Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

The Full Wool

Sometimes it’s amusing to look at the time and energy librarians put into things that probably aren’t worth it.

For example, take a look at Sweater Vest Sunday, dubbed by someone on the Publib listserv as the “worst marketing ever.” Kind Reader sent this link, but I think you have to scroll down to find the discussion.

We know someone at ALA must be excited about it, because there are three exclamation points in the first four sentences. Heck, there are two exclamation points in just the first sentence, which is quite a feat of exclamation pointery.

In case you can’t bear to click, here’s most of what you need to know:

ALA Midwinter 2013 attendees – and all fans of intellectual freedom – can take a stand for the freedom to read (and for fashion!) by participating in Sweater Vest Sunday!  All day on Sunday, January 27, 2013, help spread the word about the importance of reporting challenges to library materials by wearing a sweater vest to your meetings, lunches, programs, and special events.  On site in Seattle, ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) staff and volunteers will be passing out stickers and postcards to Midwinter attendees.  And at 2:45 p.m. at the ALA Member Pavilion in booth 1650 on the exhibit floor, everyone is invited to a group photo of librarians showing off their sweater vests!

Take a stand for the freedom to read (and for fashion!)! Stickers! Am I the only one who reads this and feels a little bit of my librarian soul die?

Wearing a sweater vest to support the freedom to read? Why? What’s the connection? It turns out there is a very tenuous connection.

In 2011, the Office for Intellectual Freedom unveiled the “It’s Everybody’s Job” Challenge Reporting Campaign to encourage the reporting of challenges to materials in libraries and schools.  Conceived by librarian Andy Woodworth, the campaign commissioned original artwork (inspired by World War II-era public safety notices) that can be shared online and printed as posters and bookmarks.  The posters and bookmarks feature a librarian rocking … a sweater vest!

There’s another exclamation point. Someone either gets very excited about sweater vests, or else hopes the excited punctuation will help us get excited. It’s not working.

Okay, so they made a poster that happened to have a librarian in a sweater vest, er, sorry, “rocking a sweater vest,” as if that’s possible. What I find curious is that in a profession that’s 85% female, the representative librarian is a man. What’s up with that? They could at least have given him a bun and had him shushing people.

Regardless, that wasn’t necessarily a good reason to have Sweater Vest Sunday. Why not Bow Tie Sunday? Or Clipboard Sunday? Or Goofy Looking White Guy Sunday?

Looking closer, we see that wearing a sweater vest isn’t even an arbitrary way to support the freedom to read. It’s a way to support the reporting of book challenges in libraries, which isn’t really the same thing.

Just because some yokel doesn’t like books with gay penguins doesn’t mean we don’t have the freedom to read. Even library directors who remove books from a library because they’re yucky doesn’t affect that freedom. The books are out there and we can read them. Take that, North Korea!

Add up all the book challenges out there and what do you have? A drop in the ocean compared to the books available to the public, even the challenged books. I guess I should be happy they didn’t say “wear a sweater vest to fight censorship! (and fashion!)”

Encouraging the reporting of book challenges is a very incomplete and unsatisfying way to promote the freedom to read, which might make the sweater vest appropriate since sweater vests are incomplete sweaters for people who just can’t commit to the full wool. That’s what I’m calling a real sweater now, the full wool.

People committed to intellectual freedom and the freedom to read don’t have to worry about book challenges, because intellectual freedom is alive and well in these United States. They don’t have to be concerned with small nuisances, because they know that intellectual freedom has the full protection of the U.S. Constitution. And if there’s a serious challenge, they’d call on the ACLU, not the ALA.

If you fret over the nonexistent danger to intellectual freedom posed by book challenges, by all means wear a sweater vest next Sunday. If instead you’re proud to know that those freedoms are fully protected regardless of the occasional library book challenge, don’t wear a sweater vest. Commit to the full wool.

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Comments

  1. Walt Lessun says:

    I’d prefer “Clothing-optional Sunday.” That would earn an exclamation point!

  2. John says:

    Bow tie Sunday? Fuck yeah!

  3. GetAClue says:

    You sound rather cynical about these grassroots efforts to make a unified statement to the greater world.

    Does this mean you won’t be attending my “Buns for Students” event at Midwinter to promote the profession to undergraduates and career-changers who may not yet know they too can get an MLS and have a fantastic career! If you don’t support this movement how can we get enough students to replace all the retiring librarians???

  4. “in a profession that’s 85% female”

    Think about that.

