We have this section at the library called the parenting section. Basically we put books that deal with sensitive or tough subjects here in case parents want some sort of book that they can read to their children about said subject. These include, but are not limited to Autism, potty training, having two moms or two dads, death of a family member, death of a pet, you get the idea. There are some Easy books, and board readers, which are stories that the children can relate to. As well as larger adult nonfiction reads that help adults with certain subjects such as raising a child with ADHD, or how to learn common core standards. I think that it’s a really great idea to have these in one place, especially when ECE students come in and are doing a unit on something like death or another difficult topic to teach children. Here’s where I think it goes a bit astray…
There’s this children’s book called “And Tango Makes Three”. It’s an adorable picture book based on a true story about 2 male penguins that co-parent a small penguin thanks to the help of a zookeeper. There is no sex involved in this book whatsoever, just two male penguins who raise a baby penguin together as a family. Here’s a really good blog post about it for banned books week by the NYPL, kind of old but it addresses the issue I’m about to talk about today:
One of the things that libraries do to try to avoid conflict is they will “re-shelve” children’s books with taboo subjects in areas that are less browsed, or maybe not even browsed at all by children. I came across the board version of this book and tried to put it with the regular, highly browsed board books in the children’s area. Later I was pulled aside by the head children’s librarian and told that it would go in parenting, due to the subject nature. I don’t have a say here, I’m just the cataloger. But I was irked. I also think she said something along the lines of, not wanted to explain it to a pissed off parent. Didn’t librarians stop sitting on books years ago? I remember learning about a librarian that actually DID this back in the 50’s when I was in library school. She couldn’t control the books that were being ordered and put into the collection, so if she didn’t agree with one, or didn’t think it was appropriate she would literally sit on it so nobody could check it out. Seems so absurd right? But isn’t this strategic “re-shelving” pretty much the same thing. Especially when we already have 2 copies in the parenting section, and the mantra is usually to shelve it where it will get the most circulation, which would be the highly trafficked board book shelves? Look at us we’re progressive by having the books, but then let’s hide them where people can’t find them and get angry about it.
I just came across this again today. This time it’s a board book called “Daddy Papa and Me”. The whole book is basically a child playing with two males, one named papa and one daddy, they dress up, bake a pie, paint a picture, play music together and drink tea. Nothing scandalous at all. BUT. I go to check the record and notice the two at the other branch are already marked parenting. I’m going to try to push them through as regular board books and see what happens.
This also reminds me a story of when I first started working at the public and a woman came up to me and asked where the bible stories were. I asked if she was looking for non-fiction stuff, or stories in the picture books. You can find stuff in both the non-fiction AND picture books for this kind of stuff. She looked at me and said… “Isn’t it ALL non-fiction??” (Meaning the bible is clearly fact) and I responded “depends on if you believe all of that is true or not.” She couldn’t believe it. I have to laugh when I think about it. People seem to get so stuck in their beliefs that they can’t fathom anybody else’s way of life may be valid. I guess that’s just my little rant for the day. I would be willing to talk with somebody who was angry about the collection choice. I would hope that they would get mad and take it to the board or start a fuss. Libraries are supposed to uphold the first amendment, and freedom of speech and ideas we would just be doing our job.
Most librarians, myself included, shy away from conflict and I understand exactly why. I don’t like it, and I don’t want to deal with it most of the time, but for things I really believe in I will face it. And I think that these kinds of books should be accessible and not hidden away due to simple fact that they depict families with same sex parents. At the end of the day, it’s the parent’s responsibility to monitor what their child is reading, and what they are exposed to in the early years of their life. This is a HUGE part of being a parent. So if you aren’t on board with the material in a particular book, don’t read it to your child or allow them to check out the book. Simple as that. If you argue that it is the libraries responsibility to not put something like this within your child’s eyeshot or reach, it’s not. You should be watching your child while you are in the library together, engaging with them about their reading materials and supervising them especially if they are very young children. It doesn’t mean you have to be upset that certain materials exist and are accessible for people who may want to expose their children to it.
Anyways, since this is a “sensitive” subject. Let’s palate cleanse. Here’s a guy holding a bunch of kittens. Can’t be mad or upset after you see that, right?
Photo obtained from: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/29484572530636343/