Carroll Library Board Does Right

July 02, 1992

Carroll County's library board did the right thing last week when it decided not to remove "Getting Jesus in the Mood" from the shelves of the library. The book is actually a collection of 17 short stories, some of which were previously published in well-known but small-circulation literary magazines, about emotional, physical and sexual abuse told from the perspective of the victims.

The book's opponents found its imagery and language offensive and expressed concern that youngsters might mistakenly read it. The material is certainly topical, considering the number of sexual and physical abuse cases that are filed weekly in the county's courts. Clearly, there are passages in the book that could be considered offensive and inappropriate for young teen-agers. But language, images or ideas that cause discomfort for some people are not the proper criteria for judging the value of a book. Libraries are full of books that someone, somewhere could label objectionable for any number of reasons.

We live in a pluralist society where different voices -- some of which may be disturbing -- are welcome and, indeed, cherished. Our founding fathers understood that in order for a democracy to thrive, citizens must have access to a wide variety of opinions and information. It is then up to citizens to decide whether this, or any other book, is appropriate reading for themselves or their families.

The board has a long-standing policy that acknowledges this reality. The library's guidelines state that books will not be selected on "any anticipated approval or disapproval, but solely on the merits of the work in relation to the collection building" of the county's libraries.

Nobody is being forced to read this book. But to remove it would have prevented others in the community from reading it. The library system is not supposed to be a protective nanny. Parents who are worried that their children might read this book can have their library cards restricted so the kids can't borrow this book or similar ones.

A well-managed library system should be designed to offer the citizens of Carroll County a wide selection of books, magazines, newspapers, records and videos. The library board, which is made up of citizens and not professional librarians, clearly understood its obligation to the community and, in this instance, fulfilled it.

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