Wednesday, October 8, 2008

How Selection is Used to Censor: The ALA, Conservative Christians, and the Annoyed Librarian's Tour de Force

The Annoyed Librarian has written a tour de force on how the American Library Association [ALA] uses "selection" as the means to censor out political thought with which its leaders at the "Office for Intellectual Freedom" disagree. She exposes the ALA's "book banning" farce further in a really intelligent, interesting, and engaging fashion.

Might there be a twinge of religious intolerance from the ALA, but only in respect to "conservative Christians"? Might the ALA be providing political support for homosexualists? Might either violate the ALA's 501(c)(3) federal tax exemption? I am certain what the Annoyed Librarian has to say will be an eye opener for you.

Read this, word for word:

"Some 'Censorship' is Good," Annoyed Librarian, Library Journal, 8 October 2008:

Some "Censorship" is Good
October 8, 2008

Hmmm, there sure seem to be a lot of twopointopians and others terribly upset LJ is hosting the AL. I'm so "anonymous." Scary! It seems I'm also "negative," and we're all supposed to be "positive" and "constructive." Cry me a river, Pollyanna. Yay, team! Let's go, go, go! Two, four, six, eight, who do we appreciate! Libraries! L-I-B-R-A-R-I-E-S! Yay! What happened? Did they start passing out happy pills sometime after I finished library school? As you enter the brave new world of twopointopia, do they hand you the soma at the door? I'll stick with my martinis, which, thanks to the enormous amount of money LJ is paying me now, can be made with Bombay Sapphire instead of the old Bombay Dry. They've even been kind enough to set up a minibar in my corner office on the thirtieth floor so I can look out on the park while I sip them. They also provided a cute bartender named Chip (Hi, Chip!) to mix them up for me. La dolce vita!

Now down to business. Somehow I missed this story in the Washington Post a few days ago, but that's what I have readers for, to send me stuff like this. "Banned Books, Chapter 2" is quite a fun read.

"During a week that librarians nationwide are highlighting banned books, conservative Christian students and parents showcased their own collection outside a Fairfax County high school yesterday -- a collection they say was banned by the librarians themselves.... Titles include Marriage on Trial: The Case Against Same-Sex Marriage and Parenting and Someone I Love Is Gay, which argues that homosexuality is not 'a hopeless condition.'" We sure wouldn't want those kinds of books in a high school library! We want people to think homosexuality is a hopeless condition!

But banned by the librarians themselves? They obviously don't understand what a "banned" book is. Just for the "conservative Christian students and parents," I'll explain this whole process. First, the library has to buy the book. Then, some "conservative Christian" student or parent has to complain about the book. Thus, the book is "challenged." Though the books are never removed from the library, after 24 hours the "challenge" is automatically upgraded to "banned," because it sounds more provocative. That explains those announcements you're always hearing over the library loudspeakers: "In accordance with ALA regulations, the status of Frisky Gay Squirrels has now been upgraded to 'banned.' Any copies of Frisky Gay Squirrels left unattended will be randomly checked out to anyone who happens to be in the library." Librarians love this, because then they get to fight "censorship."

But what if the library never acquires the book in the first place? Then ipso facto it can't be "banned." That's the first thing you need to get through your conservative Christian heads. The question, then, is why wasn't the book acquired, or added to the collection if it was a gift? The conservative Christians think it was for political reasons, to deliberately make sure their side in a debate wasn't being represented in the library collection. Those conservative Christians can be sooo cynical sometimes. It had nothing to do with politics. If the selection decision had anything to do with politics, why then the ALA would say these librarians were "censors." The ALA hasn't called these librarians censors. Thus the books weren't rejected for political reasons. QED. Besides, we can't have the ALA coming out and accusing librarians for censorship just for keeping those mean old conservative books off the shelves. That's not censorship. That's just good sense!

Since it's obvious that politics had nothing to do with the decision not to add the books to the collection, what could have been the reason?

"Most of the books were turned down after school librarians said they did not meet school system standards." Ooh, that's a good one! It has such an official tone to it. "School system standards" sounds so impressive. I bet that school system has high standards indeed!

But that's not all. "Fairfax County's policy on library book selection says 'the collection should support the diverse interests, needs and viewpoints of the school community.'" Hmm? That sure sounds like they should add at least some of the books. I'd be willing to bet there's at lease one homophobe in that high school, and don't we want homophobes to read books, too? I guess not, because apparently there are factors more important than supporting "diverse" interests, like not supporting the interests you don't like.

"Library officials said donated and purchased books alike are evaluated by the same standards, including two positive reviews from professionally recognized journals." This is another great one. I seriously doubt that every book purchased or donated really does need "two positive reviews from professionally recognized journals" to be added to the collection. But just for argument's sake let's take this statement as truth. Notice the wording of it. It needs two reviews in professionally recognized journals. The sweet logic of this is very impressive. "Hey," say the conservative Christians, "we found fifteen journals that reviewed Marriage on Trial!" "I'm sorry," say the librarians, "we don't professionally recognize those journals." It could be the case - and I'm only making the suggestion - that these librarians only "professionally recognize" the sorts of journals that review the sorts of books they already agree with. It's possible, right? Hardly likely, knowing how earnest librarians really are about representing "diverse" viewpoints, including the viewpoints of those mean old conservative Christians, but still possible.

"None of the donated titles met that standard, said Susan Thornily, coordinator of library information services for Fairfax schools." I know this comes as a huge surprise to all of you. "Some librarians also said that the nonfiction books were heavy on scripture but light on research, or that the books would make gay students 'feel inferior,' she said." That was the line that stunned me. Those school librarians were moving along so well, putting up cleverly circular arguments that sounded almost librarian-like. And maybe I can see rejecting a book as "light on research," because I'm sure every anti-conservative nonfiction book in that library is heavily researched and that none of them just state the politically correct opinions of the authors without much argument. That high school must have a rigorous research collection, indeed. But how are we supposed to take seriously the caveat that the books would make gay students "feel inferior"? How is that not a politicized reason not to accept the book? First of all, is it likely these gay students will read the books? Is it just having them on the shelves? Does that make them "feel inferior"? Or is it just knowing that some people out there disapprove of homosexuality? How could any gay students not already know this?

And how is that any different than African American students feeling inferior by having Huckleberry Finn on the shelves? Or conservative Christians feeling "inferior" because every book on homosexuality in their library says exactly the same thing, that every opinion they have is wrong and they are bad people for being so intolerant? Whatever happened to that old librarian standby that just because a book offends a portion of the population doesn't mean it shouldn't be in the collection? They sure like to trot that warhorse out when "conservative Christians" complain about Heather Has Two Very Excited Daddies.

"Thornily said school librarians have rejected other books that 'target minority groups' and would offend African Americans or other nonwhite students." W, as the kids say these days, TF? Is a book arguing homosexuality is wrong "targeting a minority group"? Targeting? Are these books advocating violence against homosexuals? That seems unlikely. Why isn't the Office of Intellectual "Freedom" barking loudly in the direction of Fairfax County and explaining to these librarians that just because some group is "offended" by a book, this is no reason not to have it. In fact, this is a reason to have it, in order to show how much we value "intellectual freedom" and "diversity." Conservative Christians are a minority group, and no one cares about offending them. "In this case, librarians were concerned about the level of scholarship in the books, many of which come from small church publishers." Uh huh. I'm sure that's all it was.

If the politics were reversed, no matter the level of "scholarship," you know the ALA would be swooping down on these poor librarians screaming "Censor!" at them. This example just goes to show the tortured logic some librarians can apply when they don't like the viewpoint of the book. What the conservative Christians need to understand is that librarians can always find a legitimate sounding reason not to add a book to the collection. Personally, that doesn't bother me at all. I don't see why a librarian can't just say, "this looks like a really stupid book and I find it offensive. Out to the recycling bin with it!" What's the big deal really? So what if homophobes don't have any books affirming their views? The library isn't there to support diverse views. It's there to put forward the views librarians approve of. That's why people become librarians in the first place, because they love that power. After all, these books are still available and Focus on the Family would probably be happy to send you a copy. Only the ALA and their minions call it "censorship."

