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Self Censorship Essay

1718 words - 7 pages

The stated research question of this study was “whether [Texas] SLMSs engage in self-censorship as part of the collection development process with regard to YA literature having content that significantly increases the probability the materials will be challenged” (Coley, 2002, para. 11). The concept being studied is self-censorship by School Library Media Specialists. The researcher’s nominal definition of self-censorship by media specialists is “the process by which a librarian chooses not to purchase a given book because of the item's potential for being challenged” (Coley, 2002, para. 19). As defined, this is a measurable concept. The conceptualization of the research question is well developed and clear.

The literature review for this study appears to have been thorough. The researcher cites over a dozen studies that confirm the existence of self-censorship. The literature review also revealed that smaller libraries tended to “own fewer potentially controversial works” (Coley, 2002, para. 13), that libraries are more restrictive of fiction titles than non-fiction, and that the typical “pro-censorship librarian worked in a community of less than 35,000, managed their own library, was a female over forty-five years of age, and generally possessed less professional education” (Coley, 2002, para. 13). These findings from the literature review help identify variables that have been shown to potentially correlate with self-censorship. Other information gleaned from the literature review included the concepts previous studies used. For instance, Coley noted, “early studies into self-censorship…wished only to ascertain what effect …[censorship policies] had on circulation statistics and the number of patron complaints” (2002, para. 14). Coley’s operational definition of self-censorship, owning fewer than 50 percent of the books used in the study, was based on standards found in the literature review (2002, para. 19). The requirement that to receive credit for owning a book, a media center need only have one copy of it (regardless of binding) listed in the OPAC was also based on a precedent revealed in the literature review. The literature review was again used to determine which types of content typically result in challenges (2002, para. 16) of YA materials. Coley however departed from the standards in the literature review when it came to the instruments used in the study. Whereas other studies made use of surveys and questionnaires to obtain data, Coley used the aforementioned search of media center online catalogs.

As mentioned in the preceding paragraph the percentage of controversial titles owned by the library was used as an indicator for the concept of self-censorship. To avoid a self-censorship designation, a library had to own a minimum of 50% of the YA titles used in the study (Coley, 2002, para. 19). While this operationalization was based on previous studies, it is not entirely sufficient to indicate self-censorship...

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