Only ‘banned’ books here are those with dif­fer­ent view­points

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There seems to be mis­in­for­ma­tion, whether in­ten­tional or not, about the in­tent of those of us who have ex­posed some of the fea­tured books in the “Ages 1218” sec­tion of the Lex­ing­ton Park li­brary. Our in­tent is that par­ents should be mak­ing the choices of whether or not their chil­dren are ex­posed to sex­u­ally ex­plicit ma­te­rial — not the li­brary di­rec­tor or li­brary board of trus­tees. When this type of ma­te­rial is fea­tured un­der the guise of a “banned book” in a sec­tion of the li­brary des­ig­nated for pre-teens and teens, an age group that do not need a parental es­cort in the li­brary, that choice is taken away from par­ents. From the re­ac­tion, it ap­pears that many ci­ti­zens were not aware of the choices of read­ing ma­te­rial be­ing mar­keted to our teens and pre-teen chil­dren by our li­brary di­rec­tor and li­brary board of trus­tees.

First of all, none of the books are ac­tu­ally “banned books.” As it turns out, this is a yearly pro­mo­tional event of the Amer­i­can Li­brary As­so­ci­a­tion’s “Of­fice of In­tel­lec­tual Free­dom” — a name that is eerily sim­i­lar to the “Min­istry of Truth” in Ge­orge Or­well’s clas­sic “1984” — which was no­tably ab­sent from among the fea­tured books at the li­brary.

In 2015, a re­porter at the web­site fivethir­tyeight ac­tu­ally tried to in­ves­ti­gate the method­ol­ogy used by the ALA’s Of­fice of In­tel­lec­tual Free­dom to de­ter­mine which books are con­sid­ered “banned.” Guess what? He was stonewalled by the ALA. He ended up con­clud­ing that the list is a gim­mick to draw ex­tra at­ten­tion to some books cho­sen ar­bi­trar­ily by the OIF.

From my count, 25 per­cent of the “banned books” at the Lex­ing­ton Park li­brary dis­play were sex­u­ally ex­plicit. Why is that? Where were the books fea­tur­ing al­ter­na­tive view­points to promis­cu­ity and other risky and dan­ger­ous sex­ual prac­tices? Where were lit­er­ary clas­sics like “To Kill a Mock­ing­bird,” “The Grapes of Wrath” or “1984?” They were nowhere to be found in this dis­play. I would think if the pur­pose was “merely point­ing out the whole no­tion of banned books in Amer­ica,” as stated in The En­ter­prise’s Oct. 25 ed­i­to­rial, some of these other “banned” books would have been fea­tured. Ac­tu­ally, it seems that books with al­ter­na­tive view­points are the truly banned books — banned, ap­par­ently, by our li­brary’s di­rec­tor and trus­tees.

It ap­pears that sim­ply ac­cus­ing one of vi­o­lat­ing the First Amend­ment or free­dom of speech is used in an at­tempt to elim­i­nate all dis­cus­sion on the is­sue of the li­brary’s mar­ket­ing of in­ap­pro­pri­ate ma­te­ri­als for pre-teens and teens. All dis­cus­sion of whether the ma­te­rial fea­tured at the li­brary meets the le­gal def­i­ni­tion of ob­scen­ity or child pornog­ra­phy — or is sim­ply ma­te­rial that is in­ap­pro­pri­ate for mi­nors and should be moved to another area of the li­brary — is shut down. Ap­par­ently, we must obey. Ques­tion­ing is a “thoughtcrime.” County Com­mis­sioner Todd Mor­gan (R) was even lam­basted in a pre­vi­ous let­ter to the ed­i­tor for dar­ing to sug­gest that “good com­mon sense and judg­ment” be used. I guess the Thought Po­lice are against com­mon sense.

One more in­ter­est­ing note, the YouTube video of the Oct. 17 county com­mis­sion­ers’ pub­lic fo­rum where some of us quoted from some of the books in ques­tion has a warn­ing la­bel on it: “Cau­tion: Por­tions of the fol­low­ing pro­gram con­tain lan­guage and/or ma­te­ri­als which may be of­fen­sive to some view­ers. Parental dis­cre­tion is ad­vised.” This warn­ing la­bel was placed there by the ad­min­is­tra­tion of St. Mary’s County. Strangely, there is no such warn­ing at the en­trance of the area des­ig­nated for pre-teen/teen chil­dren at our li­brary.

Jen­nifer Moun­tjoy, Hol­ly­wood

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