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  • Children, and protection of children, are the most common reason for censorship of books, which is why school libraries ban most often.
  • Schools and Public libraries the most likely to censor – also receive most challenges to books. American statistics in absence of UK ones. (To discuss later)
  • Conservative censorship is illiberal and reactionary in intent, often aimed at books that discuss contemporary issuesLiberal censorship amounts to social whitewashing, often seeking to remove items with racist or sexist content, even when the items are historical, as in the case of Huck Finn. Censors never see themselves as censors more like moral guardians.
  • Insidious and commonplace.McNicol's research highlighted that almost all librarians’ restricted access to fiction materials according to age; although access was extended to younger children providing parental permission had been given. In most schools, items were labelled to indicated which age group they were suitable for (e.g. using colour coding) and often issue systems were set up to restrict access to younger students.  (McNichol, 2005b) This backs up Sharon's experience where if a student from KS3, wanted to read a YA book a signed letter from the student’s parent would normally be required giving permission for them to read these books.
  • Captain Underpants (series), by DavPilkey.Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age groupThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie.Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age groupThirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher.Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age groupFifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James.Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicitAnd Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age groupThe Kite Runner, by KhaledHosseini.Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicitLooking for Alaska, by John Green.Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age groupScary Stories (series), by Alvin SchwartzReasons: Unsuited for age group, violenceThe Glass Castle, by Jeanette WallsReasons: Offensive language, sexually explicitBeloved, by Toni MorrisonReasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence
  • Taylor & McMenemy investigated Scottish libraries performing a quantitative survey. With a sample so small – study found that there were 15 censorship challenges in Scottish public libraries in the past five years: an average of three challenges to books per year - the results are not helpful. The ALA records thousands of challenges – the reasons for the lack of complaints in the UK given are unconvincing.Curry interviewed UK & Canadian library directors – all but one had been pressured to remove items from stock.McNichol found that “school libraries are more isolated than those in public libraries “ – thus more likely to bow to parental complaint and pressure.
  • Censorship does happen in the UK – these titles have been removed from public libraries. Liberal censorship of historical racism. Tintin (1931), Babar (1932)
  • Other challenges in public libraries:Revolting Recipes by Roald Dahl - imagery considered ‘disgusting’ for childrenThe Vicar of Nibbleswick, by Roald Dahl - inappropriate languageMummy Never Told Me and Mummy Laid an Egg, by Babette Cole - both of which deal with sex education for the under-5s) - complaints for sexual reasonsAdventures of the Dish and the Spoon by Mini Grey; - ‘humour inappropriate for under-5s’.Outbreak by Chris Ryan; - considered unsuitable for childrenIt’s Ok, I’m Wearing Really Big Knickers by Louise Rennison - inappropriate languageMy Life as a Bitch by Melvin Burgess; - considered unsuitable for children
  • UK Cases: two notable instancesof political interference.Abigail at the Beach by Felix Pirani (1988). 1988 – 54 members of the House of Commons signed an “early day motion”, requesting that is be withdrawn.Rosemary Sandberg at Collins publishers agreed to withdrawn the book if there were proof that any child had been corrupted by it. (Hunt, 1996,p.96) When no such proof could be offered, they continued to sell it, until it went out of print.Contains references to Abigail’s father drinking three cans of beer on the Beach. – One of the 52 objectors, Mr. David Tredinnick, a Conservative MP, perhaps a little unguardedly observed: "I think that would encourage a young child to think drinking beer was a nice thing to do." A comment that was satirised by political columnist Craig Brown. (p.97)Abigail then defends her sandcastle, decorated with her father’s beer cans, from some boys by threatening them – telling them her father is in the Mafia, the Marines and the Secret Service. MPs thought that the content of the book was "leading children to violent acts...and alcoholism"February 1995 – Sainsbury’s began to sell books under their own imprint, one of which was Abigail. Responding to the complaint of a parent, who said the book was “too violent” (p.98) Sainsbury’s banned the book. “Sainsbury’s spokeswoman Ann Graham said there had been four complaints nationwide and the book was being removed from all their stores.” (p.99)
  • Jenny lives with Eric and Martin by Susanne Bosche (1981/3)No prosecutions ever arose as a result of Section 28, but led many schools to self-censor, withdrawing materials that may be in violation of this law.
