Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Free Thought and the Library Censorship Efforts Must Be Rejected

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Free Thought and the Library Censorship Efforts Must Be Rejected

Article excerpt

There is more than one way to burn a book," wrote Ray Bradbury in his dystopian classic "Fahrenheit 451."

This unfortunately timeless insight has renewed relevance yet again as two states - Missouri and Tennessee - consider legislation that would sanction the censorship of public libraries.

Proposed by Missouri state Rep. Ben Baker, the Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act would establish parental review boards, elected at local town meetings, that would have the authority to determine what library materials are appropriate for minors to check out. (Librarians would be explicitly prohibited from serving on the panels.) The boards would be on the lookout for items that contain or promote "nudity, sexuality, sexual conduct, sexual excitement or sadomasochistic abuse," and any items that meet this criteria would have to be removed from public access by minors.

Any librarian who ignores the board by buying or lending such materials to minors could be subject to misdemeanor charges, a fine of up to $500 and up to one year in jail.

In other words, Mr. Baker's bill would allow towns to empower a small group of adults to censor public libraries, using their supposedly superior taste to dictate what others may read, watch or hear.

This transparent attempt at book banning and state-sanctioned censorship evidently appealed to two Tennessee lawmakers - state Rep. Andy Holt and state Sen. Paul Bailey - who introduced a near-identical version of the bill in the Tennessee Legislature. Similar bills were also considered recently in Colorado and Maine, though both failed to gain support.

This is, of course, not the first time libraries have been targeted by would-be censors. Many classic works of literature - including Mark Twain's "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and George Orwell's "1984" - as well as contemporary favorites, such as J. …

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