Annoyed Librarian
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Thanks, Elitist Librarians!

This reminiscence in the New York Times shows why book challenges usually lose and why librarians can’t take the the people making the challenges seriously. It’s by a writer whose book was “banned” at a Texas high school who speaks of “banning” as “the conventional term of exaggeration.” So a sensible fellow. The main point is summed up after an acknowledgement of the many book challenges in the U.S.: “If you picture citizens in towns across America parsing every line, however, you’ll be disappointed to learn that many passionate parents are not passionate about reading the books in question.” He then goes on to describe how his own “banned” - and later reinstated -  book was attacked by people who clearly hadn’t read it. For example: A poorly reasoned review rarely focuses an argument, but in the vacuum created by nonreading, Bakich’s errors distorted the community’s discussion of poverty and education. She objected to the inexplicit (which she called “explicit”) accounts ...
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Serving the Unwiped Masses

It takes a lot for librarians to get angry enough to start threatening the public. Librarians bend over backwards to make people feel welcome in libraries. Okay, maybe that’s not true, but usually they’re too indifferent to the public to worry about what people are doing as long as nobody’s shouting or urinating in the stacks again. So what happened at a NYPL branch in the Bronx that led them to post a threatening sign? Drunken shenanigans? Hostile patrons? Nope. It was someone taking toilet paper. Seriously, this happened. Librarians put up a hostile sign about toilet paper. The sign reads: Attention! Attention! Stealing is punishable by the law. If you are caught stealing the bathroom tissue from dispenser, you will be barred permanently from all New York Public Libraries. Immediately after each person leaves the bathroom, it will be checked to see if dispenser was tampered with or if tissue is missing. Then there’s a drawing of hands in handcuffs, to show they really mean ...
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The Answer is Always No

It’s distressing to know that even The Atlantic isn’t averse to the idiocy described by Betteridge’s Law of Headlines. A Kind Reader sent me a link to their article asking Did Amazon Just Replace the Public Library? The great thing about headlines like that is you don’t even need to click on them. No matter how full of verbiage they are, it’s just a long-winded way of saying “no.” If they wanted more clicks, the headline should have been: Amazon Just Did Something Great and You Won’t Believe What It Is, or some equally vague title sure not to live up to its promise. The article discusses the new physical bookstore that Amazon built in Seattle. If we leave out the fluff, the article tells us that Amazon built a physical bookstore, that it has books, and that the books are designed to be easily browsed with reader ratings available. So pretty much Amazon.com in physical form. But it’s the fluff that makes it so good. For example, the opening: “It’s often been said that Apple ...
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Bans, Arrests, and Seizures

It’s always fun to find stories that show how ridiculous the ALA’s stance on “banned” books is, because I’m mean that way. Someone complained that I write too much about BBW, but I'll stop when the ALA stops. If you listen to the feverish rhetoric of the OIF, you’d think we were living in a repressive state or something. Nothing promotes a cause like drumming up fear of an imaginary enemy. Then you read about what happens in actual repressive states and things start to get clearer. That’s a story about how Moscow police have arrested the head of a Ukrainian library in Moscow for disseminating “anti-Russian propaganda.” Based on what’s been happening between Russia and Ukraine the last couple of years, that could be just about anything. These days a Ukrainian passport could be considered anti-Russian propaganda by the right group of fanatics. “What? Ukraine still exists!!” “The investigators said the library’s director was suspected of breaking the law on extremism since her ...
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A Vigorous Show of Support

The library story this week that most caught my attention is the minor scandal in the tiny Michigan town of Newaygo, population a bit under 2,000. In Newaygo, a relatively new library director fired a longtime librarian there claiming the librarian was guilty of embezzlement, a charge which the Newaygo County prosecutor is investigating. In a town of fewer than 2,000 people with a median household income of around $32,000, in a public library in which 6-8 people provide full staffing and where one resigning staff member makes $8.25/hour, it’s hard to imagine there could be many funds to embezzle. But I guess even if you steal a dollar you’re a dollar richer, so who knows. The librarian denies embezzling anything. The police won’t comment, but the library board president “said he did not believe the allegations involve stolen cash but instead how Kohlbeck handled rentals.” By rentals, I assume he means rentals of new books, because several people claim the librarian “would ...
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Not Reinventing the Library

It was hard for me to read the NYT article Reinventing the Library without being simultaneously inspired and astonished. First, the inspiration. The author, Alberto Manguel, who once wrote a delightful book on the history of reading, really loves books, reading, and libraries, as do some of us who became librarians. He believes libraries are in danger of losing “their defining triple role: as preservers of the memory of our society, as providers of the accounts of our experience and the tools to navigate them — and as symbols of our identity.” That’s a significant mission, and much more impressive than typical statements that libraries organize and disseminate information or some other such bland pronouncement, or worse that libraries are “relevant community centers” or whatever non-library functions people want libraries to fill. Of course like any person who thinks of libraries in magnificent and mythic ways, he discusses the Library at Alexandria, in which “the kings ...
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