Wednesday, September 28, 2005

This guy comes up to me

A colleague of mine says that what I should've written is a post about how libraries have to manage "free" access. He thinks that people don't think of librarians as freedom fighters because they think of us as bun-haired shushers, more interested in restricting information than letting it go free. Talk about how library rules ensure equal access to ideas for the whole society, he suggests, and you can talk about how librarians guarantee freedom of expression over the long haul.

An interesting idea, and really, the kind of think I'm hoping you'll discuss with your local Friends of the Library or Library Board. And a pretty good post for National Library Week.

And then he told me how "books don't really get banned anymore."

Tell Gordon Lee, on trial in Georgia for letting a minor get a comic book with a non-sexual picture of a nude Pablo Picasso in it.

Tell the U.S. Customs Service, which trampled the basic rights to political speech in an attempt to protect corporate property.

Tell Rep. Gerald Allen of Alabama, who wants it to be illegal for state funds to support "positive depictions of homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle."

Tell the F.B.I., which apparently has run out of violent criminals to catch and has usurped the authority to define obscenity, which Miller v. California relegated to the states.

It's nice to sit in my ivory tower, where we talk strategy and most of the battles are won anyway, and if they weren't, I could quit and go work somewhere else. But the First Amendment I believe in is not yet a given. It's still a work in progress. It's not consistently protecting the folks out on the front lines of the bookstores and publishers and public libraries yet.

Outside, it's America.

4 Comments:

Blogger John B. said...

Joe:

After this administration is finished running the country, we might have few individual Constitutional rights left to enjoy.

I am not the biggest fan morally of 'homosexual lifestyles' and the like, but I can tolerate these types of individual rights, simply in the name of freedoms.

It boggles my mind that many conservatives who are such big fans of 'individual rights' and less government involvement are often the first people to support government laws severely restricting freedoms (Patriot Act, anti-gay marriage laws, etc.). Usually it is a grand rally 'round the flag or using religion for political purposes.

Oh, and I have found librarians to be for the most part eager to help people. At our local library, they often almost knock you over trying to help you. I think they are bored for some of the day, as there is not as much of a need for librarians to help with card catalogs and the like. Most of the information municipal library patrons need on a daily basis is on computer.

9:19 AM, September 28, 2005  
Blogger tommyspoon said...

Joe,

I would be remiss if I didn't pass along last night's frustration with our library (don't worry, it's minor).

We're getting our wood floors sanded and refinished in a month, so we are boxing up stuff to pack or get rid of. Last night, we took a copy paper box full of books to the library for donation. Well, they aren't accepting donations of material until October 24, which is about two weeks after their Fall Book Sale. I had been on the library website earlier in the day to make sure I was taking the books to the right place and there was no mention of this bit of news.

Now, I'm gonna bring the books back in a month. And I'm not really irked enough to fire off an e-mail about this (and, to be honest, I needed the exercise of carrying said box of books back and forth). But I'm curious about your reaction to my tale. Is this a personnel issue, a policy issue, or just human fallibility?

12:20 PM, September 28, 2005  
Blogger lemming said...

Books don't get banned anymore

Oi. (rolls eyes)

Mr Spoon - I'd say human error and a failure to update the web site. Still, ir's odd. The local library here takes books year round, as did the last library to which I donated books.

12:41 PM, September 28, 2005  
Blogger Joe said...

John: You're a conservative after my own heart. Better to live with some things we don't like than to fear a government big enough to take those things away.

And you're right. These days, a good librarian is eager to explain in part because he/she's eager for the company.

Tom: All of the above. It sounds like you don't quite understand why the library won't take your books right now, and that's a policy problem. Having a website with errors on it is at least a communication breakdown, which could be a mere oopsie or a symptom of a workflow issue, or both.

My take is this: going through donated books is more work than most people think. It's understandable for a big public system to have a specific system for handling them. However, it should be documented carefully to explain all the issues, and correctly just out of respect. I think it would be totally appropriate to send a note in the tone of "gee, I'm sure it's just a little error, but I thought you'd want to know that your web page is out of date..."

8:18 AM, September 29, 2005  

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