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July 30, 2008 4:49 PM   Subscribe

Uncle Bobby's Wedding: A librarian's rebuttal to a book removal/relocation request involving a children's title dealing with gay marriage. Via MyLiBlog.
posted by rollbiz (86 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wonderful.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:02 PM on July 30, 2008


I have a feeling that the patron will try to whip up a shitstorm in response to that much reason.
posted by Citizen Premier at 5:06 PM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wish I were as patient.
posted by athenian at 5:08 PM on July 30, 2008


In the face to such calm eloquence and sound reasoning I can only mutter, "Fuckin' A-right!"
posted by dirtdirt at 5:09 PM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Nice to see GP Putnam's Young Readers Editor (Timothy Travaglini, comment on July 17, 2008 7:45 AM) recognising that it is often librarians who end up in the crossfire of these challenges.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:14 PM on July 30, 2008


I haven't gotten his response yet on my request to remove the writing of Orson Scott Card.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:14 PM on July 30, 2008 [4 favorites]


Very interesting, thanks for posting. This guy's response to the patron was articulate, thoughtful and polite, which is how you really should comport yourself while dealing with people whose views are a little, shall we say, behind the times. No matter how much you might feel like ending your response with "PS - Go fuck yourself."

Thankfully, we don't get very many complaints of this type in our system (at least as far as I'm aware), but a co-worker told me that some guy came into my current branch a few years ago and demanded that we remove all of Oscar Wilde's books from the shelves because he was a "fag." When an attempt was made to explain to him that Wilde is a titan of literature, and that the library wasn't about to start taking books off the shelves because of the authors' sexual preferences, he stomped out. A week later, "someone" defaced most of Wilde's books.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:15 PM on July 30, 2008


When I used to feel overwhelmed at my old job, I use to amuse myself by walking over to the fax machine, which always had TONER LOW SLEEP on the screen. I'd think, right on, faxie. That's how I feel. The patron who is receiving this letter might feel something similar.
posted by ORthey at 5:15 PM on July 30, 2008 [9 favorites]


That was a good read—thanks for posting it.
posted by languagehat at 5:16 PM on July 30, 2008


Really great.
posted by digaman at 5:17 PM on July 30, 2008


Thank you for the post.
posted by ltracey at 5:18 PM on July 30, 2008


That was great, thanks for posting it!
posted by amyms at 5:20 PM on July 30, 2008


"our whole system of government was based on the idea that the purpose of the state was to preserve individual liberties, not to dictate them."

Wait, what? That's not what they say on the radio and television and newspapers and the public school I went to and the internets!

just on some old piece of paper
posted by davejay at 5:20 PM on July 30, 2008


This reasoned and careful rebuttal is a treasure.
posted by batmonkey at 5:24 PM on July 30, 2008


That was indeed thoughtful - thanks for posting.
posted by gomichild at 5:34 PM on July 30, 2008


It's so important, and so often forgotten, to speak to someone who's disagreeing with you from the right without implying that you consider them cruel, bigoted, stupid, or all three. This woman's views are benighted, in my opinion and in the opinion of most whom I respect, but she loves her daughter and wants to do the best for her and for, yes, The Children (tm). Maybe she'll actually realize that other people make different decisions for the same reasons.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:35 PM on July 30, 2008 [6 favorites]


(The patron's views, I should emphasize, not the librarian, who rules.)
posted by Countess Elena at 5:35 PM on July 30, 2008


Man, I wish I could stay that calm, intelligent, and compassionate in the face of ... whatever it was he was facing.
posted by Shepherd at 5:39 PM on July 30, 2008


Not just gay marriage, also bestiality, just like Huckabee said.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 5:49 PM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Don't taxpayhers have right these days? Lefties running our public places...Vote McCain.
posted by Postroad at 5:50 PM on July 30, 2008


Wonderful letter, but honestly -- a patron who would make that type of demand on their library is more than likely not going to thoughtfully read this librarian's response, and have any kind of opinion-changing epiphany. I'm gonna bet the patron's next step was to call the highest local political office she could think of and demand that the librarian be fired for making children gay.
posted by brain cloud at 5:54 PM on July 30, 2008


I wonder if she'll read his letter, take his well-reasoned points to heart and go on, not necessarily with a changed mind, but at least with the acceptance that other people have a right to their own beliefs.

