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PA Group Says Controversial Books Should Stay in School Libraries

April 23, 2009

Pittsburgh, PA - The American Library Association has released its newest list of the "most complained about" books in school libraries. Leading it off is a book aimed at kids, featuring two male penguins trying to start a family. Some conservative religious groups have criticised it as promoting gay marriage.

Sara Rose, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, says parents who want books with questionable material kept out of libraries need to keep a bigger picture in mind.

"Certainly, parents are free to accompany their kids to the library and make sure they know what their children are reading, but that doesn't mean that they should be able to prevent every child from reading that book."

According to the , another common parental concern is having open Internet access at school libraries. Rose says, simply put, restricting access to library books or library computers is a violation of the First Amendment.

Based on school-system standards, librarians can choose which books to offer their patrons. After that, Rose says, protections are in place for the books selected.

"Once the book has been put on the library shelves, school officials cannot remove it because of an attempt to censor the content or prevent kids from reading that book."

Over the years, Rose says, attempts in Washington, D.C., to get certain books banned from libraries have failed.

"They're exerting control over libraries, trying to make librarians prevent people from accessing such material. That certainly does implicate people's ability to receive information."

ACLU of Pennsylvania attorney Sara Rose may be reached at 1-412-681-7864.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA