We can all agree (we hope) that children should find books in their local library collection that represent their world views. We can all agree that world views are extremely varied and while you’re never going to catch them all, as a librarian it is your job to try.
It is widely accepted (we hope!) that Vanita Oelschlager’s A Tale of Two Mommies should be on every library shelf. If it isn’t on yours, we would love to hear why not.
The real question we have today is: does Sheila Butt’s Does God Love Michael’s Two Daddies? belong on your shelves as well?
This post brought to you by your ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee.
As a parent and a teacher, one of the things I learned was to watch for the “teachable moments” that could arise. A topic like this will come up, and it’s often easier to control the time and place; a book like this one allows the discussion to happen when people are ready for it. I still recall when my kindergartener yelled out from the back seat of our elderly friend’s car, “Is this a god station?” (using his atheist father’s term for religious music) followed up by, “They killed him?! Does God have any other kids?” ([cough] Um, no, we haven’t taught him about religions yet… ) I would have been a lot more comfortable if my son and I had had that conversation at home where his questions might not have offended our elderly friend (who was actually not offended, but the potential was there.)
Having a book that asks a question worth discussing seems important — so long as the book isn’t used as the answer but as the starting point for the conversation. I hope others comment as well, as I’m interested in what others think, especially if they have read this book in particular. I haven’t seen it before.
Wow. What an interesting question. My short answer is: No. I don’t think a library needs to carry anti-gay material, even for the sake of intellectual freedom, in the same way that I don’t feel a library is obligated to carry anti-semetic material, or any material that targets a minority group. If there were some sort of reference book about what Christians believe about homosexuality that was positively reviewed by professional resources, then I could see putting it in a library’s collection. But a book like “Does G-d Love Michael’s Two Daddies?” sounds no better than propaghanda, and that makes me very uncomfortable. I also think it’s unfair to compare it to a book like “A Tale of Two Mommies” in which the fact that the parents are same-sex is ultimately incidental to the story. There’s no “agenda” to that story – it’s just a nice story about a nice family that happens to have two moms instead of a mom and dad. In the other book, Michael and his family is meant to be seen as inferior.
A mother came to me not too long ago with the book “10,000 Dresses” and demanded to know why it was in our collection. I explained to her, calmly, that the library carries materials that reflect the diversity of our community, and that if that book did not reflect her personal values, I’d be happy to help her find a book that did. And I think it’s entirely possible to offer books that reflect Christian, or even “more traditional,” ideas of family and sexual identity, without having anti-gay books on the shelves.
One more thought, before I climb off my soap box, ideally I like to believe that librarianship in general is a forward-thinking field. ALA’s GLBTRT was the first GLBT professional organization in the country. The ALA Stonewall Book Awards were the first GLBT book awards. I don’t think that the struggle for GLBT rights and the struggle for intellectual freedom need to be at odds, but as Barbara Gittings said “The struggle is really won in the hearts and minds of the community, where it really counts.” And we should keep that in mind when considering what books do or don’t belong in our libraries.
But that’s just my 2 cents.I look forward to hearing what other folks have to say 🙂
Hi, I’m Marcus Ewert, the author of 10,000 Dresses.
Thanks so much for the position you took with that parent.
It seems quite level-headed and fair – I’d feel that way even if it was another book in question.
And – may I just say?- I want to hug ALL librarians! Y’all have been so good to me and my book since Day One!
Thank you all for the tremendous work that you do, daily.
I honestly don’t think I’d be alive today if I hadn’t had libraries to go to throughout my youth.
Bless you all!
Marcus, it warms my heart to hear you say that. I am so happy that libraries could be there for you in your youth, to provide you whatever you needed to keep going. Bless you!
While I don’t disagree with you, Tess, I think one has to ask themselves questions like – would I be comfortable with a book on the shelf that said disparaging things about blacks or Chinese or native Americans or jazz musicians or any group of people, whether their identity is one they are born to or whether they happen to chose it. In general, as a culture and a profession, we’ve decide not to tolerate books that present what we view as predjudiced, but we also have to acknowledge that at various points in our history the view of what is prejudice and what is fact have been blurred. In the end, it comes down to our individual and cultural ways of knowing. It’s not an easy question to answer and I don’t have an easy answer for it, but if it was me and my library, no, I wouldn’t buy the title. Perhaps I’m to brave enough to handle the potential conversely, but I like to think that it’s because the number of families at my library that would find that book useful are in such as small minority to make its purchase useless. If someone wants the book, I’m happy to do an inter library loan.