I hope so.
posted by twirlypen at 5:55 PM on July 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


I love taking the warm, rational approach when dealing with idiots. Nothing infuriates them more, because you're refusing to lower the discourse to their level.

I have mixed success in actually doing so, though. Kudos to the author, that's one more point for our team against the frothing hordes.
posted by Riki tiki at 6:00 PM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Man, I wish I could stay that calm, intelligent, and compassionate in the face of ... whatever it was he was facing.

He was facing a request to remove a book that a library patron felt was inappropriate for children--a request that apparently followed library guidelines. Answering those requests with further policy information and well-stated reasoning is part of his job. I have no idea why it would be hard to stay calm and compassionate when faced with a request about the placement of a book.

Isn't the left-wing supposed to specialize in tolerance of diversity? It shouldn't be that hard to be tolerant of a book relocation request.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:05 PM on July 30, 2008 [7 favorites]


Wow. Apparently the scary thing about our future of electronic books isn't the possibility that screen dpi and lighting will cause eyestrain, and it isn't that the DRM may continue resembling Stallman's prescient nightmares. No, what's worst is that we may be doomed to a future with fewer librarians in it. That's suddenly very frightening to think about.
posted by roystgnr at 6:12 PM on July 30, 2008 [15 favorites]


That was much more level-headed than I expected. Bravo!
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 6:16 PM on July 30, 2008


Isn't the left-wing supposed to specialize in tolerance of diversity? It shouldn't be that hard to be tolerant of a book relocation request.

Actually if you read the comments further Jamie relates that he suspected the request was part of a acquisition funding pushback from the usual religionut community (not that he described them as such of course).

And no, I'm not tolerant of intolerant dumbasses who have a child-level understanding of reality and history.
posted by yort at 6:17 PM on July 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


postroad -

Clearly you didn't read the letter, did you.

There is such a thing as freedom of information and freedom of speech. Which is not to be restricted by taxpayers.
posted by kldickson at 6:31 PM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


This was wonderful and inspiring, not simply because the content was something I strongly support and believe in, but because the argument was well reasoned, well articulated, and sound. Thanks for posting this!
posted by thatbrunette at 6:53 PM on July 30, 2008


That was lovely.
posted by you're a kitty! at 6:59 PM on July 30, 2008


Magnificent. Thanks for this.
posted by ZakDaddy at 7:21 PM on July 30, 2008


That was very well done. Though I wonder if she (the lodger
of the complaint) really read the letter. I hope so. Probably not, though..
And echoing roystgn- we need to preserve our precious librarians!
posted by mkim at 7:27 PM on July 30, 2008


Now that's what I call a smackdown.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:36 PM on July 30, 2008


No it's not a "smackdown," or "dealing with idiots," or a response to "intolerant dumbasses." This is how you respond to people who disagree with you. Like kind of the opposite of how we do it around here. Like Pater Alethias, I fail to see what's so surprising about a reasonable, calm, intelligent reply to what sounded like a reasonable, calm, intelligent request.

Let's get that man a Metafilter membership and see if he can teach a few of us something about manners. And disagreeing agreeably.
posted by Avenger50 at 7:42 PM on July 30, 2008 [29 favorites]



posted by BrotherCaine at 7:43 PM on July 30, 2008


I read it in Bookshelves of doom blog last week and I was impressed by the civility and the logic. I'm glad yhe letter reached the blue.
posted by francesca too at 7:48 PM on July 30, 2008


hey avenger, I directly addressed Peter's passive-aggressive comment here that the "left-wing" is supposed to be tolerant of everything.

I'm not tolerant of the crack-heads who jack my car stereo at night, and neither am I of the magic-believers who were all gung-ho for their Dear Leader to do his best to bring on Armageddon in the Mid East for them in 2003.

The bill for my window and stereo might be $600, but the tax bill that is going to be presented directly to me and/or my offspring for the Right's idiocy in Iraq is currently running at $6000 + accrued interest.

