Librarians call it “weeding,” a long-standing—and legitimate—practice. Most school libraries have very limited space and must clear out shelves to make room for more titles. Usually, the process is a quiet one. Taxpayers don’t like to see expensive materials being thrown into landfills or incinerated.
The Need to Weed
The idea is simple: unlike public libraries, school libraries have a particular audience with a clearly defined set of needs and preferences. Having materials that become outdated or do not meet those criteria wastes scarce shelf space. So, about once a year, the school librarian goes through the collection and removes damaged, obsolete, or unused items.
Often, school districts have policies about weeding. The American Library Association issues guidelines. The books are to be disposed of quickly, and most of the time, no one notices. For the most part, the process is left to the judgment—and sometimes the whims—of individual school librarians.
However, as elsewhere, those with a “woke” mentality take everything to extremes and have a penchant for drawing attention to their efforts. The quest for “social justice” is, by nature, exhibitionist.
Radicals Attacking Liberals
Mississauga, Ontario, is a suburb of Toronto. It is also the seat of the Peel District Schools. The system is not conservative. The first item on its Fall 2023 homepage is its “Two-Spirit LGBTQIA+ Action Plan.”
The summer and fall of 2023 have not been happy times for those running those schools. In June, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) accused them of the worst “woke” crime—institutional racism. It carried a story that black students “painted a picture of feeling isolated, alienated and misunderstood in school.”
The Peel School’s bureaucrats rushed into action. They wrote a new policy. Their mouthpieces said that “its new policy will include collecting data on issues such as bullying and suspensions, advancing a ‘culturally responsive curriculum,’ training for educators and promoting ‘racially responsive leadership.’” Any real improvement in the students’ lives is patiently awaited.
The Woke Attitude—Pull Everything Before 2008
That bit of administrative legerdemain got them through the summer, but an even bigger kerfuffle faced them as the new school year got underway. It came in the form of another CBC report. The report carried the subtitle, “Books published in 2008 or earlier removed from school library amid confusion around new equity-based process.”
The report related the plight of high school student Reina Takata. She said that last year, the library was full of books. Then, in May, she noticed the shelves growing emptier. However, that loss proved to be minor in comparison with the situation in September.
“This year, I came into my school library, and there are rows and rows of empty shelves with absolutely no books.” She estimated that half of the library’s books had vanished.
The explanation that she received was startling. “Takata says students were told by staff that ‘if the shelves look emptier right now it’s because we have to remove all books [published] prior to 2008.’”
The Story Spreads
The CBC story gained attention in the United States among more conservative media outlets like the Daily Caller, which reported that “Dianne Lawson, another member of Libraries not Landfills, [a local community group opposing the books’ removal] told the [CBC] the weeding-out process had removed books such as The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank and the children’s book The Very Hungry Caterpillar from the school’s library shelves.”
American Greatness opened its article by attacking the “woke” mindset. “In an effort to promote ‘inclusivity,’ a Canadian school district has removed all books published before the year 2008 from all of its libraries.
Front Page focused on a contentious school board committee meeting. In it, “trustee Karla Bailey complained that ‘there are so many empty shelves’ in the schools. ‘When you talk to the librarian in the library, the books are being weeded by the date, no other criteria,’ Bailey told the committee. ‘None of us have an issue with removing books that are musty, torn, racist, or outdated. But by weeding a book, removing a book from a shelf, based simply on this date is unacceptable. And yes, I witnessed it.’”
The Official Response
In the face of such public criticism, the Peel District bureaucrats once again sprang to give their version of the mass-book banning. Mr. Rashmi Swarup, the Director of Education, made a statement. Typically, he began by shifting blame away from his office.
“The Peel District School Board follows the library weeding guidelines set by the Canadian School Libraries Association.”
Then, the Director spoke to the outcry by denying the reports.
“To be clear, books such as The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank and the Harry Potter series remain in our collections… PDSB teacher librarians have not been given the direction to remove all books published with a publication date older than 2008.” (Emphasis in the original.)
The ALA’s Crocodile Tears
Of course, the real irony in this situation comes from the hue and cry rising from the radicals that conservatives are “banning books” from school libraries. In March 2023, the American Library Association breathlessly reported to its members about the deplorable state of scholarship.
“The American Library Association (ALA) today released new data documenting 1,269 demands to censor library books and resources in 2022, the highest number of attempted book bans since ALA began compiling data about censorship in libraries more than 20 years ago.”
Of course, the ALA is not very concerned about actually removing books, but the nature of the books that parents’ groups demand to be removed, as made clear in the next paragraph.
“A record 2,571 unique titles were targeted for censorship, a 38% increase…. Of those titles, the vast majority were written by or about members of the LGBTQIA+ community and people of color.” (Emphasis in the original.)
The ALA also made no notice of the pornographic prose and illustrations in many of those books that offend human decency and Christian morality.
The Real Book Banners
Despite their overblown rhetoric, the librarians aren’t really concerned about “banning” books. Librarians have quietly done that as long as public and school libraries have existed.
The real issue is content. These radical librarians label the demand that school library shelves be cleared of homoerotica as reprehensible. They look with favor on an almost Orwellian attempt to erase human history before a certain date.
No one should be fooled by the ALA’s strident rhetoric or the weasel words of school administrators. They are simply more evidence of a moral world turned inside out.
Photo Credit: © Mikael Damkier – stock.adobe.com