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Thunder Bay Public Library pulls some Dr. Seuss books for review

Chief Librarian John Pateman says the books will be checked against the collections policy.
Dr. Seuss books two
These Dr. Seuss books at least temporarily will not be available at the Thunder Bay Public Library

THUNDER BAY — The Thunder Bay Public Library is pulling five Dr. Seuss books off its shelves, at least for the time being.

This follows Tuesday's announcement by Dr. Seuss Enterprises that it will cease publishing half a dozen books because of racist and insensitive imagery.

They include And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, If I Ran The Zoo, On Beyond Zebra, McElligot's Pool, Scrambled Eggs Super, and The Cat's Quizzer

Chief Librarian John Pateman says the TBPL has five of the books.

They're being removed from circulation while the library conducts a review against its collections policy.

"We do have a policy that kind of guides us in terms of what kind of materials we have, and sometimes which ones we don't. That will be the first step. Then we'll decide what to do next," Pateman said.

He said pulling a book because of alleged racist content has been pretty rare until recently.

"People are getting more conscious of racism these days, so there's more challenges in general, particularly of books that are of a historical nature, when certain terms and phraseology, or illustrations as in the case of Dr. Seuss, were acceptable then but are unacceptable now."

Pateman said he expects there will be more complaints in the future.

But he cautioned that banning books may not always be the appropriate thing to do.

Referring to recent debates about removing statues of historical figures, Pateman said "You take the statue down, and in a way that can be seen as a kind of erasure of history. Is that a good thing, or is it sometimes better to turn that into a teaching moment and open up a discussion about why that statue was there, what it represented at that time, and what it means today?"

He said the same rationale could be applied to some books.

However, he added that the TBPL is constantly looking for books that provide images that are respectful of culture and history in Northwestern Ontario, including Indigenous culture.

It's possible that the current review of the five Dr. Seuss books, Pateman said, will result in a change in the library's selection criteria.

He expects a decision on the next steps will be made within a matter of days.

Gary Rinne

About the Author: Gary Rinne

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Gary started part-time at Tbnewswatch in 2016 after retiring from the CBC
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