Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Thin End of Nonsense

Inevitably, when I write about banned books, someone leaves a comment exemplifying the ALA propaganda hinting at how endangered our intellectual freedom would be if the ALA OIF weren't here to raise a stink whenever some hillbilly school somewhere removes some questionable book from their library shelves. One of the typical responses is that if this hillbilly school removes the book, then it's the beginning of the end, the thin end of the wedge, though a commenter last week called it the camel's nose under the tent. I wasn't familiar with that phrase, but then there aren't any camels where I live. Perhaps the commenter was a Bedouin or something. Regardless of the vehicle of the metaphor, the tenor is completely wrong. Some hillbillies in Kentucky removing a book from their school library isn't the thin end of the wedge. Saying it is such is the thin end of nonsense.

I almost called it the thin end of desperation, because that's the sense I get every time the ALA OIF releases some of more of this "banned" book propaganda. Since we live in perhaps the most intellectually free country on earth, it just gets harder for a group dedicated to protecting our intellectual freedom to find something to complain about. I feel the same way myself sometimes. When book publishing is going strong, self-publishing is easier than ever, and online publishing is ubiquitous, there's no shortage of information around putting forward any ideas you may care to entertain.

When you can write or say just about anything you want at any time, when many people seem much more concerned about the rights of the vulgar to be loud and obnoxious than the rights of the rest of us to be saved from their vulgarity, where porn merchants have more protection than kids who want to pray at a football game, then we're not living with many threats to intellectual freedom. (Except for the intellectual freedom of religious people, but we all know how terrible they are, so they don't count.) Throw in free internet connections, which our public libraries so generously provide so that people can trade child porn without getting tracked, and you can get to just about anything worth getting to, unless it's a scholarly article or a copyrighted book. Most of those are harder to get.

Aha! the thin-ended camel might say! Most of these "banned" books are just that! You've admitted that they can't just be found everywhere! Well, yeah, okay, but that's a silly argument, too. Some of the "banned" books are in fact available on the Internet. If any benighted souls were desperate enough for reading material to try out Tom Sawyer, they can get it online. But even the copyrighted books are widely available. Take this Golden Compass that everyone is so enthusiastic about defending. You can get that book along with the other two in the trilogy for $13.50 on Amazon. Where's the threat to anyone's intellectual freedom? And the little hillbilly kids who can't get it at the school library can just go to the public library, if they have one. It's probably there, too. Where's the threat to anyone's intellectual freedom?

Comparisons with actual threats to intellectual freedom should make it clear how much of a joke this is. Unless government censorship or control of information is involved, there is no threat. If some legislature decides that their public schools aren't going to teach evolution because it's contrary to some hillbilly's third-grade level literal interpretation of the Bible, then we have a threat to intellectual freedom. If some government starts blocking Internet sites favorable to democracy or critical of the current political regime, then we have a threat to intellectual freedom. Or if some dictator starts imprisoning people for having books in their house that the dictator doesn't agree with, then we have a threat to intellectual freedom.

The problem is, some hillbillies banning The Golden Compass doesn't lead to any of these things, and to say so is just foolish. Removing that book from a Catholic school isn't the thin end of the wedge, though it might be the thin end of nonsense. I'm as pleased as anyone about the freedoms of America, probably more pleased about some freedoms than some of the OIF folks, but this doesn't mean I have to invent fake threats to make myself seem relevant.

Some people say that removing this particular book does threaten the intellectual freedom of the particular students at the particular schools who for some bizarre reason don't have $13 or a public library with the book. Just for argument's sake, let's say there are a handful of these kids. Saying that not having easy access to the Golden Compass or Tom Sawyer or My Daddy Swings Both Ways threatens anyone's freedom is ridiculous. Most libraries don't have most books, so making the argument that being without a particular book means that someone is a victim of censorship means that we're all victims of censorship, even though there aren't any censors.