    The government just lifted the ban on women in front line combat.

    Think about that.

    Can a draft be too far off given the way our enemies are arming while we are disarming and politicizing our remaining forces?

    “in a profession that’s 85% female”

    The draft might change that, no?

  5. Morse says:

    Oh,Dan, here you go again. You turn a frivolous post on sweater vests into some sort of strange political comment. What does a campaign about challenged books have to do with a draft and how “our enemies are arming”? What enemies are those, Dan? You seem to see enemies all around you. Dan, please, seek the intervention. I know you won’t. I have little hope for you at this point. You live in some right wing paranoid echo chamber. You’re totally incapable of looking at the world as anything other than “enemies” of the “truth,” which you just happen to be a lone defender of. Dan, you’re mentally ill. Everyone here sees it but you. Are there no loved ones you can seek help from? Have you alienated them all? It must be sad to look at the world through your paranoid eyes.

    • I made a legitimate observation based on today’s news about women in combat and in response to the AL’s post here. That I’m the first to made that observation vis-a-vis the library profession means my opinion is necessarily in the minority, but does not mean it should be ridiculed offhand by a nameless commenter who repeatedly belittles me.

      I’ll bet dollars to donuts if a draft occurs, the ALA will be concerned, legitimately so, about the effect of such a draft on librarianship. Indeed, the effect could be significant. It doesn’t hurt to begin to think about such things and perhaps prepare for them.

    • me says:

      A draft isn’t going to occur. Your point is irrelevant and I would hardly say pulling out half a sentence from AL’s post and connecting it to something totally unrelated is making some type of astute observation. Just because she made mention that 85% of the profession is women doesn’t mean it was the crux of her idea.

    • @me, I’m sorry you feel that way. The lifting of the ban on woman in combat units had just occurred that day. It was all over the news. Everyone was talking about it. They are still talking about it. So I was talking about it. I applied it to librarianship given what AL said. I am sorry I never fit your mold of what speech is allowable and what speech is to be ridiculed. Sheesh, your supposed to be an information specialist promoting free speech and equal access. Show it once in a while.

    • me says:

      I never said you couldn’t say any of the crazy things you say. But when I see those crazy things I will respond in kind. Feel free to continue posting whatever off-topic things you want.

  6. Morse says:

    Dan, you left an irrelevant comment to make an obscure political point about an unrelated issue because you’re a troll. That’s what trolls do. There’s no point in engaging trolls on the object of their obsessions, so I’m not trying.

    I’m not ridiculing you to say I believe you have some semi-serious psychological problems. But don’t take my word for it. Are there any people who care about you? Just show them your blog and all the comments you leave here (and presumably everywhere else). Ask them in all honesty if it seems like the writing of a delusional, paranoid, obsessive person and see what they say. If they’re at all honest, they’ll say yes and get you the help you need. Admitting your problem is the first step to recovery. Instead of getting defensive all the time, why don’t you take a good look at yourself. Instead of attacking the mote in my eye, take a look at the beam in your own.

    • You’re wrong, but let me address this: “Are there any people who care about you?”

      I just spoke with a librarian who told me how much she can’t stand the porn viewing in the library, how none of the other librarians like it, how her management refuses to stop it because it follows the ALA/ACLU diktat, how fearful they all are of their management were they to try to stop it, how they would not do anything to jeopardize their jobs, but how they appreciate that I’m out there signing their song.

      So you keep hating me, Morse. I’ve got plenty of friends who are really hurting as a direct result of ALA policy and practice. I wish I were not in this position of being one of the few friends for such librarians, but the ALA simply will not tolerate them, as Will Manley has pointed out, quoting him now:

      Why is there such a disconnect between our profession and everyone else on this particular issue? More specifically, how could we have allowed ourselves to be put in such a publicly disadvantageous position as defending the right of children to access pornography? The answer is simple and ironic. Our profession preaches intellectual freedom but does not tolerate its practice within our own ranks. Librarians imbued with common sense and good political judgment are afraid to espouse even a moderate position that advocates the limited use of filters. There is a great fear within librarianship of being branded a censor. No librarian wants to be wounded by that bullet. That’s why we can never really initiate an open and honest dialogue among ourselves on issues involving even the most obvious need for limitations of intellectual freedom. As a result, the extremists always dominate, and we end up with an “anything goes” official policy that distances the library profession from mainstream America.

