Tuesday, November 14, 2006

3169 Checking the library shelves

When I read this review. . . : "I know all about dissing the South. I've been there, done that, gotten the T-shirt, worn it out, and thrown it away. But D.C. pundit Kevin Phillips still wears the anti-Southern shirt with pride in his new rant American Theocracy. For Phillips, the South's distinctive contribution to America is fundamentalist, anti-rational, anti-modern, ultimately theocratic religion.

You see, there's an American "Disenlightenment" going on, and its epicenter is somewhere south of the Mason-Dixon Line. While the North has its symphonies and universities, not to mention a higher IQ (yes, he really says that), the South has a "religious citizenry, more caught up in fecundity and the idea that children are gifts of the Lord." Southerners spend so much time poring over the Bible that they can't possibly participate constructively in a modern knowledge-based economy." TAE

I just knew Upper Arlington Public Library would have multiple copies of this anti-conservative, anti-Christian title (which I'd never heard of). But this obscure title's quantity surprised even me. When I checked the on line catalog, I found five copies of the regular edition, one large print, and one audio book recording. Do I know librarians, or what? Censorship and bias are more likely to happen during selection and purchase than by what is rejected or withdrawn based on patron complaints. Someone on the library staff has really skewed the collection.

NYT, of course, loved it, but did note there was little new or original material in it. What a shock!

Update: I checked the most recent Bill O'Reilly book, Culture Warrior, and the library has one regular copy with 11 requests waiting (if each person kept it 2 weeks that would be about 5 months), 1 large print checked out, and one audio, checked out. One copy just says unavailable--I have no idea if it is lost, on order, or being processed because the catlog record is very difficult to read. The Factor, which I believe sold very well, had only 2 copies in the collection.


Anonymous said...

Hi there. I, too, am an Upper Arlington resident and frequent user of the library. Someone mentioned your blog to me, so I decided to check it out. I wanted to post another update to your previous one. Currently, the library has nine copies of Culture Warrior, available in regular, large print, and audiobook. The library also has seven copies of American Theocracy in those formats as well. Originally, they had only ordered one or two copies of American Theocracy, but there were many requests for it; the same is true for O'Reilly's book. More copies were added because people wanted to read the book, not because of a slanted bias on the part of the librarians. The Upper Arlington Library does a great job of meeting the needs and requests of its patrons; that's probably why it's been rated in the top 5 libraries in its class nationwide according to the HAPLR ratings. Last year it was number one. Personally, I think we should be proud our library promotes a wide variety of viewpoints (as any good public library should).


Norma said...

Faith--why would it take so long to figure out they'd need more copies of Culture Warrior? These people are paid to know the community they serve. They are not hired to be evangelists for their cause. They always seem to have sufficient copies on hand, most not checked out, of liberal books. If you go back and browse the book titles with 1990s copyright dates, the bias doesn't seem as strong. Must have been a staff change or direction.

But even to have a balance, they'd have to buck the review vehicles they insist on using as their "bible" like Publisher's Weekly, and Library Journal, all biased and anti-conservative. When I asked them to purchase for the collection "Books and Culture" which provides lengthy book reviews, they refused--but it's OK to have 40-50 serial titles on popular culture.

Anonymous said...

"Publisher's Weekly" and "Library Journal" are biased and anti-conservative? What sources would you have the library use for book selection instead? If you feel that those publications are inappropriate for book selection, I'm afraid you are out of step with 99.9% of libraries in this country. It seems to me you don't really want the library's collection to focus on all viewpoints and instead select materials with a Christian bias. This goes against the whole mission of the library (open access to all viewpoints), and advocates the very thing (bias in selection) that you claim to want to rid from the library.


Norma said...

Faith--where did I write that librarians shouldn't use LJ or PW--both owned by the same publishing giant, Reed Business? Please show me that part in my response. They are good publications, but they do have a liberal bias. [Go to Google and look up "Tomeboy + bias" where he analyzes selection by reviews in these publications of books on intelligent design.] LJ likes to promote itself as "oldest independent national library publication," but although it might be old, it isn't independent. Booklist and Choice are published by ALA, which is more liberal than the ACLU. I have written honest, analytical reviews myself for these publications. They are all useful--but are just not enough. They are a closed circle. Requests from patrons are turned down on the basis that the items weren't reviewed in these titles. A negative review by LJ or PW or Choice can mean huge losses for an author and publisher. I was an academic librarian, so by far the biggest chunk of my money went for "approval plan" items (a deal made in advance with the major publishers), so it was up to me to ferret out non-mainstream by reading reviews of the material that the big guys overlooked.

UAPL has many fine features, wonderful staff, and is excellent in certain fields. Cooking. Crafts. Watercolor. It has a college-level collection in film, film history and movie star bios; its serial collection on computers, digital technology and tech-toys is stunning. You probably couldn't match its young adult collection on gays and lesbians. But it only has 2 evangelical Christian magazines (it added one when I pursued the issue after being turned down the first time). Even Martha Stewart has two titles in the magazine rack at UAPL. The newest monograph title on Lutherans was 40 years old until I brought it to their attention (one has since been added), even though UA has 3 Lutheran churches, one of which has about 5,000 members. There are probably more books on the Amish (aren't they just so cute and quaint) than Methodists.

Since you have friends there, why not ask them what the ink costs for those bulletin board size posters.