Friday, November 17, 2006

3179 Why I won't be supporting the library levy

Our library board is planning to put a levy on the May ballot. Big plans. Coffee shop. Business center and other amenities. Some are questioning why the library needs to compete with services already available. But that's not my reason--even though I think that's as frivolous as the new drive-through book drop they recently installed. It's the collection. And call me crazy, but that's the bottom line in judging a library's value.

The Upper Arlington Public Library was fourth of 933 libraries in its categories in a recently released national ranking. The director says the strategic plan is "explore, gather and grow." Well, show me, Ann Moore, why your staff is so intent on denigrating a large group in the community rather than growing a balanced collection that serves everyone. We have a fabulous gay and lesbian collection--even for juveniles; all you could ever want about Elvis Presley and the Beatles; wiccans and witchcraft, check; everything high-tech, computer or digital is at our finger tips; and we can cook from now 'til Martha and Rachel come home.

Unfortunately, the UAPL also excels in Christian bashing. The VTLS turn-key online-catalog is extremely difficult to browse. But just go to the new bookshelf and see a collection so biased and so one-sided, that church members should be embarrassed to say we are in partnership by supporting them with our tax money.

UAPL collects almost nothing in the religion area that I as a conservative, evangelical Christian would ever read--virtually nothing on denominations, history, theology, apologetics, service, inner life, hymnody, biography or business--unless written liberals or mainliners. But it has a stunning collection of anti-Christian, political harangues and diatribes.

Here's a brief sample for just 2005 and 2006, but I have a much longer list--over 2 pages of author, title, publisher, date:

Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, by Michelle Goldberg, W.W. Norton, 2006. 2 copies

The hijacking of Jesus : how the religious right distorts Christianity and promotes violence and hate, by Dan Wakefield, Nation Books, 2006

The Christian right or wrong; exposing corrupt teachings. . . by John Card, Blue Dolphin, 2004. 1 copy (a reprint on the new book shelf in 2006)

American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century, by Kevin Phillips, Viking, 2006, 6 copies + audio.

During the 2004 presidential campaign, UAPL appeared to purchase every anti-Bush administration book published--and the market was flooded. A survey of librarians done in 2004 reported that they were 224:1 Democrat to Republican! They are frustrated social engineers on a sacred mission. Librarians make Hollywood and the ACLU look like the John Birch Society! UAPL may have the best Michael Moore collection in the country.

When the Democrats lost the election in 2004, publishers began issuing anti-Christian books because pundits decided conservative Christians had put a not-particularly-conservative president over the top. UAPL staff have searched the booklists high and low, and found even privately published or obscure publishers to include with multiple copies, regular, large print and audio! Meanwhile, Bill O'Reilly's latest title has 11 people in line waiting to read it.

Although it's extremely difficult to evaluate a collection on the basis of subject headings (UAPL doesn’t assign them and whoever does has no quality filter or indexing smarts), let's just take a look. I'm pointing out here the religious conservative headings--there are no corresponding subject terms for mainline Protestants, or liberal Christianity. It's possible that conservative Christians don't write that much about liberal Christians or maybe UAPL doesn't buy them if they do. Other subject headings are all anti-conservative Christian except where noted. Some authors bashed both liberals and conservatives, but they were few. All of these have overlaps and some books have more than 1 or 2 subject headings.

23 Christianity and politics--United States. (2 of the titles were written by conservatives--other 21 were all anti-conservative and/or anti-Christian)
1 Christianity and politics--United States--Controversial literature.
4 Christianity and politics--United States--History.

7   Conservatism--Religious aspects--Christianity.
5   Conservatism--Religious aspects--Christianity--Controversial literature.
3   Conservatism--Religious aspects--Christianity--History--20th century.
1   Conservatism--Religious aspects--Christianity--History--20th century--Congresses
1   Conservatism--Religious aspects--Christianity--History--21st century.
1   Conservatism--Religious aspects--Christianity--History of doctrines--20th century.
1   Conservatism--Religious aspects--Judaism.

Fundamentalism--this subject heading is large at UAPL with many subdivisions, and I won’t break it down. It speaks for itself.

6 Religious right.
1 Religious right--History.
5 Religious right--United States.
5 Religious fundamentalism--United States

If UAPL has missed something that marginalizes the right, I'm sure they'll correct their oversight if you ask.


tomeboy55 said...

Collection bias??? How dare you call into question the selections of a librarian. Why balance is relative, don't you know? You're a heretic Norma....and also absolutely correct.

Judy said...

I must step in here and defend at least one public librarian who is doing her job as she represents the people in her community who pay the taxes to support the library as well as pay her paycheck.

I am a librarian in East Tennessee, and I am impressed by how great of a job that our purchaser does as she selects and orders books for our stacks. When I told her about this article, she was amazed that there are some librarians who do not follow the apparent code of public librarians which requires that the librarians seek to add those books which reflect the desires of their patrons. I can say that there is at least one librarian who does this very well!