  7. Morse says:

    As so often in the past, Dan, you’re confused. Nobody is “hating” you. That feeling is just your way of turning any legitimate criticism into some sort of personal attack. I don’t hate anyone. On the contrary, I would love it if you could get the help you need so that you wouldn’t be so frenetic and obsessed all the time. It can’t be good for your psychological state.

    You also either deliberately or unintentionally misunderstood about people who care about you. Some alleged librarian who allegedly appreciates your efforts isn’t what I was talking about, and you should know that. Are there loved ones you could turn to? Friends you could trust? Workmates who you haven’t alienated? I’m trying to be fair here. I’m not suggesting you take my word about your psychological disturbances. Just find one or two of those people, and show them all the stuff you write. Not just the occasionally relevant and lucid comment on libraries, but everything taken as a whole. Then ask what they think about it and listen to them. As long as you keep making it about your fragile ego and the supposed hate for you that people have, you’ll never be able to take that step. Anyway, Dan, the whole point it that I don’t want you to just listen to “nameless commenters” who supposedly hate you. Find real people in your life who care about you as a person and then ask them. For your own sake, Dan, not for all of ours.

    • @Morse, you’ll be interested in this:

      Blogger Held, Put in Mental Ward
      2013-01-26
      Another Vietnamese blogger critical of the government is arrested.

      I add that not to make light of the Vietnamese free speech victim. Rather, it illustrates exactly what you are doing by repeatedly making false statements about my alleged mental state in serial AL blog post comments. You may be making jokes, but it’s a sick joke, and it is not a joke elsewhere, so I’ll ask you to stop making comments as you have. If you do not, I’ll ask Library Journal to intervene in some manner as your comments are personally destructive and harmful, as is evidenced by the actions taking against the Vietnamese blogger, and the repetitiveness with which you make your comments. Thank goodness we live in the USA, but it is clear if you had your way, you would act in the manner of the Vietnamese government to silence dissent.

      RADIO FREE ASIA: “Vietnamese authorities have arrested a blogger critical of the government and thrown him into a mental institution in the latest move to curtail dissent in the one-party Communist state, a rights group said Saturday.”

      The following are from personally destructive comments in different AL blog posts:

      MORSE: “On the contrary, I would love it if you could get the help you need so that you wouldn’t be so frenetic and obsessed all the time. It can’t be good for your psychological state.”

      MORSE: “It does a really good job of showing the sort of echo chamber immune to critical thought that this congressman possibly inhabits, putting his opposition to this grant into a socio-political context that most of us never see because we’re sane.”

      MORSE: “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.”

      MORSE: “Instead of leaving another verbose, irrelevant comment, please seek out the psychological treatment you so clearly need.”

      MORSE: “Dan, do you have any friends or loved ones who could stage an intervention for you? If you do, please show them all the obsessive and paranoid stuff you write on the Internet. There’s help out there, Dan. All you have to do is ask.”

      @Morse, you are no longer funny; you never were. I am being personally harmed by your repetitive comments that under the circumstances may amount to defamation of character and may be legally actionable. I am asking you politely to stop making defamatory comments about me. Don’t drag this out, just stop it immediately, I’m not even asking for an apology. Go ahead and continue to respond to me as you wish, just leave out the defamatory material.

      “Defamation per se
      “In the context of libel or slander ‘per se’ means defamation that is intrinsically damaging. In other words, there is no requirement in these cases for ‘damage’ or injury to be established, as proof of the fact that one of these statements has been made is sufficient. Broadly there are four categories to defamation per se; accusing someone of a crime, imputing serious sexual misconduct (e.g. chastity of a woman); casting adverse comment on someone’s ability to conduct business or trade; or that someone has a disease, for example a sexually transmitted disease or mental illness.”

  8. C. says:

    I think everyone needs to take a step back and look at the issues at hand, which is about AL’s comment concerning how sweater vests are at all related to the right to read and book challenges, not someones mental health, defamation of character, or how women are now allowed in combat.

  9. Sarah Last says:

    On the bright side, at least the event wasn’t called “Ugly Christmas Sweater Day.”

  10. Morse says:

    Dan, I give up. You’re analogy between our situation and that of the Vietnamese government and a blogger is entirely apt. It’s so eerily accurate that I’m kicking myself for not recognizing it immediately. Consider me now “reeducated.” You’re a true patriot, a gentleman and a scholar, and from now on I will seek only to learn from your political wisdom, your critical reflection, and your shrewd and insightful analysis of current events.