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November 19, 2009 7:32 AM   Subscribe

When the Jessamine* County Public Library acquired a copy of Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier, two library workers conspired to keep it out of the patrons' hands, checking it out for an entire year. After an eleven-year-old girl put a hold on the book, they removed the hold; upon discovering this, the library director fired them.

Sharon Cook, one of the fired workers, said, "People prayed over me while I was reading it because I did not want those images in my head." Here's a Flickr set of some of the images in question, NSFW unsurprisingly, that show scenes from an imagined meeting of Fanny Hill and Lemuel Gulliver, a Tijuana Bible created by the Pornsec division of the Ministry of Truth from Nineteen Eighty-Four, and other naughty bits.

*Yes, MeFi mod/librarian eponysteria. (Via)
posted by Halloween Jack (150 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
People prayed over me while I was reading it because I did not want those images in my head.

My prayers go out to this poor soul, forced at gunpoint to read a comic book filled with filthy, filthy human bodies.

WHEN WILL THE OBAMANATIONS CEASE?!
posted by DU at 7:36 AM on November 19, 2009 [19 favorites]


I wonder what they did with their copy of Lost Girls?
posted by dng at 7:37 AM on November 19, 2009 [15 favorites]


What a mess.
posted by blucevalo at 7:38 AM on November 19, 2009


Oh and if these idiots think that hiding a single copy of a single comic book prevents anyone from seeing porn, they are...well...idiots.
posted by DU at 7:38 AM on November 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


Ugh, this is exactly the sort of publicity Sharon Cook and her posse want.
posted by muddgirl at 7:38 AM on November 19, 2009


I wonder what they did with their copy of Lost Girls?

You beat me to it, dng.
posted by dortmunder at 7:41 AM on November 19, 2009


Firing isn't enough. This warrants the Nose-In-The-Book Penalty. (0:42)
posted by Joe Beese at 7:42 AM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ugh, this is exactly the sort of publicity Sharon Cook and her posse want.

Wrong in at least two ways. First, it's factually wrong to say they want publicity. Their actions clearly show they wanted to do this in secret. They didn't start a petition to remove the book, they simply hid it and secretly removed a hold.

Second, assume they do want publicity. That doesn't mean it's bad to give it to them. Hiding this story because they are idiots is about as dumb as them hiding the comic because it's "obscene". The solution to suppression of speech is not more suppression but more freedom.
posted by DU at 7:42 AM on November 19, 2009 [9 favorites]


Would an 11 year old girl be able to buy this book in a bookstore? The first link said the book meets no definition of obscenity, so I'd guess yes. If an 11 year old can BUY it without adult supervision, they sure as hell should be able to check it out of a frickin library, no?
posted by spicynuts at 7:44 AM on November 19, 2009 [8 favorites]


they're library workers, not some Islamic morality police. If they want to have a say over who reads what, have their own kids!
posted by Neekee at 7:46 AM on November 19, 2009 [15 favorites]


I was amused by the fact that the public library in a town I used to live in had a big sign in one section that said "Adult Videos."

It was just to distinguish it from the Children's Videos section, but you know, hee hee.
posted by snofoam at 7:46 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Imagine a size 5E pink velcro sneaker attached to a sweatpanted leg stomping on a liberal human face forever.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 7:47 AM on November 19, 2009 [54 favorites]


And we would have got away with our cunning plan if it wasn't for that meddling kid!
posted by Abiezer at 7:48 AM on November 19, 2009 [10 favorites]


Both women say they remain baffled as to the reasoning behind their dismissal.

Ha. Really?

I do question the library's judgment in placing this book with the Spiderman and X-Men books, put it in the Adult Fiction section under "M" for "Moore."

But that does not excuse what these people did. I don't care if they did the same damn thing with Glenn Beck book. Never would have crossed my mind to cancel a patron's hold without their permission, for any reason, in the 15+ years I was in the library biz.

In a library I used to work at, someone would take books like "Best Gay Fiction of the Year" and throw them in the toilet. We'd just have to spend money on replacement copies.
posted by marxchivist at 7:49 AM on November 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


When it comes to puritanical fundamentalism, the folks at the Jessamine Public Library aren't not even playing double-A ball. Books of the devil should be burned long before they ever reach a public library.
posted by billysumday at 7:51 AM on November 19, 2009


I'm beginning to develop some disturbing theories about why Illustrator CS4 For Dummies is always out at my local library, and wondering what kind of "hot tips" that volume really offers.
posted by Shepherd at 7:51 AM on November 19, 2009 [15 favorites]


If these people want to make a principled stand, I'm all for it. I disagree with them, but I support their rights to act on their belief. However, this isn't a principled stand. "Resign in protest, and organize," is the principled stand.
posted by tyllwin at 7:51 AM on November 19, 2009 [14 favorites]


Particularly funny if you've actually read it.

"The Black Dossier" pertains to a book (the Dossier of the title) which is itself hidden, not to mention censored (certain pages were originally going to be sealed so that they had to be cut open). It contains great and secret truths of course.

After finally being obtained (with the inadvertent help of James Bond!), it's a race between our heroes, trying to escape with their new-found knowledge, and their pursuers, the government, who are desperately trying to hide these truths.

Incidentally, Scientologists used to employ a similar technique at public libraries to keep books like "Bare Faced Messiah" from ever being read. Oh, the wonders of the internet.

On preview: Yeah, this should definitely be with the adult graphic novels, not the kid's stuff.
posted by stinkycheese at 7:54 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was amused by the fact that the public library in a town I used to live in had a big sign in one section that said "Adult Videos."

I giggle every time I go to Safeway and see the ADULT CEREAL sign, then am disappointed there are still no pictures of naked people on the boxes.

posted by little e at 7:57 AM on November 19, 2009 [11 favorites]


Yeah, so they denied access to a book that is -- in part, at least -- about the suppression of literature. A-fucking-mazing.

On preview: pretty much what stinkycheese wrote.
posted by cog_nate at 7:59 AM on November 19, 2009


Sharon Cook is either a hero or a villain.

She's either a woman or a man. She's either young or old. She's either black or white. Fat or skinny. Sane or insane.

That Amy Wilson article is some profoundly bad writing.

I'm pretty sure we've pretty much established our societal stance on libraries roles in this sort of thing, so why even pretend she was doing it for the children and had no intention of harming of harming constitutional rights? She obviously did and does, since even after she was fired she refuses to turn the book back over. To me this goes beyond a library finable offense into the realm of criminal (willful theft of property).

Both women say they remain baffled as to the reasoning behind their dismissal.

Yeah, and there's the rub. These woman do no belong in a library as anything other than patrons.

It doesn't say in the article if the library got a replacement copy, but I'm off to Amazon to send a directed donation.

Also, I don't get your Tijuana Bible link. Does it go where you meant it to?
posted by cjorgensen at 8:00 AM on November 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


Bang! Pow! Comics aren't just for kids anymore!

For what it's worth, I thought Black Dossier was somewhat muddled and top-heavy after the crisp pulp plots of the first two LOEG volumes.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:00 AM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


So glad that my hometown library filed V For Vendetta and Watchmen right next to Michael Moorcock's formula fantasy.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:01 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why are librarians so sexy?
posted by The Loch Ness Monster at 8:01 AM on November 19, 2009 [7 favorites]


I was really proud of our local library, which stocked some amazing graphic novels...all of which disappeared one day, never to be returned. One of the local puritan groups came in, got library cards, checked out all the books, and (we think) burned them. Because our library is significantly lacking in funds, and some of those books were items that would be expensive to replace (In the Shadow of No Towers, Watchmen, Maus, Palestine, a full hand-bound collection of Hate, hardbacks, first editions, etc.), and the librarian knows that these morons would just do it again, now those books are off the shelves. I've offered to replace some of them with books from my collection, or to just go buy copies and donate them, but the board (where I'm no longer a member) said they didn't want to stir up trouble.

Puritans do vex me.
posted by dejah420 at 8:01 AM on November 19, 2009 [27 favorites]


However, this isn't a principled stand. "Resign in protest, and organize," is the principled stand.

These ladies intentionally kept a book from the populace, at a Public Library, because of their own personal beliefs. They went into the personal file of a patron to check her age, which is explicitly noted as being a no-no at their government job.

You fire assholes like that, without the ability to "resign," or showboat their wackiness.

