Friday, August 27, 2010

Ginny v. Maria: Hijacked Library or Safe Library in West Bend, WI

Ginny v. Maria.  Is their local public library hijacked or is it safe?  We report and add hyperlinks, you decide and add comments below.

Ginny Maziarka:
"Timeline Outlines Hijacking of Library"

Logo of
Eagle Forum of Wisconsin/Washington County
for which Ginny Maziarka is
President.
Over one year past the efforts of West Bend Citizens for Safe Libraries to work with the West Bend Library, Young Adult librarian Kristin Pekoll, and Director Michael Tyree, let's re-visit the outcome: Children are exposed to sexually explicit materials in the young adult section of West Bend’s Community Memorial Library, and this won't be changing any time soon.

During last year's battle with our Library Board and the American Library Association (ALA), more than 1,500 citizens had voiced their concerns, requesting easy identification of such materials and appropriate placement in the adult section of our library; a request was made to place porn filtering software on our public computers.  This common sense approach to assisting parents was rejected; these requests were met with a resounding "no."

Our library board caved to the pressures of a national organization instead of meeting the requests of the community they serve.  The ALA went on to use West Bend as an example of its power over the people with a special invitation to our librarians and board members to share this victory at an annual conference.

In what appears to be a continued assertion of authority, the ALA gave $1,000 to Maria Hanrahan, founder of West Bend Parents for Free Speech, to help in the "fight."  What, in my opinion, appeared to be a bribe could very well be what sealed the deal and motivated others to gravitate toward the ALA.

Those who value our library, contribute to, support and regularly use the library should ponder this quote from a California group opposing Proposition 81 in 2006:  "The values espoused by the American Library Association are so divorced from the values of our community that we would seriously consider ... going back to the days of a city library under local control, rather than giving one thin dime to an institution controlled by an organization that believes in 'all materials for all patrons regardless of age.'"

West Bend would do well to take heed of the above verbiage and consider what has become of our fine library under the auspices of the ALA.

West Bend parents/taxpayers should take the time to educate themselves on what took place behind the scenes during the controversy by visiting http://westbend.pbworks.com/.  This same timeline is also entered into the archives at the Wisconsin Historical Library and is an extensive effort that has taken over a year to build.  It is filled with numerous emails and other forms of communication that have never been seen publicly, which will reveal the efforts of our library board members and librarians to raise their fist at the parents of West Bend.  The correspondence on this timeline includes conversations from city leadership such as Mayor Deiss, attorney Mary Schanning, attorney Warren Kraft, Nick Dobberstein, Barb Deters and more.

Most importantly, this timeline will also confirm the covert involvement of national organizations to oppress small communities, undermine community standards and push the liberal agenda of the American Library Association.

If you didn't believe it before, you'll believe it now.  West Bend's public library has been hijacked.  It is no longer a safe place for your children.  Families beware.  Take action to protect your children and the conservative values of the city you call home.

Ginny Maziarka is a local blogger, town of West Bend resident and president of Eagle Forum of WI/Washington County, formerly West Bend Citizens for Safe Libraries.


Maria Hanrahan:
"Libraries Remain Free, Safe Places for Families"

Logo of
Friends of the West Bend Library
for which Maria Hanrahan is
Co-President. See update below.
In her recent Guestview in the Daily News, Ginny Maziarka suggests "covert" activities concerning the anti-censorship response to her March 2009 book challenge.  In case anyone is unclear about the details of the book challenge, Maziarka objected to lists of novels with homosexual characters and situations in the young adult section at West Bend Community Memorial Library.  Over time, she rephrased her complaint to concern material she believed was sexually explicit or inappropriate for the age group.  While she first called to ban or remove books, she later called for moving the books to the adult section of the library and labeling them as explicit.

Maziarka suggests that I was influenced by a "bribe," since the group that I formed to oppose her library complaint, West Bend Parents for Free Speech, was designated as the recipient of a grant from the Freedom to Read Foundation.  What she failed to disclose regarding this startling bombshell was the timing of this grant.  I began my involvement in the library challenge in late March of 2009, was notified of the grant about a week into May, and the public Library Board meeting in which Maziarka's complaint was addressed was held on June 2.  If you do the math, you’ll note that this would have given my group maybe three weeks to go hog wild with our $1,000 "payoff."  In actuality, WBPFFS supporters used their own resources to pay for expenses incurred during the challenge.  Unlike Maziarka's group, West Bend Citizens for Safe Libraries or their supporters, we did not choose to participate in paid newspaper or radio advertising to promote our viewpoint.  Other than a reimbursement request for approximately $180 for the cost of an open records request made by another WBPFFS member, we did not utilize the FTRF grant.  This ORR concerned email and other communication to and from members of the Common Council regarding the library controversy and the pending appointments of replacement members to the Library Board.

