Frequently Asked Questions
How You Can Respond
1. Is there pornography in my library?
A. Of course not. Louisiana libraries do not have obscene or pornographic material in their collections. There are no issues of Playboy or Penthouse sitting on the shelves. To claim otherwise is fearmongering in order to cause controversy.
Books which contain topics of sexuality or sexual health are not 'pornography,' nor are they considered 'obscenity' by the legal definitions of those words, and to label them as such is a gross disservice to the professional librarians who carefully curate the collection.
Are there books with sexual content in libraries? Of course there are. Every library has a romance section. Every library has books in the adult section with sexual content. There are DVDs movies with sexual content as well. And books in the teen section are carefully curated by professional librarians according to age. Seventeen-year-olds and ten-year-olds may have very different books in their sections of the library.
So say this again: IT IS THE PARENT'S RESPONSIBILITY TO MONITOR WHAT THEIR CHILD READS AND CHECKS OUT OF THE LIBRARY. To restrict what AN ENTIRE COMMUNITY has access to based on what makes a few people uncomfortable, is WRONG.
You may hear the term "community standards" thrown around in library meetings. This term comes from the Supreme Court case Miller vs. California (1973). However, the Miller definition of obscenity (hard-core, non-protected pornography) as ruled by the Supreme Court in this case has THREE parts.
Whether ‘the average person, applying contemporary community standards’ would find that the work, ‘taken as a whole,’ appeals to ‘prurient (morbid, shameful, unhealthy) interest’ (this is where the term 'community standards' comes in),
Whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law, and
Whether the work, ‘taken as a whole,’ lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value (community standards do not govern this last part). ALL THREE of those conditions must be satisfied for a work to be considered obscenity.
Book banners will almost always pull one or two passages or images from a book to "prove" that it is pornographic or obscene and should be removed or restricted. However, the law is very clear here - not only must the work "appeal to the prurient interest," in other words, be created specifically in order to around sexual feelings, but it must also, AS A WHOLE, lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. It's an extremely high bar, and for very good reason - because the First Amendment of the United States is a foundational principle of our Democracy. And libraries are the repositories of those principles. When we start restricting the contents of libraries, we start eroding the very foundations of our Democracy itself.
3. What about books with LGBTQ content?
Books with LGBTQ content are not pornographic or obscene. Members of the LGBTQ community have the right to see themselves depicted in library books and other materials in the same way that other community members do. Librarians curate collections for ALL members of the community, not the most vocal or even the majority.
2. How do I respond to someone on social media with concerns about books they've found in the library?
A. First, see question #1.
Second, not every book is for everyone. Libraries are great that way - if you find a book you don't like, or don't agree with, you can simply return it to the shelf! However, attempting to take away access to that book for every member of the community is NOT the answer.
3. If I find something on the library shelf, does that mean the library endorses it?
A. Nope. That simply means the librarians are doing their job - providing materials that represent the widest variety of viewpoints in the collection. Their goal is to represent ALL voices in our community - NOT the majority, NOT the biggest voting bloc, NOT the largest church denomination. ALL VOICES. This is why the library is so vital, and why it is such an important reflection of our Democracy.
4. What's the difference between a book "challenge" and a book "ban?"
A. A book "challenge" is when there has been an attempt to remove or restrict library books or materials based on one person or group's objections. A book "ban" is when those books or materials have actually been removed.
5. If a books is simply moved behind a counter or to a different section of the library, it hasn't been banned! Is this still censorship?
A. Yes! Moving or restricting materials places "red flags" on the them, setting them apart as being somehow "dirty" or flawed. This automatically places a judgement on the materials, which will cause some parents to restrict access to them based solely on their location. In addition, some patrons will be too embarrassed to ask at a counter for these materials, which will, again, place a "soft" ban or restriction on them.