'Mother appalled' article
'Sex book shock' article
Caligula book cover
Censorship is an issue that arises occasionally in public libraries and Coffs Harbour Library is no exception. One such scandal arose when a novel based on the 1979 R-rated Gore Vidal film Caligula was loaned to a 14 year old boy. The boy’s parents were horrified when they found out the boy had been allowed to borrow the library book and took the offending item to the Coffs Coast Advocate who reported the story “Lurid Sex Book Lent to Boy”, Coffs Coast Advocate, January 29, 1982. p.1.
The parents also noted that some of the colour photographs included in the book had been torn out by the boy.
The then Clarence Regional Librarian Vicki Osmonde-Morgan responded in the article stating that “no library has a policy of censoring adult books” and that “censorship by a library or librarian would in itself be immoral … (and it is) a parental responsibility (to control the reading material of their children)” p.4. Supporting Osmonde-Morgan’s position is the Australian Library and Information Association’s (ALIA) Core Values Statement, that states:
a thriving culture, economy, and democracy requires the free flow of information and ideas.
Fundamental to that free flow of information and ideas are Australia’s library and information services. They are a legacy to each generation, conveying the knowledge of the past and the promise of the future.
Library and information services professionals therefore commit themselves to the promotion of the free flow of information and ideas through open access to recorded knowledge, information, and creative works as a core value of their profession.
The selection of material to be included in a library is guided byALIA’s Statement on free access to information. This states that library and information services have particular responsibilities in supporting and sustaining the free flow of information and ideas including:
resisting attempts by individuals or groups within their communities to restrict access to information and ideas while at the same time recognising that powers of censorship are legally vested in state and federal governments.
Caligula was not at the time, nor has ever been, a banned book in Australia.
Coffs Harbour Library includes in its collections materials that represent a wide variety of viewpoints. Selection of materials may include material which could be considered controversial by some individuals or groups. Library staff do not censor the reading matter selected by any member of the public and maintains that parents are responsible for supervising the library materials chosen by their children.
Written by Skye Ravenscroft