I became involved in the library challenge because I am committed to the belief that, as a parent, I have the right to decide what reading material is appropriate for me and for my children.  To suggest that I did it for remuneration or that I am a tool of the ALA is as preposterous as it is insulting.  Maziarka suggests that the Library Board did not work in the best interest of families by way of their unanimous vote to keep the young adult materials unlabeled and where they are.  In fact, parents retain the power they have always had:  to determine if and when their children should have library cards, to decide how, when and with how much supervision those library cards should be used, and to provide guidance and ground rules for what materials are acceptable in their households.

Maziarka says the library has been "hijacked" by the ALA, as if it is a subversive organization bent on taking power away from library patrons.  In fact, the American Library Association has always protected the rights of library patrons, including the Freedom to Read.  The FTRF was established to promote and defend freedom of expression and the right to read and listen to the ideas of others.  I believe that reading is among our greatest freedoms, and will continue to be vocal and vigilant about protecting that freedom.  I appreciate the work of the Freedom to Read Foundation, which helps to protect my right to read freely.  I hope Maziarka appreciates that this "hijacking" group works every day to protect her right to read freely as well.

Maria Hanrahan is a resident of the city of West Bend, founder of West Bend Parents for Free Speech and co-president of Friends of the West Bend Library.

UPDATE 1 SEP 2010:  Neither the Friends of the West Bend Library nor its logo is not connected in any way to SafeLibraries or to me, Dan Kleinman.  To the best of my knowledge, it is not connected in any way to Eagle Forum of WI/Washington County or to Ginny Maziarka.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Revolutionary Readings Review: Go See It

Folks, I just saw a delightful presentation consisting of young people reading from a book about gay teens and their concerns.  The actors/readers were really outstanding, almost professional, and were led by Brandon Monokian and Victoria Fear.  They were acting, not just reading.  I saw this show because of my involvement in a certain library issue in New Jersey (see 1, 2, 3, 4), and I am glad I did.  I recommend this show to everyone, except children too young for strong language. The next and last scheduled showing is in Riverton, NJ, this Sunday.  Go see it.

The show is called Revolutionary Readings.  The readings are from an out-of-print anthology called Revolutionary Voices: A Multicultural Queer Youth Anthology, edited by Amy Sonnie.  The readings were exceptionally well done and enjoyable.  I am certain that any parents of the readers who saw their children performing would have been filled with pride.  Amy Sonnie should see this.

Afterwords they will suggest a donation to the Ali Forney Center that provides housing for homeless LGBT youth in New York City.  As people left, the actors all hugged each other and their families, some quite emotionally.  It was cute.  Am I allowed to say that?

Note that the "Revolutionary Readings" show did not illustrate the graphics nor read the written material that likely violated the library policies.  Yes, you'll hear a curse word here and there, but there was no mention of ..., well, I'll let you research why the libraries removed the book.

So go see it then give some charity.

That said, I must point out that media reports of what happened in two Burlington County libraries when the book was properly removed have been largely inaccurate.  The students who created the show did so based on those inaccurate reports.  They believed censorship or book banning had occurred, thanks to the media.  So they have decided to speak up against censorship and I applaud them for doing so, but in reality, no censorship occurred in Burlington County.

The first reporter to get the story straight was Jim Walsh of the Courier Post.  Notice the title still incorrectly references a "banned" book, but reporters often do not select the title, and Jim Walsh himself did not make the claim.  So please read, "Banned Book To Be Read at Show," by Jim Walsh, Courier Post, 20 August 2010.  See the details about the public library issue that no previous reporter has elucidated.

The article includes the following:
Dan Kleinman, a Morris County-based "safe library" activist who backs [library director Gail] Sweet's decision, said the protesters were well-intended but mistaken.

"Libraries may remove books for legitimate reasons," he said.

"I think it's great what they are doing," Kleinman said of the performers. "They're standing up against what they believe is book-banning and censorship. It's not, but that's what they believe it is."

