Flux author Brian Mandabach has a provocative and interesting perspective on libraries at his blog. A sample:
". . . I also think that libraries should be dangerous places. When she was in 5th grade, my daughter read Fahrenheit 451. It was in the classroom library--clearly not part of the vetted curriculum approval process--and though the book terrified her, I did not insist that the book be removed. There are plenty of 5th graders in this "gifted and talented" class who would benefit from the book. If my daughter was not mature enough to read it, the fault for letting her read it belongs to her parents. Maybe I should have paid more attention, but maybe it was okay. She was tested against her own limits and learned that she wasn't ready for that sort of thing. . ."
There is something thought-provoking in the notion that libraries are inherently dangerous places. Reading itself, especially when you are young, is not a risk-free proposition--not should it be. I'm not sure what's gained if a child's reading follows a well defined and entirely safe developmental pattern, but I have to believe that some degree of self-knowledge is lost by smoothing the bumps out of the road.
Thanks Brian, I'm going to have to think about this one some more.