Dan Kleinman of SafeLibraries
Tess said something that goes directly against intellectual freedom principles as proclaimed by none other than Judith Krug, the creator of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom and 40 year de facto leader of the ALA. Tess is setting up a false excuse for pushing her worldview on libraries and providing it as an example for others. Sort of an intellectual straightjacket, not intellectual freedom. I’ll prove it simply by quoting Tess then quoting Judith Krug. By doing this, I am hoping librarians who read this will see the intellectual freedom issue and not adopt Tess’s straightjacket, not use the selection process as a means for “censorship,” as Tess is doing.
Tess said, “If there were some sort of reference book about what Christians believe about homosexuality that was positively reviewed by professional resources, then I could see putting it in a library’s collection.”
Compare that to Judith Krug, and note especially the last two sentences:
We have to serve the information needs of all the community and for so long “the community” that we served was the visible community…. And so, if we didn’t see those people, then we didn’t have to include them in our service arena. The truth is, we do have to.…
We never served the gay community. Now, we didn’t serve the gay community, because there weren’t materials to serve them. You can’t buy materials if they’re not there. But part of our responsibility is to identify what we need and then to begin to ask for it. Another thing we have to be real careful about is that even though the materials that come out initially aren’t wonderful, it’s still incumbent upon us to have that voice represented in the collection. This was exactly what happened in the early days of the women’s movement, and as the black community became more visible and began to demand more materials that fulfilled their particular information needs. We can’t sit back and say, “Well, they’re not the high-quality materials I’m used to buying.” They’re probably not, but if they are the only thing available, then I believe we have to get them into the library.
I believe this view to be a tad strange. “You can’t buy materials if they’re not there.” Part of the large history of human society is the destruction, sublimation, or elimination of materials that represent views outside of what some entity wishes to be available. Just view the recent occupation and destruction of the libraries and museums of Timbuktu as an example of a local group deciding what can or should be available for reading and research. In the view of that group, Timbuktu was not a safe library and therefore should not be supported or defended. I guess I see Tess as seriously thinking through the issue of access and looking for ways to provide a balance to a collection. I guess I see SafeLibraries as a group actively working to block access to materials that they find offensive, which is a dangerous attempt to make a library simply a spot for materials they approve of and not a bastion of ideas, good and bad, open and accessible. For the very reasons SafeLibraries is arguing that Tess is straightjacketing libraries, he is doing the same thing tying up library boards, courts, and other institutions with rules to block access to information. I feel much safer with librarians such as Tess providing information for all in a community than lawyers like SafeLibraries attempting to limit the access to materials in libraries.
The book seems extremely biased, but the point of intellectual freedom is to allow for all sides of an issue to be accessible. It took me a long time to accept that I cannot both campaign for glbt materials in my library without seeing the other side of the coin.
While I agree 100% with Tess, I also recall Every reader his [or her] book and Every book its reader. I imagine there is a family in my library service community that would enjoy this book, and use it as a tool to strengthen their family values, even if they are not my values.
I think where this question gets very murky is: being gay isn’t an “issue.” It’s an identity. It isn’t like offering books that present “both sides” of a controversial topic. Offering “both sides” of “people being gay” is in a very real way denying who those people are.
William R. MacLean
William Rhind MacLean Just by exercising their judgement in choosing the books for a collection a librarian is exercising a kind of censorship they cannot help but have their decisions affected by their life experience to date.I think that Anti or Pro gay material has equal merit based on the direction of parents presenting and talking about the it in an enlightened way– while the librarian’s job is just to PRESENT the material not interpret it for the members.
15 minutes ago · Like
Maybe the book My Two Uncles by Vigna could be included as it is reviewed by Book List and SLJ and shows that Grandpa isn’t happy about the fact that his son is gay but others in the family support the relationship. It illustrates that everyone doesn’t see gay couples in the same way and I think that it’s important to realize this. Does God love ——— doesn’t have reviews that I know of from our standard review journals nor has it received any awards. while Vigna’s book recognizes there are degrees of acceptance, the other book doesn’t.
Dan Kleinman of SafeLibraries
My comment is the remarkable sensitivity of this post and the people commenting here and elsewhere about this post given that when books about ex-gays are excluded routinely from public libraries, no librarian gives a whit. Did anyone other than me post anything when the Lancaster Public Library excluded a book about children learning to identify and report sexual predators due to its mild Christian content? In religious Lancaster County, PA? No, and the library still excludes it. Will you discuss that? Or how about when ALA Council members attacked another ALA councilor who as a conservative Christian sometimes stood alone against 180 ALA Councilors debating non-library issues. Is that of any concern?
