PAST EVENT: Banned Books – is censorship by public libraries ever acceptable?

Right now, public libraries are censoring their readers’ choice of books – but is this ever acceptable? With demand from the public for extremist literature in some UK libraries, it is argued that the job of librarians is to defend social cohesion and avoid texts that may offend religious or ethnic minorities. As ever-limited public money pays for books, it is right for librarians to seek to provoke public debate, or should they get on with providing what the public wants?

A panel discussion with Lisa Appignanesi, President of English PEN; Douglas Murray, author of Hate on the State: How British libraries encourage Islamic extremism; Mike Clarke, Head of Camden Libraries; Tony Lacey, Publishing Director at Penguin Books.

Chair: Mike Harris, Public Affairs Manager of Index on Censorship

15 September, 5.30 pm

Free Word Centre
60 Farringdon Road
London EC1R 3GA

2 responses to “PAST EVENT: Banned Books – is censorship by public libraries ever acceptable?”

  1. This illustrates a general problem with government strategy over the last few decades. It applies to all the media, not just libraries. They create a moral/legal climate in which people such as librarians are unable to stand up for freedom of expression. Then, so as to not appear the villain, they “delegate” to librarians and a host of others. If the government actually banned books it would be much easier to challenge them over it. Add the near total secrecy in which that censorship is carried out, the near impossibility of challenging it, and freedom of expression becomes a joke.

  2. Ashe says:

    Who decides what is ‘extremist’? Should this be a decision taken by Librarians? If governments expect libraries to ban certain books they should identify the titles of the books they want to ban, state what it is about the books that makes it imperative to ban them, and set up a proper procedure that allows the decision to ban a book to be challenged.

    If a book is not banned by law, then should librarians set themselves up as judges?

    If librarians are to arbitrate on what is extremist and should be banned, then they should also state their reasons, criteria and establish procedures to challenge the decision.

    How will the public know that the book-banners are not themselves ‘extremists’ preventing enlightened ideas from reaching library shelves?

    Should such books only be banned in libraries, or should the sale of them be banned as well?

    Are the terms ‘extremist’ and ‘offensive’ identical

    Is blasphemy extremist? Books by Phillip Pullman and Richard Dawkins offend Christians – just because a book causes offence to some people is it extremist? Should it be banned? I find the proliferation of American novels in UK public libraries offensive – but I would not expect them to be banned.