Monday, July 14, 2008

Uncle Bobby's Wedding

Recently, a library patron challenged (urged a reconsideration of the ownership or placement of) a book called "Uncle Bobby's Wedding." Honestly, I hadn't even heard of it until that complaint. But I did read the book, and responded to the patron, who challenged the item through email and requested that I respond online (not via snail-mail) about her concerns.

I suspect the book will get a lot of challenges in 2008-2009. So I offer my response, purging the patron's name, for other librarians.

Uncle Bobby's wedding
June 27, 2008

Dear Ms. Patron:

Thank you for working with my assistant to allow me to fit your concerns about “Uncle Bobby's Wedding,” by Sarah S. Brannen, into our “reconsideration” process. I have been assured that you have received and viewed our relevant policies: the Library Bill of Rights, the Freedom to Read, Free Access to Libraries for Minors, the Freedom to View, and our Reconsideration Policy.

The intent of providing all that isn't just to occupy your time. It's to demonstrate that our lay Board of Trustees –- which has reviewed and adopted these policies on behalf of our library -- has spent time thinking about the context in which the library operates, and thoughtfully considered the occasional discomfort (with our culture or constituents) that might result. There's a lot to consider.

Here's what I understand to be your concern, based on your writings. First, you believe that “the book is specifically designed to normalize gay marriage and is targeted toward the 2-7 year old age group.” Your second key concern is that you “find it inappropriate that this type of literature is available to this age group.” You cite your discussion with your daughter, and commented, “This was not the type of conversation I thought I would be having with my seven year old in the nightly bedtime routine.”

Finally, you state your strong belief, first, “in America and the beliefs of our founding fathers,” and second, that “marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman as stated in the Webster's dictionary and also in the Bible.”

You directed me to the SarahBrannen.com site, which I also reviewed. I got a copy of “Uncle Bobby's Wedding” today, and read it. I even hauled out my favorite Webster's (the college edition, copyright 1960).

First, I think you're right that the purpose of the book is to show a central event, the wedding of two male characters, as no big thing. The emotional center of the story, of course, is Chloe's fear that she's losing a favorite uncle to another relationship. That fear, I think, is real enough to be an issue for a lot of young children. But yes, Sarah Brannen clearly was trying to portray gay marriage as normal, as not nearly so important as the changing relationship between a young person and her favorite uncle.

Your second issue is a little trickier. You say that the book is inappropriate, and I infer that your reason is the topic itself: gay marriage. I think a lot of adults imagine that what defines a children's book is the subject. But that's not the case. Children's books deal with anything and everything. There are children's books about death (even suicide), adult alcoholism, family violence, and more. Even the most common fairy tales have their grim side: the father and stepmother of Hansel and Gretel, facing hunger and poverty, take the children into the woods, and abandon them to die! Little Red Riding Hood (in the original version, anyhow) was eaten by the wolf along with granny. There's a fascinating book about this, by the bye, called “The Uses of Enchantment: the Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales,” by psychologist Bruno Bettelheim. His thesis is that both the purpose and power of children's literature is to help young people begin to make sense of the world. There is a lot out there that is confusing, or faintly threatening, and even dangerous in the world. Stories help children name their fears, understand them, work out strategies for dealing with life. In Hansel and Gretel, children learn that cleverness and mutual support might help you to escape bad situations. In Little Red Riding Hood, they learn not to talk to big bad strangers. Of course, not all children's books deal with “difficult issues,” maybe not even most of them. But it's not unusual.

So what defines a children's book is the treatment, not the topic. “Uncle Bobby's Wedding” is 27-28 pages long (if you count the dedication page). Generally, there are about 30 words per page, and each page is illustrated. The main character, and the key perspective, is that of a young girl. The book is published by G. P. Putnam's Sons, “a division of Penguin Young Readers Group.” The Cataloging in Publication information (on the back side of the title page) shows that the catalogers of the Library of Congress identified it as an “E” book – easy or beginning reader. Bottom line: It's hard for me to see it as anything but a children's book.

You suggested that the book could be “placed in an area designating the subject matter,” or “labeled for parental guidance” by stating that “some material may be inappropriate for young children.” I have two responses. First, we tried the “parenting collection” approach a couple of times in my history here. And here's what we found: nobody uses them. They constitute a barrier to discovery and use. The books there – and some very fine ones -- just got lost. In the second case, I believe that every book in the children's area, particularly in the area where usually the parent is reading the book aloud, involves parental guidance. The labeling issue is tricky, too: is the topic just homosexuality? Where babies come from? Authority figures that can't be trusted? Stepmothers who abandon their children to die?

Ultimately, such labels make up a governmental determination of the moral value of the story. It seems to me – as a father who has done a lot of reading to his kids over the years – that that kind of decision is up to the parents, not the library. Because here's the truth of the matter: not every parent has the same value system.

You feel that a book about gay marriage is inappropriate for young children. But another book in our collection, “Daddy's Roommate,” was requested by a mother whose husband left her, and their young son, for another man. She was looking for a way to begin talking about this with son. Another book, “Alfie's Home,” was purchased at the request of another mother looking for a way to talk about the suspected homosexuality of her young son from a Christian perspective. There are gay parents in Douglas County, right now, who also pay taxes, and also look for materials to support their views. We don't have very many books on this topic, but we do have a handful.

In short, most of the books we have are designed not to interfere with parents' notions of how to raise their children, but to support them. But not every parent is looking for the same thing.

Your third point, about the founders' vision of America, is something that has been a matter of keen interest to me most of my adult life. In fact, I even wrote a book about it, where I went back and read the founders' early writings about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. What a fascinating time to be alive! What astonishing minds! Here's what I learned: our whole system of government was based on the idea that the purpose of the state was to preserve individual liberties, not to dictate them. The founders uniformly despised many practices in England that compromised matters of individual conscience by restricting freedom of speech. Freedom of speech – the right to talk, write, publish, discuss – was so important to the founders that it was the first amendment to the Constitution – and without it, the Constitution never would have been ratified.

How then, can we claim that the founders would support the restriction of access to a book that really is just about an idea, to be accepted or rejected as you choose? What harm has this book done to anyone? Your seven year old told you, “Boys are not supposed to marry.” In other words, you have taught her your values, and those values have taken hold. That's what parents are supposed to do, and clearly, exposure to this book, or several, doesn't just overthrow that parental influence. It does, of course, provide evidence that not everybody agrees with each other; but that's true, isn't it?

The second part of your third point was your belief that marriage was between a man and a woman. My Webster's actually gives several definitions of marriage: “1. the state of being married; relation between husband and wife...; 2. the act of marrying, wedding; 3. the rite or form used in marrying; 4. any close or intimate union.” Definitions 2-4, even as far back as 1960, could be stretched to include a wedding between two men. Word definitions change; legal rights change. In some parts of America, at least today, gay marriage is legal. If it's legal, then how could writing a book about it be inappropriate?

Finally, then, I conclude that “Uncle Bobby's Wedding” is a children's book, appropriately categorized and shelved in our children's picture book area. I fully appreciate that you, and some of your friends, strongly disagree with its viewpoint. But if the library is doing its job, there are lots of books in our collection that people won't agree with; there are certainly many that I object to. Library collections don't imply endorsement; they imply access to the many different ideas of our culture, which is precisely our purpose in public life.

As noted in our policies, you do have the right to appeal my decision to the Board of Trustees. If you'd like to do that, let me know, and I can schedule a meeting. Meanwhile, I'm more than happy to discuss this further with you. I do appreciate many things: your obvious value of reading, your frank and loving relationship with your child, your willingness to raise issues of importance to you in the public square, and more. Thank you, very much, for taking the time to raise your concerns with me. Although I suspect you may not agree with my decision, I hope it's clear that I've given it a great deal of thought, and believe it is in accordance with both our guiding principles, and those, incidentally, of the founders of our nation.

Best wishes to you and your family,

457 comments:

1 – 200 of 457   Newer›   Newest»
Mary Witzl said...

What a fine, thoughtful letter. "Our whole system of government was based on the idea that the purpose of the state was to preserve individual liberties, not to dictate them" -- few things make me prouder of being an American.

Colorado Writer said...

What a wonderful letter. Thank you for addressing all points throughly. The Right to Free Speech is our treasure as Americans.

drudolph said...

Thank you for the thoughtful, reasoned letter. I interviewed Brannen when the book first came out, and figured it was only a matter of time before challenges began. At least other librarians will have your letter as a starting point. (I've posted as much on my own blog, Mombian.)

Teddy said...

I hope every librarian faced with such a challenge has the opportunity to read your well-reasoned, considerate, and thoughtful reply to this patron. You are to be commended for your excellent reply. I don't think it will change anyone's mind, but it might open one or two.

Thanks for all your hard work on behalf of library patrons -- and librarians.

Mamou, aka Renee said...

Beautifully reasoned and well written but what impresses me the most is the respect with which you address the concerns of this parent. Well done!

Joe said...

Jamie,

Great post. How long did it take you to write this letter? I hope you cut-n-paste some sections of this letter for future challenges to other controversial books, especially the section concerning founders' vision for the US.

Also I'm Glad to see that you signed up for the Library Camp of the West. See you there.

Joe

Infosciphi said...

Bravo. Simply excellent. You make me proud (not that I've stopped) to be a librarian. Thank you for representing the institution and profession so well.

Steve Lawson said...

More kudos and reactions on FriendFeed.

Stephanie said...

Jamie's letter reminded me how often I have to reassure myself of our "cofounders" intentions when they wrote the Constitution and Bill of Rights, since where I work even those (such as degreed administrative librarians) who should certainly know better, very often pointedly tell us worker bees, after some informational staff meeting, not to publicly discuss or "say" anything if it might be construed as negative, or "bad press," for the library. Even some of the "worker bees," easily identified by their open pro-censorship opinions, sometimes make me wonder if they were absent a lot in library school, or if they bought their MLS degree off the internet...where were they during those days and days of discussion about freedom of speech and intellectual freedom?!

lk said...

Thanks for posting your thoughtful response. It was quite eloquent and elegant.

deannaroy said...

What an amazing letter. Thank you.

Rochelle said...

Your response to the concerned parent was so thoughtfully presented. The way you touched on each point showed such respect of the patron's feelings. I am printing this to keep as a reminder of an exceptional reply to an issue that is sensitive for many.

The MIKK Family said...

Thank you for such an excellent response, I enjoyed reading it immensely!

