rusq: Vol. 52 Issue 2: p. 161
Sources: True Stories of Censorship Battles in America’s Libraries.
Paul Stenis

Special Projects and Reference Librarian, Oklahoma City University, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Warning! True Stories gets you excited about librarianship. Some readers will rise from their chairs, pump their fists, and shout “Heck, yeah!” Others will express their empathy quietly. Either way, this is a provocative book. Share it with colleagues. Read it with future librarians. Fruitful discussion and feelings of solidarity are sure to follow.

True Stories is, unsurprisingly, a collection of true stories. Each is a brief personal account of one librarian’s fight against censorship. In some, librarians face a protracted flurry of written challenges and red tape. In others, they withstand intense public scrutiny and personal attacks. Minor characters include school principals, school board officials, television personalities, religious groups, and the FBI. The most common conflict is the book challenge, but there are many other experiences to learn from too. More than one librarian deals with covert censorship from within their own library. Another handles tribal input while implementing a sensitive Native American collection. And another defends the erotica collection at her college library. That’s just to name a few.

One point is clear: Libraries need collection development policies and materials reconsideration policies designed to meet these challenges. The librarians make this point ad nauseam, but that’s okay. If the point didn’t need to be made, stories like these wouldn’t be so common.

Some essays lack depth or beg explanation, but even the flawed entries add valuably to the breadth of experiences represented. Every story is somehow unique, shining the flashlight into a new nook or cranny of the issue. Perhaps that’s why the writings sound by turns bold, uncertain, confessional, professional, proud, ashamed, and empowered.

In the best of these narratives, librarians explain their feelings at each stage of the battle. Instead of a single confrontation, they face a series of obstacles in an impressive display of endurance. Such examples help readers grasp the ambiguity of dealing with censors, even if the issue of censorship itself is clear in their minds. Even when they handle censorship admirably, a steady and sustained emotional effort is often needed to win the battle.

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