- Librarians said they’re discussing what to do about six discontinued Dr. Seuss books.
- They’ll stay on the shelves for now, said the New York Public Library and other US institutions.
- Sales of Dr. Seuss books soared after figures like Ted Cruz railed against “cancel culture.”
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
Bookstores will soon be without six Dr. Seuss titles found to be offensive, but library borrowers will still be able to find them on their shelves.
On Tuesday, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, which oversees the author’s estate, said it would cease publication of six books found to have racially insensitive imagery.
For libraries, the removal of offensive books is a complex issue. Leaving books on the shelves may lead to backlash, but pulling them could be seen as a form of censorship.
“Libraries across the country are having conversations around how to balance our core values of intellectual freedom, with the harmful stereotypes depicted in many children’s classics,” said Olivia Gallegos, communications manager at the Denver Public Library.
At the New York Public Library, the six Dr. Seuss titles are expected to be available until they’re too worn out to be borrowed. When that happens, the library won’t be able to replace them with new versions, so they won’t be replaced.
“In the meantime, librarians, who care deeply about serving their communities and ensuring accurate and diverse representation in our collections – especially children’s books – will certainly strongly consider this information when planning storytimes, displays, and recommendations,” said Angela Montefinise, NYPL senior director of communications.
The American Library Association, which has a Bill of Rights and Code of Ethics for US libraries, offers guidelines for librarians. Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the ALA’s ‘s Office for Intellectual Freedom, said she can’t speculate on how each individual library will handle the books, since US public libraries are mostly controlled by local governments.
“But an author’s or publisher’s decision to stop publishing a book should not be grounds alone for removing a book from a library’s collection,” Caldwell-Stone said.
She recommended librarians seek out ALA guidelines on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and other topics.
Insider this week asked librarians around the country for their thoughts about the six books. Some said the books presented an opportunity for parents to broach difficult conversations with readers of all ages. With the help of a librarian and the right context, they could be powerful tools for combating systematic racism, the librarians said.
The Denver Public library didn’t have plans to pull any Dr. Seuss books from its collection. Like most libraries, DPL makes removal decisions based on whether books are in demand, have up-to-date information, and are in good condition, said Gallegos.
At the Los Angeles Public Library, librarians encourage parents and guardians to help their young ones select books, said a library spokesperson.
“Our collection includes the six Dr. Seuss titles that will be discontinued by Dr. Seuss Enterprises. We recognize the challenges this presents, and our goal is to promote critical thinking and evaluation of literature among patrons of all ages,” said Peter Persic, director of public relations and marketing.
None of the librarians contacted by Insider said they would remove the books from the shelves, at least for the time being.
“Brooklyn Public Library stands firmly against censorship so while we do not showcase books with outdated or offensive viewpoints, we do not remove them either, using them instead as a springboard for conversations about healing and moving forward,” said a spokesperson for the Brooklyn Public Library.
But the DC Public Library said it will conduct an internal review. It will also consult with peer libraries and library associations to decide what to do with the six books, said George Williams, media relations manager.
“Library materials may be removed from the collection when the material is no longer timely, accurate, or relevant,” Williams said. “We also recognize that sometimes a title in the collection may need to be reconsidered or moved to another location for research or consultation.”