Jamie said...

Thanks for the kind comments (so far!). The letter took about 2 hours to write, I guess. As I've argued in my book, people who use the library, take their kids with them, read books together, talk about books together, and take the time to complain to the library about the ones they object to, really aren't our enemies. They are significant library users, and they need to be valued. But valued means listened to, respected. It doesn't necessarily mean that the library director (or Board of Trustees) will immediately abandon its policies and practices. But it might mean that it's time to look at those things again and think them through in light of new information.

kejlina said...

Bravo! What a great letter.

Mary said...

Jamie, I liked your letter. I have never liked the idea that anyone should tell anyone else what to read or not to read.
Well, of course, parents can tell kids, but that doesn't mean that at some point the kid won't read that book.

Matticus said...

My goodness - what a well thought out response!

You very nicely put a balanced view. It's refreshing to see an argument (if you'd call it that) that happily accepts a different view and debates it with an open and balanced mind. It's clear to me that your response would have been the same whether you agreed with the complainant or not.

Cheers,
Matt

tejas said...

I was directed to this entry from a post on Live Journal. Thank you for a marvelous statement reinforcing not only the basic freedoms in America, but also the responsibility of parents to talk to their children. The world is not something to hide from our children, but rather it's a laboratory for us to teach them in. We can't childproof the world, nor should we try. We should, instead, world proof our children. The upshot is, we're not raising children (they don't need any assistance on how to be a child), we're raising adults and when they're grown, they'll take what we've taught them about the world and apply it in our legislatures and our pulpits and our schools. The more they learn, the better they will be able to manage and care for the world we leave behind us.

Again, thank you.

Steve in MD said...

Wonderful letter. One point it obviously didn't cover well, was how parents and society in general pass on their prejudices to their children, e.g. hatred of Blacks, jews, Catholics vs protestants, Irish Cath's vs Italian catholics, all part of our history.

Nobody is forcing the complainant to read the book to her child, but the world will be bettr off if she did. Part of breaking down prejudice is breaking down religious prejudice, fomented by some churches, whose goals are to drive these prejudices into children at an early age, and prevent them from ever doing original thinking about issues. It would be an interesting world if children grew up with only one religious based idea - do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And it would be a better world then the terrible terrible mess mankind has made of the world, for which God must weep.

cypressasianguy said...

I'm afraid your well reasoned, well articulated letter is not going to make a lick of sense to this woman and the likes of her.

What part of the Bible does the "Library Bill of Rights" come from? When did Jesus say he or his dad gave people "... Freedom to Read, Free Access to Libraries for Minors, the Freedom to View..."? Only God's words from the Bible are final. Stop trying to confuse her with man's words.

Your point about family violence, leaving children to die, eating children... might not be appropriate proves that you're an unsaved atheist and haven't read the Bible once. These things aren't inappropriate. They aren't condemned in the Bible so they must be healthy for her young'uns and the young'uns of the likes of her. Only homosexuals are condemned in the Bible. Only books promoting their sinful lifestyle are inappropriate. No matter what your reasons are!!!

She and the likes of her won't appreciate you trying to confuse her with the Constitution this and Constitution that. Don't you know that our Country and Constitution was founded on the Judeo Christian values? Whatever the Constitution says must be understood as to support a Judeo Christian ideology. The freedom of speech means the freedom to praise the Lord and the Bible. The freedom of speech means people are free to condemn the unsaved and sinful. It's not meant the freedom to praise homosexuals and thus destroying healthy Christian marriages. Thanks the Lord president Bush was able to put 2 people on the Supreme Court that understand this ethernal truth. Pray the Lord there will be more!!!

Another thing that proves your letter is not worthy of consideration, no matter how solidly you built your case to the rest of the world. You have long hair!!! No. Don't try to convince her and the likes of her that your hair is more like Jesus hair. Your long hair proves that you're a homosexual. And clever Christian women like her and the likes of her are not stupid enough to listen to homosexuals defending themselves. She'll bring it straight to president Bush and his Department of Faith to settle this matter. If it doesn't work, she'll wait for the Messiah himself to take over in January and try it again.

Mary Witzl said...

I came back to reread your letter because, like other commenters, I am impressed that you took the trouble to answer the writer's issues and did so thoughtfully and persuasively. And I have to disagree with Cypressasianguy.

Having grown up among and around people who would certainly have objected to Uncle Bobby's Wedding for many of the reasons Cypressasianguy gives, I am familiar with their arguments and prejudices. But they are people too, and as a group, they feel largely alienated and marginalized -- much like the very people they object to. A considerate, well reasoned response is always worth making. I have seen close-minded people change simply because someone took the trouble to address their concerns and explain their own position. It would be easy to lampoon the writer's narrowmindedness and dismiss his or her concerns, but you took the harder, more thoughtful way, and that is commendable.

Deborah said...

As a Library Board member I applaud this letter. I've been fortunate in my tenure that we've never been seriously challenged on the collection but I am saving your response as a model and inspiration in case that day comes.

Bravo.

Max said...

That was a beautiful and well-reasoned letter. At the same time as rejecting the request it shows solid reasoning and consideration.

Thank you.

samurailuci said...

Nice. Rock on, yo.

Trypho Celsus said...

I like the letter, but you should have put the last paragraph first so you wouldn't sound like a patronizing bastard in the rest of it. (People often imagine the wrong voice inflexion when reading text from folks with different viewpoints.) Usually, folks who challenge books are concerned parents, and their complaints should not be taken lightly. Your letter does a good job in this regard, since you take the time to answer the lady's objections one at a time.

Our country is divided over basic moral norms right now, so conflicts like this are unavoidable. To put yourself in this parent's shoes, imagine a children's book that promoted bestiality or necrophilia as normal. (I don't morally equate homosexuality with such activities, but many people do.) Should such a book be shielded from all children or just your own? Should we even consider allowing children to have access to such books? Do you appreciate the moral dilemma now? What about a parent who believes that civil rights for minorities is obscene? Do we not assume moral superiority when we avoid Holocaust-denial literature and purchase children's books on Martin Luther King? I am not offering any easy answers, because I do not think there are any. But we should not present ourselves as "value-neutral" information sources, because such a stance is impossible for very obvious reasons--especially in children's literature.

If I were writing this letter, I would discuss how society's values are changing, and that as an information service, we will have materials with conflicting moral stances. Our values DO affect how we purchase materials, but we try to be as neutral as possible. We are not perfect, but we do our best. What else can we do?

Overall, the letter was well written.

Timothy Travaglini said...

God bless you, Jamie, and all our nation's librarians who stand on the front lines of defending books and advocating the rights of free speech in a thoughtful and considerate manner.

As the editor of UNCLE BOBBY'S WEDDING, I knew it was only a matter of time before it was formally challenged. And I had no allusions about librarians such as yourself serving as the shock troops, bearing the brunt of defending this wonderful and long-awaited book. It's fantastic that you posted your response in full, and I hope that other librarians will use it as a foundation in their defense, not only of UNCLE BOBBY, but of any book that is challenged for any reason.

Keep fighting the good fight, and if there is anything that we as publishers can do to support your efforts, please don't hesitate to ask.

Most sincerely,

Timothy Travaglini
Senior Editor, G. P. Putnam's Sons
Penguin Young Readers Group

pointouttheobvious said...

Trypho Celsus

Can't tell if you are arrogant or ignorant, but in your post you *do* actually equate homosexuality with bestiality and necrophilia. Shame on you.

raven-moon said...

Bravo! That's one of the better defenses of free speech in the name of conservative censorship that I have come across. I very much hope that ended the matter, as it should have. Thanks for speaking so eloquently on this topic.

cypressasianguy said...

Why is it that Christians (or is this a Mohammedan?) like Trypho Celsus are so obsessed with bestiality and necrophilia? Is it something you guys were taught in churches every Sunday? I mean it's not a long shot from pedophilia which is being well practiced in a major cult of Christianity. I mean, what you do in your own home or church is none of my business. But come on! Bragging about it online?

On a serious note, there is no consent in bestiality & necrophilia. Keep trying to twist beautiful, consented homosexual sex to sound like violent, forced, non-consented sex just shows the world how desperate your arguments are. Might as well save yourself from further embarrassment and stick with "The Bible says so" (or the Qur'an says so for Mohammedans) argument. The whole world already knows that is all there is to your argument. Unfortunately for you and your kinds, in more civilized parts of the world that are built on the solid foundation of Science & Reason, "The Bible says so" argument doesn't go very far.

Wishwords said...

What an excellent letter. The patron was thinking of her own child, not a bad thing at all, but probably had not thought that there might be children in the area struggling to understand just such a situation as the book showed. Your response was well-reasoned and gentle. I hope she does discuss the issue further with you and comes to see the library as you do.

Thanks for posting this.

Jules said...

What a fabulous and well-considered response.

If only everyone could have the patience and the forethought to respond to problems in such a manner.

Angie said...

Sir, that was amazing. I will pay you the best compliment I can think of: you're making me think how great it would be to work for your library system!

ExploringIntimacy said...

Thank you for sharing this inspiring letter. I have posted a response on my blog at exploringintimacy.wordpress.com to encourage my readers to take a look at it. Well done, and thank you for your excellent work.
Ruth @ The Explorers Blog

marajolie said...

I take some small offense to the people attacking Christians on this blog. I am a Catholic Librarian. I am a militant free-speech advocate and I would die to defend anyone's right to write and publish and read this book.

However, as part of my faith I do not have qualms about saying that I believe that an actively homosexual life style is unhealthy.

I have a right to that opinion and a right to be treated with respect in spite of the the fact that others disagree with me on that one and a few other issues.

How dare you condemn a person as ignorant just because they disagree with you. That is their FREEDOM, of religion and of expression.

I applaud Jamie for how sensitively he handled this. He did and awesome job.

The few people who are judging this patron as "ignorant" and "incapable of change" and "like all the rest" should bear in mind that the Nazi's talked the same way about the Jews and the KKK the same way about minorities. All one group to be condemned as one.

Kate said...

That is a calm, rational and reasonable response to a potentially volatile issue and I think everything was handled with both compassion and thoroughness.

I hope any further discussion with this patron continues to be civilized, even with the patron apparently espousing her values as facts.

seeryusfam@msn.com said...

Well written...well written. Whenever I think of a book being challenged, I come back to this,

A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone. ~Jo Godwin

That's what is so great about our country, the diversity. It's a shame that some people only want to push what THEY feel is right or wrong.