They blatantly abused their job status, with the intent of propagating their own religious beliefs in a public institution.

They forfeited their right to act ON THEIR BELIEF when they took a job at a PUBLIC INSTITUTION.

Go work at a Christian bookstore, or stand in Times Square, and go nuts.

Because you are, well, pretty nuts.
posted by gcbv at 8:01 AM on November 19, 2009 [21 favorites]


My initial reaction to the headline shows how out of touch I am with the League of Censors. I assumed that the library employees were comix fans who were interested in keeping an Alan Moore item in mint condition. Didn't want any of the hoi polloi opening the plastic seal and ruining the value.
posted by Babblesort at 8:02 AM on November 19, 2009 [8 favorites]


I've always proposed, somewhat facetiously, to use "results from exposure to Alan Moore" as a test to pick out where the moral retards are hiding these days. Seems by now I should perhaps propose it in a serious mind?
posted by Iosephus at 8:04 AM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


but the board (where I'm no longer a member) said they didn't want to stir up trouble.

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. - Edmund Burke
posted by DU at 8:04 AM on November 19, 2009 [6 favorites]


While they shouldn't have acted to subvert this book on their own. It seems pretty obvious that this is not a children's book; DC, itself, lists it for "Mature Audiences."

This is actually a case where they should have sought publicity. They would be right to argue that this book isn't a child's book and that it shouldn't be readily available to kids.
posted by oddman at 8:05 AM on November 19, 2009


The tactic seems so tame. They couldn't have "lost" it? Repeatedly, if necessary?
posted by IndigoJones at 8:05 AM on November 19, 2009


I do question the library's judgment in placing this book with the Spiderman and X-Men books, put it in the Adult Fiction section under "M" for "Moore."
Why? It's a graphic novel and it's content is for the user to judge. X-Men and Spiderman can just as easily have adult themes and images. (I don't know that they do, I haven't read Marvel Comics in ages, but they could.)

This is a long standing protocal from ALA, it is not up to the librarians to judge the content of books. It is not our responsibility or authority to judge whether a book is approriate or obscene, it is merely our responsibility to provide access to information. What you do with that information is up to you.

And honestly, if parents don't want their kids reading dirty comic books, then they need to keep an eye on them.

Why the blazes should the library police what kids read?

And finally Bravo! for firing these two old biddies. They give librarians and library workers a bad name.
posted by teleri025 at 8:05 AM on November 19, 2009


...right next to Michael Moorcock's formula fantasy.

Ah, man, that hurts. You could have stopped after his last name.

And here's for the irony!
posted by cjorgensen at 8:05 AM on November 19, 2009


It wasn't in the "kid's stuff" section, but in the graphic novels section. It is a graphic novel, so I don't see what exactly the problem is with that. It was probably right there next to Maus and X-Men and whatever else, where it should be. Yeah, there are drawrings of nudies. I'm sure anyone could randomly pick a book out of the Fiction stacks and find some fairly lewd stuff described in it.

Really, I'm more surprised an 11 yr old would even be interested in the book, which is not Moore's best in the League series and is rather impenetrable if you're not well-versed in both the League's mythos and the history of English literature. If my 11-yr old daughter wanted to read this (instead of, say, Twilight) I'd be fucking thrilled.
posted by Saxon Kane at 8:06 AM on November 19, 2009 [8 favorites]


Note that the Flickr account incorrectly implies that the book was "shelved in the children's section of a public library," which it was not.
posted by autoclavicle at 8:09 AM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why? It's a graphic novel and it's content is for the user to judge. X-Men and Spiderman can just as easily have adult themes and images. (I don't know that they do, I haven't read Marvel Comics in ages, but they could.)

This is a long standing protocal from ALA, it is not up to the librarians to judge the content of books. It is not our responsibility or authority to judge whether a book is approriate or obscene, it is merely our responsibility to provide access to information. What you do with that information is up to you.


Just making an argument for consistency here: Prose fiction in libraries already has separate categories for children's fiction and young adult fiction. Since the precedent is established, why shouldn't graphic novels be divided the same way? Or, for that matter, why segregate comics from prose in the first place?
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:11 AM on November 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


It wasn't in the "kid's stuff" section, but in the graphic novels section.

Ah, but at my public library, we have a kid's graphic novel section and a grown-up's graphic novel section. Which isn't to say kids aren't allowed to check out books from the adult section, but they're not all shelved together any more than the 'regular books' are.
posted by stinkycheese at 8:11 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


The kid didn't even find it on the shelf. She ORDERED it. She wanted it, and her parents may even have allowed it explicitly.
posted by liketitanic at 8:13 AM on November 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


We have a young lady like this, about the same age - she orders in all kinds of stuff from other libraries, and has devoured most of our 'adult' graphic novels. I joke that she'll probably be the head of the library some day.
posted by stinkycheese at 8:16 AM on November 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


They would be right to argue that this book isn't a child's book and that it shouldn't be readily available to kids.
Really? So, Shakespeare, the Bible, Gulliver's Travels -- all with lots of sex, violence, and scatology -- also should be not available to kids?

The problem with this argument is that, to me, it relies on the tacit assumption that, "If its got pictures, it is directed at kids." It's a book. A book that has some sex and violence in it. Like many other books. It gets shelved in graphic novels because currently the way we organize books divides graphic novels from others based on both/either 1) perceived difference in their nature; 2) self-selecting audiences who would choose 1 but not the other. X-Men and Spider-man and many other comics have adult themes, if not quite so explicitly drawn, but at least lots of violence (which, of course, is usually less taboo to Americans for whatever reason), so what's the problem putting this next to them?

and dejah420: That story is fucked. Even if they don't plan to replace the destroyed books, they should fine the shit out of the jerks who took them. Charge them the full value of replacing the books and keep adding penalties to it each day they don't pay. Don't let them back in the building until they do. They may never pay what they owe, but at least it's something. And hey, as good Christians, they should render unto Caesar, right? So they are not just being small-minded jerk-offs, but scofflaws as well. Send this guy after them.
posted by Saxon Kane at 8:17 AM on November 19, 2009 [7 favorites]


You fire assholes like that, without the ability to "resign," or showboat their wackiness.

I meant that the principled act would have been to resign instead of blocking access through underhanded means. Not that all would be fine if they resigned now.
posted by tyllwin at 8:19 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Second, assume they do want publicity. That doesn't mean it's bad to give it to them.

I wasn't talking about this post, I was talking about the cheerleading article in the Lexington Herald-Leader.

The very first lparagraph:
She is either due your thanks for doing everything in her power to protect children from obscenity or she is due your disdain for wantonly taking away the constitutional rights of the people of Jessamine County.

She never meant to do the latter. She absolutely meant to do the former.
Bullshit.
posted by muddgirl at 8:20 AM on November 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


So, I'm just going to trow this out there; where were the kid's parents in all this hullabaloo?
posted by Pollomacho at 8:21 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well.

What I can't understand is, if you're worried about the 11 year old kid reading it, why wouldn't you, you know, just call her parents? Right? That is one of the logical choices here, isn't it? This whole thing seems like more of a prudish-old-lady problem thank anything else. Now if I could just find that C.S. Lewis quote I have floating around here somewhere...
posted by Poppa Bear at 8:23 AM on November 19, 2009


Since the precedent is established, why shouldn't graphic novels be divided the same way? Or, for that matter, why segregate comics from prose in the first place?
It depends on the library. In my academic library we file graphic novels in a different place from regular fiction because we are a Dewey library and the call number for graphic novels is completely different from regular fiction. And while we do have a fairly extensive collection of children's books it is shelved in a different area because it is intended to be used by education students to create their teaching plans.

In public libraries, they have all manners of ways to sort these things out. This library choses to classify the graphic novels solely by their format rather than their content, which is their call.

Regardless of where the book was to be shelved, what these two women did was Wrong and they are rightly fired.
posted by teleri025 at 8:28 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Now if I could just find that C.S. Lewis quote I have floating around here somewhere...

Good luck finding it if it's from the Screwtape Letters. Mildred feels sarcastic humor about Satan is dangerous and hid it behind the reference section.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:28 AM on November 19, 2009 [10 favorites]


Ah, but at my public library, we have a kid's graphic novel section and a grown-up's graphic novel section.