If the nutcase religious right kept the damage to themselves I would be a lot more tolerant of them.

They don't, so I'm not.
posted by yort at 8:02 PM on July 30, 2008 [5 favorites]


Let's get that man a Metafilter membership and see if he can teach a few of us something about manners. And disagreeing agreeably.

Agreed. This is how one ought to disagree, the first time. Possibly the second, and the third, and even the fourth. But the tenth time the same idiotic argument/request/suggestion/idea comes up (and there's a better-than-even chance, it'll come from the same idiot), some sarcasm is understandable.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 8:03 PM on July 30, 2008 [5 favorites]


No it's not a "smackdown," or "dealing with idiots," or a response to "intolerant dumbasses."

Actually, it's all three. The fact that it is polite and well-reasoned doesn't change the fact that it is, actually, a righteous smackdown of epic proportions.

The fact that this librarian was dealing with an intolerant dumbass idiot should be relatively clear to even the most casual reader.

Tolerance of bigotry isn't a virtue.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:19 PM on July 30, 2008 [6 favorites]


A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
posted by Snyder at 8:45 PM on July 30, 2008 [6 favorites]


Tolerance of bigotry isn't a virtue.

No, that's true, but we an tolerate people, whenever possible, tempering our (otherwise creditable) feelings of their flaws when we communicate with them.
posted by Snyder at 8:49 PM on July 30, 2008


Tolerance of bigotry isn't a virtue.

In the comments of the blog post somebody attempted to present the argument from the otherside, offering a thought experiment of a "Children's Book" addressing eg. bestiality to kids.

I felt this was a an interesting gambit but the commenters piled onto the questioner without addressing his point.

Everyone in a given community owes it to each other to address the others' arguments in a good-faith manner and never "talk past" each other.
posted by yort at 8:50 PM on July 30, 2008


I think he took way too long to get to the "no" and the reasoning behind it. I don't think it's necessarily true, as Snyder says, that "a gentle answer turns away wrath"; people can get quite angry and frustrated in the face of what looks to them like a long, drawn-out dissembling.

It would be inappropriate for him to be harsh or rude, of course, but I think he should have used at most a paragraph or two of pleasantries and then firmly and directly gotten to the point with something like "I must decline your request" followed by the key reasons like "There are gay parents in Douglas County, right now, who also pay taxes, and also look for materials to support their views." - which are kind of buried in the letter as it is. The attentive, well-thought-out and meticulous reasoning is good and shows that he took her request seriously but it's too mixed together with the main message of the letter.
posted by XMLicious at 9:21 PM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Very true in private correspondence and personal conversation, but when writing or speaking publicly, the dynamics change: both sides are not writing or speaking just to convince (or even address) their rhetorical opponent, but also for the external audience. Specifically, for the audience member whose mind isn't quite made up on the matter.

It seems to me that the linked article is excellent precisely because it does this, it would (I think) persuade a fair-minded person who is not committed to one view or other on the issue at hand. But as I personally am committed to the same view of the matter as the writer, and agree with them, it's difficult for me to fairly judge the persuasiveness of the article; and it's equally difficult for me to fairly judge the persuadability of a person un-persuaded by it.

But I know my biases, and I'm happy to accept that I'm biased in saying that a person un-persuaded by the linked article, absent some remarkable contrary proof, is probably an idiot.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 9:24 PM on July 30, 2008


/channeling James Carville in Old School

I... we have nothing to add.

That was perfect.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:03 PM on July 30, 2008


Isn't the left-wing supposed to specialize in tolerance of diversity? It shouldn't be that hard to be tolerant of a book relocation request.

Sometimes the fuckers grind ya down, Peter, just really grind ya down. Day in and day out it's a battle to overcome the destructive, small-minded prejudices of the social conservatives.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:07 PM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


I am sick of librarians, with their damned knee-jerk tolerance and inclusivity and respect for free expression.
posted by jayder at 11:12 PM on July 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm getting a little sick of the "Why can't people be nice to bigots?" rhetoric that's echoing around here.

None of us know what the patron wrote in her request. The librarian may well have responded with professionalism and politeness to a rude email, in which case kudos to him for moving the discussion to a better place, or he may have responded with professionalism and politeness to a polite email, in which case, kudos to him and to her for having the discussion in a respectful way.