Again, very well written letter.

jlindquist said...

Jamie, I'd like to add my applause to all the rest above. It's easy to respond to people we may disagree with by criticizing their position. But to do so in a professional capacity that calls for open access to all kinds of ideas, that would be plain wrong. You took a calm, reasoned approach to addressing this patron's concerns, and did so while showing respect for her values and her right to hold them. That's exactly how any of us should respond when we need to do so professionally. Thank you for posting your response as an example to guide us!

But to marajolie and those who would agree with her, your profession that "an actively homosexual life style is unhealthy" is in fact, ignorant. You call a category of people "unhealthy", and do so without a supporting body of evidence. You appeal to faith, but you ignore that your faith isn't shared by the people to whom you make that argument. In a society where no one may enforce their faith on any other, that appeal cannot be valid.

Yes indeed, you have a right to your opinion. You have a right to express it. But do you have a right to respect? When you express that opinion, does no one else have the right to express disagreement, or criticism? Think about that one... you just labeled a group of people as "unhealthy". If it's desirable to be "healthy", you've just placed them beneath you. Are you respecting that group?

Eric said...

to cypressasianguy

I continue to see the argument posed by Christians that freedom of speech is only put in place to protect THEIR freedom of speech. What kind of argument is that? Freedom of speech is a double-edged blade, if you have the freedom to say what you want, then you cannot condemn someone else for saying something they want. Otherwise, you do not have freedom of speech for all, you have freedom of speech for some. And then it isn't freedom of speech anymore, it's one person's word suppressing the voices of everyone else. ...which is EXACTLY what the founding fathers were attempting to avoid. The founders of the constitution were trying to escape RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION, which from what I can tell is what you're currently supporting. Persecution of someone because their beliefs or lifestyle does not sync with your particular religious view. The founding fathers formed laws to allow people to practice whatever forms of religion they wished to follow. And even they had a wide spread of beliefs. You can see for yourself here: http://www.adherents.com/gov/Founding_Fathers_Religion.html
In particular Quakers believe that there is 'a bit of God's light in everyone', that would include homosexuals.

So as you can see... the founding fathers and the idea of freedom of speech are not a uniquely owned Judeo-Christian idea

The bible should also not be taken literally... it actually makes me question if YOU'VE read it. Among other gems found in the bible it condones stoning a person for disobeying their parents, for a women who is not a virgin on their wedding night, and for cursing. Would you say that a person should be put to death for any of the above offenses? I think you also state there that eating children is an acceptable action because it is not condemned in the bible. Do you have any morals whatsoever?

And finally your comment about long hair. As you so clearly mention depictions of Jesus are a man with long hair. You are again, wielding a double-edged sword, but you don't seem to think it will come back at you. Such an argument that all men with long hair are homosexuals would imply that Jesus is also a homosexual because he has long hair. What kind of sense does that make at all?

It occurs to me that your post may just be to get attention as it doesn't show any sort of due thought process on the subject at hand. Perhaps you just needed to flame. If thats the case then you're welcome to ignore this post. Otherwise seriously take the time to actually THINK about what you've said, and what you believe.

Lori said...

So you know, it's now on Digg: http://digg.com/arts_culture/Uncle_Bobby_s_Wedding

Shannan said...

Wow. What a wonderfully well thought out, concise and clear letter. I actually like the book. It's much better than the "issue" books about gay marriage that have in the past been a bit heavy handed with the message. In this it's just incidental. You're right exactly - the story is about the child adjusting to a changing relationship with a loved one.

Thank you for sharing this, you've made my day!

Andrew said...

Jamie that is a great letter. I've bookmarked in the event that I ever have to write one I can look upon yours for inspiration. Thank you for sharing what you wrote.

madkestrel said...

I am a writer as well as a librarian in a middle school. As a writer, I thank you for the defense of "Uncle Bobby's Wedding", since it's clear to me you will defend all your books with equal vigor. As a librarian, I hope I will be able respond to any similar situation I may face with the kind of dignity you displayed.

Thank you, sir.

Christian said...

Thank you for sharing this.
"Library collections don't imply endorsement; they imply access to the many different ideas of our culture, which is precisely our purpose in public life."
I love this part.

randomguy3 said...

@pointouttheobvious, cypressasianguy:

Please re-read Trypho Celsus's post carefully. Trypho at no point equated homosexuality with bestiality or necrophilia. They equate the moral outrage certain people feel to each.

Trypho was using it as a tool to try to help you see why people hold a certain view and why they might feel that such a book was inappropriate in a library. Jamie very thoughtfully and carefully provided a detailed and compelling argument as to why the book should remain, including points that at least partly addressed this moral outrage argument (such as his mention of legality and dealing with social situations).

@cypressasionguy in particular: your style of arguing is almost the antithesis of Jamie's. It assumes the moral high ground and shows no compassion for or understanding of anyone else's point of view. The most likely result is that those who don't agree with you will either ignore you completely or shout back in the same manner, resulting in a stalemate. You are unlikely to win any converts, only "hell yeah!"s from people who already share you view.

By contrast, Jamie's approach would make reasonable people (and, yes, reasonable people not in possession of all the facts can have unreasonable views) pay attention and think. And maybe change their point of view.

marajolie said...

Dear colleagues,

I was objecting to Cypressguy's choice of words, not to his opinion--which he is entitled to and which believe or not I agree with in part. Some "Christians" shame that description by being wholly illogical and just plain mean.

On the other hand, one of my closest friends is bi-sexual. We have a very respectful relationship where we just agree to disagree about her choices, I love her and give her "morally-neutral" advice about girlfriends and such all the time.

I have numerous gay patrons and make a pointed effort to get them resources that reflect points of view and stories they are interested in.

It is possible to be religious and yet very respectful and honoring of people who do not have the same views.

Likewise, it is possible to be a Democrat-gay-atheist (not implying those always go together) and be very respectful of Christian's, even the close minded kind.

Let's just please be charitable with one another. Thank you

clio21000 said...

What a well-written letter. Thank you for addressing this potentially volatile issue with respect for all involved.

Kristan said...

As a used bookstore employee in Texas, I can really appreciate this situation and your response. Thank you for posting it. I have this conversation with parents fairly often. It's nice to see someone else in bookworld whose thoughts echo mine and those of my coworkers.

Thanks!

Siani said...

Thank you so much for defending this book, and the right to access many points of view in our public libraries. I am the adult daughter of lesbian parents, and when I was a child 'Heather has Two Mommies' was about it when it came to children's books that depicted my family.

I am straight myself, but I am so happy to think that if I have children there will be many positive depictions of people like their two grandmothers available to them.

lavender-dragon said...

i was linked here from livejournal as well....its a lovely letter....though the issue itself made me think of how parents complaining that their children see something on tv or in a movie....if there is an issue you are not ready to discuss or a point of view you don't want to expose your kids to then skim the book before you read it. don't blame the library.

Lou franklin said...

You have done a great disservice to the children who use your library.

If it's legal, then how could writing a book about it be inappropriate?

Many things are legal but shouldn't be the topic of children's books. Prostitution is legal in parts of Nevada. Does that mean that Maurice Sendak should write a children's book called Juanita Turns a Trick?

Medical Marijuana is legal in parts of the country. Should Judy Blume write a children's book called Leroy smokes a fatty?

Why can't you let kids be kids? It's bad enough that adults have had to endure this homosexual marriage nonsense, but now you deprive innocent children of their childhood by allowing this trash in the library? For shame!

Oleg said...

Well done!

I would say more, but it seems that everything that needs to be said has already been said.

Going Crunchy said...

I was directed to your post from another blog, and I'm so glad I stopped by. I think that your response was very thoughtful and well constructed.

As it seems that you have already had conversation with the patron in person I'd reckon that you've already given her an indication of your positive tone and calm consideration.

Thanks for giving us all a good model to follow. Shannon

Seana said...

What an amazingly eloquent response. Thanks for sharing Jamie.

silveradept said...

Linked in from the Livejournal community Dark Christianity. To them, your letter is an excellent and thoughtful refutation of religion-based censorship, and I agree.

As a YS librarian, I would love to be that articulate and able to explain things if the matter came to my attention at the desk. Thank you for the excellent letter. I will probably send it around to my colleagues and ask for their comments about it.

Please keep us informed as to how this situation turns out, whether the parent contacts you again, appeals your decision, or continues the debate in some form. It would be a shame to find out that such an elegant letter fell on deaf ears.

Joe Kort said...

Thank you so much for this letter and making it public! Children can handle and understand homosexuality and gay and lesbian couples who are married. They understand it in the same way as they understand their parent's being married; that it is about love.

I learned about this book through your posting on your blog and have purchased it and cannot wait to read it to my neice and nephews.

Proud gay uncle!

Joe Kort

Iron Chef Kosher! said...

I am in awe of your patience and dignity. MY answer would have been just 3 words, the 2nd & 3rd being "...off, bigot!" Thank G-d people like you are dealing with the public and not me. Then again... :-) Seriously, thank you, again & again.

Jamie said...

Lou Franklin: thank you. I knew the approval couldn't last! Remember that by far MOST of the books purchased by libraries come from commercial publications. Libraries (usually) don't publish books; we just sample what's for sale. What are the odds that a mainstream publisher would produce anything like what you suggest? Answer: small. And even smaller that libraries would buy them. Come on, we're parents and community members, too.

But depending on the treatment, I can imagine that a publisher might tackle exactly those subjects, and why not? A book called "My Aunt Josephine wears scarves" might tell the story of somebody with cancer, who smokes marijuana to deal with the nausea of her radiation treatment. That might well reflect the actual circumstance of a child observing that.

But libraries should also try to include at least the occasional book on the fringe. That's where the culture-changing memes come from, by definition. So suppose someone writes "I Don't Like My Mother's Job" (your prostitution example) -- or do you imagine that there are no children in such a situation, who would be desperate to find a story that helped them develop strategies to deal with their lives?

The intent isn't to steal innocence from anybody. It's to help all of us make sense of a world that doesn't, sometimes.

"Letting kids be kids" means different things to different people. I've raised two kids of my own, and the beauty of childhood is not what they don't know, but their eagerness and ability to learn, to make meaning. Kids ARE kids, in a variety of quite different lives. Our sharing in that doesn't have to be sordid. Indeed, we should strive to make it luminous. That begins not with suppression, not lies, not happy talk; it begins with understanding.