And I was accurately quoted.  No "banning" or "censorship" occurred.  You see, the book was removed from the school in compliance with Board of Education v. Pico.  Even the American Library Association's Judith Krug said, "On rare occasion, we have situations where a piece of material is not what it appears to be on the surface and the material is totally inappropriate for a school library.  In that case, yes, it is appropriate to remove materials.  If it doesn't fit your material selection policy, get it out of there."  It was removed from the public library in compliance with the library's book selection policy.

The book was found to contain graphics and written material that violated the policies of both institutions.  As a result, it was removed.  And if any other school or public library wishes to review then remove the book for policy compliance, it may do so legally without fear of "banning" or "censorship."

Speaking of fear, Victoria Fear was stellar and has a captivating smile and friendly disposition.  Before the readings began, she made a public statement.  Recalling that the statement was made based on the misleading information in the media, the speech contained substantially false information for which Miss Fear is blameless.  Let me tell you what she said so when you go to the show, you will not be surprised:

Hi guys!  Thanks for coming.  Um, alright, so we're here today because, um, a woman named Beverly Marinelli and her supporters walked into the Rancocas Valley Regional High School Board of Education meeting in February and they said that three books were unfit for the library and should be removed.  They felt this way because these three books were on the G L S E N, Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education ... Network....  Had a brain fart, they're reading [audience laughter].  The G L S E N was founded by Kevin Jennings who is on Obama's Administration, and this group of people feel that any book related to Kevin Jennings should be eliminated from school, they don't feel they're safe for children.  So the school board met and they decided they will only remove one book, that being Revolutionary Voices,

Um, Miss Marinelli then contacted Gail Sweet who was the library director for the Burlington County Library System and made the same attempt to get these books removed and Miss Sweet, though she is the library director, did not follow the proper procedure that she had put in place herself and decided just to silently take the books off the shelves and not make it a public issue.  So she kinda tried to sweep the issue under the rug and just make the books disappear without anyone noticing, but we noticed.

Um, the LGBTQ community needs to be heard, especially teenagers.  All the authors in this book are 14 to 26 years of age and, I mean, everyone here were teenagers once or maybe you still are, and it's hard when you're a teenager, you wanna find your voice, you wanna find our place, you wanna figure out who you are, and this was a great resource for kids and now it's eliminated from these two locations.

So we find that that's seriously unfortunate and we would like to inspire an overturn in the ruling, which is why we're here.

Um, so this is the fourth performance of Revolutionary Readings.  Brandon came to me with the idea and we helped put together the actors and books the dates and we just want these authors to be heard because they have a voice that deserves to be heard by everyone, especially those who really need to hear it, other teenagers.

So this is an excerpt from the text....

Please, do go see the show.  Go support the children.  I doubt the removal decisions will be reversed as Miss Fear hopes, but if you do have an issue, the ACLU will likely be your target, not these children:

August 22
4 PM
Riverton, NJ

.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

School Media Specialist Passes Sexual Content Review to Students; Dee Venuto Says It Is Discrimination to Keep Children From Material Including Lengthy, Vivid Descriptions of a Ménage a Trois

Dee Venuto is the "School Librarian; Media Specialist Assoc." at a public high school in New Jersey earning $85,541/year.  [N1]  As the librarian/media specialist, she is trained to, "'select resources unfettered by our personal, political, social, or religious views.'"  [N2]  She has chosen not to do this, however, because she "just can't read" certain books, preferring instead to allow school children to review potentially inappropriate material, such as one involving "lengthy, vivid descriptions of a ménage a trois." [N3]  She makes these remarkable comments in a New Jersey Education Association publication.


Dee Venuto Admits Not Performing Work For Which She Was Hired

Dee Venuto delegates her primary responsibility of selecting media to high school students.  Then, claiming "discrimination," she evidences she would rather not remove any materials whatsoever, effectively nullifying the need for a media specialist to "select resources" at all.  No need to "offer guidance and support services."  Here are her own words, emphasis mine:

