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In one of the dumbest library challenges ever, Carrie Gaske of Greenville County, South Carolina, earlier this month caused Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ Neonomicon to be pulled from the shelves of the Greenville County library system after her 14-year-old daughter checked the book out and Gaske discovered it contained adult material.
The horror graphic novel was shelved, appropriately, in the adult section. Minors over 13 can check out adult books with a parent’s permission, so Gaske skimmed through the book, saw nothing offensive, assumed it would be a children’s book anyway because it’s a comic, and allowed her daughter to check it out. It wasn’t until they got home, and the daughter asked the meaning of an unfamiliar word, that Gaske realized it actually was an adult graphic novel and flipped out. She has challenged the book, and the library has removed it from circulation so a committee can review it. In other words: The library classified the book appropriately as an adult book, Gaske chose to ignore that classification, and now she wants to put it off limits to everyone.
On Monday, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund teamed with the National Coalition Against Censorship and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression to write a letter to the Board of Trustees of the Greenville Public Library calling for the book’s return to the shelves. The letter points out that withdrawing the book, even temporarily, infringes the First Amendment rights of all the adults who use the library.
The book meets the criteria that form the basis for the library’s collection development policy. Removing it because of sexual content not only fails to consider the indisputable value of the book as a whole, but also ignores the library’s obligation to serve all readers, without regards to individual tastes and sensibilities. If graphic violent and sexual content were excluded from the library because some people object to it, the library would lose ancient and contemporary classics, from Aeschylus’ Oresteia to Toni Morrison’s Beloved.
In an interesting twist, the NCAC post on the matter says that Gaske has refused to return her checked-out copy to the library. Civil disobedience — or maybe she just couldn’t put it down?