As an academic librarian with a deep interest in historical and contemporary book censorship, I can’t imagine a better way to spend my vacation than with the very books deemed too dangerous to read. This post is my first dispatch as a visiting fellow in publishing history at the Houghton Library, Harvard’s main repository of rare books and manuscripts.
Many libraries have meeting rooms or public spaces that can be used for speakers and events, and this case reinforces the importance of making content neutral decisions regarding who can use these spaces and what they can use them for. Decisions that are not content (or viewpoint) neutral risk legal problems for the library. This also highlights the importance of a clearly defined meeting room and events policy, both to guide internal decision making and to allow staff to have clear and specific viewpoint neutral policy-based reasons if they choose to deny a request to use library space.
The Index Librorum Prohibitorum was a list of books banned for lay Roman Catholic readership. Officially — though the Church was never fully explicit in its means of prosecution of such rules — any individual who dared read any books included on this list risked excommunication and, thus, spiritual damnation.
In the twenty years since Harry Potter first arrived on the publishing scene, J.K. Rowling’s boy wizard series has faced more than its share of attempts to see the books limited, banned or even burned.
Two weeks ago, students at the University of Texas at Dallas campus found two Qur’ans in the toilet.