Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Higher Power of Lucky: An Agnostic View

I could well be the last library related blogger to address the controversy over The Higher Power of Lucky. To briefly recap, a number of children's librarians have refused to purchase an award-winning children's book because it uses the word "scrotum". LISNews and SHUSH have additional links and background.

As you might expect, this news has caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth amongst librarians and others, with cries of "censorship" and the like. So what is my view on this burning question? Frankly, that this whole issue is an overhyped pseudo-controversy. On the one hand, I'm not sure that a book mentioning the word "scrotum" necessarily spells the end of Western civilization. If parents have no problem with their kids reading it, then neither do I. At the same time, the idea that certain school librarians choosing not to purchase this book is a manifestation of the mailed fist of censorship is ridiculous.

For example, take the comments of Higher Power author Susan Patron, who was "shocked and horrified" to find out that some librarians decided not to add her book to their collections. This is exactly the sort of overheated rhetoric that I have found so frustrating to listen to over the last 5 years. The Patriot Act represents "the death of civil liberties". School librarians who feel that a certain book is inappropriate for their users are iron-fisted censors. No, there's clearly no shortage of hyperbole in our profession.

I mean, is it a bad thing that there are differences of opinion among librarians on this issue? Some librarians, acting in good faith and using their best professional judgment, have chosen to select Higher Power for their children's collections. Others, also acting in good faith and following their considered professional opinion, have chosen not to. Isn't that how it's supposed to work? Aren't we as librarians supposed to enjoy some degree of professional autonomy?

People are free to agree or disagree with either viewpoint. However, those crying censorship over this issue might first want to consult with Taslima Nasreen or Ayaan Hirsi Ali and find out what the standard for censorship really is.

2 Comments:

Anonymous davette zinik said...

Interesting post. Thanks for educating us about real examples of censorship around the world.

12:47 PM  
Blogger allie701 said...

Finally a reasoned moderate response. Thank you. I am a librarian for a K-4 school library who selects books based on reviews, and frankly the reviews for this book were few and far between. I had decided against purchasing it but did eventually read a copy after the awards were announced. I am still not convinced that the book is Newbery quality and that has nothing to do with vocabulary. I am interested that NOBODY ever mentions the little sex lesson on the last page. I would think that would get more people riled up, but maybe they didn't read that far.

4:34 PM  

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