe she should, y'know, stay involved with what her kids are reading? That would save the school librarian loads of unnecessary work and avoid a lot of drama.

    I doubt such labels would even be helpful. Kind of like movie ratings. My kids might love an R-rated movie that merited this rating because of too many "F words," and a PG-13 flick might have enough gratuitous violence to send me running from the room. Violence concerns me WAY more than cursing, but another parent might see it differently. There is no one-size-fits-all label that is going to fit everyone's needs.

  18. Absolutely ridiculous. What makes me even sadder about these situations is that these people really think they are doing someething good. Hopefully the truth will win out and she won't be able to get her way.

  19. Thanks fort reporting on this incident. The more people raise the issue of banned books, the better. And I do consider this a form of book banning. I've known many people like this woman. They believe their ideas are righteously right and must be imposed on everyone else. She thinks she's doing it for her children but there are other ways she can easily solve that problem. No, she wants everyone else to see life the way she does.

  20. What an interesting post! I'm with you on this one, Staci. If they go to school, that woman's kids probably already know everything that can be found in the books she's trying to ban...books are one of the safer ways kids will find out about life.

  21. This is one of those ideas that can easily backfire. Put a label on a book and that could be the very thing that makes the kid want to read it. I get very annoyed with parents expecting the rest of the world to do their job for them. This woman must freak out at some of the music out there.

  22. I am not a parent so I might have a strikingly different perspective in this labeling/flagging issue. Censorship in any form to me means a power wielded too enormous to exert pressure on others. As long as a book is not pornographic, it should never been censored. It's about a well-rounded, universal education that will teach kids to be savvy of social and cultural diversity. Censorship shall have the long term detrimental effect. Kids will only be exposed to what their parents want them to read and so they live this bubble of "it's-all-good" type of world. It's unrealistic. And by censoring materials, you think the kids won't find other ways to access these materials?

  23. I'm 100% against censorship but I gotta tell you that I do love that video games and music CDs have those explanations of the content on them. If I'm going to spend money on something for my kids, I do like to know that it will be appropriate by my standards. HOWEVER--the internet was not what it is now when my kids were growing up. It is so easy now to research books, video games and music now before you buy them. Be the parent, lady. Just because something is labeled or even put in a separate area doesn't mean the kid isn't going to pick it up. Plus, these kids learn much more about the real world from each other than they do from anything they read in a book!


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