Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Response to ALA President and OIF Director Regarding West Bend, WI, and Control of the Local Library

The following is my response to American Library Association [ALA] President Jim Rettig and the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom Acting Director Deborah Caldwell-Stone regarding the matter in West Bend, WI. It is so good I had to reprint it here. It is so easy to prove these people false, and no one should ever be intimidated by them or the ALA. The ALA only further marginalizes itself:

Yes, I'm Dan Kleinman of SafeLibraries.

Queery, your blog post has become much more interesting because Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Acting Director of the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom, has commented [t]here. I'm jealous and wish she would comment on my own blog.

Now I will respond to Ms. Caldwell-Stone, but let me first preface my response by saying she has been doing what she has been doing for a very long time and has made numerous statements on a variety of issues. Now nobody is a computer and is expected to remember everything they ever said. So when I point out a statement Ms. Caldwell-Stone made in the past and compare it to the current situation, please understand it is only to get at the issues, not to play gotcha. Pobody's nerfect. I make the following comments with all due respect to Ms. Caldwell-Stone.

I said only the following about Deborah Caldwell-Stone: "Further, the books will just be moved in the library. Even Deborah Caldwell-Stone has said that is appropriate in the appropriate circumstance."

To this Ms. Caldwell Stone responded, "For the record, Mr. Kleinman does not ... accurately portray my views or the views of ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom."

However, in the past, Ms. Caldwell-Stone said, "There are times when a book might be moved, for example a young adult novel makes it into a fourth or fifth classroom and that's more appropriate for the high school library, and a committee can just say this was an inappropriate book to buy for this age group but it was an appropriate book to buy for this age category and it works for this high school library." Listen to the Deborah Caldwell-Stone say this in her own voice by clicking on the link located at "Deborah Caldwell-Stone Discusses Banned Books", by admin, American Library Association, 11 July 2008.

Now my reading of that tells me that there are times when a book might be moved for reasons of age appropriateness. Yes, the context was a public school library, but the same principle applies, and the speaker was Deborah Caldwell-Stone herself.

So when I said, "Further, the books will just be moved in the library. Even Deborah Caldwell-Stone has said that is appropriate in the appropriate circumstance," I have "Deborah Caldwell-Stone Discusses Banned Books" as my reliable source for that statement.

I try to provide accurate and truthful information, and I usually back it up with source material. Only this time I provided the source after I made the statement; how ironic the source I provided is the very person claiming I do not "accurately portray [her] views or the views of ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom." Apparently, I do, at least in this instance.

On the other hand, it is Deborah Caldwell-Stone who herself is being misleading. She says, for instance, "The ALA opposes book banning and censorship in any form, including censorship that arises from disagreement with and disapproval of positive GLBT materials." While outwardly true, the whole truth is that no book has been banned for many decades in the USA. I'm talking about banned, not moved for reasons of age appropriateness. Bd of Educ. v. Pico says the parties stipulate that pervasively vulgar material may be removed from public schools immediately. US v. ALA, a big loss for the ALA and the ACLU, saw the Court say, "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." Did Ms. Caldwell-Stone tell you about that? Does the US Supreme Court make book banning and censorship the law of the land? No and no. See also "LISNews Disses Judith Krug Unwittingly" for how the ALA, indeed the very Office for Intellectual Freedom Caldwell-Stone leads, misleads the public on the issue of censorship just as she is doing here on this Queery blog post.

She misleads the public another way, but it may be innocently. Other than what she said about me that I proved was incorrect, the remainder of her comments addressed themselves not to the issues, but to a nonissue. The issue of "GLBT materials" is a nonissue because the proponent of the changes in the library has long ago (relatively speaking) dropped her claims regarding GLBT materials and has since requested only legal means for protecting children from inappropriate material in her own public library. That's the issue now. Legal means for protecting children. Deborah Caldwell-Stone did not address that issue. Why? My guess is that she knows they are legal and there actually are no arguments for not applying legal means to protect children. Hence the reliance on the out-of-date GLBT claims.

And I can see Ginny is really making her case well and convincing people to legally protect children in the public library and that the ALA knows this and knows this could set a dangerous precedent for libraries nationwide. How can I see this? Anyone can, actually. First, look at the misleading information provided by ALA acolytes at the UW-M: "UW-M Library School Misleads West Bend Citizens."

More to the point, however, is how uncharacteristically the top ALA leadership is getting directly involved in a local issue. The ALA is running scared. In the Queery blog we have the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom leader, Deborah Caldwell-Stone, making false statements, no matter how innocently.

