By now you might have read about the kid allegedly running a library of "banned" books out of his locker at a Catholic school. (It’s been making the rounds of blogs and lists and a kind reader sent it on to me as well.) It begins as a question on Yahoo Answers, but it’s obviously a question that no one really wants an answer to: "Is it OK to run an illegal library from my locker at school?" In addition to being a fake question, the phrasing of the question is almost nonsensical. After all, if the behavior in question is actually illegal, then it’s probably not okay. Compare: "Is it OK to run an illegal heroin sales operation from my locker at school?"
However, we’re not really talking about anything that’s illegal, just supposedly prohibited by the school. "Let me explain. I go to a private school that is rather strict. Recently, the principal and school teacher council released a (very long) list of books we’re not allowed to read."
This is the point at which I began to suspect that the questioner was either an idiot or a liar. Books the children aren’t allowed to read? Exactly how would that be enforced? This is followed by a list of classics and kid’s books and some popular trashy reading. In the list are The Canterbury Tales and The Divine Comedy. Yeah, that seems likely. Why are these books allegedly forbidden? "Most of the books were banned because they contained information that opposed Catholisism." Passing over the fact that we have an alleged Catholic school student who doesn’t know how to spell Catholicism, how likely is it that a Catholic school would ban The Divine Comedy? This would be like some rube evangelical school banning the King James Version of the Bible.
So what does this alleged kid allegedly do? Set up a library from his locker, where he loans out all of these books. "I now have 62 books in that locker, about half of what was on the list." Just how big are the lockers in this school? Assuming approximately ten books per foot, supposedly this kid has the equivalent of six feet of shelving in his locker, though no doubt the alleged popularity of his alleged library gives his locker a bit of breathing space.
If this doesn’t already sound implausible enough, consider the profile of the asker: "About me: Hey. My name is Katniss, and I am a writer. Lately I’ve been working on screenplays–my cousin said if they were any good he’d help me get them made into films–, but I much prefer novels. Nothing published yet, but I’ve had a few companies say that they’re interested in one novel I’m currently writing!" In addition to writing novels, Katniss also likes to write bogus Yahoo Answers questions.
The answers and comments are insufferably stupid. Here’s the "best" answer, as chosen by Katniss. "This is freaking fantastic. I can’t even explain how amazing I think you are. Technically, you’re breaking school rules and you could get into trouble for this "shady business" but I think it’s well worth it. Keep doing it. Years from now, you’ll be able to look back on this and go, "Man, was I cool." (Some of us can only say that for attempting to break a world record and failing.) I have so much respect for you and I don’t even know you." This is pretty typical for the level of both questions and answers on Yahoo Answers, which seems to be a community of nitwits.
The kind reader who sent this on to me thinks it’s a hoax and said it’s been making the rounds of library listservs, with librarians of course praising the person and apparently at least one suggesting a "full ride MLS." though I’m not sure if that was to be a form of praise or punishment for the kid. I suspect Katniss might already be a librarian given the large number of questions he’s answered on Yahoo Answers. This was probably an attempt to make librarians cool to high school students. I doubt it worked. Or perhaps Katniss is an undercover agent for the OIF.
So, the question is, are there really librarians out there stupid enough to believe this happened? Obviously there were people reading the initial question who were stupid enough to believe it, but that’s unsurprising given the intellectual quality of the Yahoo Answers community.
And if you’re not stupid enough to believe it happened, is it something worth discussing at all? Is it the sort of false event that at least allows us to gain a lesson from it, or is it so implausibly stupid that we can learn nothing at all even by talking about it? I suspect it’s the latter, in which case I wonder what those librarians who enjoyed the story and are praising it got out of it. The only thing I got out of it was a blog post.