The correspondence recently in the T.L.S., rising from a reader's failure to get a certain work of fiction from a branch library in a great city, raised once again the charge that the public librarian was a censor, an office for which, it was indignantly assumed, he had neither capacity nor authority. The subsequent letters reiterated the arguments with which every experienced librarian is only too familiar: that public librarians operate with limited funds and “select” books of which they know their readers have need. They cannot provide every book. It is always fiction that raises this hubbub from the reader who assumes that he should be provided with anything his fancy suggests at the expense of his fellow ratepayers, many of whom may greatly dislike the book in question. As Mr. O'Leary, in his part of the symposium wrote, any form of censorship may not only be wrong ; it may be fatuous. The whole history of literature indicates that. But librarians are trusted by the community to give what is best to the greatest number of people and, if they do not stock particular books, this, as another correspondent points out, is not censorship if the book can be got through any bookseller or at the subscription libraries, although the latter were compelled to experiment some years ago with a form of exclusion. That is not unreasonable seeing that thousands of readers come upon books as it were by accident and are often displeased at what they find ; and it is useless, to be quite practical, to point out that no one need read a book he finds to be offensive, and all should at least try to determine the character of any book they intend to read. Obviously, as we have long known, the question is complicated and these and many other factors have to be borne in mind in practice.
MCB UP Ltd
Copyright © 1953, MCB UP Limited