And the ALA President himself has gotten directly involved. See the letter I have included below. He too, like Caldwell-Stone and like the UW-M, raises the out-of-date GLBT claim. But he also adds the false pornography issue. Pornography is not the issue. We can all agree no pornography is involved, but it is just not the issue. Material can be inappropriate for children and still not be pornography. The issue is inappropriate material for children, not pornography. Efforts to cast the issue as pornography are merely efforts to cleverly avoid the real issue.

Notice he also talks about, "we must preserve the intellectual freedom rights of the entire community," but his direct involvement in this matter is precisely the opposite, namely, to prevent the rights of the entire community and enforce the ALA's policies.

It's a public library, not an ALA library. It's West Bend's library, not Chicago's library. Do not be fooled by desperate people using false pornography and censorship claims or out-of-date GLBT claims. Notice how none of these people and organizations are discussing the actual issues, namely, the legal means for protecting children that is being sought in West Bend and successfully applied in other communities. Why is that?


On Wed, Apr 29, 2009 at 4:20 PM, Nanette Perez wrote:

[ifaction] Statement from ALA President Regarding Library Controversy in West Bend, Wis.

The following is a statement issued by American Library Association President Jim Rettig regarding efforts to remove Library Board members and to restrict materials in the West Bend (Wisconsin) Community Memorial Library:

“Last week, the West Bend, Wisconsin Common Council voted to deny reappointment to four Library Board members, based on objections to these members’ ‘ideology’ and their adherence to library policy concerning challenges to materials in the library collection. This move appears to be motivated largely in response to an ongoing campaign that seeks to restrict access to books in the West Bend Community Memorial Library’s young adult collection of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender fiction and nonfiction.

“We are dismayed by and deeply concerned about these developments. Libraries connect people and ideas, by providing access to a diverse array of information to meet the needs of everyone in the community. Whatever their personal beliefs, library board members have an obligation to support this unique role of the public library. When individuals or groups attempt to block access to library materials in the name of their own particular beliefs, we must all oppose such efforts and we must preserve the intellectual freedom rights of the entire community.

“Fanning the flames of this controversy, opponents of open access in libraries have launched a campaign spreading fear and misinformation. Newspaper and radio ads call on the community to ‘protect our children,’ and have compared the removal of books from the library to buckling a child’s seat belt. A city Alderman has even gone so far as to compare the West Bend Community Memorial Library to a porn shop.

“The materials in question are not pornography. They include award-winning novels and acclaimed works of nonfiction. To advocate for the removal or restriction of these materials on the basis of partisan or doctrinal disapproval is censorship, pure and simple. Parents who believe a book is not appropriate for their own children are free to make that decision—for their children; they do not have the right nor the authority to make it for anyone else’s children.

"Because it supports intellectual freedom, the American Library Association (ALA) opposes book banning and censorship in any form, and supports librarians and library board members whenever they resist censorship in their libraries. Since our society is very diverse, libraries have a responsibility to provide materials that reflect the interests of all of their patrons.

“We stand in support of the librarians and Library Board members of the West Bend Community Memorial Library and the community members who defend intellectual freedom and open access to ideas. By resisting calls to censor potentially controversial materials, they promote and protect true education and learning, and uphold the cherished freedoms that we, as Americans, hold most dear.”


  1. On Wed, Apr 29, 2009 at 7:48 PM, Queery WORT wrote:

    I rejected your comment below because it's a treatise, not a comment. If you'd like to post what you wrote to your own blog and provide a link to that in a comment to the Queery blog, you are welcome to do so.

  2. Please read "ALA President/ALA OIF called out on LYING/MISLEADING" by the person teaching her local community in West Bend on legal means for protecting children in the public library. I predict her example may become a nationwide example for how to trump ALA policy in local libraries so the libraries really become local.

    She said:

    "Superior homework on the part of SafeLibraries."

    Thank you!

  3. Dan, I know you've seen my comments on other blogs, and I hope you'll agree that I try to only reply about issues from a library perspective, and try not to make it personal. But I have to comment on the line that says "Hence the reliance on the out-of-date GLBT claims."

    It mystifies me how anyone can claim that it is "out of date" to assert that Ginny is against GLBT materials in the library. The petition that she is currently circulating says, "Specifically, we request faith-based and/or ex-gay books..." It also references "library-produced sexual content online," which is a very clear reference to the GLBT booklist on the West Bend library's website that started this whole thing.

