I’d tell you the title of this post, but it’s been censored by libraries
Since when did librarians start liking the idea of censoring things? The last I heard, librarians were some of the most anti-censorship people you could meet. Don’t believe me? Read the first part of the Library Bill of Rights. (Emphasis mine)
The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.
I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.
II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.
III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.
IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.
So why is it when the topic of video games comes up everyone starts to think about censoring violence to protect kids? It makes me angry. I think it has to do with how video games are portrayed by the media.
This comes to mind, because, whenever I give a talk about video games and libraries, the inevitable question I get is: “Can you recommend any non-violent video games I can use in my library?” Since when did libraries start censoring any type of content in the library based on violence?
If someone came into the library looking to read the Hunger Games (which is extremely violent btw. The movie is PG-13), or even watch the movie (once it is out of theaters), librarians would be the tripping over themselves to help. “Do you want the first book, second book, third book, the companion guide, or a parody of the book?”
But I bet if someone came in asking for a video game of the Hunger Games, the first thought would be “is this appropriate for the library? What if it’s too violent?” I’ve heard the same idea from many many people — in the library world, and outside the library world. The idea that video games are damaging is stunting the professionalism and growth of the library world (and everyone else for that matter).
Violence is not the issue. I just took 5 minutes to search WorldCat, and I came up with 853 results for Braveheart and 991 results for Saving Private Ryan, both extremely violent and graphic movies about war that are part of the collections of libraries in the U.S.
So… it’s ok to have extremely violent movies and books in the library, but video games are where we draw the line? Why? I do not even understand.
I have some theories about it though.
Theory 1: Because of how interactive video games are.
There’s a thought that video games can be “training tools” for certain skills (good or bad). The problem is, a lot of video games are based on war or violence, so the knee-jerk reaction to video games existing anywhere in the public is that they are damaging to children or society, because of said violence.
Well, both of those knee jerk reactions are wrong, and people need to get over it.
A great quote to get to the gist of what I’m talking about: “Lots of people who play ‘FarmVille’ don’t actually farm.”
The average age of people who play video games is over the age of 30. Video games have a rating system that is the same as, if not better than, the one used for movies. And books don’t even have warning labels or ratings!
I’ll be completely honest with you. Growing up playing video games, watching movies, and reading voraciously, the only time that I have been completely sickened by something being too graphic and too violent is when I read a first hand account of the Battle of Verdun in a history class. I was queasy and nauseated by what I read. I don’t get that way when I play violent video games, because there’s a difference in understanding a simulation (e.g. TV, movies, video game), and something that happened in real life. But even if I did, kids still would (should) not be playing them (Hi there ESRB rating system!).
Plus, what do libraries care about that stuff anyway? If someone tries to ban a book from the library, or something from entering the library’s collection, there’s a whole process to stop that! Banned Books Week exists for a reason people! The problem is, it shouldn’t be just books. Libraries and librarians don’t just care about books. You remember the ALA Bill of rights linked up above? There’s a reason I bolded ”other library resources” in that quote. Libraries and librarians should be protecting content regardless of format.
Theory 2: Because people do not understand video games
Be honest. If I came into the library and said I wanted to sit at a computer and play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, you would look at me like I was crazy. I bet librarians would look at me the same way. But if I asked for a book or a movie on warfare? Would not bat an eyelash. They both have the same type of violence, though, so why the difference in opinion?
What’s the difference? A comfort and understanding of the medium. I think part of that has to do with the average age of many librarians. I’m not being ageist here, I have known (and do know) many people of all ages that play video games and love them. (Most gamers are almost 40 anyway). I just think that the concept of many hardcore video games is much more familiar to a younger generation because they grew up with them. They are a part of that culture. It is the same argument about the “Internet Generation” and how younger people today think and work in a completely different way than previous generations.
That is what this blog (and this post) is trying to solve. Diane and I are using this platform to bring information both to the LIS community, and to the gaming community, so that there can be more understanding and interaction between them. Let go of preconceived notions about video games and allow them into the library. The community that can be built around them would astonish even me, I’m sure.
So let’s take a note from the Library Loon, and Stop the Silencing.
Do not judge video games because they are a new and different medium. Allow them to be part of the information culture so that they can flourish in all environments.
Ding! You’ve leveled up! Please see your local librarian for training.
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