No, all that goes unnoted in the library world and library media. But let someone try to include an “anti-gay book” and suddenly its a topic of conversation and reflection.
By the way, I have not read the book so I have no way of knowing whether or not it is “anti-gay.”
That said, I congratulate ALSC for raising the issue and providing a forum for its discussion. That is something not done by the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, or at least it blocks my comments and removes my comments it missed blocking.
And Tess’s “struggle” makes it appear she excludes anything that does not agree with her worldview. I sure hope not.
The idea of a Safe Library is an oxymoron. By definition a public library is a public space and therefore open to all members of the public. Wealthy, poor, those living in homes, apartments or on the street, and a reflection of everyone who makes up the public including white collar criminals, ex-convicts, and upstanding citizens. The library is not a safe place because it exposes people to all manner of people, ideas, and thought. To limit access to material or people that one group deems offensive thereby changes the public library into a private sphere or library that represents the views, values, and ideas held only by a particular collection of individuals. Any attempts to legislate or litigate a public library to be a “safe library” therefore is inherently an attempt to limit some part of the public from receiving access to information that they seek, require, or otherwise wish to have. Libraries by their very nature are dangerous places where thought, discussion, and ideas roam freely. “Protecting” children, adults, or seniors from information, be it audio, visual, or printed is not the job of the library. The library is the place where all ideas need to be represented. It serves as a common, civil, public space where in a democracy people can come explore all ideas, dangerous or safe. Attempts to legislate or litigate content in any form by members of the public do nothing to provide for an open discussion of ideas in a democracy. Discussions about whether both sides of any argument belong in a library ought to be moot. “Does God Love Michael’s Two Daddies” can be found in the religion/christianity section and “A Tale of Two Mommies” can be found in the sociology/family section based on the two books distinct interpretations of a topic.
I think whether a library can be “safe” depends on your definition of the word. When I think “safe” I think “safe space,” a place where LGBT people can feel that they won’t be discriminated against – they are “safe” to be themselves.
Dan Kleinman of SafeLibraries
I agree, Devorah. And you’ll find my blog supports the LGBT community, mainly where the ALA harms that community for its own gain.
That said, if you are aware of any instances of harm in libraries to members of the LGBT community, please let me know so perhaps I can help.
I have not read this book. So I am only going on the idea of books that are anti-gay. I am not sure I can explain my viewpoint correctly but if someone is discriminated against in the workplace because of their race, gender, sexual orientation or religion then it is a human rights violation. So I don’t think that having picture books that encourages this type of view point (as apposed to non-fiction ones that discuss it or older children’s fiction where characters experience it ) is something that I would feel comfortable having in the collection. The type of viewpoint I am talking about is: Jewish people are bad or black people are sub-human or that women are not as good as men or that gay people are disgusting and evil.
In Library school we had a Librarian come in to our children’s services class to talk about her job as the Multicultural Librarian for the local system. She said that it was important for children to be able to see themselves in the books they read. I try to follow that when I am doing the collection. I would not want to have something in my collection that made a child feel bad about themselves. I think that does more damage than not having a book that says these things in the collection.
All of this being said I would have to actually read the book and the reviews on it to decide.
My response was too long to fit into a comment, so I blogged about it: http://magpielibrarian.wordpress.com/2013/02/17/my-first-topic-request-does-god-love-michaels-two-daddies/
I will say that if you haven’t come out in modern day America, then you can’t put the word Struggle in quotes. That’s rude and demeaning. And I would like to think we’re better than that. This is my humble straight person opinion.
This example is a fine test of one commitment to intellectual freedom. If it is true that a good library has something to both interest and offend everyone in its community, then this should be especially true for the librarian. If there are people in the community who want it (or something better written with a comparable point of view), then why not provide it? I have spent my whole career advocating a diverse collection so that books that were at the time unpopular were included, for example, books supporting civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, and anti-war movements. Just because these have become more acceptable doesn’t mean the principle has changed. Even the book I abhor can and should have a place in the collection.
