While in graduate school, I once saw a movie (based on a book, of course!) called The Name of the Rose starring Christian Slater and Sean Connery. Set in Europe in the 14th century, it is the story of two Benedictine monks during the Inquisition who are sent to a monastery to investigate a series of deaths. They discover that the murders are a result of the protection of the monastery’s famous library, which contained a wealth of information on a plethora of subjects.
The collection was guarded at all costs, and the freedom to view the books was limited only to the highest-ranking monk. By controlling access to information, he wielded great power and control.
Cut to present day…
With regard to collection development in libraries, the rule of thumb is that at least a third of your collection should offend you. It is said that if you don’t have a problem with at least 30% of the materials in the library you are managing, you aren’t doing your job. For example, librarians who are card-carrying members of the ACLU should include books about Focus on the Family, an organization notorious for supporting the pro-life movement.
In theory, this seems unquestionable; however, putting theory to practice can be quite difficult when the librarian whose spouse committed suicide struggles with ordering Fixin' To Die: A Compassionate Guide to Committing Suicide or Staying Alive by David Lester. (See review at www.amazon.com.)
Librarians do possess a certain level of power and control because we are gatekeepers of the information to which people have access. When we refrain from selecting certain materials (i.e., those that could be used by readers to harm themselves or others), are we abusing our positions, or are we being responsible citizens?
Another question: should you be the parents of young children in whom you are seeking to instill certain faith-based ideals, would you object to your child having access to books about the practice of witchcraft? (Harry Potter fans, lay off…I’m one of you! Not talking about works of fiction here.)
Apart from mi esposo, the person who has had the most significant impact on my life is my grandmother. She has lived a life of amazing grace and inspiring morality, even as her mind was taken hostage by a disease worse than death itself. As irony would have it, the most cherished gift she has given me is the very same as that which has been taken from her…memories. My recollections of her are filled with, and largely centered upon books. Our special story times created a reader at age three, and took us all over the world together in the adventures of Hoppy, the curious kangaroo and the girls in the Primrose Day crowd. In short, she impressed a respect for the value of the printed word. Any blogs posted on this site will center upon book and education-related themes. I would think that, should she be able, Jessie would have posted messages much like these herself. I would like to think that she would be proud.
Posted by Michelle Wilson at 10:25 PM