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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Busybodies @ Your Library

Librarians have a lot to contend with, what with shrinking budgets and the likelihood of encountering people who don’t bathe regularly. It’s a rough life.

In upstate New York, they also have to contend with busybody library trustees who apparently don’t know that libraries are for everyone, not just the narrow-minded. At least they did until the trustee resigned the position. Now she’s just an ordinary busybody.

The article profiles a former library trustee who resigned after posting a letter on the official website of a town where she serves as assessor. The letter complained about “objectionable materials” in the library.

It seems odd that a town’s official website could be used for this sort of personal issue, but the town has only a couple thousand people living in it, so complaining about the library promoting witchcraft is probably the most exciting thing going on.

According to the article, “In the letter, Ann Balch said her Christian beliefs do not allow her to support:

  • The viewing of pornography on library computers.
  • The promotion of homosexuality, especially in the children’s department.
  • The promotion of witchcraft in the young adult’s section.
  • The promotion of the Muslim religion without also promoting Christianity as an alternative.”

Oh my, that’s quite a list of complaints. Apparently her Christian beliefs make her incapable of distinguishing between a library having a book on Islam and “promotion of the Muslim religion.” No, wait, that’s probably something besides her Christian beliefs, or a lack of something.

Most of the complaints sound downright silly. Books on homosexuality becomes “promoting homosexuality.” And it’s even worse in the children’s department, because that woman knows how people become homosexuals. They read books about it, and then they turn all gay and stuff. Can’t let that happen.

Then they read Harry Potter and become witches, because…well, just because!

After becoming homosexual witches, it’s a natural next step to reading about “the Muslim religion” and becoming Muslims. I’m surprised she didn’t complain promoting “Mohammedanism.” And apparently there are absolutely no books in that library mentioning Christianity, so that can’t be “promoted” as an alternative.

Now that there are a bunch of homosexual Muslim witches, they turn to porn. Porn in the library is a serious complaint, at least if it’s in the children’s section. Is it? Here’s the complaint:

“My main concern is the pornography,” Balch said. “They don’t have any filter on the computers. I recently went to the library and typed in some things, I’m not a pornography viewer, but I typed in some things and saw more that I ever need to see again. It happened within a minute.”

I would love to know what she was searching where she started getting unwanted porn. I do a heck of a lot of Internet searching, and I almost never get porn unless I want it. Plus, given the default filters on Google and Bing, you’d have to both change the defaults and do some dedicated keyword searching before you got anything too awful.

Unless of course you went searching for porn using a library computer to say that you’ve done it, which is always a possibility.

The problem here is that, according to the library, computers in the children’s section are filtered, and there’s no indication that children are wandering around in the adult section watching sleazy men surf porn. So there’s nothing illegal or even immoral going on.

And notice she didn’t say she saw anything inappropriate going on, only that she did some searches and found porn. Sounds like the only person surfing for porn in the library is her. Instead of whining about it, she should ask the reference librarian how to do an effective Internet search.

The complaint gets weirder. Supposedly, “prior to becoming a library trustee, she felt the library was a place to find books to educate one’s self.”

Is there any indication whatsoever that this library isn’t still a place to find books for educational purposes? Heck, you can even find out about Muslims if you want to. Crazy stuff!

The confusion about what and who libraries are for and, apparently, what reading and education are for makes me think this woman isn’t a big library user. Another clue is in the letter: “Because of a local library around the corner of my home in seventh grade, I learned to read.” So, has she used the library since then?

Other indications make her motives suspicious. She claims she wanted to be a library trustee because she wanted to find out how the library was spending its money, and only now does she think the town shouldn’t support the library at all. I suspect she might have been anti-library all along.

Of the $580,000 the library gets from surrounding communities to operate, her town contributed $7,271 in 2013. That’s about as close to not supporting the library as you can get. $3 per person per year seems a small price to pay for library access, even considering the strong chance that all the children of Caton will become porn-watching, homosexual, Muslim witches.

There are a lot of things about libraries and the world in general to complain about, but when someone is really complaining that not everyone in the world thinks and acts like she does, the best response is to smile widely and slowly back away. No point arguing with people like that.

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Comments

  1. anonymous says:

    Congratulations to the librarians at Corning Library! You were able to endure this ridiculous woman and can now go back to doing actual, meaningful work. For her sake, I hope you won the Muslim Journeys project.