Lucky you. At the library we frequent, there is one section for all "comics" - which mean's "From Hell" is filed alongside all of the pre-teen manga and Spiderman. The section itself is adjacent to the kids' book department.
posted by jbickers at 8:29 AM on November 19, 2009


God forbid children read someone talented like Alan Moore. I wonder what these morons think of Twilight. They're probably 100% in favor of all the vampire-non-sex-having.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 8:34 AM on November 19, 2009


jbickers: Talk to the staff there. Public libraries are generally, if anything, too responsive to suggestions from the public.
posted by stinkycheese at 8:35 AM on November 19, 2009


Well, I pulled the trigger. I sent the Jessamine County Public Library a still sealed replacement copy of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier that even has the 3D glasses. (So these protuberances, they pop out at you? That is disturbing!)

I am also, of course, also writing them a letter.

I was able to get my copy from "Overstock for a Cure," so I get to thwart evil, get foder for my website, help sick kids, and take a deduction on my taxes. This is why I love metafilter.
"Brand new, still shrink-wrapped. A Portion of the proceeds will go to the LA Children's Hospital. Satisfaction always 100% guaranteed."
Best $12 I've spent in a while! I hold no illusions of the book actually making it to the shelf, and fully understand the implications of a directed donation, but for some reason I can't help but hope I wasn't the only person to do this. Seeing Jessamine County Public Library inundated with copies of this graphic novel until they were able to do a give-away to every interested patron that visits would be pretty much true justice in my mind.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:35 AM on November 19, 2009 [42 favorites]


Looking at the pix on the flickr site makes me marvel at how low the bar has fallen for adult comics. my roommate in college had a ton of counterculture adult comix from the 70s, 80s & 90s - mostly Crumb but some others too, Omaha the Cat Dancer, Leather Nun, etc. The Dossier certainly seems almost YA by comparison. Wonder how they'd deal with Cherry Pop Tart?
Actually, this is a real problem with adult comics in most non-urban places, where the gummint is more concerned with thinking of the children than in having any concern for their rights and civil liberties. my then-roommate later tried to sell the aformentioned pile of comix, but in the midst of setting up the ebay auctions, had a panicky thought that the county he lived in might have some incredibly draconian laws concerning distribution of pornography. in addition, community standards and all that, juries don't seem inclined to take into account the community standards *of the time,* and at least one of the Crumb books has, among other things, a ridiculous drawing of anthropomorphized juvenile animals (think Animaniacs in the style of Mr. Natural) having sex. I bet in some places he could pull a distribution of child porn charge, and never see daylight again.
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:38 AM on November 19, 2009


The Dossier certainly seems almost YA by comparison.

One of the main characters goes by the name Oddles O'Quim. I wouldn't say it was exactly tame.
posted by stinkycheese at 8:41 AM on November 19, 2009


Oodles, pardon me.
posted by stinkycheese at 8:42 AM on November 19, 2009


I giggle every time I go to Safeway and see the ADULT CEREAL sign

Pornflakes?

Cheque please.
posted by jrengreen at 8:46 AM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


You know, if the 11-year-old girl who checked out the novel knew what she was getting (rather than it being, say, her dad checking it out on her card, or a mistake)...

Damn, that girl has guts! When I was that age, i was still sneaking into my parents room and reading their romance novels/erotic sci-fi right under their bookshelf, so I could return the item quickly and grab another book before I got caught. No way would I check anything out of the library that had naked ladies in it.
posted by muddgirl at 8:52 AM on November 19, 2009


These 'librarians' seem to be missing the point of a library, which should be to provide literature and media to patrons without any kind of censorship or judgement. You want to check that book out? Sure, and it's none of our business which book it is, just bring it back.
The only thing that's really surprising to me here is that generally, people who work with and enjoy books have the bloody sense to understand this.

When I was that girl's age I checked out "I, Claudius" and the librarians didn't even blink.

"People prayed over me while I was reading it because I did not want those images in my head."
Although I'm certain her goal was to keep the book out of circulation, you have to wonder if she wasn't... a little titillated by it.

I have absolutely no sympathy for these self-righteous self-appointed religious censors, may they take a long walk off a short dock.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:53 AM on November 19, 2009


This whole thing seems like more of a prudish-old-lady problem than anything else.

There seems to be a disease affecting SOME members of our elderly population where they come to believe that age and wisdom makes them RIGHT about EVERYTHING. My old landlord has this disease and is currently leveraging it to steal my security deposit.

Anyway, I always thought Upchuck Summer was the greatest perverted threat to our children...
posted by cbecker333 at 8:54 AM on November 19, 2009


>: Pornflakes?

When I was in high school kids were listening to a punk band called "Frosted Porn Flakes". Their website (along with the Maine Punk Board) was blocked by the Maine School and Library Network for pornography. Neither contained any.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:56 AM on November 19, 2009


These ladies intentionally kept a book from the populace, at a Public Library, because of their own personal beliefs.

See, though, they are arguing (wrongly) that it is isn't a matter of "personal belief," it's a matter of "community standards," as in Miller v. California. Sooner or later the Roberts court is going to revisit this case, given the fact that the underlying facts are over 40 years old and involve a company sending racy advertisements through the mails (oh, horrors!).

These 'librarians' seem to be missing the point of a library

They aren't librarians. Not that there aren't any librarians who would do the same thing that they did.
posted by blucevalo at 9:02 AM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


fully understand the implications of a directed donation

What are these implications?
posted by DU at 9:03 AM on November 19, 2009


It's extraordinary: those two biddies look exactly like I'd expect! So much so I expect that picture to come to life as I look at it, their faces mutating into the weird double-mouth demons from "Devil's Advocate", or thei just slithering away from the table with their reptilian lower halves.

This situation is so black-and-white, so cut-and-dried, it's like a litmus test for
a) Being an American
b) Determining with absolute certainty who are the trolls at MeFi

I'm kind of surprised our League of Extraordinary Posters- that tireless brigade of right-wing Internet polymath experts in the fields of law, theology, politics, and computer science- haven't popped in to explain that not only were these women morally correct, they are Constitutionally protected, as well as remiss in not having the local constabulary give that 11-year-old patron a good tasin'.
posted by hincandenza at 9:04 AM on November 19, 2009 [6 favorites]


dejah420: Is the identity of those library vandals known?

These yahoos are so fond of the puritanical ideals, they need some good old-fashioned pillorying. I'd put out "WANTED" posters around town with their mugs on it. "For wilful and wanton destruction of our library."
posted by phliar at 9:06 AM on November 19, 2009


In addition to their other issues, these two women seem a little clueless about what this 11 year old likely sees on a daily basis in her school. when I was her age, I was surrounded by notebooks with graphic doodling that puts the illustrations at issue here to shame. At this age, kids' imaginations are turning to topics like violence and sex and nudity. Its called puberty: we all go through it.
posted by bearwife at 9:10 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is ultimately histrionics and self-aggrandizement. These library workers have nothing going on in their lives, and so they've found something that they can use as their purpose, something to fill their time and give them a sense of importance. God's chosen them to protect the children from this awful book! They must have people pray for them! And so on.

Fucking narcissists.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:10 AM on November 19, 2009 [8 favorites]


> What are these implications?

I was irritated at my small town's selection of Fantasy books that I found to be of quality. I mentioned this to a friend that is a Librarian. He suggested I buy and donate some titles. I did so.

The Librarian (is this a proper noun?) where I was donating said they won't guarantee any donated books actually make it to the shelf. My precious snowflake of a book might have previously been removed due to lack of interest (shelf space being limited). Also, there are costs involved with putting a book into circulation. Brodarting it, data entry, etc. I was warned that my donations might just be sold in a book sale and the proceeds go toward something the library needed more than addiction copies of Michael Moorcock's formula fantasy.

I'm pretty sure there's more to it than just this, but will let people that do it for a living expound. I did have a further discussion with my Librarian friend and he confirmed much of this, and added other caveats. My main point being it's a bit more complicated than just dropping a copy of the book off.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:16 AM on November 19, 2009


I assumed that the library employees were comix fans who were interested in keeping an Alan Moore item in mint condition. Didn't want any of the hoi polloi opening the plastic seal and ruining the value.

