November 30, 2009

The Mondays: Things Are Getting Graphic In Kentucky

It never ceases to amaze me how the censorship of literature is lauded as a moral right by the narrow-minded. It was ridiculous enough earlier this year, when a couple of cranks somewhere in the States sued for the right to burn library books they deemed offensive. It turns out there are also others dismantling the rights of library members from within. And all so conveniently in the name of protecting the little children. Queue the wife of Reverend Lovejoy: "Won't somebody please think of the children?!"

In case you haven't a clue as to what I'm talking about, I encourage you to check out a couple of articles I came across a couple of weeks ago:

Child protection or censorship? (Lexington Herald-Leader)

Alan Moore, destroyer of library workers (Publishers Weekly: The Beat)

Book censorship from a library P.O.V. (One Minion's Opinion)

Long story, short: Sharon Cook, a library worker at the Jessamine County Public Library in Kentucky--former, actually, since she was fired for what she did--objected to the inclusion of Alan Moore's graphic novel, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume IV: The Black Dossier, among the graphic novels available at the library, citing its proximity to children's literature in the library. She tried to have it removed from the library's shelves altogether through conventional means, but when her requests were denied she checked out the book herself and kept renewing it over and over again to keep anyone else from borrowing it. She found the book so horrendous in nature, she said that others prayed for her soul as she read it--give the old girl credit for actually reading it, which is rare among censors of her ilk, though she may have only looked at the pictures in reality and skipped over the text and context of the book entirely. And even then, she only read it as part of the library committee overseeing her official challenge of the book.

It was an ingenious plan withholding the book, she no doubt thought, until someone placed a hold on it, requesting to be the next in line to read it. That meant Ms. Cook could no longer check out the book, and would have to return it to the library. Did she do that? Of course not. She got a coworker to snoop into the personal information of the person who issued the hold request, and upon learning it was an eleven-year-old girl, the two library employees (neither actual librarians, by the way) removed the hold from the computer records. Personally, I'm curious if it even mattered how old the other library member was, as they seemed adamant about keeping the book out of everyone's hands. Ms. Cook still has it in her possession to this day, by the way, paying a ten cent fine for each day she keeps it tucked away in her knapsack.

Are you surprised to hear they got fired? I'm not.

I find the idea of banning books repellent enough, but when the staff of a library start administering shady forms of censorship--withholding books in perpetuity and invading the privacy of library members--that's a whole new kind of wretched behavior. I don't care how righteous they think they are, they're wrong and were dealt with in appropriate fashion. Excessive punishment? Maybe, but keep in mind they abused their positions, breached library policies, and they refuse to hand over the book in question in some misguided act of defiance. Just imagine pulling something within the realm of what they did at your place of work. Would you still be employed once caught? No less than a suspension would be in order, as far as I'm concerned, and I'd be disappointed to learn such people were under the employ of any library I frequented.

Now that the story has hit the media, the Jessamine County Public Library Board is having to suffer Kentucky-fried activists attempting to bully the library into changing its policy, to enable the rampant censorship of books deemed offensive, immoral, pornographic, and other beyond-the-pale categorizations. I'm quite content with the knowledge that this kind of thing doesn't pollute the public discourse most of the time, as the majority of people are rational and mature.

Given the book thief's disposition towards literature, she may be best served in an occupation that doesn't require her to be around books anymore. Libraries need employees that aren't about to impose their own prejudices onto others. Given the immature behavior demonstrated in this fiasco, I find the idea of such people populating libraries more distasteful than the raciest of graphic novels populating the library's shelves.

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