Librarian to sister superior, 1948: comic books are good for kids!

Shawn from Muckrock sez, "MuckRock and MIT asked more than 1,200 libraries across Massachusetts for records of book challenges. We didn't find much, because it's Massachusetts in 2013, but the few we did find were solid gold. One such nugget was a letter from 1948, in which a snarky anonymous librarian essentially tells the local sister superior to stop trying to keep comic books away from sixth graders. In her words, 'The Library makes a practice of having all kinds of books available for all kinds of people.'"

Fewer than 20 of the libraries that have responded so far have had any challenges since 2010. All but two of the patron complaints we unearthed were rejected by library staff, each much more politely than 1940s Librarian, for better or worse.

Librarian rebukes nun ... over comic books (Thanks, Shawn!)

Notable Replies

  1. miasm says:

    April 15, 1948

    Sister Marie Helen Superior
    Cheverus School
    Irving Street
    Malden, Massachusetts

    Dear Sister Superior:

    One of your teachers, Sister Juliana, has sent the library a letter requesting that the children's librarians not issue any type of comic book to the pupils of her sixth grade. As we have received no requests from the teachers in the other grades of your school regarding the borrowing of these books I believed that you should be notified.

    The library makes a practice of having all kinds of books available for all kinds of people. It is always interested in furthering the reading of good literature. Realizing the ubiquity of comic books and their popularity with children the library profession in conjunction with Parents' Magazine was instrumental in establishing a new type of comic book which it was thought would be suitable for readers of the ordinary comics and which it was hoped would lead them to ask for better types of books. This so-called comic book is entitled "True Comics" and usually has biography, history, travel, adventure, sports, science, etc., as its subject matter.

    We shall attempt to co-operate with the teacher in refusing this magazine to the members of her class, although it is impossible for each library assistant to know each child individually; it seems odd that only one class in one school of the many schools of the city should not be allowed access to this type of reading.

    Sincerely yours,



  2. I assume the "anonymous" librarian is only anonymous to us. I imagine "MW" typed this memo on behalf of "ISC" and this image was a carbon copy, removed and filed before ISC signed the memo.

    But I almost prefer to imagine The Librarian typing this:

Continue the discussion

4 more replies