Tom said...

I wanted to thank you for an excellent and well-written letter which obvious expresses a lot of people's feelings about freedom of the press.

I wanted to ask if you got a response!

How dare you condemn a person as ignorant just because they disagree with you. That is their FREEDOM, of religion and of expression.

Surely that very same FREEDOM gives us the right to condemn them as ignorant, does it not?

If people use their religion as a shield to commit moral or ethical crimes, like censoring others or destroying a country, it's not just our right, it's our obligation to reveal them as the ignorant people they are.

(Not that writing a grumpy letter to a librarian is such a crime! Often politeness and reasoning is the best way to get your message across, like this stellar letter...)

kyrielle said...

I was linked to this from LiveJournal as well, and I just wanted to say thank you for writing such a wonderful letter in reply. I don't share the views of the patron who wrote in, and had I been in your shoes, I might have given a knee-jerk response.

And it would have been wrong. And what you wrote was respectful, and beautiful. Probably far more effective than a knee-jerk reaction (at the very least, even if the patron is one with a closed mind - which they may well not be - unlikely to annoy them as much as a knee-jerk response would have).

I am deeply impressed by your response, both for addressing all the points and bringing up the community, and for the respect you showed to the recipient.

Jessica Burkhart said...

Wow, what a fantastic letter. I'm incredibly proud of your library system. :)

AnnaMeemousse said...

Jamie-I appreciate the time and thought you put into your letter.

As a conservative Christian mom and library patron I feel compelled to defend myself against some of the comments left here.

While I do think Uncle Bobby's Wedding would be inappropriate reading material for my children I do not think it should be unavailable to the community at large. Would I object to taxpayer funds being used to purchase the book? I'm not sure. If it was donated to the library I certainly think it belongs on the shelf, though.

I do not think conservative Christians are the only offenders at knee jerk reactions to books. Speaking as an "insider", though, I acknowledge that there are many who identify themselves similarly who dismiss books reactively. There are also quite a few who would be quite ready to ban books that cross lines of decency, morality and/or taste. They do not speak for all of us and I cringe when I am lumped in with them.

I saw and read an issue book on alcoholism in my children's library last week. It was rough. It was sad. I was glad it was on the shelf because I wanted kids who needed that support to have access to it. I saw "And Tango Makes Three" on the shelf the other day. Again, not a book for us, but I don't object to it being on the shelves.

I'm afraid some of you are exposing your own prejudices and narrowmindedness while claiming magnanimousness with your comments about Christians as a group. Assuredly there are some squeaky ignorant wheels who claim faith as a shield against thought, but there are also those of us who believe we are taught that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control are what we're charged to be. ...And the greatest of these is love. Whether we agree or disagree with how someone lives their life we're to treat them with love.

Jane said...

Fantastic, well-phrased letter. Thank you for responding so tactfully to a patron. I am interested in the book you mentioned that you wrote during college. I checked Prospector and did not see it available. What is the title?

Jamie said...

annameemousse: good points. I've learned that censorship is what the OTHER side wants to suppress. True for Christians and secularists, conservatives and liberals.

Jane: My book is "The New Inquisition: Understanding and Managing Intellectual Freedom Challenges" (Libraries Unlimited, 2007). I didn't write it in college, I wrote it last year. Thanks for the interest.

Sig! said...

Well said. Thanks for posting.

Trypho Celsus said...

I only brought up the necrophilia and bestiality as a mental exercise. I now see that the example confused people on my position. I was simply trying to show how we cannot operate in a "value-free" manner and we shouldn't try to pretend to do so. When a society is experiencing discord over what is acceptable behavior and what is not, these types of conflicts are going to happen. This is not an excuse for prejudice, but just a fact of life. As a librarian, I regularly select books with viewpoints I disagree with because I value freedom of speech and thought. I am also a parent and I know that children are very impressionable, so children's books should recieve more scrutiny than books for adults. Anyone who develops a children's collection is making value judgements about the content of that collection. That is why the letter stressed the parent's role in choosing what books to read to children. We can never play the parent's role, so we shouldn't try. However, we must use our values to decide which ideas we will embrace, which ones we will simply tolerate, and which ones we will actively censor from the collection. That is all.
-----------------------------
When I state my beliefs, why do people think I am lying?

kara1021 said...

As a librarian in the Denver metro I once again have to admit that I have a huge professional crush on you, Jamie. I aspire to be as involved, innovative, and tactful as you during the long career I (hopefully) have ahead of me.

Lou franklin said...

What are the odds that a mainstream publisher would produce anything like what you suggest? Answer: small. And even smaller that libraries would buy them.

That's not the point.

Come on, we're parents and community members, too.

You are irresponsible parents and community members. This is indoctrination and it's wrong!

Ellie said...

Jamie:
Thank you for this well-written, thoughtful, and brave letter. As a brand-new children's librarian, I am proud and glad to have role models like you in our profession.

Jamie said...

lou franklin: don't want to do tit-for-tat on a blog. Feel free to email me directly. jlarue @ jlarue . com. But right now: you're offering heavy judgments: "You are irresponsible parents and community members. This is indoctrination and it's wrong!" without even a nod toward evidence to support those harsh conclusions. Respectfully, I reject your conclusions. But since you never say how you got there, no actual conversation is possible. You do want a conversation, right, not just an exchange of accusations?

Synthetic Phylum said...

I discovered this letter thanks to a friend on LiveJournal. Well done! I applaud your well-thought-out response to this person's objections, as well as your calm, rational, and polite responses to the less-than-supportive comments. I doubt that I would be as capable of writing such a letter, myself; well, perhaps I could, but it would likely take the better part of a week, with several rewrites! I would love it if you could keep the rest of us in the blogosphere abreast of how this all turns out... And if Lou Franklin ever starts an appropriate dialogue, instead of just pointing fingers and making accusations!

Caramida said...

Jamie,

I firmly believe that excellent behavior should be rewarded and encouraged, so I am compelled to add another note to the chorus of voices who offer plaudits for a wonderful letter, as well as for your kind, thoughtful responses to the reactions your letter has inspired. Thank you. Please know that you are admired, and I look forward to reading more of your work.

Regards,

~c

Lou franklin said...

I will honor your request not to turn your comment section into a tug-of-war. So I have posted my response to http://loufranklin.blogspot.com/2008/07/uncle-jamies-disgrace.html

The Cat Herder said...

Caramida pointed me to the posting. It was very well written. Quite honestly, you gave the patron more attention than he deserved. I think it could have been three paragraphs, where you explain the process, explain that kids get books that challenge the status quo and that the complainer's kid already agrees with him/her.

What makes me nuts about folks like that is that they put the rest of the world on the defensive, as if we are supposed to think that their point of view about their invisible friends in the sky or their limited lifestyle sits in a rock-hard foundation and the rest of us have to scramble to explain ourselves.

Keep up the good work though. I'm convinved that librarians are the freedom fighters of the 21st century.

E. McGrew said...

I have to say that I have read your book, and the example letters found in that book as well as the letter printed here are wonderful examples of the RIGHT way to treat challenges. With respect and courtesy. I have recommended your book to all of my coworkers, and I will continue to recommend it to every librarian I meet.

Joe Kort said...

You deserve the fame as you did something very brave in our culture which wants to remove homosexuality from the eyes and ears of children--as if it is the plague!

I thank you so much for doing this so professionally. It brought attention to the book and for me as a gay uncle I plan to use it quite a bit :)

Warmly, Joe Kort

Jamie said...

It looks like 15 minutes of fame in the blogosphere lasts about 4 days. An interesting ride. My modest blog went from something like 12 hits a day, up to a staggering 4,000+, and will now, no doubt, return to the previous level.

Thank you, all, for your consideration and comments. This was a good education for me about the nature of "public discourse" online. It ranges far and wide; it is alternately courteous and judgmental; there are occasional links to spots where the discussion turns; it lapses into the vulgar and personal; it occasionally inspires. I wound up getting to have a conversation with the author of the book I defended (a first!), and got to plug my own book -- both unintended but welcome consequences.

In sum, it was kind of fun.

Again, thanks to all. And now...off to the next posting.

physioprof said...

Dude, came here via BitchPhD. You are a very patient and funny librarian. Your library is lucky to have you.

Chorus said...

Really and truly a wonderful response.

Charlotte said...

Dude, found you through Bitch Ph.D. and wow, what a fabulous read your letter is! Your patience with this kind of argument amazes me. Consider yourself bookmarked.

Ethnic Midget said...

Also found through Bitch PhD.

What a beautiful letter. The respect you showed this woman deserves all the praise in the comments.

Kelly said...

Jaime - I also found you through Bitch PhD, and wanted to add to the chorus of thanks for your thoughtful response. Kudos!

Neophyte said...

Now that is what librarianship is all about. Bravissimo, Jamie.

jean said...

Holy smokes, what a great response -- reasoned, patient, generous and thoughtful. Thanks for posting this.

SarahB said...

Really respectful and thoughtful response!

Mona Buonanotte said...

Also found you through Bitch PhD...you are my new hero. Your thoughtfulness and sincerity in handling this situation is inspirational. Thank you. Thank you.

Ben said...

Such a kind, thoughtful, useful letter. Thank you for sharing that.

Another response that all of us readers can have is to make sure our local libraries have this book. As pointed out in the letter, these are all good dialogues to have, and having this book in your local collection can help bring that about.

I've submitted an online "suggestion" that this book be added to the San Diego Public Library collection. I've found libraries to be very responsive to such requests. I hope some of you might also find the time to do this for your local library.

Thanks again to the author for sharing his letter.

(Here's a link to the SDPL request form, for those who also live in San Diego County: http://www.sandiego.gov/public-library/services/purchase.shtml)

Auntie Mame said...

Jamie,
Thanks for reminding why I am proud to be a librarian!!

Holly said...

Jamie- also wanted to mention that I found you through bitchPhD. Your responses-both to your patron and to some of the commenters on this post- are gracious, thoughtful, and respectful. We should all strive to think so clearly before we speak. Especially in antagonistic situations. I have a friend who just graduated with her Masters in library science and is accepting a position in a school library for the upcoming school year. I'll be sending her a link to your blog- I know that she'll enjoy it! Thank you.

LisaWV said...

