Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Just Give Us a Reason

There’s some “censorship” afoot in the Palmetto State, and I’m not talking about the recurring attempts to remove the Confederate flag from the state capitol grounds. Besides, if they removed the flag, the rest of us might have to stop laughing at South Carolina, and where would the fun be in that.

The director of the Greenville County Library removed a graphic novel from the adult collection of the library after a parent complained about the book. I briefly mentioned this a few weeks ago after reading this article, calling it a stupid decision, but the latest article on the topic makes it a puzzling decision as well.

The basic facts are pretty clear. A teenage girl checked out the book Neonomicon from the adult section of the library using someone’s adult library card.

Adult book. Adult section of the library. No porn. No children watching it as they pass through the library.

Later her meddlesome mother discovered there were some unsavory parts of the book and complained to the library and asked that the book be removed. Not from the children’s section, but from the entire library.

A committee met to review the complaint, and elected to keep the book because it was award winning and in line with the library’s collection policy. The director overrode the decision. What I can’t figure out from the news account is why.

There’s a brief video of an interview with the director where she tries to explain the decision by not explaining the decision at all. It’s a minute of her saying things like, “we removed a DVD once because it wasn’t as popular as we thought it would be.” Um, okay.

There are also very strange things like this: “James said the situation is the polar opposite [of the library as “a place to provide a wide range of information to people of all beliefs and backgrounds]. She doesn’t — and didn’t — take the situation lightly. Banning a book goes against everything she’s built her reputation on….”

So she didn’t take the decision lightly. Okay. And she “banned” the book, but “banning” books goes against her reputation, or something. This isn’t making sense yet.

There there are some lines that are probably out of a self-help book that wasn’t banned. ““It’s not easy,” she said. “Every decision you make, you hope is the right one. You face challenges every day.”

Okay. Making decisions is challenging. It’s probably even more challenging when you just make random decisions without knowing why.

There’s a library collection policy that states: “The library recognizes that many materials are controversial and that any given item may offend some. Only individuals can determine what is most appropriate for their needs.”

No, wait, that’s not helping anything. That’s probably what led the committee to keep the book.

The closest we get to an explanation is this:

“It was disgusting,” she said, declining to label it obscene or pornographic.

She acknowledged the library has many books that deal in such detail with the very same subject matter — racism, rape, murder, sex — but for her, the pictures gave her pause.

So it’s not obscene or pornographic, but it is “disgusting,” and it has pictures, but they’re not porn.

I wonder if there are any books in that library with pictures of cockroaches, rats, maggots, or other things people find disgusting.

Seriously, “this book is yucky” might be an understandable reason for a third grader to avoid it, but it sounds pretty silly as a reason for a library director to override her own collection policy and the decision of her staff.

All the ALA-type talk about censorship is nonsense, since the book is available for sale. However, the situation is bizarre because the director seems incapable of providing any kind of intelligent justification for her decision.

Some intellectual freedom advocate compared this to the Fifty Shades of Grey controversies, but the only library I saw banning that had a reason. Their collection policy said no porn and they considered the book porn. Everyone arguing against that director ignored the only question worth asking.

This director doesn’t have a policy or a reason for her decision. She just sort of makes it up as she goes along and then evades the question of why.

The news article says “she looks every bit the librarian she is,” playing on those stereotypes, but let’s hope making arbitrary decisions with no rational explanations isn’t part of the stereotype.

The “censorship” is only a controversy for librarians who like to play fast and loose with words. That irrationality shouldn’t be met with more irrationality.

My book challenge is this: that library director should at least provide an intelligible explanation for her decision. There are all sorts of reasons for removing books from libraries, as she mentions. So why not give us one?

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Comments

  1. The Librarian With No Name says:

    Perhaps it’s those elusive public librarian standards finally making an appearance.

  2. cranky librarian says:

    Ummmm… check the Board of Directors?

    http://www.greenvillelibrary.org/index.php/Board-of-Trustees/

    Bev James walks a very fine line very well in the community she serves. The GCLS did not reduce hours or staffing during the economic downturn and increased programming. She also has ensured that the monies earmarked for the library system stay in the library system and even increase. Name another system that was as robust as it has been during the past 5 years.

    This isn’t library school. This is a system that is based on the buckle of the bible belt, serves its community well, and tries its best to be as open as it can possibly be considering its community. I learned that community standards really are a guide to what can be considered pornographic somewhere. The Supreme Court ruled so.

    I have no high horse to stand on. Bev James did what she thought was best for the entirety of the Greenville County Library System. That is the community she serves and the community standards she must meet.

    • Dan Kleinman says:

      Good response.

      I also note this: “The ‘censorship’ is only a controversy for librarians who like to play fast and loose with words.”

    • Cut Both Ways says:

      “Community standards” versus “The library recognizes that many materials are controversial and that any given item may offend some. Only individuals can determine what is most appropriate for their needs.”

