You can never guess what will offend someone

April 6, 2008 at 11:46 am 6 comments

While in Minneapolis for PLA I had an opportunity to visit the Minneapolis Public Library and I picked up one of their t-shirts. The back of the one that I bought reads: “If a public library is doing its job, it has something in it that offends every single person.”
What are the first things you think about when you think about “offending” someone in the library? Popular controversies are things like Harry Potter, comics and graphic novels in libraries, unfiltered internet access, etc. The usual intellectual freedom issues.
Each year we have a Dr. Seuss story time at the beginning of March, in conjunction with Read Across America and Dr. Seuss’s birthday. This year we had 2 elephant shaped pinatas, to go with our “Horton Hears A Who” theme. The kids had a great, if sometimes difficult, time getting into the darn things!
However, I recently heard from a board member that a parent who attended with their child mentioned that they were disturbed by the pinatas. Because we were
“teaching children that its ok to hit animals with sticks.”
Who knew that of all things in my library what would offend someone would be pinata?!?! Of course, I have the usual fears that I really did misstep with this one. I’m not a parent and I don’t think I would be offended by something like this. I talked to number of other parents who attended and they told me they were not offended, nor would have even thought about being offended. But I recognize that not everyone has the same outlook!
Its a great reminder that it isn’t always the most obvious thing that will offend your library users or the public you serve . . . it really can what you thought was the most innocuous thing. It could be a pinata!


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  • 1. Janie L. Hermann  |  April 7, 2008 at 9:14 am

    Every single birthday party that my 4 year old attends these days has a pinata — I really can’t think of a birthday party without one recently. We never did pinatas when I was growing up in Canada, but this year I caved and got him one for his party because he insisted (we beat up on Mickey Mouse).

    I just thought that pinatas were an accepted part of celebrations in this region of the U.S. and I too would never have imagined that this could offend someone. I respect this persons right to be offended, but I just never would have imagined it either.

  • 2. YNL  |  April 8, 2008 at 9:31 am

    Go Fug Yourself yesterday had this awesome laundry list of pinata characteristics. They were describing Chinese starlet Bai Ling, but it was both accurate and funny.

    Sorry you had such a boob of a patron. Any child who can’t distinguish between a crepe paper elephant and a real one probably already hits everything with a stick.

  • 3. Karen K  |  April 11, 2008 at 9:25 pm

    I never meant to imply that the patron was a “boob”!!
    I was simply surprised and my post was a reminder to all of us who do any kind of public service or programming.
    I am not saying that we should worry all the time about being offensive. If we did, we would be paralyzed and we’d never get an opportunity to do really cool and innovative things.
    But we do have to keep in mind that everyone can be offended by SOMETHING. And its not the same thing for every person!
    We just have to be sensitive to those differences!

  • 4. Amy  |  April 21, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    A colleague tells the story of when a parent complained because she sang ‘how much is that doggie in the window’ at storytime. Apparently, that is a blantant promotion of puppy mills. Who knew?

  • 5. BRHS - West 1967  |  May 9, 2008 at 10:12 am

    The doggie in the window song is absolutely offensive since pets should NEVER be purchased from pet stores – go to a shelter or a breeder. Most people though don’t think pinatas lead to animal abuse.


  • 6. Anonymous  |  May 16, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    people who are offended by the doggie in the window song are in need of some serious therapy…and are completely missing the point of the song anyway

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