With Internet porn in public, some librarians will actually resort to saying something like, “who’s to say if it’s porn?” I admit, most librarians know it’s porn, and those that defend Internet porn in public usually go for equally stupid responses, such as that since porn is “Constitutionally protected speech” library patrons have a Constitutional right to view it in public at the library.
But I’m just talking about the first response for the moment.
Then there’s the “good books” debate, for lack of a better term. Should libraries spend their money on really bad but popular books, or should they spend money on better books and then promote them?
To that question, even more librarians than the public porn lovers would respond, “who are we to say what’s good and bad? We’re just librarians. We’re just tasteless bureaucrats who can do nothing more than look at a bestseller list and then order whatever is on it.”
Maybe it’s true that most librarians couldn’t tell a good book from a bad book. Perhaps they’re uneducated, despite their “master’s” degree. Or they just don’t read books, because libraries aren’t about books these days. For uneducated people who don’t read books, one book is as good as another. Any of them could be used to hide a gun or prop up a table.
But I digress.
If librarians can’t judge what’s porn or not or what’s good or not, then they have some explaining to do.
For example, they might claim that one person’s porn is another person’s erotica, but as far as I know no library has taken the Annoyed Librarian Porn Challenge, which would require them to put a copy of Hustler or some similar magazine in the children’s section of the library and then defend it against challenges. Why? Because they know it’s porn, and they can control whether it enters the building.
And speaking of challenges, when certain books are challenged, librarians jump on the bandwagon to defend them, often by saying what good books they are. “I know you hate gay penguins, but this book teaches important lessons about tolerance and respect and diving for fish.” Or whatever.
Finally, there are the book awards given by librarians, and the ALA hosts a lot of them. There’s the Newbery Medal, which you’ve probably heard of, and a whole bunch of other awards you probably haven’t. Most of those awards involve evaluating books and making judgments.
It’s not just the librarians on these committees that make the judgments, either. Other librarians buy books because they’ve won some award, even if it’s not handed out by librarians. No decent children’s library is going to be without the Newbery and Caldecott winners, because, you know, these are “good” books.
So when librarians claim they can’t judge what’s porn or not or what book is good or not, I have to wonder why they don’t buy porn in print if they can’t tell what’s porn or not, and why they give out so many book awards if they can’t tell good books from bad books.
The whole thing is very confusing. I have a sneaking suspicion that the claimed inability to judge is just a convenient fiction to be brought out whenever they get challenged for defending silly stuff, but maybe I’m just cynical.