According to the ALA's Intellectual Freedom Glossary,
Censorship is "a change in the access status of material made by a
governing authority or its representatives. Such changes include
exclusion, restriction, removal, or age/grade level changes when the
intent is to restrict access."
Of course, a major role of a library media specialist is to
intelligently select materials suitable for library patron's and the
school's curriculum. For a definition of selection, Wisconsin's
Department of Public refers to Rosholt
School District's School Media Center Resources Selection Policy.
Selection is defined as "The decision which must be made to add
resources to support curriculum and to meet recreational
This begs the question, "How does selection differ from
According to Lester Asheim, in an article for Wilson Library Bulletin
(September 1953) the difference from a patron's point of view does not
matter if an item is not selected for inclusion (selection) or is removed
because the material is deemed objectionable (censorship). In either
case -- the patron does not have access to the material.
Mr. Asheim's conclusions are that the main difference is that selection
takes a positive approach and looks at resources from the point of view
that considers a work as a whole and looks for something of value.
Selection relies on the intelligence of library users to make responsible
decisions about a resource.
Censorship, Mr. Asheim argues, takes a negative point of view and seeks
to identify elements within the works that are inappropriate.
Censorship seeks to protect a reader from himself by applying the judgment
of the censor.
Both federal and state laws prohibit obscene materials -- though legal
definitions of obscenity can be tricky and vary from community to
community. The discussion presented here is assuming that reasonable
people have agreed that a given item is not considered
"obscene," because the censorship / selection issues presented
here do not apply. Obscene material does not have legal protection.
The main point I am trying to make here is that selection policy and
the professional judgment, BEFORE a work is deemed objectionable, is the
best way to defend the liberty of library users.
Selection policies protect the rights of all parties involved when
When there is disagreement over the content of a resource, the
situation must be handled in a professional, respectful, and
pre-determined manner. Specific suggestions, procedures, and
policies for handling selection and censorship are provided in DPI's
Dealing with Selection and Censorship: A Handbook for Wisconsin
Schools and Libraries.
Public School (CT) Selection and Reconsideration Policy is
an example of school policy that provides a framework for dealing with
these issues. It
is presented here to illustrate how the ideas presented in this page can
be applied to a challenge. In my resource
section, there is a page devoted to censorship
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