      Add the context of the author Alan Moore’s career as well as the book’s critical and library staff reception. If the director has a solid reason for “de-selecting” the book, she should elaborate on that reason and settle the issue instead of dancing around her criteria for removal.

    • Dan Kleinman says:

      I must say that when libraries routinely refuse to select books having content about “ex-gays,” as AL has written about in the past, no one ever demands that the libraries “elaborate on that reason and settle the issue instead of dancing around [the] criteria for” not selecting the work in the first place.

      For example, Lancaster Public Library, PA, refused a book on teaching children to recognize when someone was trying to sexually abuse them because the book mentioned Jesus Christ. No librarian said a peep, although the community was shocked. Nevermind the effort to try to stop the crime, library agenda trumps that. See:
      http://safelibraries.blogspot.com/2012/07/library-guilty-of-religious.html

      But let a library director apply community standards and that’s no good. Then and only then do we demand to examine the motives of the library director. Clearly library directors who follow community standards must know their entire profession will look down on them and demand answers. That pressure is used to stop library directors from acting in the interest of the community, as opposed to the profession as defined and enforced by the ALA.

      I can think of other library directors who suffer similarly. Can you?

    • me says:

      I clicked your link Dan and noticed that all the articles written about the topic were by you. Maybe if it was written by someone who isn’t absolutely crazy I could actually believe them.

    • Dan Kleinman says:

      @Me, thanks for the ad hominem comments where you made the false claim that I only cited to myself and that I’m “absolutely crazy.” I suppose saying this constantly will make it come true, right?

      My link discussed a law case that ruled a library had discriminated for religious reasons. Another library discriminated against Christians. Another library censored the artwork of Christian children. Another story was cited where faithful Christians were not allowed on library boards.

      I even cited the Annoyed Librarian herself, just as I mentioned in my original comment, for how selection is used to censor.

      And yet, @Me, you say, “I clicked your link Dan and noticed that all the articles written about the topic were by you. Maybe if it was written by someone who isn’t absolutely crazy I could actually believe them.” @Me, you are a person who flat out lies in an attempt to stop people from looking at the information I present. In other words, you are smearing me to censor me. When will you stop using this forum repeatedly to make your repeatedly false and just plain mean spirited claims? Never, I suppose.

    • me says:

      So you’re telling me that of the 8 articles listed in that link, 7 of them DON’T have your name in the by-line? You’d think that library boards would be one place that would be safe from tea-bagger rhetoric and this “attack on christianity” BS. If anyone is using these forums to make false claims its YOU.

      If you actually wanted to bring light to these “library issues” you would link the original articles and let them stand on their own. Instead you include your warped interpretation of every article with the link. Only a crazy person would come to the conclusions you are coming too.

    • Dan Kleinman says:

      @Me – “Tea-bagger”? Now you’re making fun of homosexuals.

      The point I made that you are trying to cover up by attacking me and homosexuals so viciously is this: when a library director takes action in accordance with community standards, the entire vocal library establishment comes down on her head. But let a library director take action that harms the community, then there is silence. Consider the Holyoke Public Library director aiding and abetting the patron viewing child pornography, essentially becoming an accessory after the fact. Did anyone say boo about her, other than the librarian she ordered to cover up the crime? No. Did the American Library Association do anything? No. Did Library Journal write about this aspect of the story? No. It’s sad, but I’m the only one trying to help beleaguered librarians, and I do it by speaking with them and writing, and for that I occasionally get attacked by a few like you, and especially by the ALA OIF.

      When I speak with beleaguered librarians, I typically hear the same thing, namely, I’m the only one or one of the few who cared enough to call to lend support. Isn’t that sad? You have a huge American Library Association with nearly unlimited resources enough to hand out thousand dollar grants quietly to locals promoting ALA policy, but let a librarian get kicked out of work for recommending balance on a freshman reading list, or let a librarian refuse to collect 50 Shades, or let a librarian or many of them undergo serial sexual harassment as a result of ALA porn policy, and no one calls to lend support? Just SafeLibraries? No one writes about it? Just SafeLibraries, Annoyed Librarian, and a very few others?

      @Me, when you attack people as you do, you are perpetuating the very reason why librarians are afraid to speak up. And that is your goal. It’s a form of censorship. You are maintaining the attack politics used to silence the issues of the harms to librarians and communities brought about by others whom you support and who sometimes behave like you. And that too is your goal.

      My goal is to try to help librarians and communities by educating people how the ALA and people like you mislead them to shoehorn them into the thinking the ALA wants them to think. My sources to prove this comprise the US Supreme Court, Dean Marney who won those state and federal filtering case recently, the author of the Children’s Internet Protection Act who wrote on how the ALA is misleading a third of American libraries (bet you didn’t know that because no library media other then myself reported that), and even the ALA itself when, in unguarded moments, it makes admissions against its own interests, such as when the ALA OIF director admitted filters work and work well or when Judith Krug admitted if a book does not met a school’s selection policy, “get it out of there.”

