Thursday, December 6, 2007

Stuck in the Middle

Well, something pretty big has been going on to keep me from posting recently (if anyone actually reads this.) And since my idea for this blog was to talk about the overlapping of my two "worlds"... my faith and my work... I guess it's kind of ironic that what's kept me so busy is a clashing of these two worlds. I guess it's also fair that I write about it here.

A picture book in the collection has been challenged. The title? King and King. You can use the brains I know God gave you to figure out that this book is being challenged due to it's discussion of homosexuality. This challenge began three months ago when I went full time as the head of the children's department and then exploded last week when the library board decided for the second time that the book should remain where it is with no labeling other than the subject heading in the item record in the catalog. Since then, we've gotten emails, phone calls, visits, multiple articles in the local paper, mentions and one on-air piece on the Philadelphia affiliates of the major networks, and an article in School Library Journal, the biggest professional article/book review resource in children's librarianship. It's been crazy.

So where do I stand in all this? Torn. Because personally, I do not believe in homosexuality, nor would I have bought this particular book. (It was donated over a year before I even began at the library, let alone began working in the children's department.) BUT professionally, I do not believe in censorship. There is a "Library Bill of Rights" adopted by the American Library Assocication. Read it... my job is to provide equal access to all types of information, regardless of the beliefs, background, etc of the patron, item in question or it's creator. My biggest concern has to be quality. Does that mean my personal biases don't affect purchases? Of course not, but once that item is in my collection, I have a duty to fight censorship. I could cite all the reasons why professionally, this book needs to stay where it is... it's not my place or any other librarian's to put a label on something. We are not the morality police; that is the parents' decision. And it should be the parents' decision. Don't even get me started on how this book is titled KING AND KING, with clearly labeled subject headings and how difficult is it to flip through a 32-40 page picture book to see what it's about before leaving the library. No, I'm certainly willing to offer opinions and advice, but public libraries are not school libraries. I do not have in loco parentis. I have a duty to give equal access to information. It's parents' responsibility to filter it.

So where does this leave me and what do I believe? I believe that Jesus wouldn't have censored the book had He been here. He hung out with the prostitutes, tax collectors and other socially outcast... and He loved on them, despite the fact that He did not agree with or support their behaviors. And let's face it, we're all sinners, so we all have sinful behavior. My mom has always told me to "love the sinner, hate the sin", and to those of you who believe I can't do both, I'd say check out the Bible where my Savior does just that. I believe that God has placed me in my position... well, the obvious... in less challenging times (and even in them), I simply love what I do. But I also believe that He has called me to be a peacemaker. He has put that thought into my head repeatedly the past week. Reading the comments from both extremes on the online article the past week has broken my heart. The back and forth hatred on both sides as well as at this family, which I know to be a loving, caring family, have broken my heart.

So how will I act? It doesn't matter to me what you believe. I may disagree with you. But I'm not going to treat you any differently at the library or even outside the library. To fellow Christians or any parents that read this... I say make this a teachable moment to your kids. That's what Jesus did. Look at all the parables. Those came from difficult situations and tough questions that Jesus turned into opportunities to explain that He knew differently. He didn't keep people naive or sheltered. He didn't blast down the opposing viewpoint in hate. He taught. He still loved. And that, my friends, is what I can only hope to do.

On a happier book note... Clementine is the cutest, laugh-out-loud funny book I've read in a long time! Watch out Ramona!