I just recently finished my Master’s program at USC for management in library and information science this last week. It’s been a rough road, but I am super excited about what the future holds. I think gaining this degree has only opened me up to seeing how much I still need to learn and grow in ILS studies.
A couple weeks ago I promised a quick talk about the recent request to bar access to a book called “This Book is Gay.” This happened just an hour north of Anchorage (where I live now) in the city of Wasilla. Yes, Wasilla, the former home of Sarah Palin – former Alaska governor and former VP of the USA hopeful.
So the story goes that a mother, Vanessa Campbell, came home to find her 10 year old son reading this book. She then took the book away, read over it, went back to the library, and then asked the library manager to move the book to a place where children would not have access to the book.
Due to the complaint the library review board took the book into consideration. The review board decided to not remove the book but to instead remove the entire YA non-fiction section and have it absorbed into the adult non-fiction section.
I don’t know how I feel about this. I think the board did the best they could since there were more than a few people who showed up to a hearing with the city council on the topic of this book. I heard some sound bites from the hearing, and I can’t say I am surprised by what happened. Wasilla is a very conservative community. But this brings to mind some things I think the people of Wasilla, and many people in Alaska, often forget: silence breeds a dangerous form of ignorance.
I have to wonder if Vanessa Campbell had a deeper conversation with her son. I mean the book “This Book is Gay” is not quiet about its subject matter in anyway. Its cover is a freaking huge rainbow. I doubt a person would ever pick the book up without a slight guess at the content. I am left wondering if her son is LBGTQ identified. I am wondering if he just shoved that conversation back in the closet or if he was outed to the entire Wasilla community. But I think this points out some other shortfalls like the ability to create private dialog and discussion in a family about what’s really going on with those in the family. I have my doubts. I am concerned Ms Campbell might not be doing what librarians and book sellers the world over ask of families and book critics- have a conversation on the book that leads to personal decisions. Rather, it seems this only led to less access to books and knowledge in general rather than respecting personal rights and choices in reading.