And yet--

I don't think I've ever encountered any polite anti-gay bigotry, though. I can imagine that such a thing might possibly exist, because human language is a remarkably versatile tool, but the anti-gay bigotry I've encountered has been pretty much ignorant, rude, and hateful across the board.

Beyond tone, I think bigotry is itself rude. Saying "some people are less than others" is just fundamentally impolite, as well as morally wrong, in my opinion. I hold by the truth of the ditty I learned as a tiny Sidhedevil: "Politeness is to do and say/The kindest things in the nicest way."

Diplomatically expressed bigotry only fulfills half of the "politeness" definition, to me. Doing and saying the shittiest things in the nicest way just isn't going to cut it in my book.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:20 PM on July 30, 2008 [8 favorites]


Wonderful, civilised answer.

But am I the only person disturbed to see that the GP Putnam's Young Readers Senior Editor (Timothy Travaglini, comment on July 17, 2008 7:45 AM), spells "illusions" with an "A"?
posted by Skeptic at 2:36 AM on July 31, 2008


Right, okay, it's beautifully-written, and completely agree with the politics.

But isn't the free speech argument used a bit disingenuous?

Saying it's about free speech is all very well, but would they really stock "Daddy Loses His Job Because Of The International Jewish Conspiracy" or "Captain Gabriel Fights The Darkies"? (And I bet these things exist.) I really hope not, because these promote bad ideas.

There ARE politics in choosing books, and you ARE making decisions about how children should think. And parents with opposing political views from you will fight your decisions. It's not a simple free speech issue.

Or am I wrong? Would the librarian stock a story about how a story about how Johnny has funny feelings for other boys, but he talks to his parents and pastor and learns that these things can happen, but the right thing to do is to get married to a really nice girl and that while these feelings won't go away, with love and prayer and patience it'll all be okay?

There does exist a tension between free speech principles and selecting books for children that support current moral positions taken by society, and I think the free speech argument presented by the librarian deliberately ignores this.

Probably for the best, though. Better rhetoric.
posted by alasdair at 2:53 AM on July 31, 2008 [4 favorites]



There ARE politics in choosing books, and you ARE making decisions about how children should think.


No, you are making decisions about the range of books available. And that should be as wide as possible. The range in itself is dictated by what is published and available on the market, which is dictated by trends and tastes of the time. It's the parents who make the decisions about what they believe is suitable for their child to read.

Decisions about our and our children's reading, viewing and everything else should be made in the home, not on the public square.
posted by Happy Dave at 3:39 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't think I've ever encountered any polite anti-gay bigotry, though

The best (as in, most reasonable and polite) anti-gay message that I've heard was in a discussion with two Jesuit priests. One of them said he sees nothing wrong with homosexuality, and that it's a valid expression of love. The other said that he believed homosexual people are absolutely deserving of love and respect and human rights, but that he believed they are caving in to a 'weakness', in much the same way that other people may gamble or drink.

His point was based upon (what I think is) a fundamentally incorrect assumption- that sexuality is a choice. But, from that assumption, his stance was the most polite and fair minded that I've heard. It wasn't "you're evil", it was "I think you're wonderful, but can do more with your life". Given the type of hatred that others can jump to from that same assumption, I think his stance is pretty good.
posted by twirlypen at 5:13 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


I agree with the sentiment and views (and the amazing restraint) expressed in the letter, but wonder about its audience. Maybe it's my own prejudices about people who oppose gay marriage (standard red state hick stereotypes which are nowhere near universally accurate), but I can't help but see the patron as feeling lectured and talked down to. I remember how frustrated I felt when my folks would lecture me at length about something and how that frustration would make me lash out all the more.

So is this response the best response for that audience? Is there a way to cover the main points succinctly and politely without delving off into book recommendations, definitions, Socratic questions, and publisher information? Or is the audience not the patron who challenged the book, but people like us who already agree that the book should stay where it is? I know from experience that any time someone pulls out Websters to help further their stance on a matter that the discussion is in danger of turning down a bad road.