I'm joining the chorus -- a very fine, reasonable and rational response to someone's intolerance. I am an English prof and a mom of two small children, and I am always looking for ways to use kid's lit to introduce complext adult ideas. Today my 8 yo heard something on NPR and asked me about "war crimes" -- aren't people in wars supposed to kill one another? Is that a crime? Ay yi yi, I did my best with that one. Top of the hour NPR news blurb, and suddenly I'm really longing for a children's book that talks about peace and justice, about human rights. Just because kids are kids does not mean that they all have blissful, bucolic lives filled with nothing but puppies and chocolate pudding. Sometimes they deal with tough emotions and difficult family issues. Books they can relate to help to normalize their experiences, to give them a reassuring nod that others go through the same things they go through. Some books are purely for fun, others help teach them about the world. There's room for all kinds of books, just as there is room for all kinds of people and many different beliefs.

I'll be looking for Uncle Bobby's Wedding soon for my own kids. About half of my colleagues are in committed same-sex relationships, and I like the way books like this counteract the Disney "someday my prince will come" message of compulsive heteronormativity.

bbybentley said...

What a nice letter...
I wanted to add if that's okay. I mean, I find it so crazy that people want to hide reality to their children. Lets be honest, if this is legal in some states, then it's going to grow and grow. Soon it may be legal in your state (if it isn't already) and your children will be exposed to it then in real life. A book will show them that this is real, and some kids maybe even their classmates could easily have two dads or two moms. These children that do have gay parents, already get enough teasing as it is, why not educate your child on the issue so they aren't one of the kids making fun because they don't know any better?!?!

akatchoom said...

Dear Jamie,

As a tutor for those with language-barriers (mostly dyslexia), it is up to me to select reading materials that will assist the struggling reader in their pursuit of literacy while engaging their interests.
I have not yet had any difficulty in explaining my chosen materials to parents- but I think this may be only a matter of time. In the coming year, I will be working with several middle-school and high-school aged readers. It is impossible for me to learn about each individual's family morals, and as I espouse freedom in reading choices, a concerned-parent conversation on this subject seems inevitable.
Your response to a concerned parent echoes the path I took with parents and educators when I worked at an outdoor science school, and was faced with arguments against evolutionary theory. One of my colleagues put it most gracefully, "You can only invite, it is the only way to respectfully engage."

Thank you for finding the good in that parent's letter. Acknowledgment is much more powerful than judgment.

Thank you,
Ariel

"Lady" Bea said...

What an awesome, intelligent response. I would never be able to be this measured and calm. Or classy.

dfinefish said...

Thank you for your articulate, respectful, even tempered, and balanced letter. I found a link here from Two Lives Publishing, and am glad to have had the opportunity to read your words, and all of the encouraging responses. It offers me hope.

maisydaze said...

Thanks so much for defending this book's right to "be"! This is a valuable book for every children's library.

This world is changing and we need to respect one another's diferences and not raise our children to be ingnorant adults. Even if folks don't agree with something that doesn't neccessarily mean that you shouldn't expose your children to the facts (age appropriate). For instance, I am an athiest but I want my children to learn about world religions. Knowledge opens our minds and open minds hopefully lead to less fear regarding different lifestyles.

Thanks again!

Jennifer said...

I hail from Canada and came via the Half-changed world blog. And I think this is a wonderful letter. Thank you for sharing it.

neetzy said...

Great letter Jamie,

The Cypressasianguy who disputed you is actually a gay guy looking for love. I think his letter is written sort of "Tongue in cheek" (?) You are very eloquent and tactful in your well-thought-out letter. I have difficulty with self-righteous bible thumpers whose lives are dictated by their preachers' interpretations of select bible passages. (At least they are reading). Thank you for being a model of tolerance and wisdom.

KTS said...

I applaud you, your letter, and your constant efforts to protect the freedom of speech and to learn.

Jamie said...

I guess the comments stop when people want to stop posting, not when I think they will.

I am frankly surprised by the many comments, and how positive they are. Maybe that indicates a growing desire for courteous communication, even between people who don't agree. I hope so.

Ksen said...

Oh wow!
I wish I'd seem this, or something comparably well reasoned and argued when I was taking my first American Government class back in sophomore year of college.

Carola said...

Eloquent and thoughtful. I wish everyone would be so well spoken when it comes to conflict and discussion.

OKP said...

BEST. LETTER. EVER.

Shannon said...

What a reasoned and respectful response. Thank you for sharing this with us. Librarians really are the guardians of our access to ideas.

If you want to see more literature like "Uncle Bobby's Wedding", go to the Rainbow Rumpus website at www.rainbowrumpus.org. Rainbow Rumpus is an online magazine for kids and youth with lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered parents. Kids and youth are able to see their own lives and families reflected in wonderful stories. In addition, kids and youth participate in the website including providing book reviews. What do kids think about the books they read? There's a review of "Uncle Bobby's Wedding" at http://www.rainbowrumpus.org/htm/ya_gallery.htm

Rebecca said...

Another wandering LiveJournalist- this was a beautifully reasoned and well-written letter. I saw above how long it took you- something tells me the previous drafts might have been closer in tone to your sparring partner Lou Franklin's posts. Librarians walk a fine line, and I don't envy you having to deal with some of this nonsense.

saraspeaking said...

Came over here from a crossposting on Alas, a Blog, and just wanted to thank you not only for your kind and validating response to this woman - but also for the great book recommendations! I've been searching for children's books that present gay relationships as normal for my baby registry so this post was super-helpful; thank her for passing along the recommendation for me, will you? :)

Zee said...

This is a well-crafted letter, and it would certainly make any debate teacher proud. My only criticism is I think it's a touch on the long side. I try to make my response letters to a challenge just one page. Writing more than one page seems like a defensive action to me. We do not need to feel defensive when parents write these letters. I think that all is required is a simple response that you have decided to keep the item. We can cite the fact that the library collects materials for differing viewpoints and leave it at that. We can also commend them for taking an interest in the materials their child reads and acknowledge the fact that we recognize the parents right to have difficult discussions with their child. We can also suggest they use this as a chance to have one of those discussions and teach the child the beliefs they hold dear. I think that's all that is required. The feeling I get from your letter is a touch of preachiness when you start talking about our founding fathers, etc. I think at that point you disengaged your reader. Just one opinion.

Jamie said...

zee: it's longer than my usual responses. Several things about the letter -- the timing of its introduction, the request for an email response rather than snail-mail -- led me to believe that it was part of an attempt to derail a library funding request. I thought it wise to be particularly comprehensive in my response to her points.

And of course, like most bloggers, I do like to write...

Donell said...

Outstanding reply. As another poster said, you make me proud to be a librarian! Thank you.

superad said...

Right on!

bmcdowell said...

Jamie, You're my hero. I spent thirty minutes on the phone today with a parent (at home, in summer) while she ranted about a book on my AP reading list that was "vulgar, crass, filthy, disgusting, and nauseating." Thanks for reminding me why we ignore personal attacks, cowardly board members, judgmental hypocrites, and narrow-minded adults to offer students challenging, complex, and thought provoking literature. We English teachers appreciate the brave librarians out there, even more than you know, who fight the good fight every day. I needed to hear this, and you said it so well.

Jender said...

I am in awe. A beautifully careful, well-reasoned response and a truly superhuman ability to stay nice. I try very hard on both of these, but come nowhere near.

redcloud said...

Wow. If only all such conflict in this country today could be handled so respectfully! Kudos.

Four Tails Lampwork said...

An incredibly thoughtful and superbly reasoned letter. You stated your points without a single phrase that could be read as a triumphant "gotcha!" statement. I will be interested to see what the response is.

Raquel said...

What a great letter! Librarians are awesome.

Chelle Cordero said...

This is a terrific letter and addresses the concerns of the parent thoroughly while not allowing her personal attitudes to dictate policy.

Great job!

Eric said...

I was wondering, does your Library carry a copy of "The Hoax of the Twentieth Century" by Northwestern University professor Arthur Butz? Why not? Not listing the book would seem to be a value judgement on your part.

clarkprice said...

I should imagine that (just like any library) the book would be obtained if requested.

Chuck said...

The hoax of the twentieth century by A. R. Butz was published in 1976 by the Institute for Historical Review. It would surprise me if *any* public library had this title, though my large research institution has two copies. It was a small, scholarly press item that would likely not have appealed to any public library selector at the time, and now, out of print for more than thirty years, would not be likely to be acquired.

I believe this is a straw-man argument, meant to imply that if a library has one, easily accessible but possibly controversial book, they should have every controversial book on every topic.

clarkprice said...

Of course, my comment still stands however. :) I try not to feed the trolls :)

Molly said...

Thanks for posting this!

I'm not a gay parent, but I want my son to grow up knowing that there isn't just one way to live, to be 'normal'. And, I know that putting books like this one in a special collection, or putting warning labels on them, is a surefire way to teach kids that something within their pages isn't quite right.

Eric said...

In reply to Chuck, The Hoax of the 20th Century was reprinted in 1990 and there is, in fact, a current edition. A quick search on the internet shows multiple vendors stocking it. Now, my question to Jamie still stands. Will you stock 'The Hoax of the 20th Century'? in your history department? Butz is every bit the accredited historian that say, Herododus was and I'll bet you stock Herododus in your history dept. Since I'm going to your library to fill out a formal request for the book, you can help me out. Am I wasting my time? Are you going to value-judge the book I request? Or are you really the free-speech militant you hold yourself up yo be?

Jamie said...

Eric: I'd go through the usual decision tree. Current book? No, but cited often enough, it seems, in the Holocaust denial literature. Have we had demand for the topic/title through other means (interlibrary loan requests) sufficient to justify the purchase of an older work? No, it hasn't been requested that way yet. Is it available from our usual vendors (from whom we are optimized to order and receive materials, and who offer us significant discounts)? As of this writing, it's not available from Ingram, Baker and Taylor. It's not even available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble. OK, is there some intrinsic value to the title? Well, the author wasn't an historian himself -- being, I believe, an electrical engineer -- and it appears to have been largely refuted by mainstream historians (see authors Zimmerman and others), although I don't consider myself an expert.

Bottom line: it appears to be an older, fringe, marginal, contrarian work, kind of like the works of Velikovsky -- once popular in libraries, but now mostly weeded out.

So no, I probably wouldn't buy it. Not so much because it violates some sort of politically correct taboo, but because its heyday has come and gone, and public libraries MOSTLY focus on popular or "authoritative" works (the ongoing consensus in various fields).