  • Author of Jenny lives with Eric and Martin
  • McNichol writes that “As information professionals, librarians need to be involved in decisions relating to Internet access and restrictions imposed. “
  • McNicol's research found that some librarians who worked in Catholic schools felt that parents might reasonably expect that their child would not have access to certain materials which went against Catholic teaching. This might include both fiction and non-fiction books about issues such as abortion, drugs, child abuse and ghosts.  One explained that she was not able to stock magazines relating to HIV and AIDS and had to take care when publicising websites such as Childline and teenage magazines which might contain information about sex.  This was clearly a tricky situation for this librarian who believed:As a librarian I think that’s appalling, but it’s my job and it’s the ethos of the school and I took the post knowing it’s a Catholic school.The Shell House by Linda Newberry had presented a problem at this school, not only for its references to homosexuality, but more significantly because it describes one of the main characters questioning the existence of god. “One respondent pointed out that, “sensitivity should be given to the type of school and the ethos of the school and the school librarian should respect that”. “
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    1. 1. What is Censorship? Literary censorship is the act of suppression of, or otherwise prohibiting or preventing access to, literary materials and resources. The American Library Association defines a challenge to a book as: “ A formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed from the library because of content or inappropriateness. A.L.A. (2009) However, censorship occurs in libraries for many reasons and under many guises. ”
    2. 2. Statistically speaking… “Unsuitable for age group” is the third most common reason for challenging a title American Library Association. (n.d.) Challenges by Reason, Initiator & Institution for 1990-99 and 200
    3. 3. Who Censors? American Library Association. (n.d.) Challenges by Reason, Initiator & Institution for 1990-99 and 200
    4. 4. Why Censor? Sexual content Sexism and misogyny Violence Lack of cultural sensitivity Protection of children Sexuality issues Explicit language Racism and racial stereotypes American Library Association. (n.d.) Challenges by Reason, Initiator & Institution for 1990-99 and 2000-09.
    5. 5. Silent Censorship Political and government intervention is rare. Self-censorship is the most common way in which books are withdrawn and banned from libraries, and amongst the most common censors are librarians themselves. “ The fear of receiving a complaint from a parent was a strong motivator for librarians to censor materials, especially as many did not feel they would be supported by their head teacher or colleagues if a complaint was received. Those librarians working in schools in middle class areas were most concerned as it was felt that parents at these schools would be more likely to complain . (McNichol, 2005)
    6. 6. Censorship in the USA The list of the 10 most challenged books in 2012… 1. 2. Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie 3. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher 4. Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James 5. And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson 6. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini 7. Looking for Alaska by John Green 8. Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz 9. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls 10. Beloved by Toni Morrison …contains six books aimed at children and young adults. American Library Association. (n.d.) Frequently Challenged Books of the 21st Century.
    7. 7. Censorship in the UK Although books are often challenged for similar reasons in the UK, there is a prevailing belief that literary censorship in the UK is not as prevalent. “ “ While in the US, formal challenges to books in school libraries are routine, they are very unusual in the UK. Part of the difference is in the level of local control over schools. Typically in the US, locally-elected school boards can have books withdrawn when parents petition them. In the UK, […] one primary school […] refused to have any Harry Potter books because of the supernatural content, but such moves are rare. (Rohrer, 2010) ” The main difference between British and American censorship laws is that British laws regarding censorship are usually national laws and in the United States they are usually local. Decisions for book censorship, especially in schools and libraries, are left up to the individual states and local municipalities. That is not to say that there was no federal censorship at all in the United States, it is just a rare occurrence. (Ciano, 2013)
    8. 8. Censorship in the UK However, there is evidence to the contrary… There is a need for research to discover the extent of censorship in UK public libraries, as little data is kept on frequency of challenges. CILIP need to be as active as the ALA. (Taylor & McMenemy, 2012) The pressure to withdraw library materials is frequently experienced by library directors in the UK. Whilst librarians are (Curry, 1997) likely to believe in intellectual freedom, they still censor materials, though usually through restrictions rather than banning. School librarians are more likely (McNichol, 200 to self-censor than
    9. 9. Books Challenged in the U Removed from East Sussex Libraries due to racial stereotypes Removed entirely from Lewisham Libraries, and moved to adult sections elsewhere, due to racial stereotypes (Copping, 2012)
    10. 10. Books Challenged in the U Removed from Newcastle Library‟s Health & Wellbeing section due to negative messages about obesity Removed from West Lothian Libraries due to sexual content. (Copping, 2012)
