Thursday, June 03, 2010

First, The School Library. Then, The Public Library

Back in May, I blogged about the removal of a book from a school in New Jersey.

Quick recap: Revolutionary Voices, edited by Amy Sonnie, was removed from the Rancocas Valley High School library.

As was reported in School Library Journal: "The Rancocas Valley Regional High School banned the book following a complaint by the local chapter of broadcaster Glenn Beck's conservative 9.12 project, which specifically singled out books with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender themes. "We did it for the children," Beverly Marinelli, a grandmother and member of 9.12, told the Philadelphia Enquirer, saying that the book, which contains some sexually explicit material, is “pervasively vulgar, obscene, and inappropriate.”"

Apparently, its not enough to do it for the children.

It also has to be done for adults. Goodness knows, we cannot have adults making their own decisions about what to read! Because according to the website Revolutionary Voices, "the book was successfully banned at the Burlington County Public Library".

The Revolutionary Voices website describes itself: "revolutionary readings, a new social issue piece, is a theatrical reading of revolutionary voices, the 2000 literary anthology edited by amy sonnie. the readings are in response to the rancocas valley regional high school board of education's decision to ban the book from their school library. this theatrical reading project is conceived by young theatre artists."

I went to the Burlington County Public Library catalog and searched for Revolutionary Voices, and found an entry that said the library has no copies.

I haven't found any news reports on this -- does anyone know anything? Is it accurate that a public library has removed this book from the collection?

EDITED TO ADD: An anonymous visitor has commented below about the controversy, including using language to provoke me (and others) to say "oh my goodness, a child could read this, of course it must never be in any book in any library." Anon directed insults at me initially and then went on to direct them towards a guest to this blog who disagreed with her/him. Because of that, comments are now shut down on this post.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy


J.C. Montgomery said...

School libraries are different, but public libraries are backed by the ALA which has resources to help them deal with challenged materials.

I wonder that since there is no copy if it was really removed by the librarian. Or is the group in question doing some "spin doctoring".

This is from the ALA website about how they interpret the Library Bill of Rights in regards to challenged materials:

"Challenged materials should remain in the collection during the review process. The Library Bill of Rights states in Article I that “Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation,” and in Article II, that “Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.” Freedom of expression is protected by the Constitution of the United States, but constitutionally protected expression is often separated from unprotected expression only by a dim and uncertain line. The Supreme Court has held that the Constitution requires a procedure designed to examine critically all challenged expression before it can be suppressed.1 A hearing is a part of this procedure. Materials that meet the criteria for selection and inclusion within the collection should not be removed.

Therefore, any attempt, be it legal or extra-legal,* to regulate or suppress materials in libraries must be closely scrutinized to the end that protected expression is not abridged."

Sorry about the wordiness, but this issue concerns me and I hope to offer as much information to help sort it out as I can.

Good luck!

WKen said...

The Beckian mantra ...

Everyone should be free to think and believe whatever they want ... as long as they want to agree with Glenn Beck.

Cass said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shelley said...

I write for adults, but I have great respect for the ability of children to absorb books intelligently, and that woman's claim of "we did it for the children" immediately made me think of similar statements made by Ned Flanders' wife.

Anonymous said...

Hey it should be important to note that website is not a website for the actual book Revolutionary Voices, but a website for a theatrical project that is in response/ protest to the decision to ban the book. The project uses the actual material from the brook and brings it to locations to read it out loud, having these voices heard loud and clear. And as for any sort of media coverage on the books removal from the public library, the only thing I have been able to find is a brief mention at the bottom of this article:

Joshua Olesker said...

Greetings All: You have the story correctly. "Revolutionary Voices" has been pulled from not just the Rancocas Valley School library but now also from the Burlington County (NJ) library system. It's not just about the children; simply put, book-banning is now a reality in Burlington County, and everybody ought to know about it. We here at the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) have been following the situation for some weeks now and are glad to hear of your concern.

