Monday, June 22, 2015

ALA Caught Hiding Data on 'Banned' Books — Again

The American Library Association [ALA] has again been caught hiding data on "banned" books:
So I got in touch with the ALA to get the full data set, and to verify that its numbers were sound. That proved problematic.

I was hoping to find out more about challenges to “Tango” — what types of challenges have been made, how the challenges were relayed to the ALA, etc.  But I soon found there was no way to get any raw data about challenges, as the Office for Intellectual Freedom refused to give me access to its database or any more details about the methodology behind its collection of challenges beyond what’s on the website.  In my initial interactions with the ALA, a spokesperson offered to schedule an interview with someone “to get a perspective beyond the numbers,” but despite repeated requests, no one was made available.  I was, though, given this statement: “OIF maintains the database for internal staff use, as a means of encouraging libraries to report challenges, and to create awareness of the importance of protecting and celebrating the freedom to read.  Because the censorship database does not have the statistical validity demanded by many social scientists and researchers and may be vulnerable to misinterpretation and misuse, we must deny any request asking OIF to share raw data.”

The American Library Association is saying that its challenge database isn’t statistically valid and that despite the hundreds of news articles about its list, the database is not meant for public consumption.  I sent a list of follow-up questions about the database and the publicity around it, but an ALA spokeswoman said no one would be able to comment until at least July, citing busy preparations for the organization’s upcoming annual conference.

The list’s statistical validity is in question because we have little idea how it is put together.  We don’t know how challenges are collected — based on past descriptions from the OIF, it seems like an amalgam of news reports and calls from concerned librarians.  We also know that at least one author self-reports challenges: Parnell tells me that he lets the ALA know whenever he hears news of “Tango” coming under fire.  (Whether those reports make it into the tally or not is unknown.)  In addition, the ALA’s system seems to be agnostic to the type or severity of the challenge or its effectiveness. A parent questioning whether a Batman picture book is age-appropriate for the kid shelves appears to be given the same weight — a “challenge” — as a school board removing “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” from the syllabus of schools throughout an entire county.

“We lose a bit of our rhetorical power when we put them under the same umbrella,” said Jessamyn West, founder of, a popular progressive site about librarian-related issues.  A former ALA councilor just a decade ago, West is no longer a member and has used her site to note her issues with conflating these very different types of challenges, noting that questioning whether something is age-appropriate is very different from wanting it gone altogether.  “How we count things and how we reflect those to the people is super important,” she told me.

It may not be rigorous or even particularly accurate, but the ALA’s yearly list has drawn attention to many books.  Perhaps as a result of that spotlight, “And Tango Makes Three” has been a huge hit, at least as far as books go.  It has been debated on “The View.”  A decade after it was published, customers still buy dozens of copies a day on Amazon.  It has been translated into 11 languages and even turned into a play.  Simon & Schuster released a 10th anniversary deluxe edition of the book in early June, complete with an audiobook narrated by Neil Patrick Harris.

In the accompanying press release, David Gale, a vice president at Simon & Schuster, says: “Although ‘And Tango Makes Three’ has been on ALA’s list of ‘Most Frequently Challenged Books’ many times, readers worldwide have embraced its heartwarming message about the true nature of family and love.”  Gale’s quote begins with “although,” but the more appropriate word may be “because.”  Sometimes controversy can get a book — or a list — some extra attention.
I say again because I exposed a recording I made of an ALA-listed author admitting that ALA fakes its annual list.  And I spoke directly with the man at ALA who compiled the list one year and he too admitted ALA faked the numbers ("dozens" was really four).  I stopped "And Tango Makes Three" from being falsely listed after five years straight and thereby hurting the LGBT community with faked claims of discrimination:
Notice how ALA would not answer that reporter's questions, dragged things out interminably, then refused to answer his questions.  It is one way ALA continues to get away with making up the numbers, by never responding to requests for information by reporters that ALA thinks might hurt ALA's agenda—except that one time that one ALA employee answered my questions, revealed ALA faked the numbers, then was somehow no longer working with ALA, the Office for Intellectual Freedom specifically.

Then reporter David Goldenberg zeroed in on exactly what I already reported, namely, one librarian gently points out so no one hears how she knows ALA is misleading people, and he cites the very source I already cited.

More significantly, ALA fakes the numbers of "banned" LGBT materials to whip people up into a frenzy.  As David Goldenberg put it, "Sometimes controversy can get a book — or a list — some extra attention."

Bingo.  Who cares if the LGBT community gets harmed in the process, right?  The ends justifies the means.

And I reported this four years ago.  Only now is a single reporter finally raising the issue again and finding the same deception.

How many more years will it take for main stream media to finally stop reporting on falsified numbers based on smoke and mirrors?


Stung by the truth and its being so publicly available, ALA OIF has gone on the offensive, responding repeatedly on Twitter and with a blog post that absolutely misleads people and completely ignores that it has been caught faking data and removing "And Tango Makes Three" from the list as a result.

How dare a "freelance journalist question[] ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom's reputation and professionalism"!  Protest too much?  Read:


Even the author can see he is attacked by ALA's "Office for Intellectual Freedom" that cannot stand anyone exposing how it manipulates people, data, media, etc.:
I, by the way, challenged ALA OIF to a public debate.  It will not tolerate public debate because it cannot control the message.  And in a rare instance where it was forced into public debate, it lost spectacularly, like when it was forced into admitting library filters work well and no longer block health-related information (link).

