Friday, June 30, 2006

Librarians Behaving Badly, First in a Series

The dean of library services at the University of the Incarnate Word has cancelled the library's print subscriptions to the New York Times. This behavior is in shameful contrast to that of a Christian-school librarian I met in New Orleans, who hands out Harry Potters under the table. Yay, subversion!

10 comments:

rindambyers said...

Well, I'm not a Harry Potter fan (in particular the writing style), but it seems to me this school has gotten far, far away from its original mission of serving the poor in humility--see its history section (highly expensive to attend no doubt, too.) Gives me the creeps to even think of attending a school with a name like that. And since when do we need expensive educations before we can serve the poor in thsi world! I'm grateful the "Times" allows me to read its articles on line for free--now THAT'S freedom of the press in my book. Interesting how, when things get squished one way, they manage to get out another......

sdl said...

I feel sure that this ("Librarians behaving badly--first in a series) is doomed to be an extremely short series.

Roger Sutton said...

Oh Susan--you are such an innocent. Why, I could quote numerous examples from my own career. Or I could tell you about the boss I had who said we wouldn't purchase Show Me! because "it didn't have an index." Or the librarians who dodge the whole question about the independent librarians in Cuba because they don't have MLS's . . . or who didn't stock Jake and Honeybunch Go to Heaven because "there are no black people in my service area." Or the librarian who moved that stupid picture book about the gay penguins into nonfiction so people wouldn't stumble upon it "accidentally." And I will never forgive myself for inflicting the Weston Woods filmstrip of Time of Wonder onto a story hour.

sdl said...

Goodness, so many things to reply to...
I love Time of Wonder, and I even especially love the Weston Woods filmstrip of Time of Wonder. That idea of the world being recreated after a hurricane but also after each turn of the tide--amazing.

It has been many, many years since I laid eyes on Jake & Honeybunch, but I do remember vividly being in the little orientation group at CPL looking at it, and being so horrified by the stereotypical people eating watermelon and fried chicken that we wrote a letter that I think ended up in the NY Times. And then years later I kept hearing how much it hurt Margot Zemach's feelings and that was sad because I did love Margot Zemach. It is very hard to know when to voice an opinion.

I suppose this would be the time to mention that I do have the penguin book in the Parent Picture book section which has the alternate name of Daddy Drinks and the Dog Died. You may think of that as censorship but as I work in a community where one of the board members just wrote an opinion column in the local paper advising people not to have their kids read books because they're all about "abuse, sex, and suicide," so they should just watch movies like The Right Stuff instead, I feel that I'm serving my patrons well to have them available for them to check out and to be able to defend it.

And would you believe that I have had a boss who wouldn't let me mention in a review when I think something would be upsetting to a kid for fear that librarians wouldn't buy it because they don't want kids (or adults) to be upset?

rindawriter said...

Well, nothing now much surprises me after I went down town to my newly rennovated branch library and innocently asked the TWO librarians behind the desk for you know, the you-can- only-read-it-in-the library-most-recent-copy- of-the-Hornbook. I was so used to the Seattle children's librarians knowing all about it. These two librarians did not know what I was talking about! Not a clue. I am absolutely telling the truth. This really happened. They did not know what the Hornbook was! I was so upset I had to leave quickly before I stopped acting like a lady in public. It just seems to me that any librarian, anywhere in the U.S., ought to know at least, what the Hornbook is at least. Even if they don't use it???!! On with the series......

Melinda said...

Roger, is that library you're referring to (who moved the gay penguin book to nonfiction) ... located in St. Joseph, Mo? I know those librarians. And I know they know better. But about ten years ago we had a furor over "The Joy of Gay Sex," which included a library board meeting in which a room full of fundamentalists nearly dynamited the downtown branch. Those guys were scary.

I kind of wonder if the two events weren't related!

*shudder!*

Roger Sutton said...

The librarian in question is Barbara Read, director of the Rolling Hills Consolidated Library System in Missouri. Here's her brave defense of keeping the book: "the book can say to kids in nonnuclear familes that they--the kids--are okay regardless of how we feel about their parents' life choices." Hey, thanks, Barbara!

Roger Sutton said...

Oh, and Susan, dear: Not only did the CPL librarians write a letter to the publisher--FSG--about their anxieties re Jake and Honeybunch, said letter also included an announcement by then coordinator Liz Huntoon that the book would not be made available for purchase by branch libraries. That's what got it in the New York Times. I love the name of your parenting collection--and I think Tango belongs there: it's far more a vehicle for adult-child discussion than it is a successful picture book. What bugs me about the Missouri librarian is her oblivious bias.

I can't remember the book I muzzled you on--what was it?

Melinda said...

Cripes, Roger, knock it off, I'm trying to get a job with those guys!! (grin)

They're just ducking more controversy. In the last few years we've had divorcing library systems and an insane director lording it over everybody (she's gone now) and it was pretty crazy. But I do think their reaction to the penguin book sucked. As a library, they should stick to their guns. Even if the fundamentalists start moseying into the library with sticks of dynamite poking out of their back pockets.

Well, so much for my job.

BTW, the Rolling Hills library system just consists of the Eastside branch in St. Joseph and the little library here in Savannah. I'll reshelve the book the next time I drop by, how's that? Or, even worse, I'll check it out.

Melinda said...

I'll tell 'em Roger made me do it!