I'm not saying that this letter shouldn't have been written. I think that it's a great justification of why the book is staying where it is and should be sent along to the Board of Trustees as a heads up that some controversy may be coming down the pipe. But I think that the letter to the patron should have been shorter and more to the point. Thank the patron for showing an interest in her local library, remind her that the library exists to provide easy access to information for all likewise interested parties, and then say that after review, the book will be staying where it is. If the patron wants to follow up, then future replies can incorporate parts of this letter, but that's only if the patron wants to pursue the issue.

All that said, I do admire the library director's restraint. My first reaction was "If the patron doesn't want her child reading about a certain subject, why'd she let her daughter check the book out and then read it to her without reviewing it first?"
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:28 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Of course tolerance of bigotry is a virtue. Your bigotry may be someone else's deeply held belief. Rising above what you see as bigotry or wrongness or idiocy is almost the very definition of virtue. If you're going to immediately paint my opinions, ideas and beliefs as "bigotry" and summarily decide that they're intolerable, then there may be more intolerance going around than you think.

I tolerate quite a few belief systems and opinions with which I disagree. But that's because my faith tells me that it's not my job to judge/ My job is to love and treat people with respect and courtesy, regardless of whether I think they're bigoted.
posted by Shohn at 5:44 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Don't taxpayhers have right these days? Lefties running our public places...Vote McCain.


I thought that this was a funny joke! And I almost favorited it. But then I looked into the poster's Metafilter history and it turned out to be a different kind of funny joke than the kind that I had thought.
posted by Kwine at 6:02 AM on July 31, 2008 [4 favorites]


alasdair

They actually do stock such a book, Alfie's Home was mentioned by name in the rebuttal.
posted by bookwo3107 at 6:26 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


LIBRARIANS! I love them! Some of the best people I know.
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:35 AM on July 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


In the comments of the blog post somebody attempted to present the argument from the otherside, offering a thought experiment of a "Children's Book" addressing eg. bestiality to kids.

I felt this was a an interesting gambit but the commenters piled onto the questioner without addressing his point.


Yeah, because comparing gay marriage and BESTIALITY really is valid. I can't imagine why people wouldn't consider that a valid "thought experiment".
posted by inigo2 at 6:37 AM on July 31, 2008


offering a thought experiment of a "Children's Book" addressing eg. bestiality to kids.


Thought experiments making wild associations like this aren't really worth engaging in, in my opinion, when there are so many actual cases like this one that can be pointed to. The whole deal with intellectual freedom cases is that the decisions are actually difficult and they involve real people who are part of our communities. We had to deal with a situation involving the police at my local library last month and it was terrible. Even though I feel that he librarian made the right decision -- refusing to give computers to the police without a warrant -- it was a controversial decision that made people upset and it was no "thought experiment"

While I do share some of the feelings of robocop_is_bleeding that this did sound a little preachy, I think it did get the point across nicely that while you can teach your kids whatever you want at home, the range of books in the library is based on every home in the community not just yours. This is, to be fair, different from every possible home in the community. So while there very well might be a book about, as the letter says, a Christian approach to homosexuality [whatever that means, but I know we had some at my library] there is less likely to be, say, a Christian approach to bestiality because 1. let's be honest, that is illegal at least in the US and 2. a patron is unlikely to request it.

However when you deal with more legal, still touchy topics like Holocaust revisionism, teenage sex/pregnancy, different approaches to gun control/abortion/drugs/etc, you do get some very real challenges from some concerned people. We see it on the other end of the spectrum too when people want Huckleberry Finn removed because of its archaic racist language, challenges are not the sole domain of bigots, though this sort of challenge outlines in this letter is really the main sort of challenge librarians are seeing lately, that and wizardry in Harry Potter type of stuff.
posted by jessamyn at 7:07 AM on July 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


Would the librarian stock a story about how a story about how Johnny has funny feelings for other boys, but he talks to his parents and pastor and learns that these things can happen, but the right thing to do is to get married to a really nice girl and that while these feelings won't go away, with love and prayer and patience it'll all be okay?