I had the same reaction. I was dithering between, "Sure, okay, snobs are bad, and maybe they went a little overboard, but you can't fire somebody for being an elitist, can you?" and "You know what, Alan Moore does not deserve this kind of fanaticism! Why don't you people idolize Kurt Busiek like mature adults?" Imagine my disappointment.
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:17 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


My library, indeed my entire ILL system, doesn't have this book. I should purchase and donate a copy. Take THAT, Puritans (and people who say we shouldn't publicize this stuff)!
posted by DU at 9:17 AM on November 19, 2009


I giggle every time I go to Safeway and see the ADULT CEREAL sign

Bustanut Cheerios
Cream of Meat
Goatsemeal
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:17 AM on November 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


The Librarian (is this a proper noun?) where I was donating said they won't guarantee any donated books actually make it to the shelf.

That's what I suspected you meant. This annoys me about my library. I wish there were a way to vet a book selection ahead of time. Like, tell them I'm thinking about donating $X, do they want it or would they sell it? But for some reason they play all this close to their nametag-free (the names of the librarians are also State Secrets) vests.
posted by DU at 9:20 AM on November 19, 2009


cjorgensen: Your second paragraph there is in keeping with my library's policies. You would be amazed at some of the stuff people want to donate. We always have to emphasize it may not actually end up on the shelf, again for the reasons you were given.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:23 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


God, what a ridiculous pair. I'm glad they were fired. I wish they could get fired twice. Sixty goddamn years after Frederic Wertham and there's still people willing to look at adult comics and shriek "oh noes, teh chillrenz!"

Aside from gaming, is there any other art or literature form subject to such absurd attacks? It's so embarrassing that we live in a country where there are still alleged adults who believe that mere exposure to a story or an image to be so dangerous and uniformly corrupting that the art which offends them must be suppressed for the public good. The "people praying over me so I wouldn't have the images in my head" bit was the batshit cherry on this paranoia sundae. What. The Fuck. Is she so afraid of? Ink on paper has never and will never harm a soul. When crazy fuckers explain the crazy shit they do by referencing a book, be it a comic, Catcher in the Rye or the Bible, chances are the crazy shit they've done is stuff they already kinda wanted to do before they started reading.

I'm pleased that comics are widely available in libraries, but they certainly ought to be sorted for juvenile and adult audiences, just like any other media format in any other section of the library. Part of my would love to see them integrated into the standard books, but ultimately I've gotta come down against that because reading a comic is a fundamentally different experience than reading bare text. They ought to be separate for the same reason films and books are kept in different sections. But please, please divide them according to their intended audiences so dum-dums like this pair of reactionary library workers won't have leave to panic about the virginal literary awareness of the children in their communities.
posted by EatTheWeak at 9:24 AM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


>>I giggle every time I go to Safeway and see the ADULT CEREAL sign
>
> Pornflakes?

Fucky Charms.
Bukkake Berry.
Nookie Crisp.
Honey Bunches of Goatse.

Oh, good. Here comes the nurse with my medication.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 9:28 AM on November 19, 2009 [10 favorites]


Cornhole Pops
Count Suckula
Fistpix
Cracklin' Goatse Bran
posted by EatTheWeak at 9:33 AM on November 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


Count Suckula

You did this one backwards (that's what she said).
posted by DU at 9:40 AM on November 19, 2009


Grape Nuts
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:40 AM on November 19, 2009 [8 favorites]


Or, for that matter, why segregate comics from prose in the first place?
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:11 AM on November 19 [1 favorite has favorites +] [!]


For the same reason that sci-fi and fantasy ought to be separated from the rest of the fiction -- so that I can find it more easily without having to look through all those boring mundane books.
posted by jb at 9:40 AM on November 19, 2009 [6 favorites]


I really wish that the child would even threaten to sue the two so-called librarians. Imagine the uproar if they refused to lend a book to a patron on the basis of being black, or a woman? It's absolutely obscene that this sort of discrimination exists, and I'm quite happy to see that they were rightly fired.
posted by explosion at 9:42 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I truly cannot get the image out of my head right now of Alan Moore hunched over in a plush throne-like chair before a fireplace deep in some secluded cave in England cackling maniacally with a remote control in one hand and an empty bottle of Whiskey in the other.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:46 AM on November 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


I really wish that the child would even threaten to sue the two so-called librarians.

Again, they are not librarians, neither in actuality nor so-called.
posted by blucevalo at 9:47 AM on November 19, 2009


My friend show me The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier, I want show library patrons. Why no?
posted by shmegegge at 9:51 AM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Incidentally, Scientologists used to employ a similar technique at public libraries to keep books like "Bare Faced Messiah" from ever being read. Oh, the wonders of the internet.

Incidentally, a friend used to emply a similar technique at public libraries to keep books like "Dianetics" from ever being read. Oops, it just fell down the back of the stacks!
posted by five fresh fish at 9:51 AM on November 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


That's what I suspected you meant. This annoys me about my library. I wish there were a way to vet a book selection ahead of time. Like, tell them I'm thinking about donating $X, do they want it or would they sell it? But for some reason they play all this close to their nametag-free (the names of the librarians are also State Secrets) vests.

This isn't as cut-and-dried as you may think. It takes a lot of desk time in what is, probably, already a cash strapped system to "vet" any books. Especially books that come in a non-stop torrent as people unload their copy of James Patterson's Swimsuit on a collection that already has 50.

Time equates to staff hours, which equates to money. The person who's in charge of donations is probably also in charge of some other collection development, or program planning, or manning a desk somewhere (and, likely, all three simultaneously, not to mention all of the outside duties of a library worker, like minding teenagers who get dropped off after school, playing tech support for the barely computer literate, etc.)

I'm not complaining - these are the jobs that are inherent with the profession, and are rewarding and necessary in their own way, but what many patrons don't realise is the intense ammount of time and effort that goes into maintaining a public library.

We appreciate donations from the public, honestly we do, but it's not our highest priority. We get money for collection development as part of our budget, and so we get a good deal of the books that are deemed necessary for the communities we serve through that.

But, as you drop off either 3 carefully selected titles, or a garbage bag of Grandma's molded-over paperbacks, it takes time for us to sort through that - time on top of whatever duties we have already.

Do you expect desk clerks (who often don't have an MLS, aren't trained in collection management, and are probably overworked as is) to 'vet' your donations on the spot? Do you expect some reference librarian to take a break from helping people search for jobs and staving off chaos on the shelves to do it on their lunch break?

People get offended when we don't fall down on our knees and kiss their feet for each donated book, and especially offended when we (heaven forbid) aren't currently accepting donations. "What? You don't want this book? You're a library, aren't you!?" as a man hands me a tattered Janet Evanovich from three years ago.

So keep that in mind, if you please. Also note that if you have a book that you especially love, and is especially rare, you can occasionally have it added to the collection along with a donation which will include a name plate inside the book - depending on the system of course.

Back to the topic at hand...

I'm glad that the library director handled this properly. I hope he doesn't take any heat from the board over it.
posted by codacorolla at 9:52 AM on November 19, 2009 [12 favorites]


Because you can never find a copy of Dianetics at the second-hand bookstore.

Hamburger.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:54 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm a public librarian in Kentucky, and our director's been keeping us pretty well abreast of the Jessamine situation.

Here's the petition submitted to the library board formally requesting that Black Dossier (and three other items) be removed from the library's collection. Now I know where not to eat/shop in Jessamine County.

Here's TV coverage (1, 2) of the Jessamine County Library Board meeting last night.
posted by Rykey at 9:58 AM on November 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


Not that there aren't any librarians who would do the same thing that they did.

I admit that the temptation to prevent a student from downloading a Glenn Beck book on one of our library Kindles was pretty strong. It pained me, but I had to let him do it. I quietly added an Al Franken book as well, though.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:01 AM on November 19, 2009 [8 favorites]


I wish there were a way to vet a book selection ahead of time. Like, tell them I'm thinking about donating $X, do they want it or would they sell it?

In this case I believe codacorolla was implying he'd like to actually coordinate a donation. Like provide a list to see which ones the library is interested in. I'm not even sure I read it as the books having already been bought.

Again, from my Librarian friend (who turned me onto the whole idea of directed donations) the best thing to donate is cash, so the library can decide what is needed. This said, I'm all for letting people read whatever they want, and I understand the need for my tax dollars to buy crap I don't personally believe in, but when I make an actual donation I want to know it's going toward a title or service I do believe in. That make sense?
posted by cjorgensen at 10:02 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


People get offended when we don't fall down on our knees and kiss their feet for each donated book...