Dee Venuto, RVRHS Media Specialist
Indeed there are librarians who censor—I have always struggled with the conflict of providing students with what they want to read, view, and hear, and the fact that I have always worked in public schools, which are, in my opinion, pretty conservative institutions.   Interestingly in my 18 years of experience, they’ve become even more so.  In the beginning of my career I inter-library loaned the Anarchist’s Cookbook for a high school student—not so sure I would do that today.  After a discussion I had at the fall [SJRLC] membership meeting, I will most likely put Eric Jerome Dickey back on the shelves, but would be wary of buying a book by Zane.  Dickey came off the shelves, by the way, because of a discussion I had with one of our student media assistants who often reads urban lit and who I depend on for openly discussing the books that I just can’t readShe shared some of the sexually explicit parts with me, which were lengthy, vivid descriptions of a ménage a trois.  Professionally, I truly believe it is discriminating to keep materials from young people who want to read, but do not always have access to the public library or the purchase of books.  I’d love to buy everything the students want; I’m toying with the idea of a parent permission form/phone call or inter-library loaning books for students who want titles that are mature.  [N3]

Dee Venuto, the media specialist who admits her role is to "select resources," actually does not.  She admits she "just can't read" certain books, and that is in the sense of content, not in the sense of a large number of books, since in the same sentence she talks about "openly discussing" "urban lit."  She has students read and report to her on books she just can't read including one involving "lengthy, vivid descriptions of a ménage a trois."  She claims it is "discriminating" to keep such material from children.  She would "love to buy everything the students want."


Dee Venuto and the American Library Association

Dee Venuto spoke publicly at an ALA annual meeting about how my SafeLibraries blog is changing her library profession.  In doing so she remarked that I "seek to educate people and politicians about who controls the public library and that citizens should, not the ALA." [N4]  However, as soon as she figured out something was afoot at her school, she sidestepped her own administration and went straight to the ALA. [N5]  The ALA then contacted all 50 state library associations to encourage them to get involved. [N6]


The ALA's Misleading Letter to RVRHS

Angela Maycock, ALA OIF
As a result of Venuto's call for help, the ALA issued a misleading letter to the school district, author pictured at right. [N7]  It is misleading, for example, to say, "The U.S. Supreme Court has cautioned that, 'local school boards may not remove books from library shelves simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books.' Board of Education v. Pico, 457 U.S. 853 (1982)."  The ALA did not reveal that the case also revealed that pervasively vulgar or educationally unsuitable material may be removed from a public school library at any time.

Equally misleading is this from the ALA letter: "This constitutional duty applies with particular force in the school library, which, unlike the classroom, has 'a special role...as a place where students may freely and voluntarily explore diverse topics.' Campbell v. St. Tammany Parish School Board, 64 F.3d 184, 190 (5th Cir. 1995)."  The court did not rule that sexually inappropriate material is considered a "diverse topic" that a student should explore in a public school.


Most Misleading is the Failure to Disclose that Books May Be Removed Legally

Judith Krug as "Hysteric" Librarian
Perhaps most misleading under the circumstances, is what the ALA left out.  The ALA did not reveal that the ALA's former 40 year de facto leader said, "On rare occasion, we have situations where a piece of material is not what it appears to be on the surface and the material is totally inappropriate for a school library.  In that case, yes, it is appropriate to remove materials.  If it doesn't fit your material selection policy, get it out of there." [N8]

Dee Venuto spoke publicly and approvingly of a number of Judith Krug quotes that support her view [N5], but, like the ALA itself, left out the essential one directly on point that dooms the view that anything goes.

The picture above right is of Judith Krug wearing a button saying, "Another 'Hysteric' Librarian for Freedom."  If even an "hysteric librarian for freedom" who was the ALA's de facto leader for four decades says, "get it out of there" if material does not "fit your material selection policy," then schools have a green light to remove material that does not fit their selection policies.  That crystal truth is the very reason for the misinformation campaign and legal threats (usually by the ACLU) intended to intimidate local communities into not even trying to do the right thing or reversing themselves when they do.  Also, attempts to claim selection policies are so inclusive as to exclude nothing do not ring true with Judith Krug saying what she did.


ALA Misleads on Dee Venuto

More on point regarding Dee Venuto, the ALA misleads the school again.  Specifically, the ALA said, "We extend our full support to Media Center Coordinator Dee Venuto, who has worked to select a diverse range of materials for the collection without shying away from potentially controversial subjects."  The ALA said this on March 3, 2010.  But is was a month before that, on February 1, 2010, that Dee Venuto admitted she "just can't read" certain material and has students read and report to her on things such as "lengthy, vivid descriptions of a ménage a trois." [N3]

In other words, by Dee Venuto's own words, it is factually impossible that Dee Venuto "worked to select a diverse range of materials for the collection without shying away from potentially controversial subjects," as the ALA claimed.  Just the opposite.  She "just c[ould]n't read" certain material and had students read such material and report to her.  In other words, she "sh[ied] away from potentially controversial subject."


