9 Sep 2015

School librarians nonplussed by book ban

5:33 am on 9 September 2015

School librarians are in uproar after being told to take copies of banned book IntoThe River off their shelves.

The award-winning book is off limits until the Film and Literature board of review decides next month whether to give it an age restriction following a challenge by lobby group Family First.

Meanwhile, other books containing sex and violence, such as the Game of Thrones series, remain on their shelves.

Into the River book cover

Into The River: not the first book to be banned. Photo: Ted Dawe/Penguin Random House

President of the School Library Association Miriam Tuohy says a lot of schools have copies of Into the River and librarians are not happy about the ban.

"There's been probably fair to say, a bit of an uproar about it."

Ms Tuohy says it is entirely appropriate for schools to have books with adult themes. In fact, they are required to have them.

"At NCEA level 2, your students are expected to be reading and selecting for themselves titles that are written at an adult level, so we stock, for instance, things like Game of Thrones, game novels that can be pretty gory, and that sort of thing."

But she says librarians will often put a note on particular titles to ensure they do not go to younger students or to students who might be upset by the content.

Library manager at St Patrick's College in Wellington Karen Clark, says Into the River is off the school's shelves, but there are still plenty of other books that have been the subject of controversy and have even been banned.

"We've got The Great Gatsby, we've got Catcher in the Rye, we've got The Grapes of Wrath, we've got To Kill A Mocking Bird, we've got The Colour Purple, we've got Ulysses, we've got Beloved, we've got Lord of the Flies, and 1984."

She says all of those books have been removed from library shelves at some point because of bans, or challenges to their classification, and now are all regarded as classics.

Ms Clark says nobody has borrowed Into the River in the two years the library has had it, but she's read it herself and its content is no worse than what can be found in other books.

Librarian at Cashmere High School in Christchurch Saskia Hill has prior experience with restricting access to Into the River on a roadshow promoting New Zealand Post Book Award books to local schools.

"We didn't put that in our rotation because we felt that we didn't always have an idea of who was going to be in the audience at the school.

"If we were going to a high school, we didn't necessarily know the age of the people we were going to be talking to. We felt that maybe if we had a class of Year 9s, it wasn't entirely appropriate."

Ms Hill says it is a good book, though there were a few points that raised her eyebrows.

"I do believe it has a place in the library. Hopefully when all this is over it will find a place back on our shelves."