As many have noted, this particular book would not clear the common hurdles for collection development. Libraries are not obligated to make exceptions to their collection development standards and purchase low-quality materials to fill a hateful or “anti” gap in the collection, especially among our current budget realities. “Traditional” families, and conservative Christian values, are already widely available in the picture book collection. Even if the book’s main focus is not the exclusion of families who are different, parents do have access to materials that can be used to reinforce their own values. Filling the picture book collection with low-quality propaganda books only makes selection more difficult for parents and diminishes the quality of your collection. We don’t need to make exceptions to our policies to add these books to our shelves, as those that do meet our criteria and present a similar viewpoint are already there and will continue to be added as appropriate regardless of whether we find them personally distasteful.
I had an interesting conversation with a mom about our strategy card game, CIVIO, which includes the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision. She identified herself as a conservative Christian and while looking at the cards, pointed to the Roe v Wade card and said “I don’t know if I want my daughter learning about this.” I responded by saying that the court case was a matter of history, and at some point her daughter would learn about it. “The question is, would you like to have some influence on the timing of when she learns about it, by buying the game and playing it with her, so that you have the opportunity to talk about your feelings about Roe v Wade on your timeline?” She bought the game.
Should a library have a book that reflects different thoughts on the issue of homosexuality? Yes. This particular book, though, judging from reviews, is not one that belongs in the library.
Anti-gay books qualify as “hate literature,” along with books that demonize other minorities. As a small public library, we have to prioritize how we spend our money. Books or other items put out by hate groups (or individuals with the same perspective) are not compatible with our collection development policy.
Things might be different if we were a large university research library.
I know I’ve commented a few times already, but I just wanted to add one more thing: Dr. Jamie Campbell Naidoo, who I think we can all consider an expert on literature with GLBT themes for children, wrote an excellent book called “Rainbow Family Collections: Selecting and Using Children’s Books with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Content.” In it he reviews more than 245 books, including “Does G-d Love Michael’s Two Daddies?” Naidoo’s opinion on Butt’s book: “Although it is important for librarians to balance their collections with materials that present both sides of a topic, this book leaves many questions unanswered and encourages the dissolution of gay families.” He gives the book a rating of “Not recommended” which he gives to books he suggests “not be considered for any collection in a library or classroom.” It’s a designation he reserves for books that “have numerous flaws and may contain harmful stereotypes.” If you’re interested to see what titles Dr. Naidoo does recommend for a balanced collection, you should definitely seek out this incredibly well researched reference.
Thanks for your comments, Tess. It makes logical sense to go with a rigorous review from a respected reviewer like Nadoo’s. FYI, I don’t think you are using a straight jacket at all, even though I don’t agree with you 100%. I think we can agree to disagree and respect one another.
I appreciate the points everyone has made on collection development- I want to particularly highlight one of Tess’s earlier comment pointing out that the existence of gay families is not an issue on which there are two sides- as she put it, being gay isn’t an issues, it’s an identity. I think this is very important to remember when discussing this. We have collections that reflect all children’s identities, and we all know the importance of children being able to see themselves in our collections. The equivalent of having “Heather Has Two Mommies” in the collection is most definitely *not* also including “Does God Love Michael’s Two Daddies?” but is having books that show loving heterosexual parents. Which, obviously, make up the bulk of our collections. I think it’s fascinating how an anti-gay contingent can attempt to manipulate the pillar of intellectual freedom to make an argument for having hate propoganda in the library- my guess is these are the same people who would argue that “Heather Has Two Mommies” promotes what we’ve all heard called a homosexual agenda. Obviously, all these books do is allow all families to see themselves reflected. It’s not political. However, this other title is clearly promoting a certain agenda- an agenda being something that promotes a certain ideological or political standpoint. If, for some reason, it is so very important for people to use library books to teach their tiny children that being gay is a sin, well, they can check out a Bible and attempt to find whatever it is they think support that claim. Having hate propoganda mixed into a picture book collection is a ridiculous notion, as is the idea of using taxpayer dollars for this purpose.
Thankfully most librarians take their selection work seriously and are able to skillfully manage the ambiguities and vague areas where choosing not to select something might be open to interpretation as censorship. This calls for something called critical thinking, and guess what? We are good at! Careful selection is not censorship. Selection is selection. None of us has the luxury of buying everything for our shelves so our criteria for adding something to our collection is necessarily stringent. That is not censorship, never has been, never will be. I would stand by any of my professional colleagues decisions to not include this book. It has been reviewed by an expert, and consumer reviews (amazon.com) are very low. This is, going by all the sources that I have checked within the short time I have explored this blog post, a very lousy book, so no, I wouldn’t buy it. Also, I would also probably rely on the Rainbow family review (thank you Dr Naidoo!) to cheerfully turn down a request from a community member to add it, however I find that scenario highly unlikely given the city I live in.
