Summer Reading Program Cancelled – Harassing phone calls likened to “bomb threats”

Having a policy for when you do and do not limit access to materials is always a good thing. This includes your book selection policy, your Internet use policy and your “when do we cancel a summer program when we’re getting harassed by people who think yoga is a religion”? I understand that dealing with a steady stream of phone calls and emails is unpleasant for the South Carolina library that cancelled its summer reading program due to this type of harassment from one local church, but I really wish they’d taken more of a stand and not likened this sort of pressure from one aggressive group as tantamount to a bomb threat.

The librarians got nervous and decided to cancel all the Thursdays.

“They were talking about picketing the library,” the library system director told a newspaper reporter.

The minister said he didn’t mean things to go that far, that he and his congregation had no problem with all the other Thursdays, only the evil tarot card one.

“We weren’t against the reading program at all,” he told the reporter. “We just want our children being taught the right things …”

on harassment, a departure from things librarian, briefly

This is just to say that I think harassment of other people is wrong. And anonymous online harassment of people is wrong, and cowardly, and deserves to be called out. I agree with Ryan and Walt and Rafe, especially Rafe’s most recent post where he discusses how for many female bloggers this sort of harassment is nothing new. There was an incident that sparked this particular post — well two, one in the blogonets and one that has been taking place over email — but it’s something I’ve been thinking about generally for some time now.

I haven’t gotten a lot of harassing email and comments, but I have gotten some. I have gotten more of them than I would want. When I was running a blog about civil unions in Vermont — a hot topic at the time — I got an awful lot of hate mail including the “I hope you die of AIDS” variety. I’ve only gotten one “I hope you die” sort of email message related to and the scary thing about it was that it was not anonymous. I’m also fairly certain that it was not serious, but it sure did creep me out. I get a bit of razzing and eye-rolling from people on other blogs, but the “hate mail” type communication has stopped, mainly since I left ALA Council. Sorry, but it’s true.

It’s a fine line between calling people out on their shenanigans, and starting a fight that you don’t wish to be involved in. I generally try to steer clear of hassling other people and for the most part they steer clear of hassling me. This doesn’t work for everyone, and I always worry that it won’t work for me forever, this “I have all my personal information on the Internet” thing. In any case, that’s all I have to say on this. More update on things librarian this week.

Update: a few more liblogger responses from Meredith, Dan Greene and Impromptu Librarian. I’ll add more as I see them.