      So go ahead and continue to mock me, @Me. I’ll continue on to support librarians and communities and use the reliable sources I do. And I’ll continue to link to my writings that link to numerous reliable resources because everyone else does it and it’s easier to link one or two stories than it is to relink dozens.

      “Only a crazy person would come to the conclusions you are coming too.” Librarians are not sexually harassed? They are not being ridiculed for bringing balance to college reading lists? They are not revealing their library director is covering up criminal activity? Library media is right to bury these stories, not publish them at all, or changing the wording of key facts? And I’m crazy for being one of the few voices revealing this? The thanks I get and the satisfaction I get by helping children and people including librarians whom others and their associations ignore and sometimes attack, as is the case in the current story AL discussed, far outweighs your repeated pseudonymous attacks.

    • me says:

      “Tea-bagger”? Now you’re making fun of homosexuals.”

      You don’t know the meaning of the term, really? Also, you must not know a real person from the LGBTQ community. If you referenced them as a “homosexual” they’d probably deck you. (http://www.glaad.org/reference/offensive – for your future reference).

      I wasn’t referencing all of the other drivel you’ve written or posted. I was specifically referencing your post that librarian’s are somehow trying to censor Christianity which is simply a load of crap. You are simply towing the tea party line with this nonsense.

    • Dan Kleinman says:

      @me, apparently you have not read the very post you ridicule. For example, in the one where I discuss how the library censored the Christians according to a court case, I also pointed out that the ALA had the correct policy and would not have condoned the library’s actions.

      Specifically, I said, “Even the American Library Association [ALA] is on the right side on this issue: ‘Library Gets Religion; ALA Right Again,’ by Dan Kleinman, SafeLibraries, 23 June 2009. But I believe ALA has more work to do to get out the message so more libraries will not lose more money in religious discrimination cases.”

      But this is you: “I was specifically referencing your post that librarian’s are somehow trying to censor Christianity which is simply a load of crap. You are simply towing the tea party line with this nonsense.”

      Apparently, besides your gay hate, you also have truth hate. But hey, you didn’t call me crazy for once. Oh look, I supported ALA and its policy regarding nondiscrimination and meeting rooms. Crazy!

      @Me, identify yourself if you want a shred of credibility. And have you helped any librarian under duress such as in the situations I described above? Even one? Can you even name one?

      I’m going out soon, so I won’t be able to respond to your false vitriol any further. But I’ll continue to support librarians and communities who are being misled and harmed by people just like you. And if anyone would like help, please contact me.

    • Way Barra says:

      Mr. Kleinman, speaking as a public librarian who supports the use of filtering on public computers, enforces standards of behavior within library facilities, considers community standards an important aspect of collection development, encourages active public participation in the governance of my organization, and couldn’t care less about the ALA’s official position on any given issue, let me be perfectly blunt:

      I don’t need ‘help’ or ‘support’ from a conspiracy theorist who launches into hyper-defensive rants every time someone looks at him cross-eyed on the internet.

    • me says:

      Dan, I’d tell you to go sit in the corner with your dunce cap, but you’d probably put in on upside down. (Hint: The pointy end goes up).

    • Development Arrested says:

      I think that every post underneath cranky librarian’s is incredibly stupid.

      Probably mine included.

    • Morse says:

      Oh, Dan, you seemed to calm down for a while. Your comments were brief and coherent. Now you’re back to sounding like your typical hostile, paranoid self, launching long incoherent attacks at anyone who disagrees with you as if anyone reads them. (Hint: probably no one bothered to read after you confused “teabagger” with some sort of anti-gay slur, because you sounded like a crazy person.)

      Dan, seek that intervention like I suggested a few weeks ago. Don’t take our word for it. Really. Don’t you have any family or friends? Show them all the crazy stuff you write, and the paranoid rants you go off on. Maybe they can help. There is probably medication for it, but the best solution would be for you to go Internet free for a while. That’s the solution I’m recommending if any of your loved ones read this and finally show some concern.

      You probably don’t realize that some of the commenters here bait you just to watch you sound off like a madman. Don’t give them the satisfaction, Dan. Seek help. You’ll be better off for it.

    • ImWithDan says:

      I’m with dan. The guy makes a valid point and all the noise to silence him makes it only more interesting. The silent majority supports him. Thank you, dan.

    • me says:

      Really, the silent majority? If they’re silent then how do you know they exist? The one thing that you both have in common is that you both sound crazy. You must ignore the voices in your head!

  3. The Mocking Librarian says:

    I would just like to point out that it was the Library Director not the staff who made the decision to ban the book and with an explanation that qualifies her to run for the Absurb Librarian of the Year contest.

  4. Cut Both Ways says:

    Someone needs to tell Greenville Online that “Neonomicon” is available at several South Carolina public libraries.

  5. Friendly ghost says:

    AL wrote:
    “Later her meddlesome mother…”
    Okay – - I get it that institutions no longer function in loco parentis.
    But now you’re telling me that even parents aren’t supposed to act as parents?
    What?!