The Chicago Public Library system will temporarily remove several Dr. Seuss books with racist and insensitive imagery from its shelves as it assesses its long-term plan for the collection, a spokesperson said Saturday.
Last week, Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced it would stop publishing six of its children’s books, including “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” and “If I Ran the Zoo,” acknowledging in an interview with the Associated Press that “these books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.”
“And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” depicts an Asian person wearing a conical hat and holding chopsticks while eating from a bowl. And “If I Ran the Zoo” includes images of two barefoot African men wearing grass skirts with their hair tied on top of their heads. The other books are “McElligot’s Pool,” “On Beyond Zebra!” “Scrambled Eggs Super!” and “The Cat’s Quizzer.”
In a statement, Chicago Public Library officials said they’re “deeply committed” to fostering a passion for reading with a diverse collection of books that “provide accurate and current information.” That’s why the system will withhold copies of the Dr. Seuss books from the public once they’re returned while library leaders decide what to do next.
All six of the Dr. Seuss books are checked out, with more people in line to borrow the books after that. The library will honor the holds placed on the books before pausing their circulation, Chicago Public Library spokesperson Patrick Molloy said in an email.
“It is important to recognize that what society understands to be relevant and/or common knowledge changes over time, and so too does the Library and the needs of the communities it serves,” Molloy said. “Library staff encourage patrons of all ages to engage critically with our materials, but materials that become dated or that foster inaccurate, culturally harmful stereotypes are removed to make space for more current, comprehensive materials.”
Molloy said the library constantly reviews its collections “to ensure that the materials we circulate are responsive to the communities we serve.
“Staff will continue to evaluate all Library resources and consider bias, prejudice, and racism when making decisions about our programming, services and recommendations, in addition to our collections,” Molloy said.