I would also like to thank the ALSC Intellectual Freedom committee for bringing this discussion to the fore. I would, though, like to correct the assumption that there is such a category as “Anti-Gay” books. I’m straight and am not adept at LGBTQ discourse, however, I know that claiming that there’s an “Anti-Gay” category suggests that there is a “Gay” label for books. Labeling is deeply offensive to the LGBTQ community. So, please, let’s all proceed with greater sensitivity and respect towards one another.
Perhaps I wouldn’t have chosen this specific book, “Does God Love Michael’s Two Daddies” by Sheila Butts, because it is neither timely nor easily accessible. It was published in 2006, by Apologetics Press 7 years ago and there are only 4 copies in all of WorldCat for libraries. I don’t know if it was by design of the ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee, but not being able to review the book for content forces us into having a philosophical argument about intellectual freedom than one about selection. A textbook question, then, forces us to give a textbook answer. Doug Archer has already done a good job above.
What makes me really uncomfortable is when a situation is set up that appears we have to choose one set of values over another such as intellectual freedom against social responsibility or human rights over civil liberties. I agree with Tess in many ways, however, I hope we can see beyond the polarities. Most situations are far more complex than general value statements. Yes, it would drive me crazy that there’s even a remote possibility that I could even be associated with hate groups just by buying their book for the library. However, we could be subsidizing a publisher supported by hate groups without knowing it. We could be accepting donations from white supremacists for the library that goes towards children’s programming–there’s no way we can possibly know all the angles and it would drive us crazy if we did know. I think it was Steve who said, “you can’t fight what you can’t see.”
In actuality, the best to way to combat hate speech is to expose it. Or as President Obama had put it, “More speech, not less, is the best way to combat hate.” It’s counterintuitive but by making the book available, we are increasing transparency and trusting people to use their own reasoning abilities to see the book for what it is. If the existence of the book is a threat to our moral conscience, then it’s incumbent upon the good christians who oppose hate to write a book in response. I’m still waiting for “God Still Loves Michael’s Two Daddies” to be published in the future. I doubt it will ever happen because the original just wasn’t worth the rebuttal.
I’d be interested in learning what the ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee expected to get out of this discussion. Thanks again.
Sorry for speaking again. I feel I need to clarify. I would be remiss if I did not thank all the articulate librarians who have spoken above, for their commentary. They’ve provided much food for thought, as well as the ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee.
For some time now, I’ve been struggling with the question of whether intellectual freedom necessarily needs to be pitted against ethnic or cultural sensitivity. This is not the first time I’ve seen “us and them” arguments arise from such discussions. And I hope that the ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee will forgive me for elaborating. Respectfully, my conclusion is that this is a false construct. I can relate to this best by drawing an analogy of what looks like intellectual freedom versus Asian-American culture. As a Chinese American, there are times I want to weed any book that has to do with racial types or depicts Chinese people in a negative way such as “Tikki Tikki Tembo” or “The Five Chinese Brothers.” It’s because I’m convinced if I don’t do my part I will allow the hegemonic forces to take over and racism will persist. I’ve had some pretty tumultuous arguments with friends that have resulted in some awkward moments. However, I think those arguments needed to happen because it has resulted in better understanding between us.
I think I was wrong in those arguments, in hindsight. We don’t need to ban “Tikki Tikki Tembo” or “The Five Chinese Brothers” because they don’t threaten our civil liberties nor do they strengthen the hegemonic forces against asian-americans. Appearances can be deceiving. Getting rid of the book ignores the historical context in which these books were produced and disrupts scholarly research. It may even erase the arguments and paths which led to the rational realization of race equality. As parents we can use these books as teachable moments for our children. Grace Lin phrases it perfectly in her blog when she talked about “Tikki Tikki Tembo.” http://www.gracelinblog.com/2012/04/rethinking-tikki-tikki-tembo.html I urge you to please consider this viewpoint. Banning books (not exactly this specific title) like “Does God Love Michael’s Two Daddies” by Sheila Butts doesn’t get rid of the fact that there are people in communities who have these ideas in their minds. If we feel the book has a message of hate, we challenge these notions by having the book available. We challenge these notions by activism (which LGBT has done a fine job), by writing books and reviews (such as the one by Naidoo) that expose such ignorance. We purge the poison of society by debate, by intelligent discourse not by driving the sickness back to where it came from. By doing this is we have fought for intellectual freedom and have worked to advance gay rights at the same time. (Remember, I had said intellectual freedom doesn’t need to be against racial or cultural equality). The book is merely a harbinger. If ideas of hate are driven back to the camp, they may fester and comeback with more momentum at a later date. We keep having more speech, more debates and more books. We keep doing this over and over again until we have social justice. And I will be right there beside you, fighting to help in every way I can.
