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Thread: Community conflicts about public library collections

  1. #1
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    Community conflicts about public library collections

    I have practiced the frugal hobby of patronizing my public library for going-on 67 years. Times have changed since 1962, when I was 13, and the National Library Week slogan was "Read and Watch Your World Grow". But I believe in the slogan as much today as I did at that time.

    Speaking for myself, I know my world grew immensely. I would walk into the periodicals dept and pull up a print edition of The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times ... or I would browse the shelves for a book about history or biography. Friends would have gone straight to a Chilton's Manual or a riveting novel, such as Ivanhoe. I never felt threatened by other people finding something that they were interested in. If I had been asked how I felt about it, I would have said, I am happy that there is something in the library that satisfies their curiosity. Suum cuique pulchrum est. "To each his own is beautiful".

    In Phillips, WI, a few miles south of here, the Public Library Board has been drawn into a squabble about books in the public library. Some folks have taken to social media to raise the fear that certain printed words could be dangerous, especially to children and youth. The Board now has about 30 titles to evaluate before September. According to newspaper reports, "the subject matter is LGBTQ content or social justice and race themes".

    The Public Library Board decided to pace themselves and to consider 10 titles per monthly meeting. Until the matter is resolved, the 30 books in question have been removed from general circulation, available to check out overnight at the main library desk. I guess that means if a patron is really interested in one of the books, they would have to renew it daily, until their interest is satisfied.

    The Director of the library said that "the most common way that unpopular books disappear from the shelves is by not being checked out. After six months without being checked out, most of those books go to the book sale."

    I wonder, do squabbles like this increase circulation? Also I wonder, are other public libraries around the country finding their collections are "under protest"?

  2. #2
    Senior Member JaneV2.0's Avatar
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    When I was interviewed for my library job, I was asked what I'd do if a patron was searching for a book I didn't approve of (some words to that effect). I replied that their reading habits were none of my business. I've always felt that way. My library system is solidly in the corner of freedom of choice when it comes to their collection.

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    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
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    It was my job at a large public library system To evaluate complaints about library materials. Once in a while after my team evaluated the title that was the subject of a complaint, we might move it to an upper level collection such as moving it from a J collection to a Young Adult collection. Or, in one case it was rather outdated, but still important, so a book was moved from a branch collection (branches hold only popular books that circulate regularly) to the Central Library stacks, where books do not have to circulate often to earn their keep.

    And yes, once in a while a patron pointed out a title that was inappropriate for the library to own. It does happen. I doubt any of the 30 titles being challenged are inappropriate for the library to have though. They are probably typical garden variety Young Adult books and classic titles often challenged.

    But usually, my answer was along the lines of “ Not all library materials are pleasing to all library patrons. This material is appreciated by many patrons here. If you’re not one of them, OK. I hope that you find library materials that ARE pleasing to you. “.

    it is Unfortunate that a library board is doing the hands-on work of evaluating titles in a collection. That’s way below their pay grade.
    Last edited by iris lilies; 7-15-22 at 9:32am.

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    Senior Member bae's Avatar
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    What criteria will they use to judge texts?

    What is the point of the exercise?

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    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bae View Post
    What criteria will they use to judge texts?

    What is the point of the exercise?

    It doesn’t hurt to evaluate titles in the library collection. It is a citizen’s right and responsibility to do so.

    The criteria will be the same criteria of initial selection criteria. Or one would hope.

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    Senior Member bae's Avatar
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    Ah, here's the interesting newspaper article.

    https://www.apg-wi.com/price_county_...1d19d9aef.html

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    Senior Member jp1's Avatar
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    When I was a kid I was encouraged to investigate the library as thoroughly as I wanted. No books were off limits. And I can't imagine my parents trying to prevent me from reading anything I found and checked out with my very cherished library card. If I had shown up at home with the Anarchist Cookbook or some such book it might have made for interesting/uncomfortable dinner conversation but I don't think my parents would've ever tried to say "no, you can't/shouldn't read that..." They would have likely read it themselves in order to arm themselves with arguments about why certain suggestions/ideas made in the book were not a good idea for me to implement/act on.

    Thinking about florida's 'don't say gay' bill and efforts to prevent teens from having easy access to LGBTQ books all I can say is that I didn't turn out to be a gay man because I read books about being a gay person. I read books about gay people because I had figured out that I was a gay person and was looking for validation that people like I knew myself to be existed. Denying kids that opportunity is about as cruel as cruel can be.

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    We have a woman running for the board of Education with a slate of other like minded people who when into her local library, checked out all the books on display for LBGQT month and declared loudly that she was taking them home, might not bother to bring them back because they don't belong in the library. The other branches sent more books to that library...it didn't go over well, but our primary is June 19 and she might get in....

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    The same woman and her group went to a board of Ed. Committee meeting of the Family Life committee and were loud, rude, abusive to the members of the committee who were discussing curriculum....

  10. #10
    Senior Member JaneV2.0's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nswef View Post
    The same woman and her group went to a board of Ed. Committee meeting of the Family Life committee and were loud, rude, abusive to the members of the committee who were discussing curriculum....
    That's a trend now--loud, intrusive people invading local school district meetings, threatening people who disagree with their often radical views ("I know where you live!"), running for office to gain power over libraries and curricula. People need to be aware.

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