6 Dr. Seuss books are being discontinued for racial discrimination. Toronto Public Library unsure what to do with books on its shelves

The Toronto Public Library is reviewing six Dr. Seuss books deemed racist by their publisher to see if they are fit for library shelves.A move that pokes at a larger question: What exactly does it take for a book to be ‘recalled’?Dr. Seuss Enterprises issued a statement on Tuesday that it would cease publication of “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” — books that have been around for decades. Following the announcement, a spokesperson told the Star that TPL will be “reviewing the books to determine whether there are racial and cultural representation concerns.” However, if the discontinued Dr. Seuss books still exist in public libraries, there is no guarantee children will not be exposed to the images that the popular estate deemed “hurtful and wrong.”“That is foolishness,” said Miguel San Vincente, co-owner of A Different Booklist near Bathurst and Bloor Streets.“If the people who produce the book say there’s an original culture concern why are you questioning it?” asked San Vincente. “That don’t make no kind of sense.” San Vincente, who has been selling children’s books that specialize in the African and Caribbean diaspora for over 25 years, says that this is an opportunity for TPL to get it right.“They just don’t want to do the right thing,” San Vincente said. “They know a lot of people connected with Dr. Seuss or like Dr. Seuss, so they might (upset) some people. This is an opportunity for them to step up to the plate and show they’re sincere, committed, and that they want equality. It’s not just about white people. It’s about all kinds of people. So now’s your opportunity. Don’t blow it.” Michele Melady, manager of collection development at TPL, says that the library respects Dr. Seuss Enterprise’s stance, but will be applying the same review process for this situation as it does for staff and public complaints about books on its shelves.Melady says that this approach is being used for this situation because it’s “very high-profile.” “It’s been brought to everyone’s attention, and so we do wish to give the process its due and use what is a very successful process for us to to evaluate this material and what the recommendation from professional librarians is going to be in this case.”According to TPL communications manager Ana-Maria Critchley that review process is conducted by “expert” librarians from across the system who follow the TPL’s materials selection policy to make a decision. The policy, which is available to the public on the TPL’s website, does not mention specific procedures or criteria for assessing discriminatory material. Crtichley says there are “many options” that could be the outcome for the Dr. Seuss book. In the past, she says some solutions included “moving it from a small neighbourhood branch, transitioning to a research and reference collection, or moving from a children’s collection to an adult collection.”When asked about the impact of transferring harmful images from children to adults instead, Critchley said the TPL sees this approach as a way for “people (to) have discussions about the material in the historical context.”Discussions surrounding the harmful racial undertones in Dr. Seuss books are not a new one, as reported in the Associated Press. In 2017, a school librarian in Cambridge, Massachusetts, criticized a gift of 10 Seuss books from first lady Melania Trump, saying many of his works were “steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures and harmful stereotypes.”Felicia Christmas, co-founder of The Blackstone Foundation Library, a non-profit dedicated to Afrocentric knowledge, said the statement from the Seuss Enterprises felt “performative” and that it was “slowing things down” rather than putting an end to anti-racism in children books. “Where’s the sense of urgency in regards to how harmful those images are?”Christmas wants to see the books no longer in circulation at libraries or for sale in bookstores.“Anybody who has it in circulation should follow suit quickly if they are also interested in practising and producing anti-racist policies ... or just not being racist.” Christmas says that when she and her co-founder Athena Wong launched Blackstone in 2008, they built it off of money from their own pockets to “teach the importance of reading, knowledge and how to see yourself as amazing in whatever capacity” through their programs.“We’re a library that exists because we wanted to give Black children a better representation in our books and we wanted them to see themselves in (a) positive light,” said Christmas, adding she is curious about what actions Dr. Seuss Enterprise will take in “countering the narrative they’ve put out in the past 50 years.” “It’s not enough to say ‘sorry we were racist a long time ago.’ I really do need to see, a commitment to not being racist.”Some examples Christmas points to in how to do that include supporting Black aut

6 Dr. Seuss books are being discontinued for racial discrimination. Toronto Public Library unsure what to do with books on its shelves

The Toronto Public Library is reviewing six Dr. Seuss books deemed racist by their publisher to see if they are fit for library shelves.

A move that pokes at a larger question: What exactly does it take for a book to be ‘recalled’?