OK, but my library won't even accept money to buy their books of their own choosing. Yes, you heard me. I don't remember what reason they gave, our minds were wiped clean by the sheer idiocy.
posted by DU at 10:04 AM on November 19, 2009


People get offended when we don't fall down on our knees and kiss their feet for each donated book...

I recently had a patron hound me for weeks (phone calls, notes, in-person visits) to order his favorite TV series on DVD. He didn't want to hear my rationale for not honoring his particular purchase request; he felt that he was entitled to the purchase because he donated some DVDs years ago that we kept for the collection.

posted by Rykey at 10:10 AM on November 19, 2009


DU : the names of the librarians are also State Secrets

Keep in mind that librarians tend to strongly support personal privacy rights - You can thank the ALA for making some of the more Orwellian provisions of the Patriot act unenforceable. Warrantless requests for patron histories that they couldn't legally disclose to the patron? Okay, no more personally-identifiable record keeping. Same for internet browsing habits? Time to start booting Knoppix from CD.

So the fact that they don't want every relidiot yahoo coming in to know their name, I'll give 'em a pass on that one.
posted by pla at 10:10 AM on November 19, 2009 [8 favorites]


Because you can never find a copy of Dianetics at the second-hand bookstore.

But at least children — or those with child-like minds — aren't likely to stumble upon it there.

I mean, imagine the horror. You send you innocent child off to the library to do some basic research for a school essay, and they stumble across that P.o.S. cult book. Next thing you know, they're jumping up and down on the sofa screaming that they loooove Katie.

You don't want you children growing up to be midget Hollywood attention-whores, do you?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:15 AM on November 19, 2009


...all of which disappeared one day, never to be returned. One of the local puritan groups came in, got library cards, checked out all the books, and (we think) burned them.

The solution to this problem is to replace the books and put them in the reference section where they cannot leave the building but can be read by anybody, even those without library cards.
posted by Foam Pants at 10:21 AM on November 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


No indeed. I confess it grieves me greatly to see certain titles on our shelves (Suze Orman is my own personal bugbear). I feel your pain.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:24 AM on November 19, 2009


The biggest tragedy here is that the book is just not very good. I loved LOEG 1 and 2, but this one was just dull.
posted by Legomancer at 10:36 AM on November 19, 2009


I really wish that the child would even threaten to sue the two so-called librarians. Imagine the uproar if they refused to lend a book to a patron on the basis of being black, or a woman? It's absolutely obscene that this sort of discrimination exists, and I'm quite happy to see that they were rightly fired.

Children aren't a protected class.

I understand completely with the two women. I think the aims of both the women and library patrons could have been met had the library properly handled the material in a way that prevented children from intentionally or inadvertently checking out something like this Moore work.

The images are graphic, and if I had an 11 year old, boy or girl, I would not allow them to read the book. Likewise, if I didn't have a problem with it, I wouldn't mind my child needing to show permission to check it out.
posted by Atreides at 10:36 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


"People prayed over me while I was reading it because I did not want those images in my head."

OK, you don't want the images to stay in your head. That's reasonable - spending any time on the internet means you're entirely aware that what you see can't easily be unseen.

So why are you still READING IT?
posted by ZsigE at 10:40 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


think the aims of both the women and library patrons could have been met had the library properly handled the material in a way that prevented children from intentionally or inadvertently checking out something like this Moore work.

It sounds, though, like they did -- and these two staffers, who were not part of the library's decision-making or policy-setting board, took it upon themselves to kluge together a more draconian measure still.

and when a child DID do precisely as you suggest -- they still wouldn't let her have it.

I understand your concerns, but they really did go above and beyond here.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:42 AM on November 19, 2009


I think the aims of both the women and library patrons could have been met had the library properly handled the material in a way that prevented children from intentionally or inadvertently checking out something like this Moore work.

The images are graphic, and if I had an 11 year old, boy or girl, I would not allow them to read the book.


I grew up with my parents being basically clueless as to what I was reading once I got beyond the age of being ferried to the library or bookmobile by my mom. I think I grew up the better for it.

(Although I will say, I remain a certain distance apart from my parents because I consumed so much more than they are willing to expose themselves to overall. Even to this day, with me in my 40s and them in their 70s, they still refuse to partake of things which I recommend to them which, despite being of exquisite quality and worth as art and literature, are just too "extreme" for them.)

[HBO's "Rome" is a fine example of this. "Why all the nudity and violence?" asks my mother? This, when they visit Italy and the old Roman colonies regularly and claim to love the culture. Sad when your vision of history has been Disneyfied to that extent.]
posted by hippybear at 10:48 AM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


As a librarian I will say there are some real loons working in the circulation departments of libraries all over this country. I do not find this surprising. There are still people working in libraries that haven't gotten over carrying videotapes let alone comics.
posted by zzazazz at 10:49 AM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


So why are you still READING IT?

From the article: "She then went through the proper procedure of challenging the book, something any patron can do. That required a committee, including Cook, to read the book."

I know you're snarkin', but still.
posted by jmd82 at 10:51 AM on November 19, 2009


I understand your concerns, but they really did go above and beyond here.

You're right. The sticker system didn't register with me the first time I posted.


and when a child DID do precisely as you suggest -- they still wouldn't let her have it.

The article is a bit blurry on whether the girl actually had the ability to check it out or not. It refers to a policy that children 17 and under need parental permission to get a library card. However, is that policy stating that when a parent does that, they automatically consent to allowing their kid to check out anything under the sun? It'd be kind of ironic if the two ladies were undone by a girl who ultimately couldn't have checked the book out on her own, when the purpose of their actions was to prevent children from checking it out.
posted by Atreides at 10:52 AM on November 19, 2009


The images are graphic, and if I had an 11 year old, boy or girl, I would not allow them to read the book.

That didn't stop me from reading the Penthouse my dad hid under his bed. Kids aren't dumb, especially 5th and 6th graders.

I wouldn't mind my child needing to show permission to check it out.

When I got my library card, I signed a statement that the library was not responsible for filtering any content. So yeah, I actually wouldn't be cool with this at all, because it sets a dangerous precedent. If you don't want your kid checking out materials from the library, then don't let them get a library card.
posted by muddgirl at 10:53 AM on November 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


At the library I work at a kid can check out any book they want. It's up to the parents to monitor their reading habits, not us. The public often forgets that schools and libraries are not here to protect their children, that's their job. I always get pretty pissed when one of our local right wing politicians starts blasting us because we carry books with adult content.

We do limit kids A/V access but parents can give them permission to check out any movie they want.
posted by zzazazz at 11:07 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


However, is that policy stating that when a parent does that, they automatically consent to allowing their kid to check out anything under the sun?

Generally, yes. Though in some systems, a parent can request a limit on his or her child's account. The Brooklyn Public Library, for example, has separate cards for Children (under 12), Young Adult 13-16, and Adult 17+. However, only the Children's card has any possible restriction on it. The parents have to check a box saying they want their kid to only be able to check out books from the children's section. There is also a box saying something to the effect of "My child can check out anything".

This is relatively new. I got my card at the age of 6 and never subject to limits. Which was good, since by the age of 9 or 10, I was already into YA, Shakespeare, and classic literature. Being confined to the children's section would've bored the crap out of me and been awfully limiting. I relate to this 11-year old girl.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:12 AM on November 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


As a librarian I will say there are some real loons working in the circulation departments of libraries all over this country.

Got a few loons in the reference departments too good buddy.
posted by marxchivist at 11:24 AM on November 19, 2009


While age-appropriate access to controversial materials and balancing parental rights with the rights of minor children to access works is a challenge, to say nothing of decisions on how to allocate decidedly finite collections budgets, this issues absolutely pale in the face of appropriately shelving and cataloging the subjects, genres, and statements of responsibility for graphic novels. Seriously, classical music is a piece of piss in comparison.
posted by stet at 11:25 AM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


>>As a librarian I will say there are some real loons working in the circulation departments of libraries all over this country.

>Got a few loons in the reference departments too good buddy.

Catalogers, in contrast, are beacons of sanity in a troubled world.
posted by stet at 11:26 AM on November 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


I think the aims of both the women and library patrons could have been met had the library properly handled the material in a way that prevented children from intentionally or inadvertently checking out something like this Moore work.

And how would the library have gone about doing that proper handling, exactly?

The solution to this problem is to replace the books and put them in the reference section where they cannot leave the building but can be read by anybody, even those without library cards.

