The Ottawa Public Library (OPL) has moved classic children’s books that regularly receive “racism” complaints into an “adult collection,” according to an annual report.
On Thursday, the Ottawa Public Library Board will receive the Intellectual Freedom Annual Report: 2022 Challenges which summarizes the library’s handling of issues related to democratic rights.
In the discussion section of the report, the OPL writes that “racist language and images were the most frequent concerns, accounting for 11 of the 25 requests” submitted to the library.
The Dr. Seuss book If I Ran the Zoo and the French-language Hergé book Tintin en Congo regularly led to complaints from the public.
“Of the nine adult book challenges, four were for Dr. Seuss and Hergé (Tintin bandes dessinées, known as ‘BD’) titles that were previously in the children’s collection and were moved to the adult collection in the last five years, including two challenges for Tintin en Congo,” the OPL explained.
“There is sustained interest and concern regarding the works of these classic children’s authors. The Dr. Seuss title (If I Ran the Zoo) is no longer in print.”
In 2021, Dr. Seuss Enterprises made the controversial decision to no longer publish six books from the famous author’s collection over allegedly racist and hurtful portrayals.
Other complaints fielded by the OPL last year included concerns about library content which offended some based on claims of “cultural appropriation, ableism, anti-Islamism, LGBTQIA2S content inappropriate for children, and political propaganda that promotes hate.”
“16 requests were for removal of the items in question; one was for the item to be moved to another area of the collection and for a content warning to be added,” explained the library.
According to a list of requests for reconsideration, the OPL withdrew two books from its selection while it retained the rest despite existing complaints.
The book Hitler’s Table Talk, which is a collection of monologues by Adolf Hitler, was cited for having a “racist publisher” and the OPL withdrew the item from its shelf “due to low usage” and the fact that it remained available online as an e-book.
In the juvenile early reader’s section, the book Drôle de papa by Bruno St-Aubin was gutted from the library’s catalog “due to age of the material and insignificant research and cultural value” after it fielded a complaint about “cultural appropriation.”
One of the key principles behind the OPL’s “intellectual freedom” policy is special attention to equity concerns.
“The responsibility to uphold intellectual freedom comes with a complementary responsibility to ensure perspectives that have been traditionally marginalized or excluded are equitably presented in the Library’s collections, and that material with stereotypical depictions, particularly of Indigenous people, are considered thoughtfully within the lens of our collective commitment to truth and reconciliation,” writes the OPL.