Monday, October 01, 2007

The ALA Celebrates BBW!

One thing I love about the ALA is the way it makes me feel like a child again, or at least it tries to. Sometimes I long for the innocence of youth, when everything seemed so simple, when I could be afraid of evil "censors" and when I could be inspired by such phrases as "Aye, mateys ... celebrate your freedom t' read!"

You might recognize this phrase as part of the latest ALA campaign to warn us about the serious dangers to the republic embodied by some rube somewhere protesting about a book that probably isn't worth reading in the first place. That's right, "Banned" Books Week (or BBW, as the ALA calls it) is with us once again. Last year I felt the need to take the "banned" books folks with some seriousness, but I don't think I can do it again. Despite the claims by the ALA Orifice of Intellectual Freedom that our freedom is in danger when some parent objects that her child is forced to read a book about gay penguins, I just can't get that concerned. I go into bookstores, I search library catalogs, I look online, and all these "banned" books are widely available. We're safe. Our freedom is not in danger. When the relieved smile comes to your lips, remember you heard it here first.

Most of these "challenges" come from parents concerned with the moral education of their children. We know the ALA isn't concerned with the moral education of children, which is why if I had any children I'd warn them to stay away from the librarians. After all, if librarians can't tell the difference between intellectual content providers and porn merchants, do you really want to trust them with your children? Oh, I know, we're supposed to be amoral and just consider everything "information." Sorry, I forgot. Guess that ALA reeducation camp didn't take.

We should all be very grateful for the heroic and misguided work of the Orifice for Intellectual Freedom. After all, if it didn't have this "banned" books stuff to promote, it might go away entirely, and who would protect our intellectual freedom then? No one, that's who!

And the problem is much more serious than we realize. "'The number of challenges reflects only incidents reported,' said Judith F. Krug, director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom. 'For each reported challenge, four or five likely remain unreported.'" That's scary! Or at least it would be if it was based on anything more than hopes and wishes. No, wait, then it still wouldn't be scary, because we could all still get any "banned" book we wanted. Amazing how that works.

This year the ALA OIF is going all out. Not content just to pester the real world with the dubious claims of their fevered imaginations, they're now doing the same thing with the fake world Second Life. Yawn. So now all you folks who escape the drudgery of the ALA and your miserable existences by visiting Second Life may be subjected to some inane ALA propaganda in your haven from reality. Now no place is safe from the grasping tentacles of the ALA, and we're all a little worse for it. Somehow, though, a fake world seems like the right place to talk about fake "banned" books.

The only enjoyable thing about this year's "Banned" Books Week is what I found when I googled "BBW." To celebrate our intellectual freedom, be sure to google "BBW" and leave the results on your public machines in honor of the ALA. The first hit was stock information for the Build a Bear Workshop. Not sure what dark omen this portends. I don't think you want to visit link three, or at least I don't, but the second link was this. Somehow this seems appropriate. Gives the phrase "The ALA Celebrates BBW!" a whole new meaning, doesn't it.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

The sad part is there are a few titles that our government and corporations have tried to ban, and banned books week completely ignores them. _Foreign Relations of the Untied States_ comes to mind. And the big publishers wouldn't touch _Confessions of an Economic Hitman_

Some mother in Kentucky seeking to remove a title from a school library should not elevate a book to the status of "banned"

Anonymous said...

Most of the hoopla about "banned books" is about children's books a parent doesn't want their offspring's mind polluted by. Since most of these "bans" are local, it's pointless.

Any "banned book" is available from numerous sources. And with the current climate, attaching some notoriety to a title if anything makes it more popular (e.g., OJ's "If I Did It").

The real decisions about whether to "ban" (or simply not print) a book are made at the publisher level, as the first poster mentioned.

This is something the self-important librarians can do little about; and in a reverse of the establishment someone with a yen to expose the world can just as well start a blog rather than print a book, distribute it to the libraries, and hope people drop by to read it.

They could also make their own movie and put them out on YouTube/Bittorrent, so maybe it's time for the banned list to go multimedia.

Lastly, with librarians unable to distinguish between relevant material and porn, and unable to even consider blocking porn without raising the evil specter of censors coming to block our free thoughts, the public doesn't really see the librarian as the guardian of freedom, if they ever did.

Bilbo said...

You've summed it up right on the money with the words: "...the latest ALA campaign to warn us about the serious dangers to the republic embodied by some rube somewhere protesting about a book that probably isn't worth reading in the first place." I couldn't agree more. Although I do have to scratch my head over some of the books people want to have banned...you have to wonder how their minds work if they find some of these books (the Harry Potter series comes to mind) to be so mortally offensive. Oh, well...

Anonymous said...

"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty."
- John Curran

Anonymous said...

"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty."
- John Curran


Ooh, that's so right! I'm going to put that on my bookmark and slap anyone silly who even dares to censor my books. Don't mess with librarians! We control all the world's knowledge!

Why is everyone laughing?

Anonymous said...

Eh, BBW is a chance to make silly displays and make reading seem all dangerous and everything for adolescents. And to discover those neat marketing blurbs that would-be censors helpfully provide, of course. I mean, tell me that publishers wouldn't pay good money to have their entire YA collections declared "Lewd and twisted"! Boffo box office right there, at least until the first kid catches on that this is how The Giver is described.

AL said...

Nation's Teens Disappointed by Banned Books

Anonymous said...

*Snerk*

Yup, that's the sum of it.

