Sometimes all the ALA propaganda about Band Books inspires passionate if misguided people to believe books are censored in America. You have to make a lot of unjustified mental leaps to believe that books are censored, but believing in nonexistent censorship doesn’t really inspire action, unless posting a supportive comment on Facebook counts as action. [Homeschooling.]
But some people are inspired to action, and sometimes that action is a little weird. An example of that comes via LISNews in this article: Underground library stands up for books. As titles go, that ones pretty bad. It uses a tired metaphor without even slipping in a bad library pun.
The article applauds someone who:
wants to build a library in our great city. But not just any ol’ library. She wants Milwaukee to have an underground library of books banned in Tucson, Ariz. If she succeeds, and I hope she does, the library will be one of many popping up across the nation.
From Texas to California and all the way to New York, concerned Americans are gathering collections of titles banned in Tucson Unified School District classrooms. These “heinous” titles include such national authors as Sandra Cisneros, Henry David Thoreau and Junot Diaz, recipient of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. The school district even managed to include a few influential playwrights such as Luis Valdez and William Shakespeare.
Can you say, “Something is rotten in the state of Arizona?”
Everything about this is strange.
First, none of these books or authors are “banned in Tuscon, Ariz.” None of them. They’re all widely available at bookstores and the county library system, some of them in multiple formats and translations.
Second, the “great city” in which someone wants to build an underground library is Milwaukee. That makes the “underground library” really convenient for the poor students of Tuscon who aren’t being assigned these books in classes. Instead of heading to the bookstore or their local branch of the county library system, they can conveniently travel the 1800 miles to Milwaukee and use the underground library. And they’ll need lamps because underground libraries don’t have any natural light.
Why protest an alleged book banning in Arizona by collecting some books in Wisconsin? That’s like protesting the inability of Christians to legally proselytize Muslims in Saudi Arabia by putting bibles in hotel rooms all over America. Wait, maybe that’s what inspired the Gideons.
The idea to build an “underground library” full of books that are widely available for free in Milwaukee and Tucson was inspired by “a movement of librotraficantes, a.k.a. “book smugglers,” headed to Tucson to sneak in banned books. They also vowed to create underground libraries to house those alleged coup-inciting books.”
This is such a typically radical librarian thing to do: pretend to be subversive and daring by doing something that’s not remotely prohibited by any law, including some of the apparently xenophobic laws in Arizona. Unless the underground librarians are planning to sneak into classrooms and start teaching kids Sandra Cisneros, all this feelgood drama is completely unnecessary.
It’s like the ludicrous Occupy Wall Street’s “People’s Library.” They brought together some books and provided them for free to people and seemed to think they were doing something equivalent to circulating The Gulag Archipelago in the Soviet Union in the seventies. You could be really daring and sneak into a park to read dangerous literature, or you could just go check it out for free from the public library.
There’s no need for these libraries to be “underground,” literally or figuratively. The books are easily found for free in public libraries in Tucson. Unless it’s to draw attention to yourself and what a good person you are, why waste any time trying to solve a nonexistent problem?
We already have a solution to making so-called banned books available to people. It’s free to everyone, and it’s staffed by often mild mannered, sometimes hard working people who don’t draw a lot of attention to themselves. You want to read Sandra Cisneros for free? Go to the public library. That’s what it’s there for, even in Arizona.