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28 September 2010 @ 06:07 pm
Custos Morum, aka The Gatekeeper  

If you have not made it over to the web site designed by our own LJer thunderchikin and inspired by Paul Hankins and the tweet blitz known as #SpeakLoudly, do that now and then come back. URL is www.speakloudly.org

Welcome back. When I logged into my Word A Day email today, lo and behold, a word meaning one who is a guardian of morals, a censor. Perfect fodder for my brain which was casting about for a different take on censorship for today's post celebrating #BBW and #SpeakLoudly. It brings to mind something I heard a while back in a discussion with Julie Anne Peters, Barry Lyga, and Coe Booth. My colleague Rosemary Chance and I did this panel for the first YALSA Literature Symposium (and we will be doing two presentations at the one in November in Albuquerque on international books and books for Hispanics) on the topic of censorship. One of the questions we posed was about each author's experience with challenges. In response, Barry Lyga talked about the fact that his books had not been challenged. When the audience expressed surprise, he talked about the gatekeepers, the Custos Morum of the world who did not even permit his books to make it to the shelves so that they might face a challenge. No readers, no challenges. Honestly, I had not even thought too much about gatekeeping. But suddenly, I was putting something together. A recent piece of research in Texas had indicated that many libraries did not have some of the most challenged books in the collections at all. So, this summer when I was interviewed about censorship, I had a lot to say about this almost passive form of censorship (though I would say it is more passive aggressive, right?).

How many books never make it to the shelves and into the hands of readers because of these gatekeepers, these self-appointed keepers of morals, these CENSORS? I suspect the numbers are quite high. I also would hazard guesses at the titles from 2010 that are being held off shelves in this gatekeeping effort. What a loss for the readers who will never know the perfect book for them at the time. What a loss for the authors whose works deserve a place on the shelves and an opportunity to touch the lives of readers.

It raises yet another issue as well, one that I will attempt to tackle tomorrow: what role does the review/reviewer play in all this?

Now I am heading back to read some more of A.D., a GN about Katrina. So far, I am bowled over.
Current Location: home
Current Mood: angryangry
(Anonymous) on September 29th, 2010 12:55 pm (UTC)
In my experience, I've seen the motivation of librarians (gatekeepers) directed by fear ("What if someone complains about this title? Can I defend that text as appropriate?). I know of a school library that collects YA and adult titles extensively and generally without fear, but won't have Sandowski's "Anatomy of a Boyfirend" because there is fear that a challenge would be hard to rebuff. This requires some mental gymnastics, as the same library holds Ellen Hopkins, Harrison's "The Kiss," Burges' "Doing It," everything Robert Cormier ever put out, "Bastard out of Carolina" and so on. It always sounds so reasonable, "We don't have to collect this, we have lots of other books students will like, etc."