Dr. Seuss Enterprises issued a statement on Tuesday that it would cease publication of “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” — books that have been around for decades.

Following the announcement, a spokesperson told the Star that TPL will be “reviewing the books to determine whether there are racial and cultural representation concerns.”

However, if the discontinued Dr. Seuss books still exist in public libraries, there is no guarantee children will not be exposed to the images that the popular estate deemed “hurtful and wrong.”

“That is foolishness,” said Miguel San Vincente, co-owner of A Different Booklist near Bathurst and Bloor Streets.

“If the people who produce the book say there’s an original culture concern why are you questioning it?” asked San Vincente. “That don’t make no kind of sense.”

San Vincente, who has been selling children’s books that specialize in the African and Caribbean diaspora for over 25 years, says that this is an opportunity for TPL to get it right.

“They just don’t want to do the right thing,” San Vincente said. “They know a lot of people connected with Dr. Seuss or like Dr. Seuss, so they might (upset) some people. This is an opportunity for them to step up to the plate and show they’re sincere, committed, and that they want equality. It’s not just about white people. It’s about all kinds of people. So now’s your opportunity. Don’t blow it.”

Michele Melady, manager of collection development at TPL, says that the library respects Dr. Seuss Enterprise’s stance, but will be applying the same review process for this situation as it does for staff and public complaints about books on its shelves.

Melady says that this approach is being used for this situation because it’s “very high-profile.”

“It’s been brought to everyone’s attention, and so we do wish to give the process its due and use what is a very successful process for us to to evaluate this material and what the recommendation from professional librarians is going to be in this case.”

According to TPL communications manager Ana-Maria Critchley that review process is conducted by “expert” librarians from across the system who follow the TPL’s materials selection policy to make a decision. The policy, which is available to the public on the TPL’s website, does not mention specific procedures or criteria for assessing discriminatory material.

Crtichley says there are “many options” that could be the outcome for the Dr. Seuss book. In the past, she says some solutions included “moving it from a small neighbourhood branch, transitioning to a research and reference collection, or moving from a children’s collection to an adult collection.”

When asked about the impact of transferring harmful images from children to adults instead, Critchley said the TPL sees this approach as a way for “people (to) have discussions about the material in the historical context.”

Discussions surrounding the harmful racial undertones in Dr. Seuss books are not a new one, as reported in the Associated Press. In 2017, a school librarian in Cambridge, Massachusetts, criticized a gift of 10 Seuss books from first lady Melania Trump, saying many of his works were “steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures and harmful stereotypes.”

Felicia Christmas, co-founder of The Blackstone Foundation Library, a non-profit dedicated to Afrocentric knowledge, said the statement from the Seuss Enterprises felt “performative” and that it was “slowing things down” rather than putting an end to anti-racism in children books.

“Where’s the sense of urgency in regards to how harmful those images are?”

Christmas wants to see the books no longer in circulation at libraries or for sale in bookstores.

“Anybody who has it in circulation should follow suit quickly if they are also interested in practising and producing anti-racist policies ... or just not being racist.”

Christmas says that when she and her co-founder Athena Wong launched Blackstone in 2008, they built it off of money from their own pockets to “teach the importance of reading, knowledge and how to see yourself as amazing in whatever capacity” through their programs.

“We’re a library that exists because we wanted to give Black children a better representation in our books and we wanted them to see themselves in (a) positive light,” said Christmas, adding she is curious about what actions Dr. Seuss Enterprise will take in “countering the narrative they’ve put out in the past 50 years.”

“It’s not enough to say ‘sorry we were racist a long time ago.’ I really do need to see, a commitment to not being racist.”

Some examples Christmas points to in how to do that include supporting Black authors and illustrators and donating to specific causes with a focus on anti-racism.

It’s unclear on whether Dr. Seuss Enterprises will be mandating that the six books be removed from circulation across the globe, but Christmas’ message to the company is clear.

“You could really do better without losing a lot,” she said. “There is good in the brand itself that you can focus on while removing the cancer that is the racist origins of Dr. Seuss. It seems really silly that anybody would think it’s a difficult move.”

Danica Samuel is a Toronto-based staff reporter for the Star. Reach her via email: dsamuel@thestar.ca or follow her on Twitter: @danicasamuel

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