For concerned parents, a book’s removal may seem like a triumph. Less so for kids who just want to read some scary stories, and are rarely told by librarians the real reasons behind a removal. Ruth, a 21-year-old library student in Michigan, told Polygon about a time when some concerned parents at her school discovered that their son had checked out Scary Stories.
“They went to the PTA and said that the school librarians shouldn’t have let the kid check the book out because it was ‘too mature’ for him, and also that the book should be pulled entirely because it wasn’t in line with the school’s values,” she explained. “The students who looked for it after it was pulled got told that it was because they didn’t get checked out enough so they got weeded, but my friends and I all knew that wasn’t true because we checked those books out all the time.”
Ruth attended a religious school, but says that the way the librarians acted went against the American Library Association’s professional code of ethics. Though the association doesn’t speak for all libraries all over the world, the ALA is the oldest and largest library association and seeks to provide leadership standards for librarians everywhere. According to the code of ethics on the ALA website, the organization defends the rights to accessibility and confidentiality. Anyone using a library should be able to check out a book without having their activity monitored.To become aware of when a book has been challenged or banned, the ALA monitors media reports. But not all cases of censorship make headlines, which is why the Office of Intellectual Freedom also encourages librarians to file confidential reports of censorship.
“The [confidential] reports, the websites, the media reports all fit into our database where we keep track of challenges to books,” Stone explains. “Within our ability we’ll follow up and track what the outcome is. If there is a challenge and a processes in place, we’ll follow up to find out what the end result of the committee’s decision was. If a superintendent removes the book and it makes the local newspaper, we will follow the media coverage till we find out what the final determination is.”