In fact, what's refreshing here is that there was a slip in the bureaucratic explanation. They had that beautiful, circular "professionally recognized journal" argument. Then they had to come out and say they reject books they think might offend some people, especially the librarians. We knew it all along. I'm just glad someone finally admitted it. Come to think of it, since they haven't turned on these librarians, maybe the ALA OIF has finally admitted it as well. A brave new world indeed.

Posted by Annoyed Librarian on October 8, 2008 | Comments


  1. Others admire the AL's work as well. The AL "takes the ALA to the woodshed in a biting and sarcastic piece that exposes all or most of the chuckleheaded justifications that the ALA uses to defend their censorship of conservative ideas."

    See "Annoyed Librarian Takes ALA to the Woodshed," Illinois Family Institute, 8 October 2008.

  2. Safe, this looks related:

    "Election '08: At an education forum in Venezuela, Bill Ayers showed the real issue is not his terrorist past. It's the socialist revolutionary agenda that he and Barack Obama want to impose on the nation's schools."

    And Ayers wants to impose a homosexual agenda as well. Sounds like what AL was saying. Well, a little.

    Obama's Real Problem With Ayers
    By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Tuesday, October 07, 2008 4:20 PM PT

  3. Anonymous, thanks, but I'll steer clear of politics for now. And I do not recommend opposing "homosexual" books solely because they contain such themes. I even recently wrote how that issue is a "red herring" when it comes to lawfully protecting children from inappropriate material.

  4. RE:And how is that any different than African American students feeling inferior by having Huckleberry Finn on the shelves?

    Huckleberry Fin is not donated to libraries by the KKK to further a hateful political agenda. If the KKK did dontate a hateful book that did insult African American students, it wouldn't be accepted, and just for that reason. I would imagine that the same would be true for a book that was disrespectful towards Christians, Muslims, or other religious sects.

    The example is specious.

  5. Dear REACT,

    I'm not sure I fully understand what you are trying to say. Would you please clarify?


  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. The "bias" of books from "conservative groups" is too much for school librarians, but, get this, new textbooks for children now contain 15 page sections on Barack Obama!!! Has anyone heard of a single school librarian pointing out the bias of that?

    See "Unreal... New 8th Grade English Textbooks Now Contain 15 Page Section on Obama!"

    See also "Unreal... New 8th Grade English Textbooks Now Contain 15 Page Section on Obama!"

    Especially see "Racine Schools Hand Out Textbook with 15 Page Obama Love-Fest...."

    Is this really true?

  8. Here's an email from one ALA member to many others on this subject, where "aasl" stands for American Association of School Librarians. See if you can figure out for yourselves why I am reprinting it (hint, read the linked article she provides):

    [aaslforum] Fairfax Librarians Pressured by "Gay Cure"
    [Name elided]

    Fairfax librarians stand up to pressure from conservative group to add biased books to collection.

    [Name elided], Librarian
    [Name elided] High School
    [City elided], VA

  9. So I wrote her a letter saying:

    Dear [Name elided],

    In your email to the aaslforum distribution list, you said, "Fairfax librarians stand up to pressure from conservative group to add biased books to collection," then you linked to "Virginia High-Schoolers Rally for Gay-Cure Books" in the ALA's "American Libraries" publication.

    Would you please explain further what you mean? For example, I didn't see the ALA article saying the books were biased. Do the political leanings of people make a difference?

    I'm not trying to cause trouble, I'm just trying to understand

    * exactly how the books sought to be added are biased,
    * whether such bias even if true makes a difference in a library that is supposed to contain a diversified collection,
    * whether librarians are in a position to determine whether a book is biased then not select it on that basis,
    * whether any books that are biased from an opposite view of "conservative groups" are not selected for school libraries and what percentage of each category is not selected,
    * whether school librarians such as yourself are using personal biases to shape public school libraries and the extent to which this may be improper or against the library's own collection policies,
    * whether schools regularly refuse to select books from conservative sources because of actual or perceived bias, if you know, and
    * whether the use of bias against such books is in hypocritical in light of the books themselves being ignored due to claimed biased.

