Hacker News Re-Imagined

As calls to ban books intensify, digital librarians offer perspective

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  • 11 hours ago

  • @sohkamyung
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  • • 160 comments

As calls to ban books intensify, digital librarians offer perspective


@derbOac 9 hours

Replying to @sohkamyung 🎙

Anyone know where there's data on challenges over time?

I could only find these two things:

https://www.ala.org/advocacy/sites/ala.org.advocacy/files/co...

https://bookriot.com/statistics-of-censorship/

I have a feeling something more comprehensive and precise is out there but I don't know where to look. The ALA has a "field report" but they charge for it and I'm not even sure if it would have the content I'm looking for.

Most of the data I can find is on the most frequently challenged books, and the reasons for doing so.

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@BashiBazouk 9 hours

Replying to @sohkamyung 🎙

As a kid in the 70's growing up on the beach in Santa Cruz I once watched a real book burning. It was weird. Some local christian group came down a dug a huge pit. Started a bonfire and a large group of people were tossing in books and records. When I was much older I realized with all the melted records that must have really polluted that section of the beach...

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@stareblinkstare 3 hours

Replying to @sohkamyung 🎙

Trying to find an angle to discredit Archive.org is a pretty low-brow move. As long as they continue to host works by George Lincoln Rockwell and his ilk, they will stand their ground for you and me.

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@quadrifoliate 10 hours

Replying to @sohkamyung 🎙

A lot of the other comments on here are saying that this is banning books from curricula [1]. But I would...like to see the sources for this assertion?

All of the stories I have seen [1][2] say that the books are banned from the school library system. As far as I am aware, school libraries usually contain a wide range of books, not just whatever is required for the curriculum.

So banning a book from a school library does seem to be a fairly strong suppression of ideas. Libraries have usually been the place where you go to find ideas outside the safe circle of whatever is permitted by your (usually insipid) curriculum.

For example, I am not a fan of Ayn Rand's philosophy, but I am still glad I got to read her books from my school library, so I could make that decision for myself. School libraries curated by legislators with an agenda seem like a Really Bad Idea.

----------------------------------------

[1] This would be within limits, I guess, but still weird. Wouldn't you just use a different curriculum?

[2] https://www.npr.org/2021/10/28/1050013664/texas-lawmaker-mat...

[3] https://www.kmuw.org/education/2021-11-09/goddard-school-dis...

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@pmontra 2 hours

Replying to @sohkamyung 🎙

> material that may cause discomfort to readers.

The world is going to discomfort them more often than not so they better train also by reading all kind of books or competitors (in the broadest possible meaning) will eat them alive while they rest inside a comfortable bubble.

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@jl2718 5 hours

Replying to @sohkamyung 🎙

The “Banned Books” movement is clearly only about any books that have faced even minor protest from “the other side” of the political spectrum. They frame the censorship debate in terms of provocative, but otherwise meaningless fiction. Real censorship of factual and relevant information exists today, and they support it.

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@gjsman-1000 9 hours

Replying to @sohkamyung 🎙

I would agree, but I don't think you'd find Ayn Rand in the average modern school library. Or a book that supports Trump, or a book that talks about socialism in an unflattering light. Remember that even the benign Dr. Seuss had books removed from school libraries.

There's plenty of books that are already unofficially banned.

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@abeppu 4 hours

Replying to @sohkamyung 🎙

With respect to the distinction between books that are part of the curriculum and books in the school library, I think it's worth raising that kids are just reading less overall over time (perhaps 2020 being an exception). The proportion of kids who are going to the library and finding something unrelated to their classwork is shrinking. I suspect that the impulse to ban books is caused by the same cultural incuriousness that ironically makes book banning less impactful than proponents would hope. This is _especially_ true for most of the books on those banned lists. Those one of the linked lists includes such barn-burner titles as "The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine", "Medical Ethics: Moral and Legal Conflicts in Health Care", "Race and the Media in Modern America". Kids aren't casually stumbling across these in the school library and deciding they're worth perusing. If some kid _is_ reading about medical ethics in high school, I'm guessing they're gonna find information about their topics of interest regardless. There are a bunch of books about teen pregnancy and abortion -- but I'm gonna guess that most of the time the teen pregnancies don't happen because someone first read a book literally titled "Teen Pregnancy" and decided they liked it. Similarly "A Baby Doesn't Make the Man: Alternative Sources of Power and Manhood for Young Men" probably isn't actually changing teen behavior. What ever intern in some state legislator's office drummed up suggestions for books to ban must have been pretty lazy.

