Fungus the Bogeyman and a Jules Verne classic are among the books banned from libraries after a single complaint

3 June 2024, 14:15

Fungus the Bogeyman and a Jules Verne tale are among the banned books
Fungus the Bogeyman and a Jules Verne tale are among the banned books. Picture: social media

By StephenRigley

Works by authors including Raymond Briggs, David McKee and Jules Verne have been removed from public libraries after a single complaint.

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More than a dozen books have been removed after members of the public complained about their content or because librarians deemed the books offensive.

They include Briggs’s Fungus the Bogeyman, McKee’s Three Monsters, Verne’s Five Weeks in a Balloon, Chris Claremont’s The Uncanny X-Men and Victor Appleton’s Tom Swift series.

Louise Cooke, emeritus professor of information and knowledge management at Loughborough University, said the increasing tendency to remove anything that could offend someone is "massively" dangerous.

Author and illustrator Raymond Briggs at home in Sussex.
Author and illustrator Raymond Briggs at home in Sussex. Picture: Alamy

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At least 16 books have been removed from shelves in 11 councils after one objection from a customer, analysis from Freedom of Information requests sent by The Times showed.

Five Weeks in a Balloon was removed by Coventry Library Services after a customer complained about its 'inappropriate and racist' language. 

An internal email read: "[The customer] says it refers to 'beastly n*****'s and other such terms." 

A public library in Essex removed McKee's Three Monsters after a customer complained it included "divisive language". 

The particular section was: '''Clear off,'' shouted the second monster. ''We don't want any funny foreigner types here.'''

The majority of libraries follow national guidelines from the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (Cilip), which states that books should not be censored unless their content has been found to be unlawful. 

Jo Cornish, interim chief executive of Cilip, said: "Our general view as a profession is that it's better for the reader to have access to material, not proscribed by law, than it be banned.

"As we make clear in our guidance, we are committed to opposing censorship unless there is a specific risk that providing access to a particular book would break the law or incite hatred or violence."

Out of the 16 books banned from public libraries, eight of the removals were due to complaints regarding 'divisive' or 'racist' language. 

A spokesperson for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: "Freedom of speech is one of the core values that defines our society and we expect library collections to represent a variety of perspectives and topics."