Yesterday we told you about an attempt in Marshall, MO to remove FUN HOME and BLANKETS from the shelves of the library. Now via comments and email, the followup report on a library board hearing. The room was packed, and people talked for TWO HOURS. Reporter Zach Sims gives a very thorough account on the hearing and what was said, saying that only one quarter of the speakers were in favor of keeping the books. Part of the worry was that public funds should not be spent on the kind of material that would draw the wrong element:
“I don’t want seedy people coming into the library and moving into our community,” Aulgur said.
Some of the speakers requested removal of the books in question, others suggested a special section for books with what may be deemed “adult” material. Some suggested the books be kept behind the library counter or someplace else where they would not be within the reach of children.
“This is a clear-cut case of common sense,” said Mark Mills, husband of Louise Mills.
Some were more positive about the material.
A small number of citizens at the meeting spoke in support of the library, including Claudia Milstead. Milstead said that there are people who want to read the books in question.
“I want to thank the Marshall Public Library for acquiring these two books and I hope that you find a way to keep the two books without offending the people who have expressed what I think are some very heartfelt concerns,” Milstead said.
Well, we’ve all been waiting for something like this. Obviously, it’s still small at this point. As one of our commenters pointed out, imagine if Mills had come across a REALLY explicit comic, like Crumb or S. Clay Wilson. Or Phoebe Gloeckner or Gilbert Hernandez. Or LOST GIRLS.
It’s not just comics, of course. At this very moment, parents are trying to ban Fahrenheit 451 (for bible burning and foul language) and Harry Potter. In fact, Harry Potter is the most banned — and popular — book of the 21st century. Here’s the complete Top 10:
1. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
2. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
3. Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
4. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
5. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
6. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
7. It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
8. Scary Stories series by Alvin Schwartz
9. Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey
10. Forever by Judy Blume
Thus far, comics have come under remarkably little attack in libraries and elsewhere. There have been a few worries over manga, but parental concerns have stayed local for the most part, with nothing gaining much traction. Is this just luck? Maybe. Watchdog pressure groups are really good at mustering support, and mobilizing phone calls and letter writing campaigns. It’s probably only a matter of time before some national crusader gets wind of yaoi and gets a grassroots campaign under way. And then, all hell will break loose.
Libraries are the first best defense of keeping a free flow of ideas. Librarians and library boards in America have a pretty decent track record of defending their right to shelve controversial material. Some battles are lost, of course. And America right now is losing endless battles of common sense on a depressingly daily basis.
Is this a tempest in a teapot? Yes and no. It’s a small town library board meeting, after all. Defending award-winning, best selling books like BLANKETS and FUN HOME is easy. Other books aren’t going to have that critical back-up. They’re more like the slow moving wildebeest in the herd: vulnerable.
Comics and graphic novels may continue their free ride of approval for quite some time. Or the storm cloud we’ve feared may bust wide open at any time. I no longer believe that common sense will prevail in America, so there may be tough battles, if they come. There may be casualties. I think we’ll win in the end, but…don’t take any of this lightly. Be mindful.