Ahh, the irony. Yesterday, I got an email telling me to prepare for Banned Books Week (or BBW, as it’s sometimes known). Then I read my morning paper only to discover an article about challenged books at the Brooklyn Public Library. Boy, I thought, those ALA marketing people are at the top of their game this time, getting an article about challenged books in the Paper of Record just as they’re preparing for BBW.
Instead of the usual snoozefest about how librarians defend offensive books and are the saviors of civilization, we are treated to a story of the Brooklyn Public Library basically not defending an offensive book. Tintin au Congo has been removed from the circulating collection because a patron found it "offensive to black people." So much for intellectual freedom! From the NYT:
"’It’s not for the public,’ a librarian in the children’s room said this month when a patron asked to see it.
The book, published 79 years ago, was moved in 2007 from the public area of the library to a back room where it is held under lock and key….
‘This is a special collection of historic children’s literature that is available for viewing by appointment only’ the library said in a letter explaining its decision."
Not for the public! Yeah, it’s "special" and "historic," which is why it’s easily available from Amazon. Usually special collections are designed to protect rare or special volumes. It seems this one is designed to protect delicate library patrons.
The ALA gets quoted, at least. "’Policies should not unjustly exclude materials and resources even if they are offensive to the librarian or the user,’’ says the Web site of the American Library Association, which adds, ‘Toleration is meaningless without tolerance for what some may consider detestable.’" In Brooklyn I guess tolerance doesn’t extend very far. According to the article, the library has had 11 challenges since 2005, but this is the only book to be removed from the stacks.
So it seems the ALA marketing people aren’t at the top of their game. One person complains that a 70 year old French cartoon book is offensive, and suddenly that book is "not for the public" and removed from circulation. One might expect this down in Rubeville, South Carolina, but to have big city librarians doing that doesn’t say much for the ALA ideology. I often note that the public pays no attention to what the ALA says. Now, it turns out that librarians don’t either.
Contact the AL: firstname.lastname@example.org