    Also, you may be interested in this from the "Annoyed Librarian": "Some 'Censorship' is Good," Annoyed Librarian, Library Journal, 8 October 2008.

    What do you think?

  10. Here is her response, and please comment here as to what you think about her comment:

    Dear Mr. Kleinman,

    The ALA article does not specifically state that the books were biased, although it does say that they did not meet the standards set out in the county’s selection policy. However, the attached Washington Post article from 10/3/08 did indicate a biased perspective:

    “…library officials said donated and purchased books alike are evaluated by the same standards, including two positive reviews from professionally recognized journals.

    None of the donated titles met that standard, said Susan Thornily, coordinator of library information services for Fairfax schools. Some librarians also said that the nonfiction books were heavy on scripture but light on research, or that the books would make gay students "feel inferior," she said.

    Thornily said school librarians have rejected other books that "target minority groups" and would offend African Americans or other nonwhite students. In this case, librarians were concerned about the level of scholarship in the books” (italics mine [Note: her italics, not SafeLibraries]).

    I believe strongly in the ALA Code of Ethics, which stiplulates that librarians should maintain balanced collections and should “not allow personal beliefs to interfere with provision of access to information resources.” I strive to include books and periodicals in our collection that objectively represent both sides of controversial issues. I try to avoid books that are biased from either side of an issue. It is possible to present information from a scholarly perspective without taking a stand on what is “better,” “normal,” or an illness that needs to be “cured.”

    I rely on Follett Library Resources as my primary vendor, and rely on them to provide balanced materials, rather than buying from either liberal or conservative sources directly. I also use selection tools such as Booklist and School Library Journal to inform my selection choices. We have the Opposing Viewpoints book series and online database, as well as CQ Researcher, which offer students access to both sides of most current issues.

  11. Librarians do not select or purchase textbooks. The school board sets a policy for selection of text books and has someone in their curriculum department do that task.

    Facts people, facts!

  12. Here's an old, undated article that's relevant:

    Toledo Library Censors Pro-Life Book on Planned Parenthood

    Toledo, OH - A Toledo, Ohio, family is looking for answers after officials at the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library rejected their pro-life book donation for being "too political."

    Dean and Melanie Witt, regular library patrons, submitted the book in question, "Killer Angel," George Grant's critical biography of Planned Parenthood's founder, Margaret Sanger, after they discovered that none of the nearly two dozen books on Sanger held by the library mentioned her rascist views or her association with high-ranking Nazi eugenics officials.

    Melanie Witt said that she had donated the books (two copies) to help promote an academic balance to the library's weighted collection on the topic.

    "We purchased the books ourselves and didn't ask them to remove anything from the library. We just thought that they at least ought to be providing another perspective," she said.

    Officials at the library initially accepted Grant's biography, but central office staff intervened and rejected the book donation. Anthony Schafer, manager of the library's history, travel and biography travel section, said in a letter to the Witts that "the author's political and social agenda, which is strongly espoused throughout the book, is not appropriate."

    The Witts have sent several letters to library officials asking for clarification of the library's selection criteria, but have yet to receive a response. Call to Clyde Scoles, director of the Toledo library, for comment on this story were not returned.

    George Grant, who has co-authored books with pro-life Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and presidential candidate Alan Keyes and has more than 70 books in publication, rejects the notion that the Sanger biography is too political.

    "I find it odd that when it comes down to my research or other biographies that fawn over Sanger and neglect her racist ideology, I'm the one painted as driving a political agenda," he said.

    The American Library Association, which ironically co-sponsors the annual "Banned Books Week" in defense of prohibited literature, has stepped into the debate -- throwing its support behind the library's decision to ban Grant's book. Judith Krug, director of the ALA's Office of Intellectual Freedom, said libraries should be able to deny book gifts and librarians given wide discretion in determining what materials are included in the library's collection.

    When asked whether that view conflicted with the ALA's stand against book banning, Krug replied that the organization's policy only applies to books that have passed librarian muster.

    When told of the ALA's stand on the controversy, Grant responded, "Their position is simply Orwellian. In the name of intellectual freedom, they man the barricades anytime someone suggests the removal of child pornography from a library, but if anything conflicts with their political agenda, then censorship imposed by the library hierarchy is completely acceptable. They're encouraging libraries to set up their own Politburo to test books for political correctness."

