Yesterday, I seized the day by visiting the Library of Michigan while I am still on break between semesters and got lost in the Z class for a few hours browsing my favorite topic: censorship and intellectual freedom.

Between interviewing directors and practicing librarians as well as reading a fabulous book titled True Stories of Censorship Battles in America’s Libraries — edited by Kathy Barco and Valerie Nye — I seem to have a pretty good grasp on the patron-side of challenges and censorship which prompted me to explore materials from the view of  librarians that are actually pro-censorship. So…I picked up Censorship: Opposing Viewpoints and read Thomas Storck’s essay titled, A Case for Censorship: Defending the Poor from the Jaded Rich. 

Needless to say, I was pretty floored and as a result ended up logging into Facebook to capture a sentence in the essay’s introduction. My status update read, “There is something wrong with the following sentence: ‘Storck, a librarian in Washington, D.C., insists that censorship can both prevent harmful acts and facilitate society’s intellectual pursuit of truth.'”

Thomas Storck (1994) posits: 

“For, human nature being what it is, it is naive to think we can freely read and view things that promote or portray evil deeds without sometimes feeling encouraged to commit such deeds. And if this is the case, then censorship can sometimes be a necessity…[case for censorship]…It can be stated in the following simple thesis: ideas lead to actions, and bad ideas often lead to bad acts, bringing harm to individuals and possible ruin to societies. Just as the state has the right to restrict and direct a person’s activities when he is a physical threat to the community, so also in the matter of intellectual or cultural threats, the authorities have duties to protect the community.” (Pages 18-19)

Further… 

“The ideal censor is not some ill-educated, parochial bigot, but someone of liberal education and continued wide reading, someone with a grasp of first principles and enough experience and wisdom to see how they should be put into practice.” (Page 23)

“A final point that must be noted is the connection between anti-censorship arguments and the free market…It is primarily the rich who promote and subsidize ideas and art that undermine traditional ways of life, and it is primarily the poor who suffer on that account. Society exists to protect and promote the welfare of all, but especially of the poor and the workingman. To exalt the free and irresponsible expression of the individual is to take up a position contrary to the community’s duty of protecting the poor…Only those with sufficient money and ennui have the time or resources to produce ideas or art that corrupt or debase.” (Page 23 – 24)

My thoughts…
I wholeheartedly concur with the sentiments of Lester Asheim — “Selection seeks to protect the right of the reader to read; censorship seeks to protect—not the right—but the reader from himself from the fancied effects of his reading. The selector has faith in the intelligence of the reader; the censor has faith only in his own.”

While some might be disgusted by the availability of a book they deem ‘morally bankrupt’, I align myself with good old Ranganathan and his 5 laws of library science — specifically: (2) Every reader his (or her) book; and, (3) Every book its reader. We live in a free society and people have the right to read what they wish to read…and not be censored by some “well meaning” individual. I wholeheartedly believe that a good public library will truly have something to offend everyone…and if it doesn’t…then it’s someone’s private library.