Thanks for listening.
The more I think about this topic, the more I’ve come up with this simple idea: I don’t want a child to pick up a book from the picture book section that tells them they’re “bad” or that their families aren’t good enough. I just don’t. Lots of books are in a grey area and there’s no telling what a child’s reaction would be. This book, however, has a clear agenda and message to get across: This kind of person/family is undesirable.
Stick it somewhere in the adult section, fine. Adults can make up their own mind about this book. But the more I consider it, I realize that I’d fight to keep this book out of my children’s section.
Taking into account what Ann Crewdson said about the availability of this book, I don’t think it’s problem I’ll have to deal with any time soon.
Some individuals commented on my blog post about this topic. I want to make one thing clear: “Anti-Gay” is not a genre. “Anti-Gay” is not a community. The idea of comparing the so-called “Anti-Gay” community with the representation of Latinos and African-Americans in our libraries is laughable and a stretch at best. They are not a community with a history/culture/unique set of struggles.
Thanks, Ingrid. I’ve been reading the comments on your blog, as well. Keep up the good fight. Let me preface my next comment with–I am in no way aligned with the propagandist on this list nor with the hate groups. However, as an advocate of intellectual freedom, I can’t even properly argue about the selection of this book because I can’t obtain the book. I’ve sent out an ILL request just to look at it because there’s no way I’d shell out money to pay for it. I’ve taught my kids well and they would never ask such a question. Children’s librarians can’t act in loco parentis in public libraries. In this situation, I consider myself lucky in that I am both the parent and the children’s librarian for my kids.
I agree with you that there is no such category as “anti-gay” books nor is there one for “Chinese exclusion books.” The reality is that books like this one have been published and have found their way into our libraries in the past and have settled comfortably into the category of J220 religion. I suspect it won’t be the last of its kind. And that’s why this conversation is so important. How will we handle the next one? As an advocate of intellectual freedom, race equality and youth, I’d have to say that “discovering” the book isn’t going to convert children into the point of view represented. If it’s as poorly written as I suspect, it might even be laughable to children. As a public librarian, we leave the teaching of critical thinking up to the parents, unless it’s bibliographic instruction. As a children’s librarian, I would need to evaluate the book, physically, for myself to see if it serves our Christian families (and it needs to be equal towards all denominations). I doubt it’d pass the test but it’s troubling to me that the book is nearly inaccessible. I’m not worried about this book. I’m far more concerned about the future of free thought. Thanks so much. That’s all for now.
Dan Kleinman of SafeLibraries
Ann Crewdson said, “Thanks, Ingrid. I’ve been reading the comments on your blog, as well. Keep up the good fight.” Please note that Ingrid has removed some of my comments and redacted her own in an manner that makes things appear entirely different than they were. It’s akin to censorship, not “a good fight,” but no one would be able to tell that by looking. Hence the insidiousness of Ingrid’s actions. So big deal if someone deletes or edits a comment, right? Right. But when you are supposedly a free speech advocate and you are arguing against ideals such as those so well presented by Doug Archer above, removing or changing comments to give a false impression is hypocritical, at a minimum. What Doug Archer said is right on, as others here have commented. What Ingrid said, and repeatedly, simply goes against what Doug said and against the ideals of intellectual freedom, just like her censorship/redactions.
Mr. Kleinman, Why should we believe your word over Ingrid’s? I’ve seen some of your duels with the Librarian in Black in past, by the way. Show us how you’ve been wronged. I’m not being mean-spirited, I’m just giving you a chance. Why don’t you go ahead and post the “unedited” posts right here? Thanks.
Dan Kleinman of SafeLibraries
This comment was removed:
Dan Kleinman says: (February 18, 2013 at 2:06 am)
Regarding Judith Krug, she has had the intellectual honesty to make statements which appear to stand against what the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom has become. For example, besides the above, she said if a book does not meet a school’s selection policy, “get it out of there.” Nowadays the ALA screams censorship if you try to do just that.
