The Quiet Culling of Children’s Classics: Are Public School Librarians the Real “Book Banners”?

Critics call them “Book Banners”, “Book Burners”, even “Fascists”, but parents simply do not want anyone exposing children to graphic, obscene, and profane material behind their backs. This disingenuous name-calling obscures the truth: too many school librarians have ALREADY “banned books”. Libraries are full of series after series of dumbed down children’s publications, but classics are disappearing and with it knowledge of our history and common cultural heritage.

In 2021 CNN wrote “Libraries oppose censorship. So they’re getting creative when it comes to offensive kids’ books”. I wondered, just HOW creative?

The article wasn’t talking about “offensive kids’ books” that depict graphic and obscene sexual behavior. It was referring to Dr. Seuss books, Little House on the Prairie, and Peter Pan.

According to CNN, Deborah Caldwell Stone, director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, said:

It’s up to librarians, then, to determine whether those books and others with racist content still deserve a spot on their shelves.

“The fact is that library collections are dynamic,” she said. “There’s only so much shelf space, and over time collections will shift.”

If a librarian decides a book is “no longer serving the needs of the community,” it may be weeded out, Caldwell Stone said.

The quoted ALA director tip-toes creatively around the word “ban” again and again; using language like shifting collections, sidelining books, carving out space for other books, weeding books that no longer serve community needs, moving books to the adult collection, or relegating offensive children’s classics to historical artifact. In other words, a “book ban”.

While the article does say these offensive books may still stay on shelves, the ALA policies seem designed to remove them.

In 2018 the ALA stripped Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from a book award because history is insensitive. This is just another attempt to erase history, and that will not lead to an informed populace. This is to be expected from the Marxist-led American Library Association.

The ALA creatively discourages or sidelines books they don’t like, then masquerades as an advocate of Intellectual Freedom and protector from literary censorship! Librarians have the freedom to relegate traditional children’s classics to the archives and make room for 50+ Captain Underpants and Dog Man books while claiming to widen and expand the children’s library collection.

Look closely, what do you notice about these shelves from a school library? The collection did not expand, it contracted down to one-half to two-thirds empty shelves. I searched this half-shelf phenomenon; librarians are emptying shelves on purpose!? I observed this years ago between local public library visits with my kids. It was pretty obvious what had happened. There was an extensive removal of library books and it stayed that way.

What happens when children’s classic books are sidelined? Do these great time-tested classics become less circulated? Does the ALA encourage librarians to weed-out less circulated books? I imagine so.

The ALA recommends the CREW procedures for weeding books from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. This CREW manual states:

Under Easy Readers/Picture Books: “Weed any book that has not circulated in the past two years.” and “Consider moving classics that may be used by children’s literature classes to the adult 800s.”

For Juvenile Fiction: “Copyright is less important than use, but consider weeding anything that hasn’t circulated in the past two years.” and “Weed older award winners if they have not circulated in three years,…”

For Young Adult Fiction:“Keep this section very current. Any item that has not circulated within two years should be considered ‘dead’ and removed (and anything that hasn’t circulated within the past year is suspect and should be evaluated for promotion, relocation, or discard).”

Is the ALA encouraging the strategic removal of older copyrights and high-quality children’s classics from school libraries?

The American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL) Journal, Knowledge Quest, published a post suggesting statistics can help defend why librarians need to weed out books. Statistics such as “Books whose publication dates are older than you (or your kids). (This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but one to consider)”

“Want to weed 1,000 books? Keep tweaking your limits until you reach the number of books you need to weed”

Wow. Using publication date to remove a desired number of books! That sounds like a money maker for book sellers and publishers! Are school libraries being monetized too?

The Virginia Association of School Librarians offers a “Follett School Solutions’ Weed and Feed Grant” that requires weeding books in order to achieve improvement in average copyright age and/or circulations after weeding of the book collection.” [emphasis added]

Weed to increase average copyright age?! That is a good policy for erasing history. It is like trashing your bottles of aged French Burgundy and replacing it with new boxed-wine. What’s next? Are Michelangelo, Picasso, Monet, and Pieter Bruegel the Elder to be tossed aside for new computer art?

Weed to increase circulation?! That is like a grocer saying we aren’t turning our inventory enough, let’s remove the broccoli and put candy bars there instead! Just give ‘em the CANDY and SODA, it sells more and who needs nutrition?!!

Change the foods offered and change people’s health. Change the books offered and change what and how a child thinks.

Remove food that promotes health and people become unhealthy.

The ALA suggests sidelining offensive classics. Then school library organizations encourage removal of books with poor circulation and older publication dates.

In Florida, the reading award program, SSYRA, was heavily marketed to students in our elementary school. One requirement of books selected for this program is “Books must have been originally copyrighted within the three years preceding selection.” JUST. THREE. YEARS.

Our school district’s Library Media Center Collection Management policy states: “The school library media specialist shall discard worn, obsolete and inoperable items from the collection;…The library media specialist shall select new and replacement materials in order to duplicate older titles which have proven their worth.”

This is a nebulous policy, it is not clear. By what standard are titles proving their worth?

Are we losing the children’s classics in school libraries or are they already gone?

In the next post, I will answer that question and provide you with a more extensive survey from one of the five school libraries I researched in 2017.

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