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LitFlash The eBooks you want at the lowest prices. Children's series books, 1 and particularly the Nancy Drew series, can illuminate this question. This paper looks at ideas of "badness," how bad books have been defined and labeled, and, finally, how public libraries in the past have responded to that label. These days, public librarians give more thought to being alert to the public's wants and needs than to historic issues of badness. As the "Code of Ethics for Librarians" states, "Librarians must resist all effort by groups or individuals to censor library materials" American Library Association.
By extension, the librarian must also resist imposing personal preferences upon the selection of books; hence, the public librarian responds to the reading interests of the community, even if those interests include Sex , Anne Rice, Batman, and the Baby Sitters' Club. It was not ever thus. In its first half century or more—roughly from to the beginning of World War II—the public library was envisioned by its supporters and promoters as one of the engines of culture that would meld the disparate elements of the American population into a unified whole, tied with golden cords of education, common language, and civic righteousness.
In a less lofty mode, J. Quincy noted that the library was "the one secular institution which encourages self-development as an aim" Self-development was an aim; but librarians felt called to "encourage" it to appropriately high planes.
Indeed, librarians accepted the role of being lamps unto the feet of the body politic and civic with more zeal than humility. There was a great amount of discussion about what constituted "good" reading and "good" books—good often being determined on the basis of rectitude of content rather than literary grace.
As Dorothy Broderick has recently noted, "These librarians knew what was decent and what was improper and they were direct in their commitment to keeping out of the hands of the public anything they felt unworthy" One of the most prolonged and heated deliberations centered on "the fiction question": In , when Melvil Dewey introduced the first version of his Decimal Classification , American fiction was not even in the question, as evidenced by the fact that he provided no classification number for it, lumping whatever of it might be tolerable in with British fiction.
Quincy approvingly quotes Justin Winsor's annual report of the Boston Library regarding fiction:. There is a vast range of ephemeral literature, exciting and fascinating, apologetic of vice or confusing distinctions between plain right and wrong.
Winsor was a towering figure in the American library world of the late nineteenth century; his opinion counted. His pronouncement was not a negative speciation devised solely by librarians; Victorians on both sides of the Atlantic were forthright in expressing concern for their neighbors' moral well being, and the Little Colonel and Elsie Dinsmore were among child characters whose authors gave them opportunity to express distress over the novel reading of friends and parents.
The dangers of fiction seemed real enough to warrant concern:. Physicians versed in the treatment of those nerve centres, whose disorder has so alarmingly increased of late years, have testified to the enervating influence of the prevalent romantic literature, and declared it to be a fruitful cause of evil to youth of both sexes.