Conclusion

Given the above, it appears that a public school media specialist admits to and explains why she is not performing her work she states is her job.  It appears she intentionally exposes school children to potentially inappropriate material.  It appears she holds the ALA to be a higher authority than her own school district and is guided by the ALA, including by its view that it is discrimination to keep children from inappropriate material, a policy that may violate local policy and common sense.  It also appears she and the ALA have misled the public, including failing to disclose that school library materials may be removed if they do not meet the school's selection policy.

That's my view.  What's yours?


End Notes

NOTE ADDED 22 APRIL 2011:

For Dee Venuto's efforts in going directly to the ALA instead of her own management to seek external help for local book challenges, she has been awarded by the ALA, apparently to set an example that others should go directly to the ALA as well.  I commented as such on the page announcing the award.  That led to many of her friends commenting in response and supporting what she did.

One Lynn Harpool even called those who challenged some books "terrorists."  I'm not kidding.  See "School Librarian Stands Against Organized Challenge, Receives AASL Intellectual Freedom Award," by Jennifer Habley, American Libraries, 19 April 2011, wherein Lynn Harpool commented:
I am appalled by the actions of the Rancocas Valley School Board in bowing to the wishes of this organized, outside, terroristic (yes, I consider them to be a form of terrorist) group in pulling the books.  Although two out of the three titles were re-instated, the fact that the third title was not restored does not clear them in my mind.  I intend to further educate other alumni of RVRHS at our upcoming reunion about this incident and hopefully they too will join me in expressing our dismay at the cowardly actions of our former school which, until this action, we held in high regard.  Rancocas Valley Regional High School failed in this matter but we can be proud that they have Dee Venuto on their staff (hopefully they won’t retaliate against her). 
Lynn Harpool
RVRHS alumnus and NJ Librarian

Librarian Lynn Harpool's Facebook comment
supporting MoveOn.org's anticapitalism.
I note Lynn Harpool is a "supervising librarian" at The Free Public Library of Monroe Township in Williamstown, NJ.  I am wondering if that community approves of one of its employees publicly calling people terrorists, let alone calling the school board members cowards.

The library, by the way, has the ALA's anything-goes policy, and the bold emphasis and capital letters are in the original:
6.  Parents - NOT LIBRARY STAFF - are responsible for what their children check out from the Library and for what they access on the Internet.

I also note from the Lynn Harpool Facebook wall that she positively promoted the anticapitalist work of MoveOn.org.  The graphic above shows the approving comment she wrote.  I find it ironic that she decries corporations "shirking their tax-paying duty" while her library shirks its tax-paying duty to protect children from harm and she shirks her own duty to refrain from using inflammatory/defamatory language.

So an anticapitalist-supporting, anything-goes librarian who calls people terrorists and cowards supports another anything-goes librarian who admits she does not perform her duties and who complains immediately to the ALA.  Any surprise here?

By the way, the National Coalition Against Censorship [NCAC] also handed Dee Venuto an award "for fighting against censorship."  See "NCAC Honors Myracle, School Librarian as Defenders of Free Speech," by Rocco Staino, School Library Journal, 14 December 2010.  No surprise there as the NCAC promotes porn, just like Dee Venuto.

.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

SafeLibraries Changing Library Profession According to Speaker at ALA 2010 Annual Conference; SafeLibraries Welcomes Media Requests for ALA Balance

SafeLibraries is changing the library profession, according to a featured speaker at the American Library Association's [ALA] 2010 Annual Conference in Washington, DC.  Here is my transcript from the relevant section of the Intellectual Freedom Issues Briefing Session on 27 June 2010:

I think this is especially important now when our, when our profession is subject to change by outside organizations and individuals; this Safe, uh, Libraries blogger ironically is from New Jersey as well, had a voice in the Wisconsin library association, um, challenge and in our challenge, and they seek to educate people and politicians about who controls public libraries and that citizens should, not the ALA.  And if they are concerned with public libraries you know that they are going to be very concerned with school libraries.

Source:  "Video from Annual Conference:  IF Issues Briefing," by Angela Maycock, OIF Blog, 13 August 2010, speech by Dee Venuto at times 1:04:54 to 1:05:26, emphasis added.   (See her speech handout having the graphic about SafeLibraries shown below.)  Remember, this being the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom [OIF] blog, no comments are allowed.