As to reading the book, as “Sarah” said on the ALSC blog, “I have not read this book. So I am only going on the idea of books that are anti-gay.” And she was not alone. Most if not all of us have not read the book and simply talked about books that were anti-gay for the sake of argument. That’s perfectly reasonably under the circumstances. It’s not reasonable to demand that I be the only one to read the book before being allowed to discuss it. Given such a demand is from supposed free speech advocates, that’s a major double standard. (Ditto for refusing to unblock me on Twitter.)
I think we have veered away from the topic at hand. I’ll respond to further comments if they return to the topic at hand and not me.
Ingrid removed that. In addition to removing that, she redacted her own comment made previously to add the third sentence to address part of my comment she removed and make herself appear reasonable: “That’s not a collection development policy. And no. Just because I’m a librarian who believes in the 1st Amendment, it does not mean I have to follow you on Twitter.” And note the issue is that she is blocking me from seeing her tweets, not that she is following me. But by adding what she did and removing what I had said, she makes it appear that I made an unreasonable demand that she follow me.
Then, after BrooklynShoeBabe said, “Lets not feed Dan the energy monster…,” I responded with a comment that was again completely removed:
Now this is simply unfair. BrooklynShoeBaby, you did not know this, but in my last comment I said, “I think we have veered away from the topic at hand. I’ll respond to further comments if they return to the topic at hand and not me.” You did not know this because, for a reason unknown to me, Magpie censored it out. Now you come along and attack me saying, “Lets not feed Dan the energy monster, please.” That is simply unfair. Besides, I provided answers here so minimal that Magpie demanded more information from me.
So, Ann, those are the comments removed and redacted, and sincerely, thank you for asking for them. By doing what Ingrid did she cast a completely different spin, the intended result of censorship. In reality, I was supporting Judith Krug on intellectual freedom, as I have done with Doug Archer here, and contrasted Ingrid’s my-way-or-the-highway approach that even you, Ann, disagree with: “The more I think about this, the more I find myself aligned with Doug.” All throughout I have been extremely polite and reasonable, sometimes even terse to the point of Ingrid asking me for more information. Note that Ingrid began her attacks on me immediately here on this ALSC blog by saying, in apparent response to what I said, “I will say that if you haven’t come out in modern day America, then you can’t put the word Struggle in quotes. That’s rude and demeaning.” So I went to her blog, read it, and, setting aside her repeated attacks on the name of the author, commented that she was not following the principles of intellectual freedom.
I understand that some will cast me as rude and demeaning in an effort to get people not to take my comments seriously. (For example, the former Editor In Chief of the Library Journal belittled the author of the Children’s Internet Protection Act for writing that the ALA OIF was misleading a third of American libraries into not availing themselves of the law that protects children from harm.) But Ingrid did that, literally. Worse, on her own blog, she censored my comments and redacted her own in a fundamentally deceptive manner. Given Ingrid is a member of the library profession, her actions are unprofessional, at a minimum. And given the topic of intellectual freedom, her actions are breathtaking. In reality, here and on Ingrid’s blog, I have supported intellectual freedom and its major advocates like Judith Krug and Doug Archer, and done so in a polite, reasoned manner. Meanwhile Ingrid comes back again and again to push her own intellectual straightjacket. It’s dishonest to the core.
Now, Ann, be fair and give Ingrid an equal opportunity to respond and to explain whether and why she removed my comments, redacted her own, labeled me as “rude and demeaning,” and still advises people to block certain materials from public libraries.
I have to agree with Ingrid’s second comment regarding having children discover a book that tells them their family is wrong, or sinful, in any way. This goes beyond exclusion, which is detrimental enough. I don’t think the primary concern is so much with children who have no experience or exposure to this adopting the views after reading the book- the concern is that there would be a book specifically in the picture book section telling certain kids that their families are wrong. Children having first exposure to this book is not the appropriate audience- if a librarian, after looking at the book, determines that it does indeed pass all the rigors of collection development and would be desired by the community and chooses to incorporate it into the collection, it should go in the 220s.