Why not? While I wouldn't read that book to my kids (except maybe as an illustration of how people in different families think differently about things) I don't have an issue with it being on the shelf. Like Jessamyn said, the library is for the whole community, not just the bits of the community I personally want to invite over for coffee.

The other point associated with that is that it seems very strange to me is a parent's readiness to blame the library for what they stock but not herself for what her child actually takes home and reads. A world where every book in every children's library is acceptable to every parent seems both bland and impossible (cf Heather Has two Mommies, Huck Finn, Harry Potter), so surely it is the parents' responsibility to screen out the reading material they deem inappropriate for their particular family.

Preferably at the checkout desk and not in the Supreme Court.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:54 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


@alasdair - But isn't the free speech argument used a bit disingenuous?

I'd really like to believe, from this librarian's reasoning, that it is not disingenuous at all. That they really would stock those other books you mentioned if they met OTHER criteria, such as relevance, general acceptance, demand, currency, and availability.
posted by kingbenny at 7:59 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Would the librarian stock a story about how a story about how Johnny has funny feelings for other boys, but he talks to his parents and pastor and learns that these things can happen, but the right thing to do is to get married to a really nice girl and that while these feelings won't go away, with love and prayer and patience it'll all be okay?

As a bleeding heart Liberal, I'd certainly hope so, and if I found out that they'd taken it off the shelves, I'd politely ask why - even though in my heart I'd believe that it was Christian propaganda.

Unlike many other things, it really isn't too hard to walk the walk for free speech. If it doesn't advocate criminal activity (for example, hate speech) and it isn't simply porn and nothing else, it should be in the library.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:07 AM on July 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


Of course tolerance of bigotry is a virtue....But that's because my faith tells me that it's not my job to judge. My job is to love and treat people with respect and courtesy, regardless of whether I think they're bigoted.

Well, my faith tells me "I come not to bring peace, but a sword" and "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees" so there you are.

I do not think tolerance of bigotry is a virtue at all. Baseline respect for the human beings who are displaying bigotry in their actions and words is a virtue. If Fred Phelps started choking on his own bile in front of me, I would perform the Heimlich maneuver and call 911 because of my respect for the human life that's inside that sack of hate somewhere.

However, I do not have to tolerate or respect the hateful, stupid words he vomits forth.

Your bigotry may be someone else's deeply held belief.

No, I think that any "deeply held belief" that includes the believer thinking that some types of people are more authentically human than others is bigotry, and as a Christian myself, I feel compelled to speak out against it forcefully.

Overall, I agree that it's best to avoid being rude whenever possible. But bigotry is itself a fundamentally rude behavior, since I think politeness is, at its heart, the act of respecting others' humanity and rights at least as much as you respect your own. Bigots who use diplomatic language and soft voices in expressing their point of view are still failing to exhibit authentic respect for others.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:19 AM on July 31, 2008


And, to be fair, one of the criteria in public libraries is also "favorable reviews" That is, there is a small set of book reviewing entities out there and it strengthens your "the library should have this" argument (as a patron or a librarian) if the book in question has received a good review. While reviewing publications -- Booklist, Library Journal, Parent's Choice, etc -- review a lot of stuff, they do tend towards books by major publishers just because that's how the big publishing machine works. So, fringier stuff is a little more difficult to a) get reviewed and b) get into a library as a result of a, and its fringiness.

This is sort of good if you're worried about crazy Jewish conspiracy books winding up on the shelves (though most every library has Mein Kampf, many fewer have Protocols of the Elders of Zion) but bad if you're looking for YOUR fringey topics like menstrual extraction, alt.sex practices or maybe raising triplets in a yurt, you'd have a hard time, possibly.

And this is where, to me, the real tricky part lies. Educated people who understand their library policies and their librarians can often use this information to make a decent case for inclusion of a particular book and libraries lean towards being inclusive when they can. Less educated people -- and in my mind this equals "more likely to be bigoted" though I may be oversimplifying there -- don't understand systems, tend to get marching orders from their churches (this is something that actually happens, I am NOT just hypothesizing here) and aren't in it for the long haul working with their community institutions to assist collection development and make positive as well as negative suggestions. They just say "*I* don't like this!" and make it somehow seem like every book featuring a gay character is about sex.