I know a New York paper called me a "library watchdog" and the international news source Agence France-Presse said SafeLibraries.org was "a clearing house for information about challenging books," but this ALA speaker saying the library profession is changing as a result of my efforts is really very exciting for me.   It is not the first ALA annual meeting where SafeLibraries has been discussed, and it is not the first time the ALA has discussed SafeLibraries in public, but it is definitely major evidence that SafeLibraries has been effective in, as the speaker said, "educat[ing] people and politicians about who controls public libraries and that citizens should, not the ALA."

I hereby welcome all media inquires on any issue involving libraries where the ALA is also contacted for its view.  I'll provide the balance.  The ALA sees me as a game changer, the media might as well too.  Be aware that I was scheduled to appear on Fox News to balance an ALA representative speaking on so-called Banned Books Week, but the ALA pulled out at the last minute after learning I was to provide balance; the interview was canceled.  Keep that in mind for when the ALA downplays my effectiveness or puts words in my mouth.  Call me to find out for yourselves what I would say.

.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Et tu, Mary Minow? Then Fall, Gail Sweet!

Et tu, Mary Minow?  — Then fall, Gail Sweet!

Respected library law expert Mary Minow, pictured at right, runs the LibraryLaw Blog, is a member of the Obama Administration, and is the daughter of former FCC Chairman Newton Minow noted for his "vast wasteland" speech.  She was recently nominated by President Obama then appointed to the National Museum Library Service Board, an advisory board to the Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.  I have great respect for Mary, even supporting her nomination.  In contrast, I did not support the nomination of Carla D. Hayden, a former American Library Association [ALA] President.

Gail Sweet is the library director of the Burlington County Library System.  She removed a book from her library for failure to meet its book selection policy—a picture from the book is included at right.  For this she has been misrepresented in the media, e.g., "NJ Library, Citing Child Pornography, Removes GLBT Book," by Lauren Barack, School Library Journal, 27 July 2010, and criticized on partisan blogs—what a sin it is to be "active in the tea party movement"—e.g., "NJ Library Removes LGBT Book, Calling It 'Child Pornography,'" by Jim Burroway, Box Turtle Bulletin, 28 July 2010.  The comments are particularly egregious.

Such a reception is not surprising from reporters swimming in media/ACLU/ALA misinformation and not fact checking.  "[D]irect calls to Sweet were not returned."  So you go ahead and publish false information uncritically?  Neither are such practices surprising from partisan blogs and those who comment thereon, but et tu, Mary Minow?

Mary Minow wrote about Gail Sweet, indirectly, at "New Jersey ACLU Open Records Requests Show Book Removal Decisions History," by Mary Minow, LibraryLaw Blog, 23 July 2010.  I responded on her blog post in a moderated comment that I reprint below because it has not yet been posted due solely to technical issues.

Before discussing Mary Minow's misinformation further, let me first say Gail Sweet is a model library director who has acted in the interests of her community and in compliance with its existing book selection policy.  For this she is coming under direct assault from out-of-jurisdiction people and organizations seeking the restoration of the inappropriate material to the library.  I urge everyone to support Gail Sweet and the Burlington County Library System.  Perhaps she should be awarded a public commendation by the Burlington County Board of Chosen Freeholders.  I'll write them an email recommending just that.  If requested, I will attend a public meeting to make a personal appeal for Gail Sweet and to answer any questions about why the County should not be swayed by all the voices clamoring to have a say in the local libraries and public school libraries to reverse the library's properly made decision.  Their political interests are more important to them than are Burlington County's children.

I may have some sway as I am viewed as a "library watchdog," etc.  My web site has been considered by Agence France-Presse as "a clearing house for information about challenging books."  Yes, the ALA views me as a "censor" opposed to intellectual freedom and privacy, but that indicates to me only that I have been effective in bringing communities more information to consider about how they are being misled by national organizations into leaving their own children exposed to harm it is perfectly legal to control.  Think about it.  How many times does the ALA have this US Supreme Court quote on its web site from the case it lost: "The interest in protecting young library users from material inappropriate for minors is legitimate, and even compelling, as all Members of the Court appear to agree."  TwiceI added it, both times.  On the other hand, "censor" has 525 hits.

Gail Sweet applied the library's selection policy initially due to the high school issue and before any patron complained.  This frees the library from the need to use the materials reconsideration policy designed for patrons.  I note the ALA article did report some accurate information that corroborates my findings based on my discussion with Gail Sweet, namely, "We were aware of the challenge at Rancocas Valley High School and took a look at the book…."  In other words, she was doing her job the taxpayers pay her to do.  This is partly why Gail Sweet is a model library director.