If getting rid of questionable books were the thin end of the wedge, then we'd get rid of all books, but that never happens. It's only the tiniest handful of politically charged books that are ever challenged. Compare the number of books challenged with the number of books published, and I bet that even under the nightmarish scenario of every challenged book being permanently censored we wouldn't feel much pain. And I mean really censored, not that censored-lite stuff the ALA gets so drunk on. I mean remove the books from society completely. What percentage would be gone? Enough that we couldn't get by okay? I'm not so sure.

This extreme case would definitely be bad, but of course it's inconceivable in our society except among those who dream of totalitarianism, and who pays attention to them. When we narrow down the argument to any particular book, the threat-to-intellectual-freedom argument becomes as weak as water. What particular educational value does the Golden Compass have? Why should this be in school libraries at all? Why should any particular novel be in libraries? Can anyone name any particular novel that's so important for school libraries that its absence is an intellectual disgrace? Can you even name a non-fiction book like that?

Some wonder why I get so annoyed by this "banned" book propaganda. I get annoyed because it's a bunch of lies designed to get us all worried about a threat that doesn't exist so that the ALA can then take a boldly irrelevant stand and provide a solution that's not necessary. What's not to get annoyed about?

65 comments:

Anonymous said...

Amen!

Thanks for eloquently expressing the difference between challenging a book and its place in some libraries, and actually censoring (ie: banning) books.

In fact, if we truly believe in the freedoms that we enjoy, then we must also support people's rights to challenge books which they feel are inappropriate.

I'm glad that most libraries turn down the challenges. I'd be far more concerned about "banned" books if libraries pulled every title about which there was a complaint. But these patrons who challenge books keep us on our toes, make us think critically about why the book was selected and why it should (or shouldn't) stay as part of the collection. Where's the harm in that? They make us do our jobs. Better.

bbots said...

And if it's not in the hillbilly public library, you can always put an ILL on it. This is how I got a grammar of the Queechua language in ninth grade just because I felt like it. Though I doubt that was banned in my small town library because of vast prejudice against Incans so much as because I was the only person who ever asked for it. And it took about a week to get it.

Guess I was oppressed.

It can be fun to look at the silly reasons people challenge books, and fun to make up displays featuring said silly reasons. It's always easy to make the displays, of course, since there are multiple copies of all of them around. But yes, when I talk about "Banned Books Week," I'm careful to tell people that no, none of these books are banned, just challenged, and they have access to all of them.

Anonymous said...

I haven't been a librarian that long and I have never been terribly impressed by the ALA but I have heard on several occasions that the OIF used to deal with actual threats to intellectual freedom such as books being banned from import to the USA or publishers being suppressed or some such stuff. Things that actually might have some impact beyond the occasional hillbilly nut stealing books from the Bum*%#$ Kentucky library so all the little hillbillies don't have to worry about thinking about things.

Maybe if the ALA OIF wanted to be 'relevant' they could go back to confronting real threats, like say Yahoo and Google blocking sites for the Chinese government.

AL said...

Yes, there was a time when the OIF responded to real threats to Intellectual Freedom and did valuable work, and there are real challenges today they could address. Instead, the highlight of their year is BBW.

kudzuhomecomingqueen said...

Way to call it AL. Although, I did get a great mental image of the ALA sitting drunk, at a bar stool somewhere in hillbilly Kentucky. I used to live in Kentucky and in that part of the Commonwealth, they'd have to be at the moon shiner's shack, but still the image made my day.

Josh said...

Hillbilly?

I believe they prefer to be called "sons of the soil"

Anonymous said...

...But it ain't gonna happen.

Ed Crank -- Librarian said...

Two comments on the "banned" books topic.

Every library practices some form of censorship. No? Why can't my son get Playboy at his public high school library? Some of the greatest interviews of our time take place between the pages, or so I have been told.

What about "wacko" conspiracy theories, holocaust denial literature, "cult" religion books, etc. Not many libraries will have them on their shelves because they are incorrect theories. Not saying one way or the other, but not putting them on the shelves is denying that author's intellectual freedom. And if you want to talk cataloging, follow the cataloging listserv discussions about controversial books, many a cataloger takes it upon themselves to decide whether a book is mainstream science and should be placed with other "science" books or odd-ball ramblings to be put in a seperate section. Smells like intellectual snobism to me.