Incidentally, I've removed a couple of books that people have complained about for just these reasons: the book is beat up, dated, largely superseded, and doesn't get used enough to justify keeping it. We don't buy and keep everything -- we have neither money enough nor space. But we do try to be reasonably thoughtful and transparent about what we do have.

shadow said...

Being a librarian and a mother of a gay son, I wish 30 yrs ago we had books that dealt with alternative life styles. It might have helped my son and others better understand that we are all different in many ways. I make sure my library has as many books about sexuality for all readers, young, old, straight, gay, lesbian, transgender etc. Three cheers for "Uncle Bobby's Wedding".

Kathryn said...

What a wonderful letter you wrote. I hope that if I am ever in the position that I have to write reconsideration letters, I can write one as respectful and eloquent as this.

The Professor said...

Thank you so much. Reading this makes me proud to be a librarian and an American.

Timothy Barrington-Smythe said...

That was awesome! I wish there were more like you!

Ashley said...

amazing letter. issues like this one, and your response to them, is what makes me proud to have decided to pursue library sciences as my career.

i esp. enjoyed "The labeling issue is tricky, too: is the topic just homosexuality? Where babies come from? Authority figures that can't be trusted? Stepmothers who abandon their children to die?"

Heywood Mogroot said...

Seems that Jamie has to deal with a lot of children in his job, and I'm not talking about the young people that have to go to school every day.

Grimp0teuthis said...

Sir,

Please run for president. A calm, reasoned, informed, nuanced argument like the one you made in this post is rarity nowadays.

Brandy said...

Wonderful letter, thank you for posting it here in a public forum. I would hope that even those who may disagree with the subject matter in this particular instance, will agree that your arguments and decision are meet and just.

I could see this letter, its format and possibly verbiage, being used as a form for others who may need to respond to a request for censorship.

Thank you for your work!

japolo said...

that was fantastic! good for you!

Arpita said...

beautifully written...

Maya said...

cypressasianguy: "Mohammedan"? Seriously? I mean, seriously?

Matthew said...

Jamie,

At first glance, I found the fact that you posted a letter to a patron on the internet was highly unprofessional. I expected it to be self-tribute in the form of a pretentious customer-bashing letter.

But after reading your very articulate response, I understand why it was "dugg" and posted on mental floss. It's wonderfully nuanced, senstitive, and most importantly, didactic.

I also noticed that the tact you show in this letter was also present in your response to "Lou franklin," despite his obstinate, and (as you mentioned) non-evidenced contentions. Your consistent patience with both patron and polarized blogger further establishes the authenticity of this post to me.

Thank you for this insight. I hope you continue on your pursuit of free speech.

Cathleen said...

Dear Jamie,

I thoroughly enjoyed your letter and passed it on to my MLS toting sister.
"What harm has this book done to anyone? Your seven year old told you, “Boys are not supposed to marry.” In other words, you have taught her your values, and those values have taken hold. That's what parents are supposed to do, and clearly, exposure to this book, or several, doesn't just overthrow that parental influence." I think this might be the most important point that this woman will take away from your letter. Parents are their children's guides through life, their touchstones. While it may not have been "the type of conversation I thought I would be having with my seven year old in the nightly bedtime routine," for the patron, it was an important discussion to have. Just as conversations about strangers, teasing, violence and stealing are important. Your child wants to know what you think about an issue. Their life's focus is you. Someday they will make up their own mind and that is natural. Wouldn't it be in your best interest to have every discussion you can with them, to prepare them for the world?
Again, I appreciated the tone and thoughfulness behind your letter and hope that you are able to continue your quest to provide a comprehensive library collection.

John said...

A round of applause to you!

This was such a well written, wonderfully thought out letter. I very much enjoyed how you defended the book. Rather than defend with your own personal feelings, you took a step back, and analyzed it from a critical, objective point of view, and you did so very successfully. Like Voltaire, "I may not agree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death you're right to say it".

I'd be very interested to see the outcome of this, how the Board responds, and if you receive a letter or email back.

Again, kudos to you!

Chris said...

I was directed to this post via kottke.org. Beautiful words and a wonderful letter. Bravo indeed.

jrothstein said...

I am not a librarian, but I applaud this letter and its message. However, I found one small thing troubling, and it's a shame, because this seems to be the passage that's going around on other blogs:

"I fully appreciate that you, and some of your friends, strongly disagree with its viewpoint."

This sentence unnecessarily creates an "us and them" relationship. Wouldn't "I fully appreciate that you, and some other members of our community, strongly disagree with its viewpoint" be a better choice?

I believe that libraries act as pillars for communities, and that librarians, like teachers, have an assumed role as community leaders. Up until this sentence, your letter engaged Ms. Patron citizen to citizen; but with this one sentence, a wall went up.

Just a thought to add to this lively discussion...

Kathryn said...

Mr. LaRue,

I was directed here through a great website - mental_floss. They often direct me to great information I might otherwise not see, and expand my consciousness daily. It is not often, though, that I comment on these new insights I find.

You sir, I must say first, have a wonderful command over the art of writing a letter - something that is quickly becoming a lost concept in modern society. It is certainly clear that you spent a great deal of effort to respond in an un-biased, concise, thoughtful, and educated manner. I find it a shame in reading some of the comments that certain people found it to read as 'talking down,' to your intended audience. It is an absolute shame that some people find that if you don't dumb down your words, that you are somehow haughty or egotistical, etc.

That being said, Bravo! Your response is no less than the perfect one for this matter. I agree with you whole heartedly about the vision our Founding Father's had for the USA, that as Americans, we are unique in that we are granted and indowed with inalienable rights. The First Ammendment is an amazing thing in and of itself, and unique to the US. It is what makes us who we are as Americans, it is what makes us different from all other countries. It is what makes me proud to be an American, especially today, when we should be reminded constantly how deeply and profoundly priveledged we are when international news reports are filled to the brim with stories of men and women in other countries are being punished-even with cruel death sentences-for simple thoughts expressed, words spoken.

I could go on for ages about how American citizens are often forgetful about how lucky they are that our Forefathers instilled these rights for us, to keep us free men.

One more thought though. It seems to me that the parent who requested this response from you could have kept this incident from ever happening if she had just paid more attention to her child. Where was she when this book was loaned from the library? Where was she when this book was chosen by her child?

It seems that American's that want censorship of things (and this includes all media, TV, radio, movies, literature...) are only looking for a way out of doing what is fundamentally their job. Raising children. What is the need for censorship of anything, if a parent is around and attentive?

To me, it seems that if this parent had simply spent the time with their child in choosing books from the library, this whole situation could have been avoided. A parent is supposed to guide a child. Not the government. It DOES NOT take a village. All it takes is good, old fashioned PARENTING. An attentive parent can help choose books they deem appropriate. An attentive parent can change the channel when they don't approve of the content.

Are we losing, as a society, that fundamental familial aspect?

Jemaleddin said...

Your response, shorter:

Dear closed-minded busy-body,

Free Speech: You're doing it wrong.

Hugs and kisses,

The Librarian

betty.noir said...

Brilliant, thoughtful, and kind reply. But as to the "beliefs of our founding fathers," Ms. Patron may want to do a little reading up on those:

"Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law." - Thomas Jefferson

"The experience of the United States is a happy disproof of the error so long rooted in the unenlightened minds of well-meaning Christians, as well as in the corrupt hearts of persecuting usurpers, that without a legal incorporation of religious and civil polity, neither could be supported. A mutual independence is found most friendly to practical Religion, to social harmony, and to political prosperity." - James Madison

"Every man, conducting himself as a good citizen, and being accountable to God alone for his religious opinions, ought to be protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience." - George Washington

wkuhns said...

Jamie, thank you for writing such an excellent letter.

Your letter has been posted on Reddit and Digg. I don't imagine your 15 seconds of fame are over yet!

icemonkey said...

as Mary said, on July 16th,
parents have every right to exercise control over what their children read.

what they have *no* right to do, is exercise control over what *other people's* children read; a point that is frequently overlooked, and which was nicely (albeit indirectly) covered in this excellent letter, in its points about freedom to read, and freedom of access.

i have a gay classmate who is married to his partner. they have adopted a baby. because it is still fairly uncommon to have two daddies, their little girl will *need* books that allow her to see that she is not alone.

orwelludel said...

Frankly i think that the whole tone of the letter is kinda douche-y. Particularly the casual way in which you noted that you wrote a book about the founders. As an exercise in your superior reasoning, I guess the letter is a success.

Sapphireblue said...

Thanks so much for a thoughtful response to the original complaint. You're an inspiration to those of us who find it hard to respond to folks with these kinds of viewpoints as if they're smart like regular people. Like orwelludel up there---I just want to pinch his cheeks and tell him he's *adorable*.

Amanda said...

Jamie, you're aware by now, I'm sure, that you were posted on mental_floss this morning. I expect the second (third? fourth?) tidal wave of comments is about to hit your blog. Nonetheless, I had to leave my own comment.
I wish that every disagreement in the public and political sphere could be handled with the grace you have shown with your letter, and subsequent responses to bloggers who adamantly disagree with you. It has long been my stance that people on the other side of any discussion spectrum are not the enemy- they are our best asset. If you go through life without ever having your beliefs authentically challenged, how will you ever grow and strengthen as an individual? If you were to apply that to the larger scale of politics- if the left and right can't learn to respect each other, instead of just name calling and accusation throwing, how will our nation ever grow and strengthen?
Your letter was thoughtful and, hopefully, thought provoking. Thank you so much for posting it!

Clint said...

It has been quite awhile since I've read such a well-balanced and sensitive response to what is quite an explosive issue. Kudos.

Bob said...

Great letter...I just wanted to echo what AnnaMeemousse. As a conservative Christian I find the freedom of information provided by libraries an essential piece of the American identity and also an important aspect of maintaining religious freedom--including those groups that might be considered "fringe."

What I gather from your letter, and what I hope your correspondent--and those posting comments--understand is that you would be argue just as strongly for the inclusion of a children's book that depicts gay marriage as abnormal/sinful. I thank you for this attitude that allows open discussion of all sides of a particular issue and allows access to materials for even those who disagree with you.

BadPxy said...

Hi Jamie,

I got here via kottke, so you may get even more visitors now.

Your letter is wonderful. Thank you for such a rational discussion of the value of being exposed to different points of view, even those some people think are wrong.

(I was even more glad that rational discussion still exists after I hopped over to the comments thread of lou franklin's post!)

