The highly publicized and controversial discontinuation of six Dr. Seuss children's books earlier this month will also see them being removed from circulation at the Barrie Public Library (BPL). At least for now.
On March 2, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the business that preserves and protects the author's legacy, announced it would stop publishing six titles due to "racist and insensitive imagery.”
Barrie Public Library manager Laura LaFleshe told BarrieToday they have five of the six titles identified by Dr. Seuss Enterprises as being discontinued.
As a library system, LaFleshe said the BPL is constantly updating its collection based on new and popular titles, out-of-date or infrequently borrowed materials, and as new information is comes to light.
“At this point in time, we have removed the identified Dr. Seuss books from our shelves and are evaluating what our next steps will be,” LaFleshe said. “We always need to balance intellectual and creative freedoms with societal changes and new norms.
"In this case, Dr. Seuss Enterprises made the decision to cease publication and licensing of these titles as they 'portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong' and we are following their lead by removing them from our shelves," she added.
Library staff are now taking a closer look at their options, which include moving the titles into the adult collection for educational and historical purposes, using the books for programming to create learning opportunities, or simply removing them from their collection entirely.
The six titles are And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, If I Ran the Zoo, McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super! and The Cat’s Quizzer.
Of those six titles, the only one the BPL did not have in its collection was The Cat's Quizzer.
There has been a lot of backlash around the world from people who believed removing the titles was part of what has been referred to on social media as another attempt at “cancel culture.”
“Dr. Seuss has published over 60 children’s books. These six titles are lesser-known titles from the Dr. Seuss catalogue and are relatively obscure compared to How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Fox in Socks, Oh, the Places You’ll Go, The Cat in the Hat, or Green Eggs and Ham,” LaFleshe said.
LaFleshe says it's rare for concerns to be raised about a book title. The BPL has only reviewed four titles in the last five years.
The library offers a review process for evaluating titles when a concern is raised, which include the 'request for review of library materials' process, as well as the their commitment to intellectual freedom.
Both are outlined in the BPL's collection development policy.
“Because libraries welcome readers of all ages and backgrounds, we seek to identify and share titles that can help shatter cultural invisibility," LaFleshe said. "Readers need to be able to see themselves in books and gain insights that can build bridges to cultural understanding.
"Books that contain offensive stereotypes or outdated imagery could potentially be used as a launchpad for a discussion of complicated topics with children,” she added. “Part of our professional responsibility as librarians is to critically evaluate literature, be aware of bias, prejudice and racism, and consider these things when making decisions about our collections, programming and displays.”
As examples, in the book And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, an Asian person is portrayed wearing a conical hat, holding chopsticks and eating from a bowl.
If I Ran the Zoo includes a drawing of two bare-footed African men wearing what appear to be grass skirts with their hair tied above their heads.