I'm not saying we shouldn't care about these efforts. But arguing over which books should be ignored in the library reference section is probably less important than figuring out how to get the kids to actually enjoy reading despite being raised in an environment with tiktok etc. And when you get it figured out for kids, tell me, b/c these days I mostly only get through a novel while traveling.

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/feb/29/children-r...

https://openlibrary.org/collections/texas-challenged

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@alfor 9 hours

Replying to @sohkamyung 🎙

The problem we have is the destruction of the americans values by CRT and post modernist ideas. Those ideas are tough to student through the school system mostly unchalenged.

The vast majority of student out of university end up with communist/socialist ideas, they know very well the disease of the right(Hitler) but almost nothing of the problems of the left (Mao, Stalin, etc)

You end up with a young work force with a new kind of Marxist thinking. Some of those will get position in HR in companies and push for equality of outcome.

While it is good to progress in ours socials value and improve, we must not do so at the price of what make our system functional.

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@WkndTriathlete 4 hours

Replying to @sohkamyung 🎙

I'll admit that the one that puzzled me was the school district that banned "Catch-22".

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@FundementalBrit 6 hours

Replying to @sohkamyung 🎙

The British government has a vague law on books which incite terroism... Of course they couldn't actually write an actual list because the book at the top of the list would be problematic.

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@jrm4 2 hours

Replying to @sohkamyung 🎙

In a world where the cost of giving every single human being every book they could possibly want is trivial, we need to drastically rethink all of this, not the stupid and open censorship we see here, but the absurd friction that the old IP system plus Amazon creates.

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@musicale 1 hour

Replying to @sohkamyung 🎙

The greatest threat to digital libraries (such as libgen, sci-hub, and the Open Library itself) isn't censorship but copyright enforcement – and technology that attempts to impose the limits of physical paper onto bits.

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@erichocean 4 hours

Replying to @sohkamyung 🎙

Are "graphic novels" really expected to be given the same treatment as actual books? It's not like school libraries typically have movies for kids to check out and watch at home.

If they did have movies, it's likely that anything "R" rated would be "banned" by educators—and I doubt anyone here would care.

The graphic novels being "banned" can't be posted to Instagram or Facebook or network TV because: pornographic…but we're supposed to pretend it's a "book" that's being banned?

Seems disingenuous to call this "banning books."

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@golemiprague 5 hours

Replying to @sohkamyung 🎙

The people who banned Dr. Seuss and many TV shows and movies for all of us are now complaining that some schools don't want to promote their extreme agendas in their curriculum and libraries? Sounds a bit hypocrite to me.

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@mensetmanusman 2 hours

Replying to @sohkamyung 🎙

Choice of books and ideas easily available is preference (ie all of politics is preference), especially in a library where space is zero sum relative to the 500 million books to choose from.

Get involved if you disagree, but don’t be surprised people disagree in such a diverse country.

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@gidam 9 hours

Replying to @sohkamyung 🎙

It's a classic autoritarian and conservative plot. Knowledge is power, and they are fcking scared of it.

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@CountDrewku 9 hours

Replying to @sohkamyung 🎙

k-12 students are not adults. We ban and censor all sorts of things for the the underage crowd, look up CIPA. There are borderline pedophilia books available at school libraries. I've also seen several examples of incredibly racist CRT books in classrooms.

I don't think young kids should have unfettered access to this stuff. They're not able to process it correctly.

If communities are saying they do not want this is classrooms then I think that's the way it should be. Schools don't get to be an authoritarian decision maker on how everyone's kids should be raised.

Aside from the censorship issue I'd rather my tax dollars go to more useful stuff than smut books.

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@chmod775 5 hours

Replying to @sohkamyung 🎙

That is how you raise yet another generation who mistakenly believes everything written to be sacrosanct, holds no tested and cohesive views, is easy prey to manipulators who have no qualms making people uncomfortable, and will forever defer to authority figures who tell them what is acceptable.

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@sequel_database 10 hours

Replying to @sohkamyung 🎙

There's a wide gap between banning a book and using it as curriculum. Find a happy medium.

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@analyte123 10 hours

Replying to @sohkamyung 🎙

Not going to hold my breath for Archive.org or the ALA's "curated collection" of books banned from Amazon.

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@mherdeg 10 hours

Replying to @sohkamyung 🎙

Were any of the recently withdrawn-by-publisher Seuss books, like "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street", widely removed from school libraries? Or is this a purely "Beloved" phenomenon?

The closest I could find about coverage on this was an article saying that some libraries reclassified the Seuss books as "reference" to prohibit checkouts because they were being stolen (e.g. https://oxfordobserver.org/5172/community/dr-seuss-enterpris...).

