Libraries and publishers have been in the news again as arbiters of cancel culture and censorship after the foundation that publishes the books of Dr. Seuss decided not to continue to publish six of his books. The foundation had determined that images of some minorities in these books are “hurtful and wrong,” (Dr. Seuss Enterprises, para. 2). Somehow this was extrapolated by politicians to libraries censoring children’s classics. By the end of the month, a Pennsylvania Representative had proposed an act to protect such literature from “cancel culture.” According to Fox News, “the Guarding Readers’ Independence and Choice (GRINCH) Act … will cut off government funding for agencies that censor books,” (Giang-Paunon, 2021, para. 2).
Of course, as the above video explains, such decisions to not publish titles are not “cancel culture.” For a start, just because they are no longer published does not mean they are removed from the shelves at a library. In fact, some libraries would argue they are more fitting now, as a way to discuss the imagery and how it can be hurtful. In conversations with the Education Librarian, Evelyn Day, at Southern Methodist University about what books to add in order to increase representation of BIPOC characters in our children’s literature collection, Day noted that a professor at SMU that teaches about diverse learners has requested that certain problematic titles remain on the shelf just for that reason.
I have also been working on a weeding project with our collections department to remove duplicate titles that also are held by our law library. Such removal of duplication on an academic campus can be considered the least problematic of weeding proposals – the books are still readily available on campus, and they can be recycled or resold in order to make more room for either new books or new spaces in the library. But libraries need to do a better job of conveying why weeding is a part of every library, and not just duplicate copies of a title or those that are falling apart and can’t be used anymore. As Kagan (2018) explains so well, libraries need to constantly weed in order to make sure the latest titles are readily available. As he notes, “the Library is not where books come to die,” (para. 15). In my estimation, the library is a place to learn. Perhaps such learning should include teaching patrons about the cycles of information, and when something is no longer important to have within reach on a shelf.
Dr. Seuss Enterprises. (2021, March 2). Statement from Dr. Seuss Enterprises. https://www.seussville.com/statement-from-dr-seuss-enterprises/
Giang-Paunon, S. (2021, March 26). ‘GRINCH Act’ introduced to protect children’s books from cancel culture: ‘No one is safe’. Fox News. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/grinch-act-dr-seuss-kids-books-cancel-culture
HuffPost UK. (2020, July 13). What is cancel culture? [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bisnMOujqFs
Kagan, O. (2018, August 22). Where do the books go after the library? EveryLibrary. https://medium.com/everylibrary/where-do-the-books-go-after-the-library-915db40d7f49