    The GLBT issue is NOT off the table for Ginny, so why should people responding to her take it off the table? Just because she now couches her demands using catch-all terminology like "pornography" does not mean that her initial position on GLBT materials is now somehow moot. It is not. It directly informs her actions and opinions, including the demands which are part of the petition she is currently circulating.

  4. Queery has posted a smaller comment of mine. So when they rejected my original for being too large, odd a that may be, at least they meant it and allowed a smaller comment. Thank you, Queery.


    Excellent comment, thank you.

    I love it when people stick to the issues. The ALA President and the ALA's OIF Director did not address the issues (as presented in Ginny's "petition")) and instead rely on the ad hominem argument of calling Ginny a homophobe, as if that's supposed to mean legal means to protect children should not be applied in West Bend.

    On to your specific comments.

    You said, "It mystifies me how anyone can claim that it is 'out of date' to assert that Ginny is against GLBT materials in the library." I have no idea what Ginny is personally against. But that is not the issue. The issue is the relief she is seeking in her petition and what she originally requested. Her original requests opposed GLBT materials, but she dropped those requests, and rightly so. So to say she is still making GLBT claims is out of date. Ginny's comments here evidence Ginny has dropped her GLBT claims, for one example.

    Next issue. You said, "The petition that she is currently circulating says, 'Specifically, we request faith-based and/or ex-gay books...'" Libby, she is merely seeking balance, and balance is required under applicable law, to my understanding. So she is only asking for what is already legal.

    Next. You said, "It also references 'library-produced sexual content online,' which is a very clear reference to the GLBT booklist on the West Bend library's website that started this whole thing." Libby, I think you are reading minds here. When I read that sentence, I had no idea what she meant by library-produced sexual content online. Sounds like library staff is moonlighting as writers. Besides, "sexual content," she said, not "homosexual content." I think you are barking up the wrong tree here.

    Then you concluded, "The GLBT issue is NOT off the table for Ginny, so why should people responding to her take it off the table?" Libby, your conclusion was based on argument you made that I just showed is either incorrect or is making assumptions based on assumptions. You can make any conclusion you wish, but if it does not logically follow because you have not proved the matters asserted, then the conclusion is equally faulty. In other words, your conclusion is wishful thinking.

    You say, "Just because she now couches her demands using catch-all terminology like 'pornography' does not mean that her initial position on GLBT materials is now somehow moot. It is not." At least you finally admit she had an "initial position on GLBT materials." And it is moot and out of date, as I discussed above.

    As to her "pornography" claim, I also don't like that, not because it hides the GLBT issue as you imply, but because that is simply not the issue here. And the ALA President uses that nonissue to further attack Ginny and avoid the real issues.

    You say, "It directly informs her actions and opinions, including the demands which are part of the petition she is currently circulating." Who cares why she is doing this; you are reading her mind again. The issue is what has she requested and are they legitimate requests. They are legitimate. That is why UW-M, the ALA President, and the ALA's OIF Director all avoid those legitimate requests and instead address Ginny's out-of-date original requests long since dropped, relatively speaking.

    Libby, yes I can see you address the issues and not the people. Please open your mind, Libby, and ask the people who oppose Ginny to instead explain their opposition to the legitimate requests she has made. No one no where has yet addressed those legitimate issues.

  5. Ok, I'll leave your comment about ex-gay books being "balance" alone because I have already extensively commented elsewhere about this issue.

    But as for "reading Ginny's mind," I don't have to. I don't think it takes any kind of mental leap to correctly interpret the wording of that petition. If that "library-produced sexual content online" was NOT included as a response to the GLBT booklist, I'll eat my hat. Is there anything else Ginny has mentioned about the website that she finds objectionable besides that list? I've never heard her say it, if that's the case.

    But anyway, as to responding to the issues on their merit, I have done so on Ginny's blog. Like I said, I try to keep my comments from a library perspective, though, so maybe that's not what you're looking for if you're wanting responses from the community. But, I'll post again my response to the petition.

    It's a long comment, so you can choose if you want it posted; I'll put it in a new post.

  6. "1. Reclassification of Youth-Targeted Pornographic Books into the adult section of the library."

    The reason these books are "targeted" at teens is because teens are at a stage in life where their curiosity and need for information about sex are very high. Teens who are personally dealing with issues related to sexual decisions, sexual health, and the consequences of sex can benefit from these materials being readily available.