The second is a half remembered comment from the late, great Chicago columnist, Mike Ryoko who, when he found out his biography of Mayor Daly was being banned from a particular library called them to thank them for banning it.

The act of banning it made it forbidden fruit and a lot more people's were interested in finding out just what did he say in that salacious book. He wanted more libraries to ban it so that he would get more free press and sell more copies of his book.

Peace.

Anonymous said...

It's Mayor Daley, with an E - was then, is now, and ever more shall be.

Ed Crank -- Librarian said...

Fie to automatic spell checkers.

Anonymous said...

I want to read about Dick Cheney's activities during the Regan administration. But I don't have access to the documents thanks to the information access restrictions placed on them by the current White House.

This is what the OIF should be worrying about.

AL said...

But at least you have the intellectual freedom to read The Golden Compass!

Wayne Jones said...

Ah, it's nice to get annoyed at the Annoyed Librarian. ALA's supposed posturing aside, the reason that one and all should complain when any book anywhere is banned by anyone (hick or non-hick) is on principle. It's the same reason we (er, you -- I'm Canadian) should complain when so-called faith-based initiatives are introduced BY A GOVERNMENT -- yes, it probably won't result in a totalitarian Christian regime, but on principle it is wrong for government to be promoting religion in any way, just as it's always wrong to ban books.

AL said...

Thank you for getting annoyed. The question is whether any of these books are really banned. I contend that since they're widely available, no significant ban actually takes place. I also contend that librarians choose books appropriate for their users, and they also don't choose books not appropriate for their users. This isn't censorship, it's selection. I don't know anything about the Golden Compass, and I really don't care, but to say that every book is appropriate for every group of users strikes me as patently ridiculous, and yet this is the theory underlying the "banned" books rhetoric.

sammy said...

I got yelled at during a state library conference for saying that ALA needs to move away from Banned Book and into Banned Information, such as government reports and scientists being told not to release publically funded information because it contradicts "official lines."

I was told that Banned Books was indeed, the biggest single threat facing intellectual freedom.

I find this odd, since most school and public libraries - in my understanding - tend to have their guidelines for challenging a book written in such a way that most people give up. (Which is fine by me, actually.)

Anonymous said...

Praise Jesus! Sing on sister!

Maybe if we didn't spend so much time and effort worrying about the Boogie Monster we could worry about real problems like encouraging people to read and explore thoughts and ideas. Any thought or any idea.


Dahlia Ebbets

j- said...

*The act of banning it made it forbidden fruit and a lot more people's were interested in finding out just what did he say in that salacious book. He wanted more libraries to ban it so that he would get more free press and sell more copies of his book.*

Exactly. I think the major reason the ALA or any public library even puts up a "banned book" display is simply least-common denominator ploy to lure in slobs who like to read smut/filth/obscenity, pure & simple. Is there any other reason to read a book like Lolita, for example?

*I want to read about Dick Cheney's activities during the Regan administration. But I don't have access to the documents thanks to the information access restrictions placed on them by the current White House.

This is what the OIF should be worrying about.*

There were no activities since there never was a "Regan" adminisration. That should be a great weight off your mind.

*It's the same reason we (er, you -- I'm Canadian) should complain when so-called faith-based initiatives are introduced BY A GOVERNMENT -- yes, it probably won't result in a totalitarian Christian regime*

You should probably be more worried about Sharia law being introduced into Canada through its seemingly idiotic legal system [and mindless importation of Islamic fascists who like to torch all things Jewish [see: Montreal] rather than ban things] long before you worry about "totalitarian" Christianity.

Stephen Denney said...

The ALA can and to some extent does, address other intellectual freedom issues besides banned or challenged books. You can go to the website of the ALA OIF and find a variety of issues listed. There is no reason why it should have to focus on one intellectual freedom issue to the exclusion of all others.

skeptical thomas said...