    The Toledo library may be violating its own policies in rejecting Grant's book. The library's material selection statement (adopted in 1972) states, "the Library collection shall include representative materials of all races and nationalities, and all political, religious, economic and social views." While Grant said that his work is permissible under that criterion, he isn't surprised at the Toledo library's reaction to his book.

    "Any discussion regarding her racist intentions in founding Planned Parenthood have to be quickly put down," Grant indicated.

    Grant's book states that prior to World War II, Sanger was fairly outspoken about her views on other races. The book cites a 1939 proposal for Sanger's "Negro Project," a plan developed at the behest of public health officials in southern states, where she writes, "the most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal. We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the Minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members." The book also documents her plans to set up birth-control clinics in poor New York City neighborhoods to target "Blacks, Hispanics, Slavs, Amerinds, Fundamentalists, Jews and Catholics."

    Also noted in the book is Sanger's close association with Ernst Rudin, who served as Hitler's director of genetic sterilization. An April 1933 article by Rudin, entitled "Eugenic Sterilization: An Urgent Need," for Sanger's monthly magazine, "The Birth Control Review," detailed the establishment of the Nazi Society for Racial Hygiene and advocated its replication in the United States. A subsequent article by Leon Whitney published the following June by Sanger, entitled "Selective Sterilization," praises and defends the Third Reich's pre-holocaust "race purification" program. After the war had concluded and Nazi atrocities came to light, Sanger quickly changed the name of her organization from the Birth Control League to Planned Parenthood -- to distance herself from her earlier Nazi associations.

    Grant says that he doesn't expect his book will be the last to be censored by librarians motivated by political agendas.

    "We can expect more of this behavior," he said. "Their views are becoming so unpopular that they are having to turn to outright totalitarian tactics and coercive taxpayer funding to plug the holes in the ship to keep their agenda afloat."

    In an odd twist, another of Grant's books, "Grand Illusions: The Legacy of Planned Parenthood," now in its fourth edition, is the single best-selling book, either pro or con, on the organization.

    Melanie Witt's fight with the library has left her distrustful of the library's objectivity.

    "We are forced to pay for this library through our property and sales taxes," she said. "It is unconscionable that taxpayers have to foot the bill for them to exercise their brand of censorship. It's a breach of the public trust."

  13. On the fifteen page Obama section in the textbook...

    I bet it takes a long time to put together, edit and publish a text book. I doubt that it was conceived in the context of the recent political campaign. It is just a coincidence, fortunate or unfortunate as it may be, that it is being distributed in this context.

    Setting aside this coincidence, is there anything wrong with including this section in an eighth grade textbook? Maybe, maybe not. They could have, and as far as we can tell, may have, used examples of great speeches from Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Lincoln, and other great American orators. Obama may or may not rank as high as that, but the simple fact that he is dead shouldn't preclude his speech. It was well received at the time.

    I think there is a danger, which this incident highlights, in including an active politician's speech into a text book like this, but there is also pedagogical value. The kids in the class are going to actually KNOW who Obama is and pay attention.

    It is also good for kids to have an appreciation for a contemporary African American to counter negative stereotypes. Martin Luther King is dead and much too over used.

    Now that Obama is the first African American to represent a major political party, and may even WIN the election, you can expect a lot more of the same. It is almost a cliche to refer to this campaign as "historic", but it truthfully is, and we will do good by ourselves to always remember it and to pass that memory on to our children.

  14. How's this for a contrast: "Wasilla Public Library Back In the News Again," by Marjorie Kehe, The Christian Science Monitor, 20 October 2008. It's about a library not selecting "'Heather Has Two Mommies' and 'Daddy’s Roommate,' both of which are controversial titles whose presence in libraries and schools is regularly challenged."

  15. Annoyed Librarian has made an enormous contribution to our nation by writing this very exposing article. It will be used as a foundation for TRUTH for years to come. MANY THANKS.

  16. Thank you for commenting, Annoyed West Bend Citizen Advocate. ;-)


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