Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Reference and Research Protests

It can't happen often that a reference book draws more than yawns and mediocre reviews, but the OUP has stopped selling the Concise Dictionary of World Place Names because of some protests and outcries in India. (This was reported a few days ago, but I'm behind on my news.) According to the story:

"Among other errors, the book, the Concise Dictionary of World Place Names, says that the local language in Bangalore, Karnataka’s capital, is Bengali. Actually the language is Kannada. Bengali is spoken in Bangladesh and neighboring regions of northeastern India."

I'm certainly glad that's been cleared up, and I'm glad that the protesters in India have voiced their concern over such a trivial and unimportant factual error. Usually that concern is voiced by librarians. I of course spotted the error immediately, because I knew Kannada is the language spoken in Bangalore, just as Bangalorean is the language spoken in most of Canada, except in Quebec where they speak Urdu. I hope the next edition of the CDoWPN gets that fact right, at least.

We certainly wouldn't want anyone thinking that they speak Bengali in Bangalore. OUP probably thought it was safe because absolutely no one outside of Bangalore would possibly be interested in this trivial fact, and regardless of whether they speak Bengali or Kannada in Bangalore, the dictionary is in English. I guess some folks in Bangalore speak English as well. Frankly, I think they should have been happy that the book spelled "Karnataka" correctly. If it did spell "Karnataka" correctly, that is. After all, outside of Karnataka who really cares how it's spelled. I'm not even sure such a place exists. The CDpWPN claims it exists, but we know it makes errors about such important facts as what they speak in Karnataka. Maybe there's no such place.

Then that story linked to an older story that I don't think I'd heard about, but one librarians should be aware of. Librarians are famous, or notorious, or something, for wanting to help everyone. They're the people who come up to you in stores asking if you need help finding anything, even though they don't work there. Most librarians want people to come and use their collections, and they're happy to provide access and instruction. But after reading this story, I'm not so sure that's a good idea. The story recounts how some Hindu hooligans in India attacked a research center because it helped a scholar write a book they didn't like.

So keep that in mind the next time your library allows anyone to do any research. If the person writes something that makes hooligans or terrorists or whomever unhappy, they may visit their pathetic, self-righteous wrath on you and your library. I think the safest thing to do is restrict access to everything in the library all the time. Perhaps we should just close libraries down because they contain stuff that offends hooligans and terrorists and other thugs. The Regressive Librarians don't like free speech that offends terrorists and thugs; maybe they'll support shutting down libraries as well.


Brent said...

I've never protested anything in my life before. But if I had to protest, it would be over a reference book. I would do it because of the humor involved. I might even pretend to be upset. I'd have to be under the influence, big time.

Taupey, the Bush Kangaroo said...

"Don't face a problem, burn it."

--Fahrenheit 451