Dr. Seuss has a knack for presenting complicated themes to children, whether it’s climate change (The Lorax), sticking up for The Little Guy (Horton Hears a Who), or determining if empty pants riding a bicycle is scary (What Was I Scared Of?). Now, with his estate ceasing publication and licensing on six of his earlier books because they ‘portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,’ you can include ‘institutional racism’ in the list of complicated themes to discuss with your kids.
We support the decision of the Seuss Estate to take the action they did, and this change forces libraries and librarians across the nation to make some difficult decisions regarding censorship. Or rather, it would, if these books were actually in our building. Unfortunately, the books in question have all been checked out since the story broke.
This is pretty common, as any item in our collection is going to see increased usage if it’s in the press. But given the sudden increase in resale value of these now out-of-print titles, a patron’s intentions may be less about expanding their knowledge of overt 1940s racism and more about making a quick buck.
Our business model seems to leave a pretty big loophole to exploit, namely, if you check out a book and pay its replacement cost, it is yours to keep. While this rationalization of a common misconception may help orient your internal moral compass, stealing is stealing. New York State Education Law, Section 265 says as much, and defines the perceived loophole described above as a misdemeanor. Further, removing an item from our shelves is a form of censorship that robs the community of a shared resource and negatively impacts the collection specifically curated by library staff.
Finally, resale value pertains to the title AND condition of the artifact. Library books have a way of immediately decreasing in value simply by being added to our collection. Barcode stickers, spine labels, mylar jackets, and library identification stamps tend to be frowned upon by collectors. So before you list the item on eBay, make sure you note the condition and think “is this misdemeanor worth the trouble?” Chances are, it’s not.