Do you ever worry that what you write will keep your books out of school libraries? I have to admit that the thought has crossed my mind. I’m not so worried about Hidden Human Computers but I was worried when I wrote Black Lives Matter. After all, I’ve seen the racist memes changing the popular slogan to All Lives Matter. Forunately, this push back doesn’t seem to have effected the sales of the book. After I read School Library Journal’s “Controversial Books Survey” from Spring 2016, I had a better understanding concerning why this hadn’t been an issue.
The report is about “Self-Censorship” in school libraries. Self-censorship, as used in this report, means that a librarian decided not to buy a book, thus censoring content available to students. Why did they pass on books?
From 75% (high school) to 93% (elementary) said it was because of “not-age appropriate content.” This content was sexual in nature from 57% (high school) to 79% (elementary) of the time. Vulgar language was given as the reason from 38% (high school) to 69% (elementary) of the time. I’m guess since these add up to over 100% that the two categories frequently overlapped. To my surprise, racial content was given as a reason from 8% (high school) to 14% (elementary) of the time.
The librarian who answered the survey said that they are having to make these decisions more and more. Some said that this was because more books with potentially controversial content are being published. Others said that the decision is also fueled by fear that school libraries may not be covered under freedom of speech laws. Because so many people are offended by so much, some librarians are imagining having to defend a book before they even purchase it.
I don’t know that this is ultimately going to impact what I write. My nonfiction is may push some people’s button racially but that doesn’t seem to be a big problem with school librarians. When I write fiction, it is pretty tame at least in terms of controversial content. Still, this is food for thought. Even you want to read the survey results (less than 20 pages), you can find it here.