    The fact is, unless we're talking about pornography that is legally classified as such, there is really no way to ensure that every book that any person could possibly see as “pornographic” gets taken out of the young adult section. And let’s be real here, the term “pornographic” may be inflammatory, but it is in no way accurate in this case. True pornography is regulated by the law; nothing the library owns would be restricted from minors under the law; they could walk into Borders tomorrow and buy it.

    One group may see something as pornographic, I understand that, but to suggest that the library supports pornography is propaganda, nothing more or less. “Pornography” has a cultural connotation that simply has nothing to do with the materials in question. I’m not suggesting EVERY book belongs in the teen collection, but neither are the books pornography. Using terms like “sexually explicit” would be far more accurate; that terminology is used in petition 2, so why not here?

    “2. Visual identification of explicit material with a parental advisory.”

    Again, whose definition of “explicit”? Also, if we’re talking about books that only have a short passage of explicit material, how in the world are the librarians supposed to know the entire contents of every book? It's impossible, and a policy to this effect would also be completely unenforceable.

    I have said many times that if Ginny had contested the placement of a book like “Deal with it” or even “Perks of being a wallflower” on their own merits, she may have succeeded in having them reclassified. I’m not saying the library is perfect. However, there is no practical way the library can be expected to evaluate every book cover to cover.

    Honestly, I don’t understand what Ginny expects the library to actually do on a day to day basis, even if this petition passes. I can tell you firsthand that I try to read YA books to familiarize myself with at least part of the collection; however, I have responsibilities at the library which don’t include just sitting and reading a book. If I want to do that, it’s on my own time. It’s not just that labeling for content is something that goes against my very nature as a librarian; it’s simply an impractical request.

    She continually compares the library ratings to the MPAA; I continually try to get people to understand that movies are rated by an outside agency that was created for that purpose. Libraries aren’t getting movies, then having to watch and rate them. It is ludicrous to compare the two; West Bend would have to create a system of evaluation and then read every book that they buy in order to evaluate it. In other forums, Ginny has said that even one page of explicit material is too much, so yes, reading every book cover to cover seems like the course of action she’d like the library to take. If I am misinterpreting this, I hope she’ll address it.

    “3. Restrict Library-generated Online Sexual Content.”

    Like I said, the only time I have seen Ginny address the website, it was in reference to the GLBT booklist. If not, I would love to know what this is in reference to. Also, just because a book contains GLBT characters does not make the book itself sexual in nature.

    Even if this is not referencing that particular list, the posting of a booklist containing ANY book with sexual themes does not constitute the generating of online sexual content by the library. I have never understood that leap of logic. The books are the books; if they have sexual content, that’s one thing. But creating a booklist with a summary of the plots is not generating sexual content, any more than a horror fiction booklist is generating violent content.

    “4. Balanced Literature on Controversial Issues including homosexuality.”

    I guess you already know my view on this one, but I will reiterate one thing. From a LIBRARY standpoint (at least my library), most literature is from a heterosexual viewpoint, and including books from a homosexual viewpoint IS the balance. And for teens, it’s to show questioning or self-identified LGBT teens that other people have felt how they feel, that they’re not the only one. That’s important when dealing with teens.

    And as far as I know (the last time Ginny posted titles on her blog), the “ex-gay” books she was trying to have included are not only aimed at adults, not teens, but they have not been reviewed by professional review sources. Whether you agree with this requirement or not, many libraries do require reviews of materials before they will buy them.

    The library currently includes books like “Opposing Viewpoints: Homosexuality” in their young adult section, as well as books with kids whose friends come out and they have to decide whether they agree with it. “Bright Purple” by Christian fiction author Melody Carlson is one in which a Christian teen finds out that her best friend is gay and has to decide how to handle it, ultimately finding a way to love her friend while not agreeing with her homosexuality. Books like these can be a middle ground, I hope.

    “5. Children's Internet Protection – require the libraries to implement technology protection to protect minors from Internet porn on public computers in accordance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act.”

    Now, this one they may actually have a shot at. A lot of libraries do filter their children’s computers if they have dedicated stations just for kids. However, if kids use the same computers as adults, I doubt the board will decide to filter. I know our board did discuss it when CIPA came out, but we simply couldn’t justify filtering when it’s mostly adults over 18 who use our computers. I know the federal funding issue will come up, but according to our lawyer, you can still receive federal funds and not filter if the funds are not used to purchase computers or pay for Internet service.