As the NCAC understands the BCLS part of the story, a female member of the 912 group (possibly Mrs. Marinelli) approached the BC Library staff to complain about "Revolutionary Voices" and push for its removal there too, sometime close to when the book was pulled from the RV school library, since "kids might find it there also." Instead of following the BCLS formal challenge procedure, the staff (under director Gail Sweet and library commissioners including Patrick Delany, whose name appeared on and then disappeared from a local 912 group member list earlier this spring) quietly pulled all available copies of the book off the shelves. Today there are no available copies of "Revolutionary Voices" in the BC library system, but it was pulled quietly in the hope that you wouldn't notice.

It is said that "free people read freely." That is not the case today in Burlington County, NJ. For more information and how you might get involved, visit

Joshua Olesker
National Coalition Against Censorship

Anonymous said...

While I believe that "free people read freely" is something of an antidote to "banning" it is fair to say that the discussion has been skewed by your political agenda bias. Those on your side, see Beck as having somehow urged his minions to go out and wreak havoc on school and community libraries. While on our side, it is a cry of "how much is too much?" Somewhere in the middle there is a common ground.

Have any of you commenting here actually taken the time to read the book in question? Who among you have had a conversation recently, say with your child or perhaps dear old Dad, about fisting? Now would you be upset if I had that conversation with your daughter? Or maybe, Mom, at the dinner table, on Thanksgiving or perhaps Christmas dinner? How about that conversation with some one of your nieces or nephews (since fisting is a, what do you say? enjoyed by both sexes?) Would that rise to the level of even slightly annoying you?

It is the knuckle-dragging, mouth breathers on your side of the table that swing the hammer of "free speech" when and if it suits you or your objectives. Let someone stand up and cry foul and suddenly all of the knuckle dragging moves to this side.

Don't mistake silence for weakness. That would not be very smart.

Liz B said...

Anon, don't make assumptions about me or my politics.

A policy was in place. A policy was not followed.

What is annoying is anonymous people trying to be clever.

I have a clearly stated comment policy. I will delete comments that violate it.

WKen said...

Hey, Anonymous.

I'm an Evangelical Christian. Active on my church's worship team.

I worked for the Mike Huckabee campaign in 2008. (But, no, I'm not a Republican ... I'm an independent.)

Which is my side of the table in your world?

Whether the book belongs in the school library is a valid question, and the local officials and parents should make that decision (without "help" from those outside the district ... I'm sure that their own local districts have issues that could use some attention). But the public library is a fine place for lots of books that I'd never want to read -- books about homosexuality, zombie wars, sparkly vampires, and Chilton's manuals are all perfectly appropriate, even though I will likely never read any of them.

As for discussing things at the table ... ummm, ... well, you seem to have a different sense of appropriate Thanksgiving dinner conversation than I do.

My wife and I might well discuss things in our bedroom (or do more than "discuss" ...) that don't get brought up in other rooms, much less with parents and grandparents. Your question is simply a stupid extrapolation.

Sorry, Liz, it's your turf and I might well be feeding a troll, but the comment got my goat.

Liz B said...

WKen, thank you very much! It is very much appreciated.

I'm a bit surprised, actually, that anon, who believes that certain books don't belong in public libraries, is engaging in such a conversation on a public blog directed at children's and young adult literature. I can only suspect that he/she wants me to delete it so they can say "aha, that proves..." um, something?

Anonymous said...

Return of Anon...

Wken...your goat is easily gotten. And your vapid justification about woking for Huckabee...gimme a break.

Liz B...why would you be concerned about comments on a public blog that is directed at children when those same children could easily have accessed the book on the shelves of the public library?

Anonymous said...

Return of Anon...

So, no one has read the book, eh. Too bad.

Wken...what you and your wife discuss is not the issue; (you get that, right?). If it is a valid question, and the question has been decided, then there is no issue from your side of the table (and it is not my side of the table); you don't get the table talk, either do you?

LizB: You don't get it either. If you are so concerned about the comments left here, on a "public blog directed at children's and young adult literature" (though I have to laugh about your use of that word) why are you defending the availability this book?

I gotta wonder who trolls are.

Liz B said...

Anon has given a demonstration of the tactics used by those who wish to control what others read, do, and think. Those tactics include twisting things, manipulation, and name calling, rather than rational discussion.

Since anon is now directing that at another guest to this blog, I am shutting down comments to this post.