Saturday, July 08, 2006

Banned Newspapers!

I'm a little behind on the brouhaha in San Antonio with that library director at the University of the Incarnate Word cancelling the print subscription to the New York Times because of its exposure of the Feds monitoring international money transfers. Especially since the subscription has been reinstated.

However, there was a hilarious quote from one of the shocked Incarnate staffers that can't go unmolested:

“The censorship is just unspeakable,” said staffer Jennifer Romo. “There is no reason, no matter what your beliefs, to deny a source of information to students.”

I bet she had a really furious, selfrighteous look when she said that, too.

This is amusing for so many reasons. First, of course, for the assumption that a library not subscribing to something is censorship. I searched the Incarnate Word catalog, and couldn't find People magazine. Are they censoring People? How else are the students to find out the latest celebrity gossip? Tell me that, Miss Missy! Someone should inform Ms. Romo that by that definition her relatively tiny library is censoring about 98% of the material published in the country.

The second sentence may be even more hilarious. No reason to deny a source of information to students? There are plenty of reasons as a matter of fact. Money, or lack thereof, is an important one. There are also other reasons. Incarnate Word doesn't subscribe to Hustler magazine, either. Why not, I wonder? According to Ms. Romo there cannot possibly be a reason. She should recommend a subscription to Hustler immediately!

However, the really funny thing is the bizarre assumption that anyone was denied anything. According to this followup article, the library cancelled the print subscription. How many of those students use the print copy of the NYT? Probably not many, and if at all probably only for the latest issue. The Annoyed Librarian conducted some of the rigorous investigative journalism for which she is so famous, and discovered the little known fact that the latest couple of weeks of the Times is FREE on the Web! I'm sure the enraged staffer would have felt better knowing that.

[I should note before someone else does that not all of the NYT is free on the web. There is of course that "Times Select" thing where they try to get you to pay extra for their always fascinating and completely surprising opinion columns. Whatever the issue, you can be sure that Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, Bob Herbert, and Tom Friedman will have a completely fresh perspective you would never have guessed beforehand. For those poor sods out there who especially miss Bob Herbert, though, I suggest you check out the totally free Automatic Bob Herbert.]

Also, the Annoyed Librarian discovered the Incarnate Word subscribes to Lexis-Nexis, which, as many of you might know, has the NYT in full text for the past 20 years.

Who exactly was being denied what information?


Kathleen said...

The approach of most of the protestors to the cancellation was weak.

The real issue as I see it is that the library director made this collection decision - clearly intended to be high-profile - based on his personal politics.

He could have cancelled the print NYT at any other time, if money was the issue, to less furor.

He used his institution's library to make a personal statement. If he'd had the rest of the staff/institution behind him in making this political statement, then the arguement would be different.

Annoyed Librarian said...

I think you're right about the real issue, and about the proper criticism. Turning it into an issue of intellectual freedom or informational access is just silly. Any strong criticism should have been leveled at the politicization of the collection and the fact that the director was imposing his personal politics on everyone. I suspect that had someone cancelled a conservative magazine for its support of Bush's policies or Gitmo or something, the director would have protested, though the irate staffer might not have.

Greg said...

And yet so many decisions get made at ALA based on personal politics. Maybe he was just following the lead of his peers?

mdoneil said...

I'd cancel the NYT because the ink smears on my hands... that and it is a rag not even suitable for wrapping table scraps.

Angel, librarian and educator said...

Of course the director would have protested if someone had cancelled a conservative publication, say the WSJ which also reported on the issue that was irking the director. He did it for his own political reasons, and he should be denounced for it, regardless of what side of the fence he sits on. What is also deplorable is that his institution actually supported his behavior. As for the so-called Times Select, I did not miss the stuff before, and sure as heck don't miss it now. Best, and keep on blogging.

P.S. Subs. to Hustler? Hmm, there is an idea, haha.

Anonymous said...

Hebert is Automatic, for the people. ;)

Miss Missy? Too funny!