I Am the Arm of Satan (Brian Katcher)


So while having lunch with my father today, we began discussing my career as a school librarian, and he jokingly said 'Be glad you're not a librarian in Florida.' And he's right. The current governor is on a tear about book banning and withholding funds from schools that deviant from the official approved topics. Librarians are often at the forefront of that fight. But I had to tell my dad that I have little reason to be happy right now. Firstly, that governor has more than a fighting chance of becoming the next President of the United States. Secondly, book censorship has become the new hip thing in certain circles.

My state of Missouri recently passed a law stating that any teacher or librarian that provides visually obscene materials to a student could be found guilty of a criminal act (only visual, not print works, though I'm sure that's in the pipeline). Now here's the questions: what constitutes obscenity? Who decides what is obscene? The librarian? The principal? A committee? The board? Or the government? While one could laugh this off, librarians fear that a charge like that would not only get them fired, but would prevent them from ever teaching again. Your attitude could quickly go from 'Sock it to the man!' to 'Is stocking this book worth my job?'

A friend recently forwarded me this article about the vilification of school librarians, and how the stereotype has gone from the little old lady in spectacles to 'the arm of Satan.' I'd like to say this is all tongue in cheek, but quite frankly, I haven't seen a moral panic like this since the 80s. And let's call it what it really is: some people don't like books about gay people (and they don't like gay people).

So what am I doing new this year? Apparently waiting to go to jail (not really, I'm a K-2 librarian). But if there's one group of people willing to get hauled off for sticking to their guns, it's media specialists.


  1. Gotcha. I'm glad I don't work in a school (or anywhere else for that matter). There's something freeing about being a curmudgeon with a salty vocabulary.


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