That's the crux of the issue, to me. How is discussing a gay wedding with a child like discussing anal sex? No this is not a riddle, but it's clear that the parent in this post was making that association along with the "surely you understand..." appeal to reason for something that is not really reasonable to, say, me.

At the last library I worked for regularly, we had a bunch of Christian homeschooling parents who were actually pretty great at helping the library stay on top of what they wanted and helping us pick books they thought were age-appropriate and curriculum appropriate and while they didn't have big-C Christian themes, they tended towards the "gentle fiction" angle which is actually not so much of a problem and they didn't flip out about books they didn't want their kids to read. They just came to the library with their kids and hung out with them, etc. I wish we had more of them in our communities, to tell you the truth.
posted by jessamyn at 8:27 AM on July 31, 2008 [4 favorites]


I can't imagine why people wouldn't consider that a valid "thought experiment"

it wasn't a thought experiment to explore abstracts, it was a contrary position made in the attempt to get the "liberals" to see how the "conservatives" view the situation.

Understanding where the other side is coming from is half the battle useful sometimes.
posted by yort at 8:39 AM on July 31, 2008


Don't taxpayhers have right these days?

Yes. Yes, they do.

ALL taxpayers do -- the ones who support gay marriage, AND the ones who oppose it. If one taxpayer requested the book be removed, then another taxpayer wouldn't be able to read it.

And that is why the person who is running this library did what he did -- to protect BOTH these taxpayers' rights. The taxpayer who wants to read the book can get it, and the taxpayer who doesn't can read something else instead. Everyone wins!

....Lefties pay taxes too, remember?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:43 AM on July 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


This sort of thing has become more than just intellectually interesting for me. Rights, freedom, oppression, light vs.dark, all take on a much more pressing importance when one must decide for oneself and for one's family.

I have two kids now and my liberal mind is in constant struggle with the conservative facets of my upbringing and my environment, trying to steer a clear course that will result in their growing up with a critical mind and a kind soul.

I certainly hope that two of my friends don't turn out to be gay and decide to marry each other, but if they do, I will take my kids to the wedding and we will include them in our lives.

At the end of the day, I always fall back on this: you should never be afraid of ideas.
posted by Cobalt at 9:23 AM on July 31, 2008


This was interesting, because I've had the exact same experience the patron apparently had, and was made equally grumpy by it, although it didn't prompt me to petition the library to remove the book in question.

We brought home an apparently innocent children's book from the library, and that night at bedtime I suddenly found myself called on to try to explain what Christianity is to a three year old. I did my best, but I was unable to resist drawing attention to the parallels between the story in the book and other clearly made-up stories we had read, and how one goes about distinguishing them from true stories. My three year old's opinion was that the bible stories were probably, on the balance of the evidence, made up. She's a great kid.
posted by rusty at 9:40 AM on July 31, 2008 [4 favorites]


To those who think the letter was too long, too dilatory, insufficiently harsh, etc:
I imagine that the intended audience for this letter is not just the patron. The librarian probably assumed that the patron would escalate her request to the library board; his letter could help frame the way the board would consider her request, and he is boxing her in pretty effectively. He clearly put a lot of work into that letter, quite possibly with the intention of posting it online so that it could be used as a template for other librarians dealing with similar requests.
posted by adamrice at 9:41 AM on July 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


"....Lefties pay taxes too, remember?"

and we pay more than righties do, both in aggregate and per capita, I'd wager.
posted by bashos_frog at 9:47 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


....Lefties pay taxes too, remember?

But I hate doing it just as much as the Righties. However, I have the ability to use reason to overcome my emotions about it.
posted by spicynuts at 10:04 AM on July 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


We brought home an apparently innocent children's book from the library, and that night at bedtime I suddenly found myself called on to try to explain what Christianity is to a three year old. I did my best, but I was unable to resist drawing attention to the parallels between the story in the book and other clearly made-up stories we had read, and how one goes about distinguishing them from true stories. My three year old's opinion was that the bible stories were probably, on the balance of the evidence, made up. She's a great kid.

