September 21, 2009

Maintaining Opinions and Being Diplomatic as a Librarian

Now that I've become a little more public about my blog and more people will be locating it, I'm wondering if I should try to be a little more diplomatic about certain things. For instance, my feelings about Twilight. Is it a good idea to have such a strong opinion about something that so many people love? In other words: Is it very librarian of me?

We, librarians, are supposed to uphold the Library Bill of Rights and Intellectual Freedom. I don't think my opinions make it difficult for me to adhere to these standards, but they do make it tough for me to promote the reading of certain books. Let me make one thing clear: I think people should be able to read whatever they want. I do not subscribe to censorship in any form; however, I think people should be critical when reading what they choose to read. Critical reading enhances the experience of reading for pleasure. Not only can you gain enjoyment out of what you read, forming opinions about what you're reading enables you to engage with the literature more. This allows you to have discussion about what you read. Discussions are hopefully a little deeper than: "I'm team Jacob because he's so hot". Rather, "I'm team Jacob because he seems to have Bella's best interests in mind and truly protects her. For example, he seems to care about her because he tries to keep her away from Edward and he's not a creepy stalker who watches her when she sleeps." Or, rather than "I think Bella is cool because hot guys like her", hopefully there's, "I'm worried that Bella has no ego integrity because she seems to define herself by the men in her life. For example, she's one way when Jacob is around and she's another way when Edward is around. Also, she doesn't seem very smart because she crashed her motorcycle and jumped off a cliff so Edward would come back. That's pretty stupid."

Hopefully by now you get what I mean. When handing over a copy of Twilight, to a teenage girl, I'm hoping she's thinking about all this other stuff when she reads it and not just "The actors that play the characters from Twilight are so dreamy and I'm going to be just like Bella (the most anti-feminist character of all time)." Rather, I hope she engages with the characters a little more than that and maybe questions why they do the things they do. Some librarians are struggling with the idea of allowing The Twilight Saga on their shelves at all. Make no mistake, I would hand the books over to a teenage that wanted to read them, but when getting the books back I'd have to ask if she liked them and why. Does this break any of our time honored library rules? Or am I being a hypocrite because I hope that readers will think critically about what they read? And around and around we go.

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