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@balozi 9 hours

Replying to @sohkamyung 🎙

We're not the censor, you're the censor. This book banning thing is the new manufacturing of an old moral panic.

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@hiram112 8 hours

Replying to @sohkamyung 🎙

> So banning a book from a school library does seem to be a fairly strong suppression of ideas. Libraries have usually been the place where you go to find ideas outside the safe circle of whatever is permitted by your (usually insipid) curriculum.

Baloney. Yes, I'm sure we can find some 1 in a 1,000,000 exceptional case of some bright student from a marginalized community who just couldn't obtain some obscure reference book in their high school library because conservatives had "banned it" (i.e. chosen not to include it in their limited selection due to content concerns). However, I find it hard to believe that 99.9999% of students, who probably haven't even used their public school's library more than a few times in their whole life, would be absolutely unable to obtain anything they could possibly want, for the price they already spend in a week on video games or music.

Reminds me of that straw man example used to demand ID-less voting for EVERYONE - cherry picking that obscure case of the 87 year old guy who was born in a rural bayou of some southern swamp state, and who had no birth certificate and had never registered to vote or learned to drive or paid any utilities or taxes in the last 8 decades, and who now had trouble getting an official ID at the local DMV in another state he'd moved to recently.

Come on, man. Examples like this apply to like 0.001% of the population, and instead of spending tens of millions of dollars and years fighting for insanely insecure voting rules, the left could, you know, just spend that time and money helping the tiny minority of folks who might have this actual problem.

Likewise, I have never ever heard of any adult using a public school library (e.g. high school or elementary school) to obtain books or other media for themselves. To be honest, in the US in 2021, as a "child free" middle aged male, I'd be hesitant to even go into a public high school as it seems my demographic is not exactly welcome around children, even those whose education, meals, etc. I'm forced to increasingly subsidize each year. But God forbid I have any say in what materials these children are forced to be indoctrinated with in public schools, which they are forced to attend, by the state.

OTOH, I've seen 0 instances of conservatives demanding that books be censored from EVERYONE at the source (i.e. publishers, sellers, retail outlets, etc.) whereas there are dozens of instances of the left mob going after these entities in an attempt to keep the books out of the market itself.

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@temp8964 10 hours

Replying to @sohkamyung 🎙

Stop confusing K-12 public school libraries with public libraries. K-12 public school libraries always have a small selection of books. Vast majority of books are not in K-12 public school libraries. There is no parallel between select books for K-12 public school libraries and banning books from libraries.

If this is about you want to indoctrinate certain ideology into kids using the public school system, at least be honest about it. Stop pretending this is about banning books.

Stop using the K-12 public school libraries or the public school system as the battle ground for spreading radical political ideologies. Our public school system is already bad enough.

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@temp8964 10 hours

Replying to @sohkamyung 🎙

No. Select books for K-12 curriculum or school libraries is far far away from banning books. Please stop the fear-mongering.

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@29329867 7 hours

Replying to @sohkamyung 🎙

As a high schooler I loved the banned books list. My English teacher had a cabinet full of old copies of books they weren’t allowed to teach any more for one reason or another. She lent me The Chocolate War, Catcher in the Rye…

Before that, in elementary school, some of our books had sections blacked out for being too racy. First thing I did was head straight to the local library and read those passages specifically.

censorship made me an avid reader.

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@gjsman-1000 10 hours

Replying to @sohkamyung 🎙

Nobody’s calling for banning books. They are calling for not using certain books in curriculum, which is very different and not allowing certain books is necessary for any school system. I wouldn’t want my kid to write “A kid’s version of Algebra” and then have it used in schools. I wouldn’t want a flat-earther to have his Science book in schools. Who wants Trump’s guide to Civics? That’s super different than “banning books” like it’s 1940s Germany or something.

EDIT: Some are saying that this would also apply to the school library. This, in my view, doesn’t negate the schools need to discriminate between content in the least. I would not want a flat earther science book in the curriculum or in the library.

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@gjsman-1000 9 hours

Replying to @sohkamyung 🎙

For everyone arguing about how the library system is being censored with this, I would like to remind people that since 2000, all libraries (including non-school libraries) have the internet censored with (almost always) Google SafeSearch locked on and many websites (particularly porn but there are others) blocked. And it's federal law.

https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/childrens-internet-prot...

Is this censorship? And if so, what is the difference between internet censorship and library censorship, other than that someone printed their work instead of typing it? And why is outrage permitted for this and blocking printed books, but not for digital work?

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