Right on, sister AL.
I agree that what some call censorship, other may just call rigorous selection in a system with limited resources.
Er, I'm Canadian too, and frankly I've been quite offended by some comments vented around here. Let's keep our cool, people. There are things out there we have no control over, and perhaps it's better we can't control everything and anything. Otherwise, we may feel the urge to censor, er, make that select too rigorously.

Anonymous said...

It is ok if they ban any and all books in libraries that cater to teens. The kids are just there to play video games anyway.

Pete D said...

Well said, AL!

We're just about to begin a rigorous (aka wasteful) system-wide Intellectual Freedom training program at our library while so many other things seem more crucial at the moment.

Folks here get worked up in such a lather when ONE person (five states over) expresses dislike for a book or DVD. Big deal! Doesn't that person get the freedom of expression, too?

The librarians act like the militia has attacked. It's just plain hysterical in this era when divergent viewpoints are mainstream and access to everything is greater than ever before.

Anonymous said...

AL,
I object to a couple of the things you've written in your 11:20 a.m. post. First, in hillbilly land, books are not widely available. For example, they are especially not available to an 11-yr.-old who may be curious about things that are otherwise forbidden in his/her world. There's a fine line between undermining parental authority and providing information that--rightly or wrongly--probably would be available for this young person in a more urban environment. Secondly, too many librarians do not consider all their users when choosing books. Instead, they consider only the books that are likely to please people who are the most vocal and overlook many in their community who are without a voice in any practical sense.
When I worked as a reference librarian in hillbilly land, I had people tell me that they wouldn't make any recommendations for purchase because they were Jewish. Others didn't come to the library because they didn't have anything of interest to people from India. I wasn't the collection development person there, but I did pass on the comments to the person who was. There was no change. I don't think libraries have to be all things to all people, but that was just wrong, and it didn't have to be that way.

il library student said...

Just got my American Libraries Direct e-mail, and they have an article about how two schools in Oshkosh, WI has pulled The Golden Compass from its shelves to the librarian can read and evaluate the book.

Catholic schools. As in private. Can do anything they want. However, the local public schools and the public library still have the book on their shelves with no plans to pull it.

The article reads like some editor told this reporter "Hey, go find out if any libraries in the area have banned this book." and the author did just that. She doesn't mention that the two schools are private institutions.

austeniteshero said...

So the ALA is taking on Catholic school Canadian libraries, but still no word on Cuba. It's a good thing Canadian librarians aren't being thrown in jail or they'd get ignored.

webbygrl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
webbygrl said...

I just want my childhood favorite, "Song of the South" back. Can the ALA do something about that? I was entirely too young to understand the racial implications that some created out of the book and the movie. But I loved Uncle Remus and Brer Rabbit and I miss them dearly. And when I tell my 20-something co-workers about it, they have no idea what I'm talking about. So sad...

Sorry about the deletion - I noticed a grievous spelling error and didn't realize the deletion would be annotated on the blog. Sorry AL for the transgression. Won't happen again.

Anonymous said...

Selection is when a librariam applies a focused effort and the training and post graduate experience entrusted to the position to select books that represent a broad and balanced cross-section of materials, taking into account local preferences and requests. Censorship is removing, after the fact, resources that a qualified librarian has previously chosen to provide a balanced collection. Once a librarian has selecte a resource and placed it into the collection, according to the guidelines established by the library's mission, vision and policies, attempts to challenge it should be resisted. If the librarian fails to exercise the best judgement in selecting resources that address community needs, then get rid of the librarian, not the books.

AL said...

"removing, after the fact, resources that a qualified librarian has previously chosen to provide a balanced collection. "

That's called "weeding" in some libraries.

Anonymous said...

That's called "weeding" in some libraries<< Only if disgrunteled patrons are directing the weeding process. I think we can all thank our lucky stars that AL is not a school librarian.

herself said...

And in other news...what novel *would* be the One your library would have to have? (And is it just me, or do the verification words for these comment posts always seem...well, kind of like comic book curse words?)