    What we do is require parents to be physically with the kids if they’re under 7th grade, and between 7th grade and age 17, parents have to sign a form for their kids to use the Internet, which we explain is unfiltered. If the parents do not want their kids using the unfiltered Internet on their own, the kids can still use it with the parents right next to them. That was our compromise, which still leaves it up to the parents whether or not their kid can use the Internet.

    And the reason that we do need parents consent for this, and not for books in the teen section is because there is true pornography online, actual, legally defined pornography that someone would have to be 18 or 21 to purchase if it were in print. This is unlike any of the materials in the teen section.

  7. So, that’s my petition response. My main issue is with points one and two, and it boils down to a simple premise: terms like pornographic or even explicit are so subjective as to be almost meaningless in a library setting. There is no way to create a teen collection that everyone would find squeaky clean; that would be a failure at any rate, because a collection that caters to only one viewpoint would quickly die out due to lack of interest.

    On the practical procedures that labeling would entail, I just don’t know how a labeling project like the one being suggested could work. Simple as that. It’s all well and good to pass a petition saying the library must label; it is much more complicated to actually carry such a thing out with day-to-day operations. Who would be the final judge as to what book gets what label? How would this affect the library’s ordering and processing procedures? What about when the book gets put on the shelf and someone disagrees with that particular label; what is the reconsideration process? For books on the borderline of YA and adult,what would the standards be for materials to be put in the young adult vs. adult collections; how many swear words, how many instances of violence, how much sexual content and what type? I could go on.

    I know you are looking for the counter-petitioners responses, but as you know I don’t even live in WI, so that’s not what I’m trying to do. Maybe my professional opinions may not match those of West Bend, but I believe they are similar enough to be representative of an average library viewpoint. Thanks for posting.

  8. On the issue of age-appropriateness: As has been stated many times on several threads/blogs, the fiction books in question are written for a teen audience, and discuss issues that impact teenagers' lives. Yes, they contain passages and references to sexual activity, and also drinking and drugs, but so do newspapers. Those activities exist and some teens participate in them. Sanitizing any such reference within the YA collection is pure folly. In my opinion, it's equally silly to move them away from other YA fiction, but that can be debated on a case-by-case basis according to current library policies.

    As for the much-talked-about sex-ed book Deal With It, it is already shelved in the general nonfiction collection with other classified subjects intended for mature readers.

    In neither case are the books in question shelved in the collection for younger children, so what is the library doing that is not age-appropriate?

  9. Simply put, this country needs more Ginny Maziarkas. Our libraries do.

  10. Libby, Kathleen, and Judi, thank you for leaving comments.

    Kathleen and especially Libby, thank you for addressing the issues, the real issues, not the out-of-date claims of an ad hominem nature.

    Libby, your comments are really excellent. I'll let them stand as they are and let people make up their own minds. I ask you to consider subscribing to my blog and responding from time to time with your experiences. Unlike the ALA, I welcome diverse opinions.

    Such comments only further prove my point that the ALA makes ad hominem arguments and avoids the real issues. You can address the issues, why can't the ALA? Notice, for example, the ALA President did not address the substantive requests of the petition as Libby did.

    And Libby, feel free to post whatever you like, including the "long comment." I thank you for participating in this discussion.

  11. Dan, thanks. Like I said, I try to keep it on a professional level.

    I must say that I do not disagree with the OIF. Of course they come out to support the library; that's part of their mission as a professional library organization. I'm sure they are doing even more behind the scenes as far as advising the WB library. And their arguments about intellectual freedom and open access to ideas resonate with me as a librarian.

    That said, I do think they can take it too far. Like I said, even I would reclassify at least one of the books that are referenced by the Maziarkas. The problem as I see it is that if the OIF gives an inch, they wonder if they might be trampled over in the future, when the complaint is made against something that truly should not be moved. They take a hard line because this issue is far reaching, and being seen as soft on censorship is not an option for them.

    I think so many people got involved because the library board was simply afraid to take a stand at the beginning of this process. Back when it truly was an all GLBT issue, they had nothing to hold them back from simply saying thanks for the complaint, but we will not be moving the books. Now that it's been allowed to grow into a morality play involving the entire town, it will be so, so much more difficult for the board to take decisive action without fearing repurcussions.

    These people are not all professional librarians or all lawyers or all people used to dealing with controversy. They are community members who now must take a stand one way or another on a very personal, hot-button issue. That's not going to be easy.


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