  2. Skipbear says:

    Yay,

    This woman is on-track to be the next Sarah Palin! I’m sure we will hear more about her and the library when she becomes Mayor of Caton…right after she brings back witch burning.

  3. Captain Librarian says:

    I smell TEA brewing…

  4. Nann says:

    She didn’t learn to read until 7th grade? That says more about the school system in her hometown than the library.

    • OliviaNOPE says:

      That was what stuck out to me as well. I’m hoping it’s a typo and should be second grade, but even that is pretty late. Both of my kids learned to read in preschool.

    • Catey says:

      I noticed this as well. I was giving her the benefit of the doubt thinking maybe she meant that she learned how to read critically, but the rest of her comments don’t really offer much support for this. I think OliviaNope is right, it might be a type-o.

      Balch was right to step down if it conflicted with her beliefs. But trying to limit other people’s choices would be out of line.

    • smalltownlibrarian says:

      Maybe that sentence is an unfortunate combination of 2 separate thoughts. Maybe it’s
      A) I learned to read because of the public library
      THEN A TOTALLY SEPARATE THOUGHT
      B) I happened to live not far from the library when I was in 7th grade, by which point I was reading at grade level.

  5. Will Manley says:

    Let’s not forget that this woman is exercising her First Amendment Right of freedom of speech. At least she cares about the library which is more than you can say about a lot of people. When folks don’t give a darn about what’s in a library, then we are in bigger trouble.

    • me says:

      I don’t think using your power to post your views of the library on the town’s official website is just “exercising her First Amendment Right “. What it is, is unethical. Use a blog or writer a letter to your local newspaper like all us common folk.

      This doesn’t seem like she cares about the library. It seems like she just wants the library to contain only items she approves.

    • Sue Kamm says:

      Yes, Will, she is exercising her First Amendment rights. But IMNSHO she has no business posting her personal beliefs on an official town site. People may think she’s expressing the town’s opinions.

      There are other forums where she can state her opinions – Facebook, for one.

  6. ChickenPolitics says:

    A Woman for All Seasons

  7. James English says:

    “At least she cares about the library which is more than you can say about a lot of people.”

    She’s trying to get the library to censor materials she finds objectionable. That’s not caring about the library.

    • Will Manley says:

      James, she thinks the library has an impact on the community. She cares about that impact. You and I might not agree with her approach or her concerns, but she has a right to express her opinion. And I agree with her about getting rid of porn. We librarians value intellectual freedom until someone expresses a point we don’t agree with. Then we call them censors. Kind of ironic isn’t it?

    • Joneser says:

      Have we established whether anyone else at the library besides her is viewing “porn”?

  8. C says:

    Will, considering she thinks these items should be taken off the shelf, yes she can definitely be considered a censor.

    Yes, it is wonderful that she thinks that the library has an impact on the community, but she does not have a right to dictate to others what their children should or should not be introduced to. After all, I would rather have a homosexual, Muslim witch/wizard for a child, as long as they are happy and healthy, lead productive lives and is a good person than a bigoted ignorant individual.
    As for the porn on the computers, yes I agree children shouldn’t see that, however there are filters on the children’s computers, and many of the filters placed on computers are really not that good that still let in plenty of bad content, and also manages to block out actually informative and educational content. But then, I find that a lot of children don’t seek that out, but rather stumble upon it. Besides, anyone will find porn on a computer, especially if you actually seek it out.

    Definition of CENSOR

    1: a person who supervises conduct and morals: as
    a : an official who examines materials (as publications or films) for objectionable matter
    b : an official (as in time of war) who reads communications (as letters) and deletes material considered sensitive or harmful

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/censors?show=0&t=1374427713

    • Me! says:

      Not really on topic but since I do not work in a public library I don’t have the experience. But I find on my own personal computer that the lowest settings on Google Chrome keep out pretty much anything salacious. Maybe I just don’t search for anything that could possibly include anything pornographic but more often than not the filters work just fine unless the user is actively trying to get around them. The problem isn’t the computer but the person, and honestly, if someone is trying to do that I would simply apply a three strikes rule.

  9. C says:

    There are 1889 results for a general search of Christianity where as there are only 480 results for a general search of Muslim. How can anyone really argue that the library is promoting one religion over another?