SafeLibraries.org said...

AL is correct. BBW is a fraud. Thomas Sowell says it should be called "NATIONAL HOGWASH WEEK." I think that's his version of AL's "Thin End of Nonsense."

Mack Guffin said...

Once a librarian has selecte a resource...attempts to challenge it should be resisted. If the librarian fails to exercise the best judgement ...then get rid of the librarian, not the books.

That's just silly. You're saying a single poor selection choice should be both grounds for termination and a permanently defended item in the collection?

AL said...

"I think we can all thank our lucky stars that AL is not a school librarian."

I certainly thank my lucky stars I'm not.

Anonymous said...

Well I for one can state unequivocally that I and the other librarian I work with use the information from book reviews and published lists to purchase books. No librarian that I know has the time or knowledge to read EVERY book that comes into a library to evaluate it. Librarians depend upon these sources for collection development, and sometimes they are wrong.

Perfectly good example is that we purchased a book that was recommended by a book review. After talking to a specialist in the area, the book we just bought was not only overpriced, but is somewhat out of date and doesn't have the most uptodate standards for the field. We had to buy another book and relegate the original book to non-circ status.
P6

Privateer6 said...

My point is this: sometimes you purchase you a book, or anything for that matter, and when you realize you got the wrong item, you discard it. best example will be all the Christmas presents that will be returned for whatever reason.

As for what literature should be required for a school library, it depend on the grade levels. For high school I recommend Homer's works as they have been considered the foundations of Western civilization. I would also throw in Chaucer and Shakespear, since they are considered the foundations on English lit. Once you have the foundations of American culture down pat, then you can explore Native American, Middle Eastern, Asian, and Oceanic cultures. BUT the foundation must be on American culture.

Anonymous said...

I hope the OIF is up for the challenge that is coming soon, video games that some parents find objectionable and that the library is promoting and allowing teens to play.

Anonymous said...

That's just silly. You're saying a single poor selection choice should be both grounds for termination and a permanently defended item in the collection?

No, that's not what was said. Poor judgement is or should be grounds for terminating a librarian. It would usually take more than a single book to make that case.

Anonymous said...

What the OIF should really be doing instead of publishing a mamby pamby list of books that have been challenged (and patting themselves on the back for doing so), is to tell some of those library board members to grow a spine. Just because one crazed loon is on a rampage against a specific genre of books, that person should not get to dictate to the entire community what can be read at the library. Who forced the hillbilly to pick that book off the shelf?

Anonymous said...

And those damn hillbilly kids in Kentucky are VERY lucky that AL is not their school librarian.

skeptical thomas said...

"BUT the foundation must be on American culture."

That indeed will do wonders for the education and formation of young global citizens, living in a (supposedly) multicultural society without borders, prejudices and misconceptions. The World revolves around us, as we're the chosen ones, the alpha & omega, Homer was our ancestor, and Shakespeare our grandfather. Once we established all that, we'll allow the other cultures to join, as we're also generous and welcoming. I'd be a bit more careful with that kind of rhetoric, just my annoying 2c.

Ed Crank -- Librarian said...

There is only one Homer that kids today care about.

D'oh!

Anonymous said...

"If some government starts blocking Internet sites favorable to democracy or critical of the current political regime, then we have a threat to intellectual freedom. Or if some dictator starts imprisoning people for having books in their house that the dictator doesn't agree with, then we have a threat to intellectual freedom."

Analogy: Sure, we've fallen off the cliff, but we haven't hit the bottom of the gorge yet. When we do, then we'll start worrying.

Mack Guffin said...

No, that's not what was said. Poor judgement is or should be grounds for terminating a librarian. It would usually take more than a single book to make that case.

My sincere apologies. I read quickly and less than charitably.

Anonymous said...

Can the AL discuss public internet access at libraries without mentioning porn? This is almost becoming a knee-jerk reaction for the AL.

Public computers in libraries = porn.
Public computers in libraries = porn.

The AL can't seem to separate these two topics in her writing. I wonder if she knows that patrons use those computers to view and read other things, too.

