15 Jun

A year or so ago (or a few months or a few years, I’m pretty terrible with remembering time frames), there was a bit of an uproar on Twitter.  It seemed someone in a certain Southern US state decided that her local library was stocking books of the sort of which she didn’t approve.  Rather than simply look for books in another part of the library, or even talk to her child about what sort of books they as a family think are appropriate, she decided to make A Big Stinkin’ Deal about it.

I’m not going to get into the censorship debate here, except to say this.  It’s totally fine to have your opinions about what you think are good or appropriate books.  It’s even totally fine to have those opinions influence which books you have in your home or which you encourage your family to read.  When it becomes totally not fine is when you force those opinions on people that you have never met and whose life circumstances you do not understand.  Perhaps that book you are denying someone access to could be the one that finally helps them identify with the world.  Perhaps it’s even the book that could save their lives.

In any case, when this particular woman decided to clean up her local library, she made a Very Important List of which books should be removed.  On the top of the list of books with “questionable content” were several of Maureen Johnson’s books.  Sadly in this case, the library buckled to the woman’s demands and the books on the Very Important List were removed from the shelves.

But it turns out that there is a silver lining to this story.

I recently purchased a lot of books from a company called Better World Books.  If you don’t know this company, you should.  They do awesome things for literacy all over the world, and they give a second life to used books while they’re at it.  Go visit them at www.betterworldbooks.com.

My large box of books arrived today.  Inside was a copy of Maureen Johnson’s 13 Little Blue Envelopes.  I had purchased it knowing that it had been a former library copy, and I expected that it would have some wear and tear.

What I didn’t expect was to see the name of the library from which it originated, along with several large DISCARD stamps on the inside cover and top edge.

That’s right- this book came from the SAME LIBRARY THAT BANNED IT!

It would seem that while the library did remove the books from the shelves, it didn’t destroy them as the woman had demanded.  At least some of the books were donated to Better World Books.  Now one of those books has found a safe new home on my bookshelf, nestled in between three other Maureen Johnson books.  I can only hope that the other books have found new homes with readers who will love them as well.

Take that censorship.  And hats off to the library for having at least some good come from a terrible situation.

The discard stamp inside the back cover.  Wear it as a badge of honor, dear book.  You’ve survived a battle.


8 Responses to “Discarded”

  1. Xenoia June 15, 2012 at 3:36 pm #

    Good job library (on the donation not the bowing to the whims of one opinionated person) and good job you! I can only bring myself to buy second-hand books if they are out-of-print. I just love the crispness of new books.

    • Losing My Cents June 15, 2012 at 7:40 pm #

      I’m like that with hard covers. I’m a bit rough on paperbacks. Since it’s hard to find second-hand hard covers and new ones are expensive ( especially when half your monthly income is going to pay off student loans), it just makes me love Better World Books more.

  2. Marlena June 15, 2012 at 4:36 pm #

    I’m not sure if there was a previous challenge to this book. I know The Bermudez Triangle was challenged in a library near Orlando. If you know of the specific instance a link would make this clearer. That said, just because a book is stamped discard doesn’t equal censorship. Weeding for condition and duplicates results in many books being withdrawn from library collections. That discard stamp is a generic one used to indicate withdrawl (especially if said books end up in library book sales). In fact I recently had to discard copies of this same book because I had 5 copies in my collection and no more shelf space for new MJ books. Just a thought from a librarian.

    • Losing My Cents June 15, 2012 at 7:35 pm #

      The reason I know it was banned is because it is stamped with the name of a library in my state that recently made headlines for banning the same book. Several other books in my order were also library discards, likely due to condition based on the state of their bindings. You are right that it doesn’t automatically mean a banned or challenged book.

  3. Brian C. Williams June 15, 2012 at 6:42 pm #

    Sorry, I might be missing something but just from the book and that sticker where do you get it was banned? Discarding books is a normal process in most libraries.

    • Losing My Cents June 15, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

      Sorry, I didn’t make that clear. I know this book was banned because it is stamped with the name of a library I recognize as having banned it recently. Otherwise, you are correct that the discard stamp is normal.

  4. Wickedjulia June 15, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

    I have worked for no less than three vintage/antiquarian book dealers in my day and I love to hear about discarded library books being successfully re-homed. They are often simply recycled because book collectors do not want them. It is a shame that one woman felt that she had the right to impose her values on an entire community of readers and that the library felt that they had to capitulate to her demands but, good for them for not destroying at least some of those books. After hearing this, it is hard to imagine that there was a time when books were considered more precious than gold by everyone, not just those of us who love to read.


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