Everyone seeking to reverse the decision, on the irrelevant issue of homosexuality by the way, is complaining she should not have applied the selection policy and instead should have followed the policy designed for patrons.  What a double standard.  When people seek to add ex-gay books to the public library, in others words books that explain how to leave homosexuality, patron input is ignored and the selection policy is used to weed out such books, not the patron policy.  Read the Annoyed Librarian on how selection is used to censor certain materials sought by "conservative Christians."  Gail Sweet is guilty of refusing to follow a double standard that is used nationwide to block ex-gay material from public libraries without even a whimper from the national groups who are suddenly strident in Burlington County.

But Mary Minow is a respected library law expert and member of the Obama Administration.  She should not be misleading the public and leaving it to people like me to pick up the phone, call Gail Sweet, and get the truth.  Read below what I wrote for publication on her blog.  I expose other red herrings, like the "child pornography" excuse to reverse the library's decision.  Mary Minow should have defended Gail Sweet, not left her unnamed and undefended while recommending ALA and ACLU sources and actions.  She should not have acted like the media and the blogs that wrongfully attack Gail Sweet.  She's supposed to be an expert.

Et tu, Mary Minow?  — Then fall, Gail Sweet!  Not if I have anything to do with it.  If Sweet's decision is going to be reversed, it should be on legitimate grounds, not on red herrings or false information, not even if perceived experts mislead people.

[UPDATE 14 Sep 2010: This blog post is being used as course reading in an ALA-approved academic setting:
Vancouver, BC, Canada.

[UPDATE 14 Sep 2010: Email from Ms. Minow dated 12 Aug 2010: "Important Correction: I am a nominee to IMLS,  not a member of Obama administration."]


-------------------------------

My response to Mary Minow's blog post:

Mary,

You know I love your work.  In this particular blog post of yours, however, there are a number of misleading statements.

"An active censorship campaign is underway in New Jersey…."  If you use the word "censorship" when that is not what is really happening, that is not good.  And you use it immediately to explain what is happening in NJ without first presenting the facts then explaining why you feel it is censorship.  Instead, you just go for the propaganda value of  promoting the censorship boogeyman when there really is none.  That is not a problem to the extent that it diminishes how people may view what you say, but it is a problem when you are as prominent as you are and you are making false cries of censorship that only serve to diminish sensitivity to true censorship.  "The ... elites have convinced themselves that they are taking a stand against cultural tyranny.  ....  [T]he reality is that it is those who cry 'Censorship!' the loudest who are the ones trying to stifle speech and force their moral world-view on others."  Thank you, Dan Gerstein [ http://www.plan2succeed.org/wsj-why-the-democrats-are-losing-the-culture-wars11apr05by_dan_gerstein.html ].

In your next sentence you talk about "a conservative group," as if that were relevant in any way.  How is that relevant, Mary?  You do know, of course, that conservatives and liberals agree that, for example, children should be kept from inappropriate materials, right?  Have you read Naomi Wolf's 12 March 2006 article in the New York Times entitled, "Young Adult Fiction: Wild Things," right?  [ http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/12/books/review/12wolf.html ] You do know Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon who opposes the Arizona governor's efforts regarding illegal aliens feels so strongly about protecting children that he saw to it the library used Internet filters that could not be disabled, right?  He wrote directly to me saying,
I greatly appreciate that you have taken the time to express your thoughts on internet access in our public libraries.  Like you, I champion the constitutional right to free speech and if people choose to access information on the web that is legal, they should not be prohibited from doing so.  But also like you, I don't believe that the constitution obligates our government to provide access to pornography.  It is readily available in the private sector, and that's where it should stay available.
Speaking of left and right, you do know the US Supreme Court said in 2003, in a case the American Library Association and the American Civil Liberties Union both lost [ http://laws.findlaw.com/us/539/194.html ], "The interest in protecting young library users from material inappropriate for minors is legitimate, and even compelling, as all Members of the Court appear to agree," Right?  You know that, Mary, right?  So the "conservative group" comment is really irrelevant.

Oh yes I understand others use it to cloud the real issues because they really have no legitimate argument, but you are not like them, Mary.  You are an experienced professional well respected in her community and well versed in the means to logically argue for or against various positions.  You likely even have direct experience in the very issue involved.  Please do not fall back on the weak arguments of an ad hominem nature that others use who are not nearly so accomplished as you.  Please drop the "conservative group" red herring.

By the way, the "child pornography" email is a red herring as well.  We are talking about email now, between colleagues. Such emails are often short and use summarizations that are close to the real thing but not exact.  Emails like this must be written hundreds of thousands of times a day worldwide.  Such was the case here.  How do I know?  I asked the library director herself.  Gail Sweet is her name.  The two-word message was a facile means to explain the real problem that would have been much longer but was not needed/convenient in this particular collegial instance.  People are using the two words as a means to cry foul then have the book restored to the library despite the library's selection policy as applied by the director and approved by the commission.

Moving on now, you said, "The ACLU found that a public library had also received an informal complaint from the same individual, that staff recommended removal, and that the library commission also voted to remove the title."  Tsk, tsk.  Mary, you are well respected.  You really can do better than this.  You can do what I did and call the people involved to do some fact checking.  I called the library and spoke with the director.  As I recall the conversation, the director became aware of the book and decided to act or acted before she "received an informal complaint from the same individual."  The director, not "staff" as the ACLU misled you, applied the library's existing selection policy to the book and found it lacking.  She recommended compliance with the selection policy to the library commission and all members agreed.  Mary, the library simply applied its own existing library book selection policy to the material.  There is no need for the library director to fill out a form designed for patrons before she may act under the existing book selection policy.  Oh my, how onerous that precedent would be.

Speaking of the ACLU misleading you, the ACLU uses deception to force communities to act as the ACLU directs.  No one in any community need be frightened of the ACLU pressure machine.  Here's an example of the dishonesty of the ACLU.  In Nampa, ID, after many years of effort, the library finally decided to move certain books such as The Joy of Gay Sex behind the counter so children could not access them.  The ACLU threatened a lawsuit claiming First Amendment violations caused by the embarrassment of adults having to ask for such books.  Sounds reasonable right?  Just give in to the ACLU immediately, right?  Well that's what Nampa did.  A week later, the books were returned to the shelves where the children could access them.  (I spoke with co-author Felice Picano about this incident, but that's an aside [ http://safelibraries.blogspot.com/2008/10/dear-felice-picano-joy-of-gay-sex-co.html ].) 

Where's the dishonesty?  Where?  In the very claim that frightened the library into giving in to the ACLU.  Embarrassment.  You see, the ACLU had made that very same claim five years earlier in that Supreme Court case I mentioned above and lost on that issue.  The Court said, "the Constitution does not guarantee the right to acquire information at a public library without any risk of embarrassment."  So exactly why did the ACLU demand Nampa back down due to the embarrassment issue?  Obviously it has no substantive argument, thanks to US v. ALA, so legal threats sufficed to fool the community, and it did, and the children suffered as a result. 

And you, Mary, report on the ACLU's findings uncritically.  I would not expect that from you or someone like you.  Instead, you say: "Thank you to ACLU-NJ for Open Records documents."  Yes, thank you, ACLU, for interfering in yet another community to ensure all communities apply ACLU standards instead of community standards. 

And organizations like the National Coalition Against Censorship [NCAC] are not much different, by the way.  The NCAC is so radical as to take a position actually promoting porn [ http://safelibraries.blogspot.com/2009/11/ncac-promotes-porn-says-keeping.html ].  Yet it is also decrying the library's decision [ http://ncacblog.wordpress.com/2010/06/25/its-not-about-the-children-revolutionary-voices-pulled-from-public-library/ ].

Back to Mary: "In contrast, the library did not appear to follow its own policies for handling challenges of controversial materials."  Right, Mary, to the ACLU, the library did not appear to follow its own policies.  But you know, Mary, as I explained above, that the book reconsideration policy is for patrons, not for library directors.  Library directors need only apply the existing book selection policy, yet you did not explain this in your blog post.  This is disappointing to me.  Oh yes, you hint at it with "weeding" and "those procedures," but that is not enough for someone in your trusted position, Mary.  Please understand.  You must do more to provide accurate information and not propagandize on behalf of the ACLU.

I can see you know the difference between a patron procedure for filing challenges and the library procedure for "weeding," but you glance over it so quickly the average person would miss the distinction.  That would leave in their minds the impression that the ACLU's position is correct, which it is not.

Mary, you need to do better.  You are a leader in this area.  Please don't be a misleader.

.