Well quite frankly it looks like you were given a very good opportunity to have a nice, intelligent conversation with your 3 year old. One which you were going to have to have eventually anyway. The fact that you weren't prepared for it but in fact handled like a mature adult and a good parent says more about you and about how an adult SHOULD behave in this type of situation is more of a good example to a child than anything else that could have happened. And really, isn't that what you are supposed to be to your child - a good example? There is no reason, as the librarian stated in the letter, that the 'patron' could not have taken the same reasoned, mature approach that you did. In fact, perhaps he/she did and met with the same result as you did. Which means, as others have stated above - YAY FOR THIS LIBRARIAN. This is a true patriot.
posted by spicynuts at 10:21 AM on July 31, 2008


Metafilter: Don't taxpayhers have right these days?

Great post by the way.
posted by Outlawyr at 11:33 AM on July 31, 2008


If the patron were susceptible to reason, she wouldn't have written that letter in the first place.

*sigh*

That being said - Yay, Librarians!
posted by Space Kitty at 12:47 PM on July 31, 2008


Thank you, spicynuts. I ranted later to the wife, in private. :-)
posted by rusty at 1:20 PM on July 31, 2008


What a fantastic letter. Thank you for this. It really brightens my day to be reminded that some people choose to act with intelligence, honesty, and civility, even when being challenged. And yes, even through its grace and politeness, this letter still qualifies as a "smackdown of epic proportions"!
posted by Robin Kestrel at 1:25 PM on July 31, 2008


I'll be in Zim at the end of August

Until you see the actual form and content of the 'patron's' protest, you can shut the hell up about his/her ability to reason. Whether or nay you agree with someone's position does not make it unreasonable. Granted, historical precedent shows it's a pretty damn good bet this person is a hysterical nutcase, however, if you're going to try to set yourself up as some paragon of reason in opposition to another person, you should at least not sully yourself in the same cesspool by making assumptions.
posted by spicynuts at 1:38 PM on July 31, 2008


OH FUCK.

The above is supposed to be in response to Space Kitty:

If the patron were susceptible to reason, she wouldn't have written that letter in the first place.
posted by spicynuts at 1:39 PM on July 31, 2008


if you're going to try to set yourself up as some paragon of reason in opposition to another person

You should also probably not say things like "you can shut the hell up".
posted by Outlawyr at 2:54 PM on July 31, 2008


Apparently the scary thing about our future of electronic books... is that we may be doomed to a future with fewer librarians in it.

If that's what you believe, you sorely underestimate librarians. We traffic in information, not paper. The fact that much of the information is currently on paper is incidental to what librarians do.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:08 PM on July 31, 2008


A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Yeah, but you attract more flies with vinegar than with honey.
posted by Deathalicious at 3:40 PM on July 31, 2008


Wonderful, thoughtful and very patient. Bravo!
posted by arnicae at 4:07 PM on July 31, 2008


Eh?

I'll damn well judge the reasoning ability of anyone petitioning the library to get their prejudiced worldview confirmed, and the hell I'm shutting up.

/removes Paragon of Reason tiara, climbs from cesspool
posted by Space Kitty at 5:13 PM on July 31, 2008


Well, enjoy tainting yourself with your own mud then.
posted by spicynuts at 5:34 PM on July 31, 2008


That was magnificent. Thank you so much for posting this, rollbiz.
posted by merelyglib at 11:39 AM on August 1, 2008


Excellent find. You know, I don't understand the many comments here that are accusing this letter of being too kind or characterizing it as an amazing show of strength to not respond with an insult-laden reply. I especially dislike the ones that resort to name-calling. It appears that the original woman who complained did so in a polite manner: she read all of the many relevant documents required of her and she sent an e-mail explaining her problem with a book and expressing why she felt it should be (not even removed from the library) but given a sticker suggesting that the content inside might not be appropriate for children. She did not, as far as I am aware, use slurs or deface the book in question. She simply made a request and explained her opinion.

Yes, I absolutely disagree with her point of view, but for crying out loud she expressed it in a civil and appropriate way. Why should she not receive the same respect? Do we simply give lip-service to the idea that people with different opinions can also be treated civilly? I'd hoped we were better than that.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:46 AM on August 8, 2008 [4 favorites]


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