Books being moved to the reference section does not prevent books being defaced, mutilated, or destroyed by those determined to do any of those things.
posted by blucevalo at 11:29 AM on November 19, 2009


And how would the library have gone about doing that proper handling, exactly?

By using the sticker system that's referenced in the article which denotes sexually explicit material? As I conceded my oversight in the reading previously, the system wasn't given the chance to work, though it's a bit unclear if it would have made a difference or not according to the library policies.
posted by Atreides at 11:39 AM on November 19, 2009


The position that these ladies were in appears to be circulation clerk. Depending on the system this can either be a decent part time job, or possibly a low-end full time job with good benefits (librarians often get the same sort of benefits as teachers). For their area (Kentucky) it might actually be one of the better jobs available for an older woman.

I can't say that I hate these women, or are even unsympathetic to them, but I can't support their actions. I'm sure that they have a good side to them as well. This is definitely a lose-lose situation for the library system involved. You have two employees (who were probably good friends with the regulars at their branch) unemployed, you have a certain portion of the population mad at you, and now you even have the possibility for a crusade against the director (if not the entire system). None of these are good things when you're fighting tooth and nail for every dime of public money.

By doing what they undoubtedly thought was the right thing, these two women have caused immeasurable grief for the library system that they used to be a part of.

Pretty shitty all around. I wish that churches wouldn't preach the sort of dogma that teaches people it's their duty to act as morallity police against Satan.
posted by codacorolla at 11:42 AM on November 19, 2009 [6 favorites]


Books being moved to the reference section does not prevent books being defaced, mutilated, or destroyed by those determined to do any of those things.

You are 100% right. However, getting caught ripping pages out of a library book is not only humiliating but it usually means getting banned from the building for a while.

By the time I was 11, I had already learned about most sex acts and talked about them extensively with the kids on the bus. People who work in a library and refuse to check out certain books against library policy are a bit like pharmacies that won't fill morning-after prescriptions on principle. They need to find another line of work and let me decide what I, and my kids, read.
posted by Foam Pants at 12:20 PM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Really? So, Shakespeare, the Bible, Gulliver's Travels -- all with lots of sex, violence, and scatology -- also should be not available to kids?"

That is a fantastic example of creating of a strawman. Thanks! I will totally be using this in future lectures.
posted by oddman at 12:28 PM on November 19, 2009


However, getting caught ripping pages out of a library book is not only humiliating but it usually means getting banned from the building for a while.

Yes, but there are many ways of easily doing such things without getting caught.
posted by blucevalo at 12:31 PM on November 19, 2009


The solution to this problem is to replace the books and put them in the reference section where they cannot leave the building but can be read by anybody, even those without library cards.

Another problem with this "solution", other than what blucevalo mentioned, is that people like that get part of what they want in impeding the free circulation of these materials. Obviously, they also do so if they destroy the materials, but on the other hand, why should someone interested in reading award winning gay literature, for instance, be forced to sit there at the library for hours reading the book instead of being able to take it home at his or her leisure?

Given the reaction of some of the patrons regarding those materials in the first place, don't you think that people with interest in those books would be more than a little marginalized if they couldn't read them privately?
posted by cmgonzalez at 12:45 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I really hate putting material like this in Reference. It seems so chickenshit. That said, I recently moved our tattoo collection behind the desk because of constant book slashings.

I am happy to report the copy of Black Dossier that I purchased is in our Graphic Novel section. It has circulated constantly for almost a year now with a long list of patrons on the hold list.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 1:00 PM on November 19, 2009


jrengreen: Cheque please.

Don't you mean "Chex please"?
posted by WCityMike at 1:05 PM on November 19, 2009


I'd have let my daughters to have checked this out at 11 yo. A line drawing of buttocks or breasts is hardly offensive to me or my children. Of course, I raised my daughters to be intelligent, discerning, and open-minded people. I also don't believe sexuality should be hidden from children - they're going to need to know about it for when they're adults. It's the children sheltered from reality who are likely to have their frail little minds damaged from something like this.

Me, I just thought it was dull and would wonder about my daughters' interest, since I know they've got better taste in literature AND in line-drawn nudity.
posted by _paegan_ at 1:12 PM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


For what it's worth, I thought Black Dossier was somewhat muddled and top-heavy after the crisp pulp plots of the first two LOEG volumes.

Slight derail: while Black Dossier was kind of meh in places, don't let it put you off reading 1910, the volume that came after it. FUCKING FANTASTIC.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 2:00 PM on November 19, 2009


One of the local puritan groups came in, got library cards, checked out all the books, and (we think) burned them. Because our library is significantly lacking in funds

Funny, I would think the fines would be enough to replace the stolen items, and failure to pay the fine should result in a charge of theft. Otherwise, you're just encouraging people to steal books.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 2:35 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I understand completely with the two women. I think the aims of both the women and library patrons could have been met had the library properly handled the material in a way that prevented children from intentionally or inadvertently checking out something like this Moore work.

The images are graphic, and if I had an 11 year old, boy or girl, I would not allow them to read the book. Likewise, if I didn't have a problem with it, I wouldn't mind my child needing to show permission to check it out."
@Atreides -- Hear, hear! Ditto "From Hell," much of the Hernandez Bros. work, the Earl of Rochester's poetry, the movie "Alien," etc. If my 8-yo kid is interested in this stuff, I would not necessarily be opposed to her seeing it IF I can be around to contextualize it for her and keep her from getting too freaked out. This is not unreasonable.
posted by jfwlucy at 2:42 PM on November 19, 2009


jfwlucy - there is a BIG difference between 8 years old and 11. Of course every child was different, but I was incredibly curious about sex by the time I was 11 - my period had already started (as it does for many girls that age) and I was allowed to watch PG-13 movies on my own and even pre-screened R-rated movies. That is the age I started reading romance novels and the more adult science fiction that my mom kept on the upper bookshelves.

Parents should be aware that there is adult material at the library, and that their pre-teens have access to it. But I don't think that any librarian (much less desk clerk) is capable of determining what any parent would consider appropriate material for their child.
posted by muddgirl at 3:12 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


On a tangent, I wonder why pictures of naked bodies are considered more obscene or inappropriate than, say, Robert Heinlein's I Will Fear No Evil, which I read at the precocious age of 12.
posted by muddgirl at 3:14 PM on November 19, 2009


They went into the personal file of a patron to check her age, which is explicitly noted as being a no-no at their government job.

Yeah, that was the part that surprised me (or, I guess, didn't) the most. It's a very predictible chain of events that when you've got two fat, overaged, puritan busybodies sitting around in full control of public material they are eventually going to decide that what people should and shouldn't have access to, but when they're snooping around in somebody's library records for anything more than establishing possible overdue books, then that's just fucking creepy and really unsettling.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:26 PM on November 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


It'd be kind of ironic if the two ladies were undone by a girl who ultimately couldn't have checked the book out on her own, when the purpose of their actions was to prevent children from checking it out.

This may be the stated purpose, but I have my doubts. People who wish to censor always use the "think about the children" excuse, when in fact their actions aim to prevent access to anyone of any age.
posted by coolguymichael at 3:38 PM on November 19, 2009


And another thing...

Dear Right-Wing Looneyflaps,

You are never going to stop people from being gay, playing video games, or wanting to look at naughty pictures. It's just never going to happen, ever, no matter what you do. Men are going to hold the hands of other men in the mall, women are going to kiss other women on park benches, kids are going to play Call Of Duty and scream at one another over the internet about how they're going to bone ur mom, and I'm going to lurk around near the Evil Angel DVD display at Naughty But Nice pretending like I'm really embarrased to be there but in reality having a brilliant time except objectifying women is wrong however this is a three-for-one marathon movie deal and, god, quandary.

Point is you're pissing against an enormous tidal wave and the thing with pissing against an enormous tidal wave is you don't look like some noble martyr fighting the good fight for the rest of humanity, you just look like a pathetic old dude with your really dangly balls and little oatmeal-grey dick out on a public beach, blowing urine into your own eyes.

