The library system at Georgetown University (GU) has removed hundreds of books shortly after some students found these publications “offensive.”
According to GU’s student journal The Georgetown Review in an article published in early February, a staff member of the publication noticed a book that prominently featured a Native American woman on its cover on a bookshelf at McCarthy Library. This prompted other staff members to “examine every single book in the room,” and they determined, by looking at book covers, that at least one-half, if not all of the shelved books contain “racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia, fetishization, and pedophilia.” The students continued their book hunt in another library in Reynolds Hall, where they located more “similarly problematic” books.
“We’d like to add that we haven’t even read the insides of these books … Again, the entire swath of evidence for the problematic nature of these books is based on the front and back covers,” wrote Review’s editor-in-chief.
After receiving emails demanding administrators to explain the presence of the “problematic” books, both McCarthy and Reynolds Libraries almost emptied their shelves, removing hundreds of books in what Review described as a “cover-up.” A university spokesperson told The Hoya, a GU student newspaper, that the decision was made because books “had been left with titles, topics, and images that raised concerns for students and staff.”
The Georgetown Review showcased some of the removed books, mostly mid-20th century fiction, in its report. Some of them, notably Australian novelist Carter Brown’s detective mysteries franchise, featured sexually provocative cover pictures. While some others, including Nick Carter-Killmaster espionage adventure series, contain racial derogatory and xenophobic themes, which are not uncommon in American spy novels during the height of the Cold War. Also removed was the seemingly innocent “Legion,” a sequel to William Peter Blatty’s “The Exorcist,” because of “portraying Christianity and the Priesthood as evil.”
While emphasizing that Review “does not support censorship in any form,” the staff member who complained to the library administrators did admit that the decision to remove the books was “ultimately the correct decision.”
“While I believe they went about it the wrong way, I believe the university was right to remove the books,” the student wrote during correspondence with Hoya.
Both libraries were created as social and study spaces for students when GU’s Southwest Quad was built and opened in 2003, a library administrator told Review. The libraries have no formal check-out system, and their bookshelves were initially empty until an alum donated the books to the libraries. Since then, students have contributed to the libraries by donating their old books.