Those of you who keep track of library news, or who read the comments to my post last week, probably know about The Library Diaries, by "Ann Meketa." "Ann Meketa" turns out to be "Sally Stern-Hamilton," who worked at the public library in "Luddington, Michigan" for fifteen years until being fired for publishing the book. (You might have to register to view the news story.) It seems The Library Diaries, though purportedly fictional, says mean things about the perverts and crazy characters populating the novel, and some real Luddington people greatly resembling these fictional perverts and crazies patronize Stern-Hamilton's previous place of employment. Just in case the connection between her real life experiences and her fiction wasn't obvious enough, she put a picture of the Luddington Library on the cover of the book. Very clever, Sally!
There are comments both on the Amazon page and the news page going back and forth over the book (including one from some idiot named "Lon" who thinks we should ignore this story and instead be concerned about the Muslim running for POTUS). Some claim that this is a privacy issue, and that she has somehow violated the privacy of the Luddington Library patrons by writing a fictionalized account of some questionable activities and calling characters perverts. That's the point of view of the earnest librarian, no doubt, but who on earth would listen to an earnest librarian.
Some claim that this is a free speech or intellectual freedom issue and that Stern-Hamilton was unjustly fired for exercising her free speech, since apparently she hadn't done anything wrong at work. She wrote a book. The library director fired her because of it. That could be the view of other earnest librarians, those who actually believe all the guff emanating from the ALA about intellectual freedom. Intellectual freedom means the freedom to think like them. I would be very surprised if the ALA Office of "Intellectual Freedom" made any statement whatsoever about this issue. It's pretty obvious from their focus that they think there's something "intellectual" about watching porn in the library. Just goes to show what passes for intellect at the ALA.
According to Stern-Hamilton's own report, she has "not been able to find one lawyer to make a First Amendment (Freedom of Speech, Press) case or even a whistleblower case." Probably not a lot of constitutional lawyers in Luddington, though. Still, given the alleged content of the book, I doubt the ACLU would be very interested. They talk a good game, but civil liberties aren't for everyone, you know.
The story has some strange parts to it. The author claims not to know how Robert Dickson (aka "The Library Director who fires people for writing books") came to know about her little self-published, pseudonymous tome. However, according to one of the comments, people in Luddington learned of the book because the author wrote everyone she knew telling them she'd published it. Speaking from personal experience on this one, I'd have to say you screwed the pooch there, Sally, if indeed you did tell everyone about it. The whole point of a pseudonym is to mask identity and create a different persona. You should have taken a lesson from Auntie AL.
Another commenter thinks it's somehow significant that "even the local retailers in the author's community have refused to sell the book." I'm sure that has everything to do with it being such a mean book and absolutely nothing to do with it being a self-published, print-on-demand title. I'm sure the Bookmark Espresso Cup Coffee Shop in Luddington stocks a lot of books like that.
What puzzles me is why anyone at the library would even care. The director is apparently afraid that the perverts will be offended that someone has written a bad, self-published novel calling characters perverts, because we all know it's highly likely that they're going to read this book and start protesting. This is a book that no one would have heard of and almost no would would have bought. Based on some of the comments, and not just from earnest librarians, the book just sounds like a bad novel, which would explain the vanity press.
Wait, perhaps that's it. Perhaps Dickson was just making all that stuff up about firing the woman because she calls fictionalized characters perverts. Maybe he was really firing her because he read the book, realized that it was a damn silly piece of sub-literary garbage, and couldn't stand working with someone who was such a bad writer. I can see that. I feel the same way sometimes when I read article drafts from some of my colleagues.
Or maybe it's because she committed the ultimate librarian sin: she said something critical about libraries. Many librarians seem to have the critical capacity of cheerleaders. Rah, rah, rah, libraries are all perfect! If we expose any of the unpleasant truths about our libraries, then people will be scared away, so let's cheer, cheer, cheer! Yay! The ALA is one big library cheerleader team, and they look really bad in those outfits.
Longtime readers know how many people used to criticize this blog just because it was mean and didn't speak happy thoughts about librarianship. And of course it's much worse if you don't publish under your real name and "take responsibility" for your words and all that other gobbledygook earnest librarians babble when they don't like what people say. One "distinguished library school professor," if there be such, once wrote somewhere that she wanted people like me and that other anonymous blogger David Durant of Heretical Librarian outed to our colleagues so they could see how awful we were for daring to question the ALA party line. (Durant was never anonymous or pseudonymous, but this particular professor wasn't one to let total ignorance stand in the way of her ideology.) She's probably cheering the Luddington Library right about now, along with all the other earnest, humorless librarians out there.