A Brilliant Experiment In Censorship
The idea of “banned” books does get a little overplayed. If your local library or school system “bans” a book, then all you have to do is order it from Amazon. It’s not like books get universally banned these days.
All that to say I love this social experiment.
Scott Dimarco is the director of a library at Mansfield University in Pennsylvania. Recently, in the Huffington Post, Dimarco explains how he and a few other librarians took part in a clever experiment with censorship. He explains how it got started:
The story begins with two staff members and one librarian who enthusiastically created and ran a week of interactive programs for banned book week. The turnout was tepid. A panel discussion on the subject drew six people. Five were librarians and staff members. The sixth was Dennis Miller, our public relations director, who recently published his second novel, One Woman’s Vengeance. As we talked about various books that are still being banned at different locations around the country, Miller said, “You should ban mine. It has sex, violence and adult language.”
He was joking, but his statement emphasized that as long as one book can be banned, any book is a target.
They agreed to participate, and “banned” Miller’s book during Banned Book Week. Miller is a popular author in the area, and his book had received good reviews.
Dimarco made the announcement–a brief, two-sentence statement–on the library’s Facebook wall. The reaction was immediate. Everyone from students to faculty to alumni were pissed. A newspaper contacted Miller within 20 minutes for his response. And my favorite tidbit that is so typical in today’s world:
A Facebook protest page was created within a day and people from around the country were voicing their angry thoughts.
Dimarco says only 8 people contacted him to meet and talk about why he had banned the book. Most of the responses were commenters saying how they felt betrayed, and Facebookers taking long-distance potshots behind the safety of social media.
The book remained banned for two days until they told the truth. Dimarco says the response was generally positive.
A typical set of programs on the topic of censorship were met by our campus community with general apathy and pleasant indifference. Our unorthodox (okay, heretical) experiment was very successful in highlighting how a simple bureaucratic decision can curb our freedom to read.
In the library world, access to information is a human right, not to be tampered with, not to be controlled in any way.
Isn’t it amazing how a group of four or five power-hungry people can make a subjective, ill-informed decision that has such a negative influence on a community?