Or maybe she would prefer not having computers at all in the library. There's a lot of yearning for the good-old-days among librarians.

Privateer6 said...

Skeptical,
That indeed will do wonders for the education and formation of young global citizens, living in a (supposedly) multicultural society without borders, prejudices and misconceptions. The World revolves around us, as we're the chosen ones, the alpha & omega, Homer was our ancestor, and Shakespeare our grandfather. Once we established all that, we'll allow the other cultures to join, as we're also generous and welcoming. I'd be a bit more careful with that kind of rhetoric, just my annoying 2c.

Now did I say the world revolves around us, no. What I said was that our education system needs to provide a solid background on American culture,before exploring other cultures. If we don't provide a foundation for our common beliefs and values, then our society will disintegrate over time.

Multiculturalism is ok, heck I'm part of the diversity committee, participate in the diversity fair, and teach diversity training at my work. BUT without unifying factors like language, culture, and education, we will tear ourselves apart. A good examples of a multicultural country that is having problems is Canada with the Quebecois and their strong desire for independence. Other past examples would include the former Yugoslavia (now divided into several countries after a civil war) the former Soviet Union (fortunately without hte civil war), inter war Czechoslovakia 9 Nazi Germany arranging for the Sudeten Germans to merge with the Reich, and preWWI Astro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires.

Privateer6 said...

Skeptical,

Now did I say the world revolves around us, no. What I said was that our education system needs to provide a solid background on American culture,before exploring other cultures. If we don't provide a foundation for our common beliefs and values, then our society will disintegrate over time.

Multiculturalism is ok, heck I'm part of the diversity committee, participate in the diversity fair, and teach diversity training at my work. BUT without unifying factors like language, culture, and education, we will tear ourselves apart. A good examples of a multicultural country that is having problems is Canada with the Quebecois and their strong desire for independence. Other past examples would include the former Yugoslavia (now divided into several countries after a civil war) the former Soviet Union (fortunately without hte civil war), inter war Czechoslovakia 9 Nazi Germany arranging for the Sudeten Germans to merge with the Reich, and preWWI Astro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires.

Anonymous said...

In the local news today is an innovative use for the ALA's list of challenged books -- the Johnston County School Board is using it to check their libraries to see if there are any books that should be removed:

http://www.newsobserver.com/news/story/829888.html

In the wake of the Johnston challenge [to Julia Alvarez's "How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents"], the school board asked administrators to check all of the books in high school libraries and classrooms against lists of commonly challenged books to weed out other offensive material.

skeptical thomas said...

privateer6,

True, you didn't say explicitly that the world revolves around us, you just implied it and then reaffirmed it once again in your reply.

I see you know history, heck, don't you? Let's not take political decisions and countries/nations forced under the same roof by imperialistic and ideological circumstances as examples of why diversity and multiculturalism failed.
As long as multiculturalism is just ok, a cool and fancy idea, but we DO need a strong core of values, OUR values, of course, we're the majority, cuz we need to protect ourselves, otherwise we would tear ourselves apart and disintegrate as a society, personally I don't see a way out of this dead end. What if our values as a majority are just as good as their values as a minority, and we do not need any other unifying values apart from the fact we're all part of the same human species, with desires, emotions, feelings? What if, huh? Too idealistic from a skeptical dude? Perhaps.

I sense elections coming soon, the political debate is taking over once again.

Norma said...

My PL has 8 copies of Golden Compass and 3 audio. If it is anti-Christian, there's not a chance it won't appear in multiple copies. They salivate for that stuff.

Anonymous said...

"Public computers in libraries = porn."

Maybe that's the only reason the AL goes to public libraries? She can't do it at her POW because they might find out.

Anonymous said...

Skeptical,
Again how am I implying the world revolves around the US? And let me simplify the examples.

When two groups that have different values, ethics, religions, customs, etc reside in the same area there is eventually conflict unless some unifying factor comes into play. I gave several examples of nations that did not try to assimilate their populace into one culture and the results.

