#FreeMyLibrary

I’m troubled. You see, our library, my library, has decided to pull a couple of children’s books from its shelf.  These books “And Tango Makes Three” and “The White Swan Express” are not without controversy. They touch on blended families, gay families and single parent families.

My library decided to pull these books, not because there were factually inaccurate or that they incited hate etc. They pulled these books because a few people complained and my library eventually decided that these books weren’t “pro-family” and didn’t promote “family values”  so they’re pulling them out.  See, my library, in spite of the fact that the rest of its collection contains “contain titles with homosexual themes and [that their] collection policy does not exclude materials on alternative lifestyles*” decided that these two children’s book had to be not just banned, but pulped into nonexistence.

Just thinking about them doing this makes me upset. See I practically grew up reading books from a library. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, and library was the one place I could go and escape to other worlds, meet new friends, learn about other places (real or otherwise). Pre internet days, this was the place we went to get more information, you trust a library to take you in and give you as much knowledge as you’ll take from it.

Growing up, my mom would bring me to Queenstown library, and we would spend hours reading together. This was where I got hungry with the caterpillar and fell in love with green eggs and ham. As I got older, I would go to the same library with my book geek friends. We would spend hours after school just hanging out in the library, reading. I would have to sssh my friend pam who suddenly hum while reading her trashy pink romance novels while my nose was in some violent gore filled book by Mr King.

During our dating days, prior to the closure of Orchard Library, J and I would spend hours there, usually borrowing way too many books than we could possibly read in that 3 week loan period.  It was there that we discovered our love for Ankh  Morpork and the disc on the back of a giant turtle flying through space.  After Orchard Library closed, we would wait for each other at the National Library at Bugis before having date night.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I love the library. I love that it never judges you on what you borrow from it, how long you take to read something and whether you finish that book or not. Learning that they are doing this awful thing, feels like my old and trusted friend is betraying me and the bond we had.  I’m crushed. I’m disappointed.

Having them pull these books out like that, on the account that it doesn’t promote family values is personal. I grew up in a single parent household and the library has always been a safe space for me. And now, with this decision, it feels like it is denying the existence of such families, white-washing reality and saying to be a family, you must have 1 mom, 1 dad, and children. What it’s also saying is that because we’re not the norm, suddenly my family doesn’t count, it doesn’t exist, it doesn’t fit into the template, therefore access denied. Look, I love my mom and everything she’s done for me. But I’ll tell you this, it’s hard enough growing up in a single parent family without having people tell you you don’t count, you don’t exist, you’re not normal.  I’d imagine it’s even tougher for more modern families also don’t fit these community norms right now.

It feels like this:

 

The idea that they are caving to parents who can’t seem to be able to vet books in advance before their children read it is really sad and speaks volumes about the level of parenting this group is (not) doing.   Isn’t that your job as a parent? I get not wanting your child to read these books, I get that it would be very uncomfortable for some parents out there and for some, outright wrong.  But that’s the thing, it is your choice and your views and eventually how you bring up your children. I’m not saying that you must read this to your child.  I’m saying, don’t read it!  Don’t pick it up.  Just tell your child this is not suitable for him/her/them if they come across the books. I believe in the freedom of choice and that means you can choose to not read such books. Removing these books is removing that choice of reading it for other children whose parents are ok with the texts, who want to read it to their children.

I’m tired of this people using the words “Pro Family” in their bid to push their own agendas.  I’m also pro family.  My husband, me, my mom and my two silly cats are my family.  I love and take care of my family.  If that isn’t pro family than someone please tell me what is.

To say that it’s guided on community norms is worse. A library is a repository of information, it shouldn’t be guided by these norms otherwise we would only have a very limited [read: boring] collection.   Is it just because it has homosexual content? Are we forever going to be torn as a society because of this?  Cause this is way bigger than that.  It is not about being pro LGBTQ, it is about the freedom of choice (or in this case the lack of).  This is outright censorship and it pains me to know that this is happening in my library, my friend, my safe space.

The removal of books, of choice, makes me nervous and uneasy.  The idea that the books are not just going to be pulled but to be pulped sets off all sorts of warning bells for me.  It makes me wonder what next? what else are we going to remove because it doesn’t fit into the community norms. are there going to be other books? What other books are going to be next?  How are such things decided?  Just because someone objects to it?  What are the community norms?  Whose community norms?

Who watches the watchmen?

 

*their words not mine, and let’s ignore the problematic heteronormativity for now.

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