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.

book burning threat makes headlines in WI challenge dispute

I read this CNN article about a group in Wisconsin who has been fighting with the West Bend Community Memorial Library over the group’s desire to have a long list of YA books moved to the adult section of the library. Their challenge failed, but there’s a lawsuit pending.

The news article has the predictable all-over-the-place approach to the issue but it seems that this is one of those fights that has everything including outraged parents, a beleaguered library board whose members don’t have their terms renewed, assertion of First Amendment rights, threats of book burning, and a lot of homophobic-sounding nastiness. The article, though on the web, also doesn’t seem to understand the usefulness of hyperlinks to telling a story that is playing out on the web so I have added them here

I really wish the library or the city had more accessible public statements about this whole ongoing mess.

Dear Ms. Patron – a librarian responds to a challenge

I thought this blog post containing a librarian’s response to a challenge to the book Uncle Bobby’s Wedding — an easy reader book that has a gay wedding in it — to be a model of responsiveness and informativeness and, at the same time, upholding the policies and procedurs of the library with politeness and compassion.

Finally, then, I conclude that “Uncle Bobby’s Wedding” is a children’s book, appropriately categorized and shelved in our children’s picture book area. I fully appreciate that you, and some of your friends, strongly disagree with its viewpoint. But if the library is doing its job, there are lots of books in our collection that people won’t agree with; there are certainly many that I object to. Library collections don’t imply endorsement; they imply access to the many different ideas of our culture, which is precisely our purpose in public life.

There’s a lively discussion going on in the comments sections as well as on MetaFilter which is where I first read about it. Nicely done, Jamie Larue.

Banned Books Week is next week

Banned Books Week is next week. ALA has nifty little web badges that they have made freely available and, in typical ALA fashion, given a bunch of instructions for how you’re supposed to use them (link to this URL, include this ALT text, etc.). If it were me, I think I’d just put the images on my own server, give people the HTML to include the image on their site and use some handy stats-tracker to keep track of how many people had been viewing the banned books buttons, maybe even in realtime. That would be cool. Oh wait, I can do that.

Want to use it? Copy this HTML (and mind the line breaks): <a href=”http://newprotest.org/details.pl?495″><img src=”http://librarian.net/tempo/bbw.gif”/></a> and thank the folks at newprotest who made it originally.

If it were me, I’d definitely make sure that the main Banned Books Page was a bit better at explaining why Banned Books Week exists, rather than just linking me right to the ALA store. ALA’s Action Guide is probably a better place to start.

Each year, the American Library Association (ALA) is asked why the week is called Banned Books Week instead of Challenged Books Week, since the majority of the books featured during the week are not banned, but “merely” challenged. There are two reasons. One, ALA does not “own” the name Banned Books Week, but is just one of several cosponsors of BBW; therefore, ALA cannot change the name without all the cosponsors agreeing to a change. Two, none want to do so, primarily because a challenge is an attempt to ban or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A successful challenge would result in materials being banned or restricted.

So this is saying two things really: one, they can’t change the name; two, they wouldn’t change it if they could. Couldn’t you just say that? Why is this explanation so obtuse? “none want to do so because…” because why? I’d be much happier if they’d just said “Look, we sank $5000 into t-shirts that we haven’t sold yet. We’re keeping the name” And if this question is asked every year, shouldn’t it maybe be on the FAQ by now? Since ALA talks so much about its cosponsors, let’s look at what they’re doing this year

Since ALA is really the main go-to organization for this “holiday”, maybe it’s time they had more of a destination site (ireadbannedbooks.org is taken, sadly) instead of just cramming all their information into the ALA template and enduring terrible URLs (link goes to “quick and easy” guide to BBW for librarians, wouldn’t you like to write down that URL and share it?) This would beat pseudoparticipatory pages like the Vote for Your Favorite Banned Book page which is clearly geared towards the YA crowd which asks you WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CHALLENGED BOOK (PICK ONE) (emphasis theirs). It also highlights the thing we know about Banned Books Week that we don’t talk about much — the bulk of these books are challenged by parents for being age-inappropriate for children. While I think this is still a formidable thing for librarians to deal with, it’s totally different from people trying to block a book from being sold at all.

My plan is to spend this year’s Banned Books Week reflecting on the nature of intolerance, predjudice and flat-out anxiety, motivators that causes people to want to control the ideas and issues that other people can have access to. Libraries and schools are two places that this happens in the public sphere, but we all know there are many more. So buy a bracelet if you want to, but don’t kid yourself that you can shop your way out of this problem. You can’t buy a ticket to freedom, not one that works anyhow.

update: 1,272 4,785 hits on the image so far!