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Vampires, witches belong in American libraries

In Uncategorized on 12 April, 2011 at 2:09 pm

More than half of Americans believe there is a place for books about vampires and sorcery, according to a new Harris poll. That place, results show, is in school libraries.

Banning and censoring books has been hotly debated for years. Probably since the printing press was invented or even longer. Fortunately, in modern America, the latest Harris Poll shows that most (56 percent) Americans think no books should be completely banned.

While few of the 2,379 American adults surveyed online between 7 March and 14 March, 2011 indicated books that should be banned completely existed, the results indicated a wide discrepancy over which books should be available to children in their school libraries. More than two-thirds of those surveyed said the Bible (83 percent)  and books on evolution (76 percent)  should be available to students. Availability of other religious texts including the Talmud or Torah (59 percent) and the Koran (57 percent) was also supported however, almost a quarter of participants (24 and 28 percent respectively) indicated these books should not be available in school libraries. Books referring to drugs and/or alcohol saw similar results with 52 percent favoring availability in schools. More than half of those surveyed indicated preternatural books about vampires (57 percent) and witchcraft or sorcery (50 percent) should be available through school libraries. At the same time between 34 and 41 percent said these types of books should not be there.

The only books a majority of Americans say should not be available to children in school libraries are those with Explicit language. Sixty-two percent of those surveyed indicated explicit language was not necessary in books children had access to at school.

There was no consensus regarding books containing sex or violence. Among survey participants 48 percent said books with references to sex should be available through school libraries while 45 percent said they should not. Slightly more Americans felt books with references to violence should not be available (48 percent) compared to those who felt they should (44 percent).

When it comes to availability, educational attainment, gender and age all play a role. The more education one has the less they are to say that each type of book listed should not be available to children through their school library. In fact there is between an 8 and 25 percentage point difference between those having a post-graduate education and those who never attended college on the types of books children should have access to.  Similarly, women were more likely to think each type of book other than religious texts was inappropriate for school libraries than men. Men were slightly more inclined to say religious texts should not be available. And speaking of religious texts, 15 percent of those age 18-34 indicated the Bible should not be available in school libraries compared to 9 percent of those age 66 and over. This is an anomaly, since older Americans are significantly more likely that those younger to say each type of book should not be available.

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  1. I’m not sure why opposing explicit books in school libraries is a “more important view” on this issue.

    To me, the significant and salient fact was that more than half of Americans surveyed don’t believe ANY books should be completely banned, including those that use explicit language or contain violence or sex. Individuals may not want to read such books, but they do support the right of such books to exist and to be part of library collections.

  2. It is “more important” because it is a real issue of concern today. Book banning is not. That last book banned in the USA was banned about half a century ago. There are other issues about 50 years old that we no longer worry about, like pellagra, polio, etc.

    I’ll admit some cry book banning as a means to bring attention to themselves, but it simply is not true. It’s like using cc or bcc on an email. No one makes actual carbon copies anymore, but we still use cc and bcc. Well books are not banned anymore but people still say they are when they really mean something else, such as the “more important” issue of explicit material in public schools.

    • I disagree. Book banning is a current issue. The Federal Mafia, by Irwin Schiff was banned in 2004 by virtue of the Ninth Court of Appeals upholding an injunction issued by the District Court of Nevada. And just last year the Department of Defense tried to effectively ban Operation Dark Heart by retracting publication approval and purchasing the entire first edition print run. A redacted version of the book has been published and is available but all of the knowledge contained in the original version is not.

      To use your analogy, polio may not be an current issue for you, presumably living in the U.S., but it is a very relevant issue to residents and travelers to Africa and Asia. Just because something isn’t happening in your neighborhood does not mean it isn’t happening.

      Also, the position that no book should be completely banned is another way of supporting the creation and spread of knowledge. We may not agree with that knowledge, it may be shown to be completely false by future or even current generations, it may be used in unintended ways to further totally unrelated goals, positions or actions, but it can exist and it can be shared.

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