Wisconsin Library Debate

This showed up in my Google Reader today and links to a CNN article about a public library in West Bend, WI that has some patrons railing against inappropriate books. These books include The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Baby Be-bop, neither of which I’ve read, but both of which are apparently inappropriate for teens.

But what really strikes me about this protest is the proposed solution. CNN, of course, latches on to the radical group that wants to burn some books, but the intent of the original protesters was to have the books moved from the young adult section to the adult section. Young adults would still be allowed to check out Chbosky’s book, but they’d have to know that they wanted it and either be able to use the library’s catalog or be willing to ask a librarian to find the book for them.

While I agree that the books should not be moved, mostly because browsing is how I found many a book before I joined the book blogging world, this does bring up the question of how and why we separate books into children’s, young adult, and adult. I read plenty of novels that are considered children’s or young adult and I am not either, anymore. Conversely, I was reading YA books at the age of seven or eight and venturing into the adult section not long after. But in all crossing-over cases, I was pointed to a specific book either by a blog, now, or by a friend or librarian, years ago. And there are plenty of books that I’ve recommended to friends that I’ve purposely not declared young adult, because said friends don’t read “kid books.” Doesn’t this arbitrary separation itself limit access to a lot of great novels?

The other day I noticed books 5-7 of the Harry Potter series in the adult fiction stacks at my library. A quick look on the library’s online catalog shows that they are also in the young adult and children’s areas. How was this determined?

I’m sure these aren’t questions that can really be answered, but what makes a young adult novel? What makes an adult novel? Why can’t we combine them? Why can’t there be a section for “sexually explicit” material (and wouldn’t that really just encourage kids to read them, anyway)? Is there a better way to lay out the library?

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