Today's discussion:

The boring solution to book-banning bureaucrats: Leave libraries to the librarians

Individual librarians, teachers, and school councils who actually interact with students and their families have a much better chance of understanding and responding to what those students need to read than government bureaucrats do.

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Jacob Birch

Why should parents expect librarians who hide their child’s pronouns from them expect those same librarians to listen to them about book selection? Janet’s not living the world of actual school libraries in actual Ontario public schools. Hence the “take over the school boards” movement amongst conservatives. State power is what removed those books, why do we expect anything short of state power to bring them back?

3rd October 2023 at 7:29 am
Janet Bufton

I would be very interested in a source showing that librarians are systematically hiding information about children from parents. This is only something I see speculation about, and I’m not convinced that what we can imagine is a good basis for legislation. I can imagine rather a lot.

3rd October 2023 at 1:15 pm
Don Morris

The author assumes librarians are not activists. Unfortunately,many in the education industry are activists, and many with an axe to grind.
Perhaps instead of taking old books off the shelf, the criterion should be how often it’s read.If a book sits unread on the shelf for 10 years, perhaps it should be removed as apparently no one is interested in reading it. And there should be an exception for books of historical importance, such as Anne Frank’s.

3rd October 2023 at 10:50 am
Janet Bufton

I assume librarians are people. Some people are activists!

Your suggestion that circulation be considered when weeding books is common practice and a part of the weeding process described in the original CBC article.

3rd October 2023 at 1:10 pm
Rob Tyrrell

What books can be found in the school library are obviously necessary choices; effectively an unlimited selection going onto a limited shelf space. Yes, it is everyone’s general business. However, it is the librarian’s specific business.

I wonder what the utilization of school libraries is currently, and what is the trend? I would be more worried about that.

I think that the following quotes applies to school libraries as well as public libraries.

“A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone.”
– (apparently) librarian Jo Godwin

If we are lucky, and most librarians are “doing it right”, which is likely, every student will stumble upon at least one book that “blows their mind” in some way.

3rd October 2023 at 8:30 am
Sean Speer

I agree in principle with Janet’s point that we should generally aim to push down decision making as much as possible. But what students learn in a public school system is by definition a subject for small “p” politics. The system is itself an expression of sorts of what the society values or prioritizes. One can dislikes that. It may be a case for greater educational pluralism. But it’s an inevitable feature of public education. In that sense, it is my business — and everyone’s business — what books are in school libraries.

3rd October 2023 at 7:12 am
Janet Bufton

I don’t disagree! I might even put it like this: “The argument about what’s appropriate material for children in schools is unavoidable. And although it can be frustrating, it’s probably also good for helping us to test our own views and help others do the same. In a public school system, the guidelines that we offer will be determined through public dialogue and responsible governments.”

I actually don’t think educational pluralism gets around the politics of education that much, it just changes what that politics looks like.

Regardless, any attempt to get very specific about what does or does not belong in a library is going to look more and more like a more straightforward book ban. (And no one ever calls it a ban.)

3rd October 2023 at 1:08 pm
Ian Gray

Your points are noted. However, given the infection of all our institutions why should we trust librarians not to be part of or motivated in their decisions by the woke culture/cult?
Sorry, trust has been seriously eroded.

3rd October 2023 at 11:52 am
Stuart Thomson

Today, Janet Buffon takes on the strange “book culling” story in Ontario schools and argues that we shouldn’t shun local decision making because a few people made a bad decision.

Janet writes:

“The appropriate response is to recognize that librarians who think it’s OK to pull The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Anne Frank’s diary without a fight are librarians who are not suited to manage the libraries in our schools. They should be disciplined or replaced. The board should also review how it communicated its instructions. … We leave ambiguity in provincial guidelines because ambiguity preserves decision-making power at the most local level.”

3rd October 2023 at 6:19 am
Kam Lau

Let the parents, teachers and professional and competent librarians decide what kind of books to read for our children but not the bureaucratic governments and radical politicians.

3rd October 2023 at 12:32 pm
Rob Tyrrell

Indeed, keep elected officials and bureaucrats out of these on-the-ground decisions, regardless whether or not someone deems them ‘bureaucratic’ and/or ‘radical’. The qualifiers should not be needed for the stance to be correct.

Likewise, let’s include librarians full-stop, also without any unnecessary qualifiers. It would be just as unnecessary to include qualifiers of ‘caring and sane parents’ and/or ‘reasonable and sincere teachers’.

Including the qualifier makes it *seem* that there would be room for parents and teachers to override librarians should they be deemed not professional and/or competent “in the right way”.

Also, this is not about the books that librarians read children is it? Rather, the books simply available to be found in the library?

3rd October 2023 at 1:12 pm
R.M.

I am confused by a discussion that makes no reference to online content. I am showing my age but do today’s school librarians even curate online content available to be borrowed through multiple services? And if they do, what kid today would feel limited by that? These days, how many kids even read (or listen to) full length books, whether in print or online? For that matter, how many parents that are wound up about library book inventories even have a clue what their kids are really consuming online? Once they get past the Harry Potter stage, most of the young folks I know rarely seem to be reading a physical book. Some investigation and reporting on the reading habits of young Canadians (and the supervisory habits of their parents) would be helpful to put this “book ban” discussion in context.

3rd October 2023 at 2:38 pm