As you pointed out to the patron, she has done a good job of teaching her daughter her values, and that has not been destroyed by the storybook.

Elizabeth said...

Sir,

Thank you.

efh115 said...

::hops on the band wagon::

I agree with the 99% of people above that your response is of the highest quality. I think it is our duity to pass on to those around us works of art such as your letter here. Thank you for providing the letter's target audience with a dose of perspective, something we all could use a little more of. Thank you for using your command of the English language to great effect.

Philip said...

Jamie,

If only we could all argue our point of view with the diplomancy you demonstrated in your letter, I think conflicts would be short lived.

Great post!

Occula said...

Wonderfully done. Bravo.

Pazu said...

You have done what a librarian should do, by defending others' rights of reading.

Incidentally, in my local library (well... the largest library in Hong Kong which claimed to have a collections of over 12.1 million items) banned some magazines from the shelf simply because of complaints from a few.

These magazines are nothing political, simply some tabloid magazines digging out stories of the celebrities, but if they could ban these tabloid magazines, were they going to ban something more important to us in the future?

While the Hong Kong government categorized these magazines as Cat II (something like PG-13), the librarians were still frightened of the complaints.

I'm thinking of writing the library in Hong Kong a letter to tell them what they should do to defend others' rights of reading.

And thank you for your insightful letter.

Simon said...

@Timothy Travaglini
One is distressed that a senior editor would not be able to discern between illusions and allusions.

WaterfordCrystal24 said...

Dear Sir:

As a library and information science student, may I say that your letter impressed me and overwhelmed me. If I am ever faced with having to write such a letter, I will remember the one you wrote and try to rise to the occasion!!!!!

The freedom to read (the statement and the principle) is grand! Thank you for upholding it!

Spherical Time said...

Good letter, but the first response to Lou was as good or better.

Found through a (declined) fark link.

Tony said...

Solid, well-reasoned content, but I found it overlong and condescending. You would have shown a great deal more respect to the patron by remembering Shakespeare's dictum that "brevity is the soul of wit."

Most of the folks fawning over the post reveal their own prejudices by marveling at your patience when confronted by a "small-minded Christian bigot", whom they would have dismissed with a rather more blunt retort.

As an editor myself, I've been known to make grammatical and other errors of taste and judgment, so I felt a twinge of sympathetic schadenfreude when I saw Timothy Travaglini's (Senior Editor at G. P. Putnam's Sons) misuse of the word "allusions" in his comments:

"As the editor of UNCLE BOBBY'S WEDDING, I knew it was only a matter of time before it was formally challenged. And I had no allusions about librarians such as yourself serving as the shock troops..."

The karma coming back to me for pointing that out will not be pretty.

Josh said...

Maybe we could compromise? Require that every library that has a copy of "Uncle Bobby's Wedding" also have a copy Chick Publication's "The Gay Blade."

https://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0084/0084_01.asp

Then they might cancel each other out. It's a win-win for libraries everywhere!

Michael Leddy said...

I found this post via kottke.org. I hope that librarians everywhere (I'm not one) read it and are inspired to show the same kind of well-reasoned resistance to book challenges.

Don said...

I spent the majority of my career making public presentations and negotiating on behalf of clients whose only instructions were "...tell him to go screw himself...." You have far surpassed my meager ability to present a calm, rational and polite response to an difficult issue.

I salute you.

Dr. Farfignewton Chinchilla said...

Thanks for writing this! A thoughtful and careful response that I wish we all could emulate when faced with divergent beliefs/ideas.

Simon said...

Normally, I would never point out another person's mistakes. I think it's incredibly trivial and arrogant. However when that person is an editor, irony takes the upper-hand. Peril of the job I suppose.

winkingstar said...

This is so thoughtfully and tactfully written. As a current library science student, this makes me giddy with pride in joining a profession that defends our rights to read (and have access to) what we choose. Thank you so much for sharing.

kris said...

A must read for anyone that needs a refresher course in civics...

thank you!

Bob Kowalski said...

I find out about books written for children because of these controversies. It's how I foundnd out about And Tango Makes Three. A couple of other books on evolution & atheism for children.

I'll see if my local library has it, and if not then I'll request it.

Jess Green said...

Just a brilliant response to a request for censorship. I am forwarding this to all my friends at library school.

Janiece Murphy said...

I am pleased and proud to be a card-carrying patron of Douglas County Libraries. Go, Jamie!

Rest assured that there at least some members of your constituency who strongly support your position.

Jamie said...

Welcome folks from kottke.org and mental floss -- now I have even more places to investigate!

Again, thanks for the kind words. And for those who find things to criticize: good for you. A reason to put efforts like this out in the public eye is to help all of us learn to be clearer and kinder communicators. Your responses are useful.

Eric said...

Thank you. That was a considerate and thoughtful response to the library patron, and an example of the tone and intelligence that should dominate national discussion about these matters but is regrettably rare these days.

Delia said...

Your response was well-thought, well-written, and sensitive to all points-of-view, including the patron who raised the objections. Thank you for sharing!!

Mel said...

G'day Jamie,

I just thought you'd be happy to know that your letter has gone global! I'm in Brisbane, Australia, so guess what? You're really famous now! :-)

Also, well done! Your letter will go down in history as one of the best rejection letters ever written! If I were Ms Patron, I would have no motivation or grounds to appeal your decision because everything you said made sense! So you did your job, and very well, too!

And finally, you'll have to forgive Lou Franklin. He is everything you are not - narrow minded and self-righteous. His "arguments" are solely based on "because I'm right and you're wrong." How can you argue with such ignorance? I think it's best we just ignore him...

As a Mum (oops, sorry, I mean "Mom"), I believe a child's education on issues such as homosexuality (and abortion, suicide, divorce, death, sex, etc, etc) is best done by the (hopefully open-minded, educated) parent(s), and not on the school grounds in the form of Chinese Whispers or name-calling, which results in mis-education, which then leads to prejudice by way of ignorance (maybe this happened to Lou?)...

So anyway, I agree that it's important that all kinds of books are available in libraries. I as the parent will censor my children's books based on what I deem is appropriate - it's not the library's job to do that. So thank you again for your letter, and good luck with your future endeavours!

For other readers / commenters, G'day from Down Under!! Have a good one!

Cheers,
Melissa :-)

erin said...

Thank you for posting this. I found my way over here from kottke.org, and wanted to let you know that I'm saving this letter to refer to the next time I'm writing a letter or report of my own, especially regarding such a loaded and charged issue. What remarkable tact and grace. I admire your dedication to freedon of speech and information, and your respect for the feelings of the complainant.

Matt Warnock said...

That is an incredibly well thought out and reasoned response. Hopefully the respondee will see this and understand the library's reason for keeping the book.

Jeremy Rice said...

Chiming in with the cheering, courtesy of the Skepchick blog.

Good form, sir! Good form.

...I do agree with a few commenters who point out that saying "If it's legal, then how could writing a book about it be inappropriate?" may have been a mistake. ...But I'll forgive you on that one. ; )

Again, sir: kudos. Inspirational response.

Chris, The Book Swede said...

Chiming in with the Skepchick support -- though I've visited this post several times from *very* different places :)

Donna Barr said...

Here is the simple answer to these questions:

Race, sex and who we love are Rights of Being

Religion is a Right of Choice.

A Right of Choice must never trump a Right of Being; we are not allowed to vote black people out of our neighborhoods because they're not of our religion, or vote on whether or not women get to vote.

We do not choose whom to love; it's a personal situation, and nothing anyone can help. We love whom we love. This is a Right of Being.

Always, when deciding whether or not it is appropriate to punish or marginalize part of the American population, ask if it is a question of a Right of Choice or of Being.

momo said...

I found your letter via Kottke.org.

Thanks for sharing this model of civility and professional responsibility. I am the mother of a 13-year old who is blessed to have two dads: her biological father and his spouse (they are legally married now in her biological father's country of origin). She has grown up with the love of three extended families, and the devotion of two exemplary fathers. When she was very small, I went looking for books that might show stories of "families like ours" (to cite Abigal Garner's wonderful book about children with GLBT parents), and there were very few. I am glad there are more, and that I can find them at my library and bookstore.
One thing that some parents may not appreciate is that children with gay parents are the classmates of their children. My daughter's teachers and classmates have always known us as a complete family. I believe that the fact that we are out and involved in her school contributes to the fact that she has not experienced bullying at the hands of classmates; they know us. Kids don't have to go to the library to learn that there are families like mine, but a thoughtful book that includes a topic like the marriage of two men might be the moment for a conversation between parent and child about respect in spite of differences.

Thank you for providing a space in your comments for readers to share their thoughts as well.

Tyedie said...

Thank you for this.

moxiousmonkey said...

That is truly a thing of beauty.

Thank you.

Jeff said...

This is a beautiful, wonderful letter that deserves to be widely shared. Even if it doesn't change the recipient's mind, it will change lots of other people's minds -- or, at the very least, pick at their carefully arranged worldviews.

CitizenRobots said...

A wonderful response! It's a shame to think that the woman who received this letter maybe didn't read it all the way to the end. Intolerance is like a plastic bag over your head. Fight the bagheads!

Esther said...

Just wanted to add my voice to the chorus of praise. What an awesome response - eloquent and reasoned. I've been passionate about books ever since I was a kid, and dedicated librarians have played a big role in nurturing that passion. So, thank-you. I'm so glad this book is available for families that want to read it.

mockstar said...

Maybe librarians should listen to this:

http://www.myspace/gayamerican

You should, at least.

AF said...

Dear sir,

As a former librarian, I applaud your letter.

I was an international graduate student who spent the last two years in the United States. While I have many fond memories, I found the abundance of conflict instead of discussion regrettable. In this respect your letter is a fine example of the manner in which people should engage in discussion.

In regards to some previous comments by fellow readers of your blog, I would like to add that the plurality of ideas is paramount - I am confident that the Bible is just as readily available as the book in question.

I have spent my life in countries which have various religious majorities: Christian, Buddhist, and Muslim. Few people realize the dangers of declaring a country being founded on "Judeo-Christian values" until they are in a semi-theocratic country where someone else is in the religious majority. As a Catholic, I therefore place the freedom of ideas far above the promotion of the ideas of my own faith - especially as there is a plurality of beliefs even in one individual faith.

All the best to you, sir, and cheers once again to your example of professional discourse.

Michael said...

