Libraries in North Yorkshire won’t ban or censor ‘offensive’ books

North Yorkshire Council says it will not ban or censor books that readers find offensive in its libraries.

Novels have increasingly become tangled-up in the so-called culture wars, particularly in the United States where thousands of books have been banned in school and public libraries due to complaints about race or LGBTQ+ themes.

The trend has spread to the UK with research published this year by the UK’s library association, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), finding that requests to ban books in the UK have increased significantly in recent years.

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Its survey of librarians reported that a third have been asked by members of the public to censor or remove books and 82% said they were concerned about the increase in the requests.

Harrogate LibraryHarrogate Library
Harrogate Library

But according to North Yorkshire Council, which runs libraries across the county including in Harrogate, Skipton, Scarborough, says it has only received one request to ban a book in the past five years.

The book in question was Hilary Bonner’s crime thriller ‘Deadly Dance’ with the reason given being related to graphic descriptions that the reader found upsetting.

North Yorkshire Council declined to remove the book on the grounds that it follows the approach of CILIP which says access to information should not be restricted. Its guidance states:

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“It is the role of a library and information service that is funded from the public purse to provide, as far as resources allow, access to all publicly available information. Access should not be restricted on any grounds except that of the law.”

The council added that its own policy does not permit the removal of any books at the request of an individual or group and that library staff do not label items to warn customers about potentially offensive or harmful content.