Community editorial: History repeats itself in calls for restricting books at Garfield County libraries

Calls for restricting access to certain books are nothing new. 

From religious texts to lascivious portrayals of royalty and rulers, writings (and illustrations) have been offending people probably since they first appeared thousands of years ago.

In that vein, the push by some to have the Garfield County Public Library District place Japanese Manga books is not surprising. While the books in question are not in the children’s section and are noted as containing mature content by a red dot, some Garfield County residents want them restricted further or even banned outright. The library district’s director has so far declined to do so, which has led some to call on the Garfield County Commissioners to overrule the library district or even fire the director.

Concerns expressed about sexual and violent content sound eerily similar to many others made in the past about notable works such as “Catcher in the Rye,” “Are you there God? It’s Me, Margaret,” “A Clockwork Orange,” “Beloved” and many more.

The similarity of such arguments also gets to the crux of why restricting access to such works is a slippery slope: where does it end? The Bible’s Old Testament is filled with many instances of sex and violence. Some might say it’s ridiculous to think The Bible could be banned, but exactly that happened in a Utah school district earlier this year. While the ban was shortly reversed after, it’s a great example of why those advocating restrictions should prefer to leave such calls to themselves and their families as opposed to politicians. 

Frankly, we’re extremely skeptical of politicians’ ability to make such judgments. Politicians are all too often reactionary to the loudest voices in the room. So what happens when a larger, louder group calls for banning works now considered to be classics? Or even religious texts? Nothing good, and we’d rather trust our neighbors to make the call as to what is best for them and their families. And frankly, bans on books, music or films typically end up only increasing youths’ interest.

Finally, we’d encourage everyone to note that Banned Books Week is coming up soon: Oct. 1-7. This is a perfect segue to reflect on what banned books week is all about; a week that celebrates the freedom to read, draws attention to banned and challenged books, and highlights persecuted individuals. Perhaps it’s a good opportunity to consider what books you would not want to see banned and why? Then consider how you might feel if your neighbors called for it to be banned. After all, if we cede such decisions to the government or politicians, there is no telling where it stops.

The Post Independent editorial board members are Publisher/Editor Peter Baumann and community representatives John Stroud, Mark Fishbein and Amy Connerton.

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