Still, there is amusement value in putting a dangerous label on Harry Potter for being "too dark," for promoting the occult, and having bad role models, or to label Huck Finn as "Vicious." I'll take amusement where I can get it.

Dan said...

A few years ago, I wrote an article for Counterpoise called "Banned Books Week: Creating the Acceptable Taboo." (They no longer have it online, but I'm sure all my fellow librarians will manage to find a copy.)

ALA took a move from addressing books that actually were banned (held by US Customs or removed by publishers) to this sort of feel good, easily manageable "Won't someone think of the children" event. And that's because it desn't require a major fight and it promotes books easily found in the library.

--Dan

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the links! I hope everyone takes this week as an opportunity to examine the issues involved with book censorship.

Jonathan Kelley, Office for Intellectual Freedom

Anonymous said...

Yay for Big Beautiful (Women's) Irish Bottoms!

--Taupey

Kendra K. said...

I wish there was a list of all the BBWs about BBWs. It'd probably be more entertaining than a bunch of semi-provocative YA novels that upset uptight parents.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the links! I hope everyone takes this week as an opportunity to examine the issues involved with book censorship.

Jonathan Kelley, Office for Intellectual Freedom


Anonymous poster #314523 scratches his head and wonders if Jonathan actually read the post and comments...then decides it doesn't matter, chucks the latest banned book nobody cared to read in the trash, and goes back to weeding the collection.

mdoneil said...

I'd like to see your metrics after people searching for BBW land here.

What no hefty chicks!!! (librarian's exclamatory ellipsis -AKA elliptibang)

Kristen said...

Thanks to an activist college roommate, I've always associated BBW with the 'second link' version. Sadly, there have been a few times I've seen the acronym in an ALA press release and it still made sense.

AL said...

I guess I've been living under a rock, because I didn't know about the second link version, or all of the more risque appreciations of said version. But the ALA should celebrate those BBWs as well.

/fish said...

Wait, the other day you said that libraries were staffed by "overweight, middle-aged, white women"...

Does the ALA celebrating BBW mean that they've reconsidered their study on diversity and decided to embrace the status quo?

SafeLibraries.org said...

AL, you said, "inane ALA propaganda." In all the BBW stories written where Krug is quoted again and again, that message does not get through. However, right in the ALA's home state, I appeared in a Chicago Tribune article saying essentially the same thing:

The library association has been "very successful in spreading their message that anything goes," said Dan Kleinman, who runs the Web site SafeLibraries.org, which calls for greater parental say in the books used in schools and available to children at libraries. Banned Books Week is "propaganda to convince parents to allow school boards and libraries to continue making inappropriate material available," he said.

"Book Banning Efforts Bring on Title Fights; Awareness Campaign Punches Back But Critics Not Flinching," by Stevenson Swanson, Chicago Tribune, 30 September 2007.

Anonymous said...

Oh my, when I first saw the name of this post in my Firefox feed, I thought, hmmm, maybe the ALA is finally being true to itself. Then I was surprised to read BBW stands for Banned Books Week, and that others had never heard other meanings for the acronym. Perhaps you don't know as much as you think you do about kw searching...you'd suck searching eBay.

Kevin Musgrove said...

In the old days you could trust the ALA's banned books campaigns to provide you with a reading list of books you actually might want to read. A golden age...

It's good to know they're campaigning against the Size Zero fashionistas, though. Our ladies may finally feel that they're appreciated by the library elite after all. (Mind you, I'm not sure I'm going to be the one telling them, they're in better physical shape for a fight than me.)

j- said...

*The library association has been "very successful in spreading their message that anything goes," said Dan Kleinman, who runs the Web site SafeLibraries.org, which calls for greater parental say in the books used in schools and available to children at libraries. Banned Books Week is "propaganda to convince parents to allow school boards and libraries to continue making inappropriate material available," he said.*

Maybe some enterprising sort will start a movement to open a library/libraries and operate it like a co-op/country club. Pay a small fee to get in and borrow books in the safety and cleanliness of a non-freak inhabited non-porno library.

I guess it would be called a "Private Library".

Anonymous said...

Isn't it nice that we have Dan Kleinman to decide what's "inappropriate"?

I'm sure ready to turn my critical processes over to SafeLibraries.org. It sounds so safe.

And "available to children" is such a nice broad term, as it can apply to anything in a public library that isn't kept in a locked cabinet. Why, I feel even safer now. If it's not appropriate for Dan Kleinman's children, get it out of the libraries!.

Oh, I'm sorry, we're all about making fun of the idea that there are attempts to restrict reading, aren't we? Never mind.

contrarian said...

Big beautiful women, how apropos. That is so funny.

Anonymous said...

Oh my, when I first saw the name of this post in my Firefox feed, I thought, hmmm, maybe the ALA is finally being true to itself. Then I was surprised to read BBW stands for Banned Books Week, and that others had never heard other meanings for the acronym.

Don't taze me, bro!

The Hag said...

Al, please see this marvelous comment on Banned Books Week:
http://101reasonstostopwriting.com/

I lurk on this blog, since I'm not a public librarian, nor a member of the ALA. It's like watching a train wreck from a safe distance...

SafeLibraries.org said...

Recall this oldie but goodie from Thomas Sowell: NATIONAL HOGWASH WEEK.

librarianrex said...

I mean it's good that parents are taking an interest in what their kids are reading and all. But what gives them the right to say what should and shouldn't be made available to other parent's children?

Oh and calling a book trash says much more about the person making the comment than the book itself. I read two books on the top 10 challenged book list from 2006 and loved them both.