This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, September 26, 1990

September 26, 1990 - banned books week

As a librarian, naturally I oppose censorship. It's even in my job description. When people express concern about books on our shelves, I carefully explain that libraries have to try to represent all points of view on many subjects. We have an obligation to buy things that people tell us they want to read -- even if other people object to it. After all, I say, this is America. Freedom of Speech is a basic, constitutionally guaranteed right. That means the freedom to listen, watch, or read, too.

But censorship is a tricky thing. Last week I sat down to watch "The Wizard of Oz" with my three-year-old daughter. No sooner had the movie started than it hit me -- since early childhood, I have had recurring nightmares about tornadoes. Sometimes still I dream about dark, looming trees that reach out and grab me. All at once I realized where those images had come from -- the same movie I was about to show to Maddy.

"Hey, I know!" I said brightly. "Let's watch #Dumbo#!"

What happened to my daughter's constitutionally guaranteed freedom to view? I threw it out the window. Why? Because I'm bigger than she is.

It's a problem. Intellectually, I am well aware that what you don't know, does hurt you. Knowledge is always the best defense. But like lots of parents, I want to protect my child from the things that I'm afraid of.

It's hopeless, of course. Soon enough, she'll have her own demons, probably from a completely unsuspected source. "Daddy," she'll say when she's twenty-seven, "I've always been terrified by elephants, anyone with big ears, and clowns, and fire. And it's all because YOU MADE ME WATCH DUMBO!"

I can try to rationalize my censorship of my daughter's television viewing. After all, I'm her father. It's my job to look out for her, right? At some point, I realize that I have to let go. But when is it safe?

Never, according to some people. They think it's not enough to limit what young children see or read. They think that even in high school, you have to protect young minds from unwholesome books. They believe some ideas should be suppressed even in college. They think the convenience store magazine rack should carry only those items approved by some self-appointed guardian of the public morality.

What do you think?

September 22 - 29 is Banned Books Week, a national event observed by booksellers and librarians. During the week, all of Douglas County's libraries will have displays of books that somebody, sometime, has tried to censor. The titles will surprise you. During the same week, Hooked on Books, the Castle Rock bookstore at 112 S. Wilcox, will display materials too, and hold daily readings of banned books.

Saturday, September 29, the Philip S. Miller Library in Castle Rock will sponsor a mini-forum on censorship. Beginning at 1 p.m., Connie Willis, a Nebula-award winning science fiction author who happens to live in Colorado, will read one of her short stories. It concerns censorship in the near future. The story has appeared in the "Humanist" magazine.

Then Lucy Tanner, a Douglas County businesswoman, will speak on the other side of the issue. Tanner no longer patronizes Hooked On Books because she objects to some of the materials they carry.

The public is invited to attend -- and to participate in what we hope will be a stimulating exchange of ideas. Following the forum, Connie Willis will be at Hooked On Books by 3:00 to sign copies of her books.

All the events are free. And you, of course, are free to come.

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