Again the best example of a country thriving from diverse ethic groups is America's past. Immigrants came to this country, learned and spoke our language, received a foundation in American civics prior to citizenship and their children were given a thorough foundation of American culture through education. Unless you were in an immigrant enclave, you only had one language being spoken. When an immigrant came here, they freely chose to assimilate.

Good example would be my mother's side of the family. they came her in the late 1800s, and assimilated into American culture. Are there some holdover cultural traits from the old country, sure. But we are Americans.

Again the problem I see with education, based upon my experience in teaching high school and college is that we are focused too much on diversity and are not spending enough time providing enough information on our culture and history. I actually had a college student who did not know who won WWII. I had another student who did not know who Teddy Roosevelt was. heck look at the White House press secretary who didn't know what the Cuban Missile Crisis was, and that happened less than 50 years ago.

Privateer6

Skeptical thomas said...

I said "the world revolves around us", and not "around the US". us, like a pronoun? Huge difference.
Thanks for simplifying things for me, but I still don't get it. Perhaps I suffer of too much skeptidity.

Anonymous said...

""Public computers in libraries = porn."

Maybe that's the only reason the AL goes to public libraries? She can't do it at her POW because they might find out."

Jessamyn West (librarian.net) has a more rational view of the role of public libraries in a democracy:

"“We are a democracy. People who vote need to have access to as much reputable information as possible so they can make these and other choices. The internet is becoming an important ‘place’ to find this information. Unequal access to the internet creates unequal access to government.” The real reasoning is much deeper with examples — FEMA forms online, job applications, required email addresses for access to certain products and services — but that’s it in a nutshell. [...] libraries are often THE access point to government information and services..."

Of course, for those who *prefer* to live in an oligarchy or a plutocracy, public libraries, along with public schools, are The Enemy.

caspar said...

True enough: a few folks complaining about a library book isn't a constitutional crisis. But you want to defend prayer forced upon us? You lost me there.

R. L. said...

"If we don't provide a foundation for our common beliefs and values, then our society will disintegrate over time."

Yeah, we did a bang up job on that when we forced Native American children to attend boarding schools in the hopes of making them more white.

Maybe, if we had been more culturally diverse we wouldn't have waited 100 years after the Civil war to give blacks equal rights. Not to mention waiting nearly a 100 years after the Declaration of Independence to even acknowldge that they have rights. Or to have waited for over a 100 years after the Constitution to get around to giving women the right to vote.

Enforcing a "common culture" is a great idea as long as you're a member of the dominant culture. Sort of sucks when you're not. I think we have plenty of wiggle room to allow other cultures to have their say too. And in the process, we might just create a new, and better, "American" culture. Something we've done in the past. We just couldn't be bothered to give credit to those other cultures.

terryannlibrarian said...

interesting take on bbw. i agree wholeheartedly! however, my bbw children's book displays always go like hotcakes, so i'll celebrate to keep kids reading great books. i'm so sneaky:)

Kack said...

Al,
The banned book phenomena in the US (and perhaps some others) is the thin edge of many dollar bills. I take that back. It's the thin edge of twenty and fifty dollar bills, maybe even some Ben Franklins. The hillbillies who complain about books are undercover book sellers. They "ban" the book on purpose so that more copies will sell. I remember back in the day when Judy Blume books were so taboo, especially "Forever" (especially in the bible belt). All the preacher's kids were sneaking out to buy it. Even I have to admit that as soon as I saw the drama about "Golden Compass" I ran out and bought it. The whole dealio about intellectual freedom is just a front for Borders and BN to rake in the sales, and just as much of a front for teachers like me to get kids interested in reading. They love reading something that causes drama. The real freedom that is being exercised here is the freedom of reverse psychology. It's the thin edge of a profit margin and/or Dr. Phil's hairline. Take your pick.

Kack said...