Here's my debate challenge:

URL of this page:

On Twitter: @ALALibrary +Valerie Hawkins +Banned Books Week
 @dgoldenberg +FiveThirtyEight Channel @FiveThirtyEight @OIF #alaac15 #BannedBooks #BannedBooksWeek #lgbt #lgbtq #lgbtqi #msm

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

On Removing Books About Homosexuality and Same Sex Marriage

A lot of what I do regarding libraries is behind the scenes.  For example, a women asked me for assistance in having a book about homosexuality and same sex marriage removed from a public library.  I advised her she will most likely be unsuccessful and specified why.  She said she would drop the challenge.  I have no doubt that I averted that book challenge.  I do this frequently enough to have put a dent in American Library Association's annual tally of challenged books!

Here's our conversation, edited to remove personally identifiable details:

Dear Mr. Kleinman,

I recently brought home from our library in ***, **, a cute looking picture book for my 5 year old called, "***" by *** ***.  When I read it however I saw that it talks about different types of families including those with 2 dads and 2 moms.  Thankfully, I saw this before my children read it and I will not show it to them.  My question is, "What do I do with it now?"  I object morally to children seeing this book.  I know it would be wrong to "lose" it or deface it.  Besides, my library location alone had about *** copies!  I have considered including a piece of paper in it that says something like, "Every child has a mother and a father."  Would that be legal or illegal?  Is there something more effective I can do to remove this book and others like it.  Incidentally, gay marriage is now legal in **, thanks to Federal court ruling, so I don't think the library will care if I object to it.

I have already contacted *** and *** and they said they could not advise me.

Thank you,

*** ***

Dear Mrs. ***,

Thank you for contacting SafeLibraries!  I’ll be happy to advise you in this matter.

First, there’s a difference between public and school libraries.  Based on my understanding of what I read, the library involved is a public library.  Know that getting books removed from public libraries is a whole lot harder than getting them removed from school libraries.  In my fifteen years of doing what I do, I have helped get books removed from school libraries, but never from public libraries.

The issue of homosexuality is separate and apart from the issue of library book selection policies.  Libraries do have book selection policies that must be followed and that can be used to have books removed, but I know of no book selection policies that exclude the issue of homosexuality per se.  Yes, many books dealing with the issue of homosexuality also contain material that is pervasively vulgar.  On the issue of vulgarity, books can successfully be removed from schools under the 1982 US Supreme Court of Board of Education v. Pico.  But not on the issue of homosexuality.  I have not read the book in question, but if it deals with homosexuality and is not pervasively vulgar, the book likely does not violate any library's book selection policy.  If it does not violate the library's policy, the library will not remove it.

You are correct not to deface the book or disappear it.  Others have tried that and it usually results in very negative consequences.  I have written about a few of such cases.

As to putting notes in the book, it will make you feel better but it will have no effect and will not stop people reading the book.  Yet it runs the risk of being traced back to you, again resulting in negative consequences.

You asked if there is an effective means to remove such books from the library.  The answer is it depends, but it is extremely unlikely.  In my opinion, only if you live in an area where the majority of people—including the majority of the library board—oppose homosexuality will you have any possibility of removing a book about homosexuality discussed in a non-vulgar manner.

If that book is non-vulgar, and given what you said about your state's law on gay marriage, it is my opinion that 1) the book will never be removed from the library, and 2) if you attempt to have the book removed or take any action in any other way, the library will make hay out of that, mock and vilify you, and use it as a reason to fund raise and make more of such books available at the library.  The end result is you'll be bullied terribly by the library and more people will read more material of the kind you oppose.

The library would be wrong to bully, but that's the technique libraries are trained to use by the American Library Association, that's what they all do, so I'm fairly certain that's what will happen to you.

In such a case as you have described as I understand it, my opinion would be to do nothing.

You have had the good fortune to reach out for help before acting.  Usually people act, get in trouble, then reach out for help.  By then it is too late to help if one of the planks of their complaint was moral opposition to homosexuality.  Even if they follow advice to drop such opposition as being not supported by the law, the library continues to use that initial complaint as a means for ridicule.

While I realize I may be providing advice that does not thrill you, I believe it to be accurate advice based on years of experience with these very same issues in a variety of settings.  So consider what I have said and act as you see fit.  If you do decide to go ahead by, say, filing a materials reconsideration request, I'll help guide you, but I'll continue to be frank about the absence of any likely chance for success.

On a side note, I like your email and I like my response.  I would like to remove all personally identifying material, including even the state, and publish both the email and my response on SafeLibraries to help more people similarly situated.  May I have your permission to do that?  Remember, I’ll leave out all personally identifying information, likely even the title/author of the book and the other organizations you contacted.

Again, thank you for contacting SafeLibraries.  Contact us any time you wish for any reason related to libraries.

Dear Mr. Kleinman,

Thank you for your prompt and thorough response!  You have been very helpful.  Yes, I give you permission to share this email exchange on SafeLibraries, provided my name and city are removed.


*** ***