Allow me to suggest a slightly divergent point of view from most of what has been said here.

First of all, the letter of response is an excellent piece of prose, and makes a nice article (or at least blog post). It's articulate, well reasoned, and well supported both in rhetoric of argumentation and by reference to external authorities.

On the other hand, though, I worry that you have dignified (by length and elegance of response) a complaint that should now be relegated to the margins, not the mainstream. While the politics of this particular situation may have required this mode of response (i.e., complainers can make trouble for librarians), in a more general sense it seems to me that it is desirable to take a firmer stand: perhaps religiously-driven anti-gay bigotry is not a position that should be dignified with a reasoned and uncritical response.

Jamie said...

A couple of comments. First, the link from mockstar should have been:
http://www.myspace.com/gayamerican

I listened to a country western song about the gay agenda there that was pretty funny. Thanks.

Second, michael's point is an interesting one. There are people who claim the Holocaust never happened. There are people who seriously advance "intelligent design" as a scientific theory, a true alternative to evolutionary theory. But I'll be blunt: the Holocaust did happen. (I was just talking to someone who recently visited the Eisenhower presidential library. When Eisenhower liberated some of the concentration camps in Germany, he made the local elected officials tour the camps; each cell, each shower, every corner. He made them carry the bodies to graves. He invited newsmen in to exhaustively photograph everything. Here's a true fact: the mayor and wife outside one camp committed suicide that night, horrified by their ignorance and tacit support of this travesty.)

"Intelligent design" doesn't articulate anything that can be tested through experiment; it isn't science. If a theory doesn't have any testable predictions, it's not a theory at all. That's the fundamental definition of science.

So here are the choices: a dignified silence when someone states one of these falsehoods; a refusal to even discuss. I know some folks choose that.

Here's another: build a careful, thoughtful, and comprehensive case, based on the evidence. Refute the falsehood; document the evidence. Make it widely available. It doesn't have to be done every time. It can be created a couple of times, then cited by others. But make it clear and focused enough so that the person encountering the arguments for the first time can "get it."

Here's a third: angrily refute each occurrence with nasty personal attacks.

I'm simplifying the choices, but here's what I honestly believe: the second choice is best. There are a lot of things I don't know very much about. I might spout off some ill-informed opinion at any moment.

When that happens, I would hope that someone would link to something that would let me know, without publicly humiliating me too much, that I hadn't done my homework, that better information is available.

So here are two hard truths.

1. The opinions michael says are marginal are in fact quite common. Ignoring them doesn't seem like an effective strategy to change that.

2. Refuting falsehoods just once doesn't take care of the problem.

So here's my stand: have the courage and the confidence to recognize that some illnesses have to be resisted your whole life long. The immune system of a society is at least as complex as the immune system of our bodies.

Arla said...

Just wanted to let readers of this list know that there's a new list of recommended GLBT books for children ages birth to 18 being published each year now. It's called the Rainbow List and is being compiled by 14 librarians who are sponsored by the Social Responsibilities Round Table and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Round Table of the American Library Association.

To view the list and to get more info about good books for children, please visit the ALA blog:

http://blogs.ala.org/glbtrt.php?title=full_rainbow_list_now_available&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1

Thanks, Arla Jones
Librarian in Lawrence, Kansas

ammouth said...

Just for the record, the Library Bill of Rights is a scam, an invented manifesto making claims against the owners of the library, the taxpayers. A library isn't a repository of truth. A librarian isn't a warrior against ignorance, and books have no rights at all. Libraries are a public convenience...a utility, at best...a welfare lending service at worst. Public libraries, which were begun by public spirited donors have devolved into just another branch of the professional whiner’s class, claiming entitlements and protections previously held by citizens under the protection of the Constitution. Public libraries are now just tax subsidized competition against bookstores, video stores and internet providers. Touted as necessary conduits of civilization to the poor, welfare state book pushers fling guilt trips upon anyone who has caught onto the scam.

Rights belong to the owners, to the taxpayers. The 1st Amendment belongs to authors and publishers, not to welfare book stores or librarians with delusions of grandeur.

The opinions of librarians regarding definitions of family, rights, sexuality etc. are about as relevant to the culture war as those of the nice man who reads the water meter on my house. Our response to his opinions should be, "That's very interesting, but if I want your opinion, I'll give it to you".

Self-anointed spokesman equipped with self-invented declarations of bogus rights should be responded to similarly.

The public has no obligation to provide any book at any time for anybody. The service provided by the public welfare bookstore is a mere privilege which can be amended at any time by the public...for whatever reason the majority wishes. If a librarian wishes to be the dispenser of truth, or to be a warrior in culture war, let him open his own bookstore with his own coin. A blog would be a good start :) as long as I don't have to subsidize it.

Buffy said...

Excellent, comprehensive response. I don't imagine the patron had any loopholes for a rebuttal.

Jamie said...

ammouth: I disagree (big surprise, eh?) with most of what you say. My reasons are all over my blog. But I wanted to respond to one of your comments.

You see the library as "mere privilege which can be amended at any time by the public...for whatever reason the majority wishes." Consider this: James Madison said at the introduction of the First Amendment that the greatest danger to liberty is to be found "in the body of the people, operating by the majority against the minority." Libraries help preserve our liberty in many ways, but one of them is by assembling enough evidence for people to make up their own minds about things. The evidence matters.

Joe Kort said...

Jamie,

An earlier posting wondered if you would approve of a book that was the counterpoint to "Uncle Bobby's Wedding". They thought that if you would support a pro-gay book would you support the opposite.

I purchased your book, "The New Inquisition: Understanding and Managing Intellectual Freedom Challenges" and read in it that, in fact, you do support a book called, "Alfie's Home" by Richard A. Cohen and have it in your library.

I was glad to hear it.

I don't condone anything that is anti-gay or hateful and filled with prejudice. However I agreed with what you wrote in your book which is there needs to be a place for those who question their homosexual impulses when they are not about a gay identity but rather a homosexual impulse from something like sexual trauma.

You truly are the type of man who can see both sides and weighs things very carefully and I admire you even more now!

vjbaptiste2 said...

Oy. I tried to read all the comments to make sure I wouldn't be treading on any well-traveled ground, but there are so many that make the same point: this is perhaps the best way you or anyone could have engaged this woman, and that if at this point she still wishes to continue jousting at windmills it won't be for lack of you pointing her down a more productive path.

The few comments herein that refuse to acknowledge the basic truths to your argument are initially infuriating, but in the end just sad. I wonder whether it's of any use pointing out all the great works of literature that have been hidden from view by the overzealous on both sides of the fence, only to be later recognized as the essential works they are. Not that I believe UNCLE BOBBY'S WEDDING to be such a work, but that point is moot.

As a point of some personal revelation, my sister, after 14 years of marriage and one son, came out several years ago. I am happy to report that she and her ex-husband had about as amicable a divorce as one could hope, that they continue to share very equal custody of my nephew, and that my nephew has not been "twisted" by this experience; in fact, my sister acknowledges that he's probably the most heterosexual boy she could have ever had. She has since "remarried" (quotes only because it's not yet a legal right in NY state) a wonderful woman with whom she is very much in love. Though she and I have our differences, anyone whose favorite fairytale informs their opinion that my sister isn't due just as much respect, legal and otherwise, as any other adult in love, or that somehow my nephew ought to be shielded from genuine love of this particular sort, should not be disparaged, but also should not be considered any authority on taste, etiquette or morals.

So, at risk of redundancy, thank you, Jamie.

Incidentally, though I am not interested in debating the merits pro or con that particular issue, in response to Lou Franklin's "what next?" proposition, there is in fact a children's book on the topic of marijuana named "It's Just A Plant." When I hear such arguments out of his type, I wonder whether he's just a plant, too.

mb said...

Your letter has already become a resource for me. The careful articulation and patient tone are something I struggle with and aspire to adopt. Kudos.

Bradley said...

Brilliant! Not only do I love the letter, but I love how much response it has engendered. Thank you!

senormedia said...

Jamie FTW.


Nicely done.

ammouth said...

Jamie,

You're doin' it again. You equate the activities a government book store with those of individuals. A public library isn't a person. A public library isn't a citizen. A public library has no first Amendent rights. Because a public library contains the rightings of liberty, doesn't make the library the repository of liberty.

The "right to read" isn't the same as the rights acknowleged under the Constitution. Even if such a right exists, doesn't obligate anyone to buy anyone a book or lend him one at the taxpayer's expenspense.

Technology has made most libraries obsolete anyhow....sorry. And you guys demanding "rights" while pushing welfare book stores into the crosshairs of the culture war will make more and more taxpayers aware of how dispensible you guys are...

senormedia said...

>Technology has made most libraries obsolete anyhow

Really?

I've got dozens of video titles that are out of print and unavailable commercially.

Books? Try to get a copy of the older sacred harp songbooks.

I've got city records dating back to the 1700's - not available online, that's for sure.

Jamie said...

ammouth: I'm not quite sure what your perspective has to do with the issue at hand. A patron complained about the library owning a particular book. I told her why the library bought it, and why I believed we should retain it. It's hard to exercise individual First Amendment rights if materials are officially censored by government agencies like libraries. That doesn't make libraries people; but institutions do take actions.

By way of following my own advice, let me link to one of my other blog entries that directly addresses, with evidence, many of your critiques of libraries. I assume, of course, that you're actually interested in evidence, not just wanting to argue for the heck of it.

http://jaslarue.blogspot.com/2008/05/why-public-libraries-matter.html

Beyond that, I wonder how a library can AVOID being caught in the crosshairs of the culture wars. Have no materials at all about popular topics? In the first place, I don't think that's possible. In the second place, what's the point?

YNL said...

Well spoken, well said! I reviewed this book a while ago and thought it was a TERRIFIC book for kids about life milestones and changing relationships - and we really don't have enough of those.

http://pinkpicks.blogspot.com/2008/04/uncle-bobbys-wedding-by-sarah-s-brannen.html

I was kind of sad that such a broadly useful book was going to get bogged down by a "values" discussion. Those gay hamster boys look so happy!

Yaz said...

Just a note for cypressasianguy - there is no such thing as a "Mohammaden". People who follow the religion of Islam are called Muslims, not Mohammadens.

I am one - a Muslim, that is, NOT a Mohammaden - and I totally support Jamie's thoughtful defence of "Uncle Bobby's Wedding" and its place in public libraries. Well done.

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