If it were entirely up to me and my personal views I’d agree with you, Deborah, that the book doesn’t belong in the library. In fact your comment about the “the anti-gay contingent attempting to manipulate the pillar of intellectual freedom to make an argument for having hate propaganda in the library,” gave me sufficient pause. However, my primary concern is making sure I am a steward of the public as a public librarian. Boycotting a publisher is another debate entirely. Am I doing everything I can possibly do to serve people from all walks of life, frequenting the library? Just like you, I want to protect the children who come into our libraries (to promote love, tolerance and acceptance towards all people but how that is taught to the children of others is not up to me). Honestly, I dislike taking this unpopular stance–I consider myself rainbow loving and progressive. What keeps me going is remembering my role as a children’s librarian–we need to strengthen the bridge between parents and children. To do that, we must allow parents their religious freedom as well. A child’s first picture book experience and what is appropriate is up to the parents, even when they come to my story times. If I read “And Tango Makes Three” at my story time and a parent doesn’t like it, I can’t force my story time/my point-of-view on them–they are free to leave. We all know this… What one group of construes as hatred is not the same thing to another (as evidenced by some of the Amazon reviews on this title). Would I deny or bar a parent access to this picturebook title from me, if he or she chooses to use it as a tool of instruction? No. The more I think about this, the more I find myself aligned with Doug. The only true answer is simple–to have as many diverse materials as possible and to realize the wisdom of the saying that a “library must have something to offend everyone.” I would love for someone to convince me otherwise but for now, intellectual freedom doesn’t take a backseat in my mind. And thanks, I really appreciate our continuing conversation–it goes to show just how committed we are in serving our children, families and patrons.
Someone just brought this comment of Dan’s to my attention. Dan, the fact that you have time to monitor who follows you on Twitter and to save deleted comments speaks volumes about your life and the kind of time you have on your hands. Aren’t you a lawyer? I delete your comments because they’re not interesting or clever. They’re clogging up my blog. It’s *my* blog. I’m not the library. I’m not the ALA. So I’ll delete your comments as I please. All you do is quote Judith Krug like she’s some demi-God I have to worship and adore and do exactly what she did. Not the case. I find you tedious and do not like dealing with you on a personal level. There’s your answer as to why I won’t follow you on Twitter or keep posting your trite comments.
Dan Kleinman of SafeLibraries
This blog post has been interesting, and thank you, ALSC. On one side are people like Doug and Ann who believe intellectual freedom is to be respected. Doug, if I am not mistaken, is himself well respected in the intellectual freedom area.
On the other hand are people like Ingrid who believe intellectual freedom can be set aside or subverted to advance the “struggle.” Those people then use ridicule, censorship, and changed facts to push their views on others.
So one side uses reasoning, and the other side uses force.
As a result, some libraries respect intellectual freedom, and others do not. It is interesting to see a microcosm of that play out in the comments in this post, to the point where some people are making comments such as calling people here “rude and demeaning” or even calling this ALSC post itself “potentially offensive.”
Consideration should be given as to whether ALA can do more to recognize the intellectual freedom dichotomy within librarianship, as illustrated in comments to and about this ALSC blog post, and attempt to resolve it in favor of freedom, not anyone’s “struggle.”
If Dan Kleinman and I ever agree, I’ll know it’s time to retire.
Ingrid has a point. She has control of her own blog so she can do as she pleases. It would help if you didn’t call her “insidious” if you’re trying to reconcile…whatever you’re arguing about is between you and her. I had hoped that you had something important to add when I posted my message. Quoting Judith Krug doesn’t make you an advocate of intellectual freedom. She’s not alive to defend herself so that’s why I’ve never quoted her. Besides, actions speak louder than words. In my opinion, everything I’ve ever read about you and some posts by other bloggers suggest that you are staunchly against intellectual freedom. Someone said you’re tying up library boards, courts, and other institutions with rules to block access to information. Really? I’m not a lawyer and I don’t know either of you, however, Ingrid seems more sincere, even if we don’t agree about the picture book. If you really have been wronged and I can’t see it–my apologies. For now, I think we’ve all spent enough time on this and I’d like to move on.
Ann, you raised an excellent question a few comments ago that I’m still curious about as it was never really answered. What did the ALSC intellectual freedom committee want to accomplish by posting such a provocative (and potentially offensive) discussion prompt? Were all our responses everything they hoped they’d be? Are they just “stirring the pot” so to speak? Guess we’ll never know for sure?
ALSC Intellectual Freedom committee Post author
This is such an important conversation to have; the ALSC IF Committee is excited to see so many thoughtful contributions. And to answer Tess’ and Ann’s questions… The purpose of this blog post was to encourage librarians to continue to think and talk about issues like this and to think about how issues of intellectual freedom impact our libraries and our customers. Thank you for joining the conversation.
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I’ve written a post that discusses both the original question and some earlier responses:
I suggest we explore the possibility of recognizing areas of exceptions to Library Bill of Rights principles by drawing an analogy to the way exceptions exist for First Amendment speech rights.
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