Al,
The banned book phenomena in the US (and perhaps some other countries) is the thin edge of many dollar bills. I take that back. It's the thin edge of twenty and fifty dollar bills, maybe even some Ben Franklins. The hillbillies who complain about books are undercover book sellers. They "ban" the book on purpose so that more copies will sell. I remember back in the day when Judy Blume books were so taboo, especially "Forever" (especially in the bible belt). All the preacher's kids were sneaking out to buy it. Even I have to admit that as soon as I saw the drama about "Golden Compass" I ran out and bought it. The whole dealio about intellectual freedom is just a front for Borders and BN to rake in the sales, and just as much of a front for teachers like me to get kids interested in reading. They love reading something that causes drama. The real freedom that is being exercised here is the freedom of reverse psychology. It's the thin edge of a profit margin and/or Dr. Phil's hairline. Take your pick.

Kack said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

That's a lot of reading. I think the bottom line is:
Is not having a book in the Library banning it. Of course it isn't. My assumption is that most Libraries have a limited amount of space and/or limited amount of money to purchase books. That being said, books must be 'selected', as we can't have every book published in every library. If a book is available without breaking any laws, then it isn't banned in my opinion. I'm fairly new to Libraries (Computer tech working in a library). One of the strangest library things I've seen from an outsiders point of view is the Banned Books. I read a poster about banned books and commented to the director "These books are really banned, I didn't think that happened in recent times". He then tells me, no they aren't banned...we have some of them here. I would hope "They" would have better things to do or a better way to promote reading. We have books here that people think we shouldn't have on the shelves and a few complaints--I just tell them not to read any books that offend them.

Porn @ your library. We have many patrons that use the Internet for productive purposes, and many that goof off. Computer screens are in full view of the staff/public. Filters for the bad stuff (no filter works perfectly). Caught once looking at porn, and you are banned indefinitely.

SafeLibraries.org said...

Happy you didn't fall for ALA propaganda. Actually, you did, then someone set you straight. Here, look at NATIONAL HOGWASH WEEK.

Now as to selection, look at The Librarian as Filter, Part 1. Not all librarians spout ALA propaganda.

Regarding Porn @ Your Library, see Adamson v. Minneapolis Public Library.

John said...

I think one thing that's maybe getting overlooked here is the way that collection decisions affect what gets published in the world of children's books. This is particularly true of teen novels, but also with books for younger kids.

Tens of thousands of collection development professionals have made bold choices in the last decade about the kind of YA novels they wanted to share with teenagers--the kind of honest and smart and rich novels that were then not often published for teens in the previous century.

I believe that the YA boom was largely due to those collection decisions: Books like "Speak" and "Perks of Being a Wallflower" and "Rats Saw God" got to kids, and then the kids bought them, and all at once, there was a market where previously there had been none, and publishers began to open up to the idea that it was possible to publish serious and seriously good novels for teens.

Obviously, it's not my place (nor AL's place) to tell anyone what belongs in a particular community's libraries. But don't undersell your role in the vitality of American publishing: Institutional sales may not be a large percentage of the market, but librarians are always ahead of the curve.

One more thing: A few people here have been tremendously condescending to teenagers, saying that they only like video games and never read and that the only Homer they know is on The Simpsons. I suppose I understand the frustrations of the profession, but there are millions of kids in America who care about books and blind poets. Let's not sell them short.

spinetingler said...

Wow. The first AL that I've felt truly missed the mark.

And in response to theis comment:

>Folks here get worked up in such a lather when ONE person...expresses dislike for a book or DVD...Doesn't that person get the freedom of expression, too?

They are certianly allowed to express their dislike. They're not allowed to let that dislike decide for everyone else.

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Chris said...

It comes down to this: if someone doesn't want a book in their library, they can remove it. If the library happens to be public then it gets removed by people who are in charge. If we, the "public" don't make a stink about it then it remains off the shelf and the people who were in charge will remain in charge. I don't believe in anything but self-censorship. As a member of any group whether that be a college, a household or a county, city or state we should take some responsibility for our institutions. This may include realizing that, even if the ALA and OIF are being overly dramatic about it being the beginning of the end of the world, they obviously feel it is very important and want to rally support. We don't have to give them any.