    11. 11. Case Studies ABIGAIL AT THE BEACH 54 members of the House of Commons signed an early day motion, requesting that the book be withdrawn. MPs thought that the content of the book was "leading children to violent acts...and alcoholism." Sainsbury‟s began to sell books under their own imprint, one of which was Abigail at the Beach. Responding to four complaints from parents, who said the book was “too violent,” it was withdrawn (Hunt, 1996)
    12. 12. Case Studies JENNY LIVES WITH ERIC AND MARTIN Published in Danish in 1981 and in English in 1983, the book only began to attract attention in 1986, when a headteacher complained that the content was inappropriate and called for its withdrawal. The ILEA (Inner London Education Authority) refused. Considerable government pressure followed. The resulting controversy, school protests and the abolition of the ILEA by the Conservative government led to the formation of Section 28 in 1988, which banned local authorities from publishing material that “promoted homosexuality.” (Barry, 1992
    13. 13. Censorship Today Censorship of literature continues even into the digital age and in spite of growing computer usage and varied attitudes to censorship and regulation of the internet. “ “ No librarians interviewed had direct control of Internet access in the library; this was controlled by the school or local authority. This caused problems because many useful sites were filtered and the ease with which these could be unblocked varied. (McNichol, 2005) ” These books open readers to experiences and emotion. If people are concerned about teens' behaviour, then they should look at computer games and not [books], which will probably make them a better person. I can't see what all the fuss is about. (Sheppard, 2013)
    14. 14. Censorship Today The rise of Free Schools in recent years, frequently run by religious and faith groups, have also presented worrying trends regarding the censorship of literature in schools. Censorship in Catholic Schools is not only commonplace, but expected. School libraries in these institutes must not stock materials which go against Catholic teaching, such as books about abortion, drugs, child abuse, HIV, sex, atheism and supernatural themes. (McNicol, 2005) In recent news, the Al Madinah School, a Muslim Free School, that was recently closed after an Ofstead inspection, reportedly banned fairy tales amongst
    15. 15. Conclusions Censorship, in its many varied form and for many reasons, does happen in the UK in both school and public libraries. As it is not monitored in the same manner as it is in the USA, it is impossible to know how extensive and pervasive the practise is. Apart from two notable cases of government intervention, most censorship appears to be in response to parental complaints or pre-emptive self-censorship in attempt to avoid that. Actions More action must be taken to uphold CILIP‟s principles regarding intellectual freedom, and statistical data of the number of times books are challenged and withdrawn in UK libraries should be kept. Library professionals and paraprofessionals must be made more aware of what constitutes censorship.
    16. 16. Image Credits All photographs used under Creative Commons licences, with the exception of the book covers on slide numbers 13, 14, 15 & 16, which are presented under Fair Use regulations. Aubry, M. 2008. Schoolgirls reading in the library. (Photograph). Retrieved from Oak Park Public Library. 2011. I Read Banned Books. (Photograph). Retrieved from What Indie Nights. n.d. [Photograph of Penguin Classics book]. Retrieved from
    17. 17. References American Library Association. (n.d.) Challenges by Reason, Initiator & Institution for 1990-99 and 2000-09. Retrieved November 16 2013 from Barry, P. (1992). Censorship and Children‟s Literature Some Post War Trends. In Hyland, P. & Sammells, N. (Eds.) Writing and Censorship in Britain. (pp. 233-241) London: Routledge. Bosche, S. (2000, January 31). Jenny, Eric, Martin…and me. Retrieved November 25 2013 from Ciano, B. (2013, September 25). US & UK Censorship. [Web blog post]. Retrieved November 25 2013 from CILIP. (2005). Intellectual freedom, access to information and censorship. Retrieved November 25 2013 from Copping, J. (2012, April, 22). From Horrible Histories to Babar the Elephant – the 'offensive‟ children‟s books withdrawn by libraries. Retrieved November 25 2013 from Curry, A. (1997) The Limits of Tolerance: Censorship and Intellectual Freedom in Public Libraries. London: Scarecrow.
    18. 18. References Gaiman, N. (2013, October 15). Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming. Retrieved November 25 2013 from Hunt, P. (1996). Censorship and Children‟s Literature in Britain Now, or, The Return of Abigail. Children’s Literature in Education. 28 (2). 95-103 Kerbaj, R. & Griffiths, S. (2013, September 22). No fairy tales or singing for pupils. Retrieved November 18 2013 from McNicol, S. (2005). Censorship Practices and Access to Information: Interviews with school and children's librarians [Online]. Birmingham: Evidence Base. Retrieved 21 November 2013 from Orwell, G. (1945). The Freedom of the Press. The Times [1972] and Animal Farm [2000]. [Online]. Retrieved 21 November 2013 from Robinson, K.H. (2012). „Difficult Citizenship‟: The precarious relationships between childhood, sexuality and access to knowledge. Sexualities 15 (3-4). 257-276 Rohrer, F. (2010, September 27). Why are parents banning school books?. Retrieved November 16 2013 from
    19. 19. References Sheppard, C. (2013, September 23). Book censors target teen fiction, says American Library Association. Retrieved November 25 2013 from Taylor, K. & McMenemy, D. (2012). Censorship challenges to books in Scottish public libraries. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science 45 (2) 153-167 Worldofbooksltd. (2011, August 19). Melvin Burgess interview with World of [Web blog post]. Retrieved November 25 2013 from