what’s the real story behind Brooklyn Public’s removal of TinTin from the shelves?

Not trying to start a flamewar here, just thinking that this NY Times blog piece about an old racist Tintin book may be a little off. According to the article…

[I]f you go to the Brooklyn Public Library seeking a copy of “Tintin au Congo,” Hergé’s second book in a series, prepare to make an appointment and wait days to see the book.

“It’s not for the public,” a librarian in the children’s room said this month when a patron asked to see it.

The book, published 79 years ago, was moved in 2007 from the public area of the library to a back room where it is held under lock and key

The article also has, even more interestingly, some of the actual challenges filed by BPL patrons in which the patrons’ addresses are removed but their names and City/State information are published. If your name is unusual redacting your address doesn’t really protect your anonymity. I’m curious what the balance is between patron privacy and making municipal records available.

update: I got an email from the patron whose name I used asking me to remove it. I have done so.

9 Responses to “what’s the real story behind Brooklyn Public’s removal of TinTin from the shelves?”

  1. Privacy, Censorship, and Good Records Management: Brooklyn Public Library in the Crosshairs — thesecretmirror.com Says:

    [...] at librarian.net, Jessamyn West has a brief write up about a post on the New York Times' City Room blog about placing access restrictions on offensive [...]

  2. Kevin Says:

    I was also trying to figure this out – to the point I pointed out the article in a library wide email marked FYE – and asked outright: “Just out of curiousity — do book challenges become public record? I’m a bit surprised the patrons names weren’t blacked out.” (I only wish I had been awake enough to have used the word “redacted,” but alas I am not that cool.

    I still haven’t received a response — but it seems odd that you can’t disclose circulation records — and yet this is pretty much an indication that this person checked out this book.

  3. Michael Golrick Says:

    The redaction and limits may be reflective of New York State law on the confidentiality of patron records. I can understand how some of that could be applied if there is not a specific disclaimer on the complaint form that the full information will be made public.

  4. Rhonda Says:

    Huh. I have a young patron who is totally enamored with the TinTin books. Maybe they are like the really old cartoons that had images now considered racist. But that’s not what I carried away from those cartoons as a child, it’s the adults who read all that stuff in. I guess it’s good to take that second look and make adjustments but sometimes we cause more problems with the reaction, like they have here with publishing the names.

  5. Auntie Nanuuq Says:

    Shades of “Little Black Sambo”…who happened to be Indian from India, not African from Africa!

  6. Melissa Says:

    Did you notice that the patron address was not blocked out on the book Anti-Einstein? I would be very upset to see my name and address published on a blog for anyone to read.

  7. Josh Says:

    Well, the person writing about the book Anti-Einstein was acting on behalf of the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that should understand the evils of censorship!

  8. Steve Says:

    “… the patron address was not blocked out on the book Anti-Einstein …” — Melissa #6

    The ADL was submitting the form on behalf of someone who called them. The address is for the ADL’s New York regional office, and it can be found online.

    http://documents.nytimes.com/how-brooklyn-public-library-has-responded-to-book-challenges#p=5

  9. Martyn Lowe Says:

    Unlike a lot of other people who might comment upon this issue: I’ve read this book.

    What struck me is that the book reflects many of the attitudes which were around at the time it was published, which included an uncritical support for any form of imperialism.

    It also contains so called ‘humour’ which is very specist in nature.
    e.g. while going hunting,
    or in how they use a gorila skin.

    If you really want to get Herge in full flow, then try reading Tintin in the soviet, which was published in 1929. That really does contain some very right wing and specist humour.

    All of which is totally unacceptable.

    Yet so is any form of censorship unacceptable.

    If one is to look at these tintin books, then one should look at them within their historical context.

    It’s like looking at leg-irons within a museum.
    No one would ever advocate their use, but we should all know what went on in the past.