Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Why isn't there a license to bear children?

Dan Gutman's analysis of a not-a-fan letter reminds me of the odd irony that non-readers ascribe to books a degree of power that actual readers can only wish books had.

(On a related note, one of our reviewers let us know that "ugly" is now a no-no word. That's stupid. See what I did?)

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Book people (librarians, reviewers, etc) sure do like to talk about the reactionary challenges to books that we can all agree are ludicrous, but I still want to know what would be done about books with, say, anti-gay messages. Actually, there are probably books in every school library with those, but I think we have the potential for a resurgence, with the convservative/evangelical Christian publishing industry booming and gaining mainstream acceptance (according to conservative Christians, anyway--I don't know if that's fact). I do think those have the potential to hurt people. Would it be wrong of me to bring such a book to the attention of my child's school librarian?

Roger Sutton said...

You mean like this one by the now-notorious Professor George?

I guess I would want to know what you mean by anti-gay messages. Should there be books in libraries like the one above, making the case for either the immorality of homosexuality or the possibility of "curing" it? Sure. I just hope there are other books with different perspectives.

Anonymous said...

Holy Shit, that is some book cover.

What I would argue (and have argued here before) is that when the ALA insists that only wingnuts complain about books, then the only people who complain about books will be wingnuts. Moderate, thoughtful people excuse themselves from the conversation because they don't want to seem like nutballs.

Maybe it is better overall to have no conversation and less censorship. I'm not sure about that part, but I do think it is too bad that there is so little trust between librarians and their communities. "On no account should parents have any input on library selections" on one hand, and "those amoral people are trying to corrupt our children" on the other. I wonder if there is any way to change that pattern of interaction without opening the door to a lot more censorship.

Anon2

Roger Sutton said...

Anon2--Of course I speak as part of the library crowd, but the problem is that community/parental input tends so often to be much more about taking a particular book OUT of the collection than it is suggestions for books that might be put IN. I think librarians would welcome discussions of the latter.

Anonymous said...

But I think you are only counting the times when a patron wants a book out and not counting the times a patron wants a book IN. If they want a book out, it's evil censorship. If they want a book in, that's just filling out a request form, something patrons do at most libraries. But it is just as much an effort to influence the collection as people wanting books out, and I think that if you look at the situation this way, there may be more requests to add than to subtract. But my point is that you evil . . um, I mean, you library types, DON'T look that the situation this way. You assume that anyone who wants to influence a library's collection must be a badguy and seem to actively discourage public input on the collections except in little tiny under-the-radar requests for books.

Whether you could grow your openminded participation without also proportionally growing your narrowminded participation is the trick question.

Anon2

Melinda said...

Anon2, I think my objection is that, if I really love a book, I don't get to tackle folks in the street and tell them READ THIS BOOK OR ELSE. Though when I tried that all the librarians said "Shh!" So now I quietly fill out a request form.

But folks who want to withdraw books generally gang up and use bullhorns and nine-pound hammers to get their point across.

Also, their catchphrases are catchier. I say, “This is an awesome book, you have got to read it!” They say, “That book has been spewed forth from the sewers of hell!”

Now how on earth do you top that.

Anonymous said...

Melinda, I thought I had made it pretty clear that I am not defending the wingnuts here. What I am saying is that the ALA's anti-censorship campaign which casts anyone who objects to a book in any venue for any reason as *ebil* makes reasonable people reluctant to talk about the subject for fear of lending support to the wingnuts, so you never get rational conversations on the subject, you only get crazy ones.

At any minute, s*fe l1br*ries is going to show up to agree with me and I will feel obliged to throw myself off a bridge, so I will stop.

Anon2

Anonymous said...

Here's an quandary, how hard do you work to keep people from removing a bad book, if they are removing the book for the wrong reasons? Here's a book that claimed to be a real diary, but wasn't. Claims to tell the truth about drug use, but doesn't. And is really unpleasant in its depictions of homosexuality. But the people who want to get rid of it are just complaining about the sex.


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