Cheers,

TD
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:59 PM on November 19, 2009 [16 favorites]


Oh god, my mind's eye!
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:33 PM on November 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


I really didn't enjoy Black Dossier. To the point I returned it to the store for half the purchase price in trade. Think I got the latest Walking Dead trade out of it at the time, so it's all good.
posted by autodidact at 4:36 PM on November 19, 2009


...all of which disappeared one day, never to be returned. One of the local puritan groups came in, got library cards, checked out all the books, and (we think) burned them.
Foam Pants:The solution to this problem is to replace the books and put them in the reference section where they cannot leave the building but can be read by anybody, even those without library cards.
Actually, the solution is to: (It's going to be a big bill). Or just have them charge with destruction of public property, assuming you can prove that.

1 - That's just for spite--no downloaded modified records for these babies!
2 - More spite.

posted by Decimask at 4:44 PM on November 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


I think they generally use the (bullshit) "Think of the children" argument because children are less likely to stick up for themselves and get them fired.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:55 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


> While age-appropriate access to controversial materials and balancing parental rights with the rights of minor children to access works is a challenge, to say nothing of decisions on how to allocate decidedly finite collections budgets, this issues absolutely pale in the face of appropriately shelving and cataloging the subjects, genres, and statements of responsibility for graphic novels.

Oh man, QFT. And I'm not even a cataloguer. Rotating writers, pecillers, inkers, colourists--even within the same volume of a graphic novel.

Truly, no one knows suffering like a serials cataloguer does.
posted by Decimask at 4:56 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


DU: Perhaps you could ask your library to start an Amazon wishlist?
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:29 PM on November 19, 2009


Okay I wanna play too:

Sugar Smacks Dat Ass
Holdin' Grahams
Frosted Mini-Teats
and
Fruity Pebbles
posted by vewystwange at 5:55 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


oddman says, That is a fantastic example of creating of a strawman.

I'm not sure why you say that.

You pointed out that it is listed as a "Mature Readers" title. That means, you go on to state, that it is not a "child's book" -- presumably because it has sexual content, since that seems to be the main complaint with the book -- and so that means it should not be readily available to kids. So, by that logic, other books with sexual content would also be for "Mature Readers," and thus not children's books, and thus should also not be readily available to kids. I listed some examples (albeit rather prominent, flamebaiting ones) that could also be considered, by the criteria that (I assume that) you are applying, as "Mature Readers" books and thus not readily available to kids because of the books' sexual content. OK, I left out "readily" as a qualifier -- consider it added. It would be a straw man argument if I said, "So, you think no kids should be allowed to read anything?" or, "So, we're supposed to ban sex education now?" or something to that effect.

Now, maybe I misrepresented your point of view, but you didn't give me much to go on. If you think that it is not the sexual content that makes this book not for kids, please let me know. Or, if you think that other (fiction) books WITH sexual content have some mitigating factor that makes them suitable for children, then let me know. I don't think that I'm presenting an irrelevant topic so much as extending the logic of your statement, but if I've misunderstood your point, please say so.

That's not to say that I think you are necessarily 100% wrong. I don't really know how most libraries operate, but theoretically, I wouldn't have a problem putting this in a section for books and graphic novels geared towards "mature readers" (which would really just be the negative category of everything not EXPLICITLY labeled as "You Know, For Kids!"). And I perhaps-maybe-possibly wouldn't have a problem if the library limited the borrowing privileges of people under a certain age, as long as that limitation would be enforced not just on certain books or certain topics, but on everything -- say, kids under 10/12/16/whatever can't check out books without an adult "co-signing" for them, or something to that effect.

And just to make things clear: There is sex in Black Dossier, but it is not an "Adult," or pornographic, book -- this is not Alan Moore's Lost Girls, which is most definitely pornographic. It is an "Adult" book because it has "mature themes" and "adult language" or whatever else, sex among them, that many, many, MANY other books have, including some of the ones that I named earlier. But again, because it is illustrated, it is easier to spot.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:48 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I would also point to the various people above who say, essentially:

Librarians are not paid to protect children from teh icky. They are paid to librarianize. You determine what your kids should or shouldn't read.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:53 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Do libraries ever have by hold request only stacks for contentious books?

What's the audit trail like for library systems?
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:37 AM on November 20, 2009


At work (smallish public library system, five branches) books that are officially restricted (American Psycho is the one that pops to mind) are kept separate from the rest of the collection to be accessed via request. Restricted audio-visual is still kept in the general collection as access requires getting the DVD itself from staff which is where ID/records would be checked to make sure we were within legal guidelines. I'm not sure what you mean by audit trail but purchasing and cataloguing records are associated with individual worker IDs and could be tracked if needs be (last time I used that feature I was wondering why my very very multicultural area library, with large non-Christian populations was getting a bunch of teen Christian novels including conversion 'miracle' stories). Actual loaning/returning is not, but there are records for borrowing that can be tracked and reviewed (usually to try work through damaged material).

The images are graphic, and if I had an 11 year old, boy or girl, I would not allow them to read the book. - Atreides

If my 8-yo kid is interested in this stuff, I would not necessarily be opposed to her seeing it IF I can be around to contextualize it for her and keep her from getting too freaked out. This is not unreasonable. - jfwlucy

That is all well within your rights. But also nothing to do with my actual job - if you want your child's reading to be monitored, then monitor it. Talk to me (I'm a children's librarian) and I will do my best to find you suitable material within your guidelines. I will not prevent a child from accessing something she is legally allowed to access because you might have an issue with it. I am not a monitor, I am a librarian. My job is to help people find information, entertainment and be a facilitator for that (I'm also a children's librarian so I do storytime, run activities and sessions for teenagers). I advise patrons on reading material for themselves, their families and their friends. I try to create a balanced collection with a small amount of money. I answer detailed questions, inane questions and occasionally intrusive questions (which is why my work has a ruling on never revealing information about staff or other patrons - we have enough issues with stalking/assault without giving the arseholes more information). I fix dodgy catalogue records and I create basic ones. I help patrons find information on a really wide range of subjects. I help them even when the request is painfully truncated by their demands. I work as a librarian, not as an ad hoc parent figure whenever requested.

I'm also a mother. I am not your mother, nor your child's mother. I am not a childcare worker. I am not responsible for your child's reading habits, but I am responsible for baby anachronism's reading habits. I don't expect a librarian to materialise out of nowhere to tell my child to stop trying to eat the books, and I won't expect them to materialise out of nowhere to stop her reading them as she gets older. I will monitor her reading habits, because I know my own unfettered access wasn't as awesome as a lot of people make it out to be (Jean M Auel you have a lot to answer for). Part of that was quality (hi Piers Anthony!) and part was simple unreadiness. I'll keep that in mind with my child. I cannot make that decision for someone else's child.

Admittedly, there are issues regarding placement of items and the cataloguing records. Probably the most idiotic screw up in that regard I've actually come across was the school librarian who ordered based on an algorithm regarding reading level. Not content. Which is how Gregory Maguire ended up in the elementary school library (well read by the grade six children). The occasional graphic novel that's a little more adult than expected may slip through but it usually gets picked up at some point in the process and I usually don't mind if a patron points it out because it is something we've stuffed up. I do mind patrons either taking it into their own hands (please don't fuck with my books, okay?) and I do mind patrons accusing me or my staff of disseminating pornography to children, satanic worship or being bad parents for not parenting someone else's children (all accusations levelled at me or my workers over the past few years). Yes there are also occasions that staff have no clue (anime and manga are rife with this) which is when you have a chat to the librarian about it. Never assume malice where simply stupidity could be at fault.

A public library is for everyone. Insisting that it only be suitable for children (and your own children at that) is the height of obnoxiousness. Yes, a child may pull A.N Roquelaire off the shelf from the adult section, or Moore's work, or any number of other unsuitable things that are perfectly suitable and appropriate for adults. That why you need to monitor your children at the library (if that is something you are worried about) (actually, you need to monitor them in the library regardless because children need to be supervised until they're 11 at my library).
posted by geek anachronism at 2:46 AM on November 20, 2009 [8 favorites]


A public library is for everyone. Insisting that it only be suitable for children (and your own children at that) is the height of obnoxiousness. Yes, a child may pull A.N Roquelaire off the shelf from the adult section, or Moore's work, or any number of other unsuitable things that are perfectly suitable and appropriate for adults. That why you need to monitor your children at the library (if that is something you are worried about) (actually, you need to monitor them in the library regardless because children need to be supervised until they're 11 at my library).

