February 17, 2018

MS Library Returns Comedian’s Challenged Book to Circulation

By Michael Rogers

Following the September 25 recommendations of a review committee consisting of board chair David Ables, director Michael Hamlett, and library staffers, the Jackson-George Regional Library System, MS, returned comedian Jim Norton’s volume Happy Endings: The Tales of a Meaty-Breasted Zilch (Simon Spotlight Entertainment) to circulation—kinda. In a nod to détente, the book, which was pulled in August following a single patron complaint, will be available upon request, but not returned to the shelves.

According to the Sun Herald, the library purchased the July-released book after it appeared on the New York Times Best Seller List, standard procedure for titles not reviewed by the library media. No professional reviews appear in the book’s Amazon.com listing, which describes the author, using the publisher’s language: as “a pervert.” In an editorial, the newspaper described the book and observed, “That does not describe our preference in literature, but then not every book in a library should be expected to please every patron who walks in.”

Hamlett said that, after the Norton incident, the library will alter its purchasing procedures to take a closer look first at new titles. The committee’s investigation showed that only 278 U.S. public libraries owned the title. “That says something right there,” Hamlett told the press. In a similar 2005 incident, Jackson-George Regional yanked and reinstituted Jon Stewart’s America (The Book) because of the satirical use of Supreme Court justices’ faces superimposed on nude bodies. The eight-branch library system serves two counties and roughly 45,000 users.