I never said that the librarian needs to act in loco parentis. I just felt that a system could be devised that simply should prevent children from checking out sexually explicit (or similarly graphic) material. In this case, I'm referring to a graphic novel with depictions of orgies, oral sex, and what appears to be demons gang banging either a woman or a fairy. When signing up a kid, let the parent decide then to pick out what genres and material the kid can check out. All the library has to do is pay attention to a flag on a computer when checking out the material that might say, "Yo! This kid doesn't have permission from their parent to check this out!" You already state that there is material that is unsuitable for children, so at least at your library, you do have a line drawn in the sand which would allow for proper categorization and flagging.

The library should never think to tell a parent what their kid can or cannot read, that's a parent's choice. It isn't a sacrifice or censorship to simply adopt a few systematic changes to help a parent enforce those choices.
posted by Atreides at 5:43 AM on November 20, 2009


Sharon Cook, one of the fired workers, said, "People prayed over me while I was reading it because I did not want those images in my head."

I realize that she had to read it in order to challenge it (and how exactly did she know there were naughty bits in it without reading it first?) but I'd just like to point out that it is entirely possible to check out a book and never read it, finally returning it to the circulation desk still unread after 2 well-intentioned renewals, shame-facedly.

Damn you and your beguiling prose, Lemony Snicket!
posted by Deathalicious at 5:54 AM on November 20, 2009


I just felt that a system could be devised that simply should prevent children from checking out sexually explicit (or similarly graphic) material.

A system is in place to prevent children from checking out any material a parent doesn't like - it's called "don't get a library card for your kid".

It's not like any kid can walk off the street and walk off with pornography.
posted by muddgirl at 7:12 AM on November 20, 2009


Atreides, you see this as a system where things fall into neat categories where everyone can agree what is too sexually explicit or violent. I suspect making librarians gatekeepers for restricting access would result in even more complaints by parents who feel that books have been misclassified. Then you get into political issues where books with non-explicit homosexual content are classified as resatricted in conseervative communities, etc...

Aside from which, any real reader is going to outgrow the childrens section of the library in short order, and then they'll have to come to their parents for every single book from the adult section. Why not get into the habit of screening their reading from the start?

I read a lot of books with adult themes as a child, but the wonderful thing about reading is that if you read enough of a varied selection, it'll put the occasional oddball book into context for you. I will say if your kid plows through an entire series of kinky books while right on the threshold of puberty it's probably going to give them a fetish, but then you really weren't paying attention as a parent.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:43 PM on November 20, 2009


I just felt that a system could be devised that simply should prevent children from checking out sexually explicit (or similarly graphic) material. - Atreides

There is - you. Material defined as restricted by the government is restricted to adults. The rest is put in areas that help you make those choices. The rest is up to you, as a parent, to monitor. If you absolutely do not want your child to borrow a certain book, or a certain type of book, it is up to you to enforce that. Library rules are not patron specific. Item alerts and tagging require far more cataloguing (and therefore staff time and effort) for a very very unreliable end and even if we adopt this mythical genre based exclusion technique, you have to rely on the librarian cataloguing to read your mind and what you think is suitable. On top of which the child can access it in library (since you're apparently not supervising or monitoring at the selection/borrowing level).

Also, graphic novel is a format, not a genre. Rather like audio books, or serials.
posted by geek anachronism at 12:46 PM on November 20, 2009


I've yet to deny that the final word should always rest with the parent. I suspect that I'm simply looking for ways to help parents do such with a little more ease than approving or vetoing every book selection. A system where a parent can let their kid have a library card (as opposed to mudgirl's suggestion of just taking it away), and let the kid frequent the library as much as possible.

When I said genre, I was referring more to subject area, not the formats. I've read and enjoyed graphic novels in the past. I have no illusions or preconceptions to the drawn word with regard to suitability. ;)
posted by Atreides at 2:42 PM on November 20, 2009


I suspect that I'm simply looking for ways to help parents do such with a little more ease than approving or vetoing every book selection.

Someone, somewhere will have to approve or veto every book selection. Are you recommending we move to a system similar to the MPAA rating system? We know how well that works...

My parents were always very conscious of the media I was consuming, but at the same time they recognized that they couldn't filter every bit of information, and that at a certain age my curiosity would overcome my fear of getting caught reading about orgies.
posted by muddgirl at 2:52 PM on November 20, 2009


Someone, somewhere will have to approve or veto every book selection. Are you recommending we move to a system similar to the MPAA rating system? We know how well that works...

No, but it appears that libraries have their own internal vetting process. This criteria can be printed on the sign up form for a parent to see if they believe it works for them before signing off on giving their kid their own card. If they don't, then they follow your advice and simply don't give their kid a card. If they do, kid can come and go as she pleases. By not having a national standard like the MPAA, it would also allow communities to tailor their expectations of what they feel is more adult content or not.
posted by Atreides at 4:25 PM on November 20, 2009


muddgirl writes: On a tangent, I wonder why pictures of naked bodies are considered more obscene or inappropriate than, say, Robert Heinlein's I Will Fear No Evil, which I read at the precocious age of 12.

Well, to be fair, I do agree with protecting kids from bad books. You should have had a parent guiding you away from that one and toward Stranger in a Strange Land or The Cat Who Walks Through Walls or Podkayne of Mars.

I Will Fear No Evil is the only book that I threw at a wall 30 pages before the end.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:47 PM on November 20, 2009


No, but it appears that libraries have their own internal vetting process. This criteria can be printed on the sign up form for a parent to see if they believe it works for them before signing off on giving their kid their own card. - Atreides

Yes we do, it's called 'the young adult section'. If you require more vetting than that, you need to do it yourself as it is an entirely personal choice. Librarians do not read every book in the collection (sadly) and we aren't able to vet things based on your standards. Hell, half the time that level of 'vetting' (young adult vs children) is done based on covers or publisher information, occasionally reviews or suggestions. Even if a closer reading was done, mistakes are still made and you still have a responsibility to engage with your child about their reading habits - see cjorgensen about bad books. Books can be entirely age appropriate yet still challenging

And see where I talked about having 'rules' regarding book selection and shelving? The same problem is evident if those rules are based on content. Entire series get shelved in adult because in the fourth book a gay couple is mentioned and according to some parent's standards, that means 'adult situations' and therefore only for adults even though the story, the writing and the intended audience are juvenile. Or even worse, the series does not get bought because that author tends to have gay characters and buying the books means a lot of extra cataloguing for it to be put in a section where it will not attract readers.

You say you don't want librarians acting in loco parentis, yet you want librarians to set up the collection in such a way that your child can come and go as she pleases without your input into her reading? Can you see the problem here? Particularly since your unsupervised daughter may well find the copy of Doom Book of Inappropriateness According to Parental Figures and read it in the library without any input regarding it whatsoever. A far less attractive option I would have thought since if she went to borrow it you could at least talk about why it's a problem. Not to mention that I may have different levels of appropriate reading subjects - I've got no problem with gay sexual content but I do have problems with coercive sexual content yet the two tend to get mashed together in these 'rating' schemes. I don't have a problem with most violence in books, but I do have a problem with explicitly described murders and again, the two get mashed together because 'violence' doesn't get a scale. Ratings and banned categories are a false safety net - as a librarian and a parent, I'd be horrified to see them implemented because they simply don't work.
posted by geek anachronism at 5:52 PM on November 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


There's a Barnes & Noble in Lexington. Anybody could just go in there and read the book. For free. Which is what makes this so moronic.
posted by geekhorde at 8:24 PM on November 21, 2009


Particularly since your unsupervised daughter may well find the copy of Doom Book of Inappropriateness According to Parental Figures and read it in the library without any input regarding it whatsoever.

Hey geek a, where exactly does one find that book? It isn't showing up in Amazon and I really really really wanna read it.
posted by Deathalicious at 11:04 PM on November 21, 2009


Hey geek a, where exactly does one find that book? It isn't showing up in Amazon and I really really really wanna read it.

Not available, it got banned.
posted by geek anachronism at 2:45 AM on November 22, 2009


Well, to be fair, I do agree with protecting kids from bad books. You should have had a parent guiding you away from that one and toward Stranger in a Strange Land or The Cat Who Walks Through Walls or Podkayne of Mars.

I had read all of those, already. I was reading around 5 novels a week at that point, so avoiding bad books was sort of impossible.
posted by muddgirl at 10:07 AM on November 22, 2009


How we do it in Iowa (well, the teens at least): "Sex, Ect."
posted by cjorgensen at 4:05 PM on November 23, 2009


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