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Bookworm at Edwards CO signing

 On October 6, 2023, I had the pleasure of doing a book signing (for On Censorship: A Public Librarian Examines Cancel Culture in the US ) at the Bookworm bookstore in Edwards, CO. Owned and operated by Ali Teague, the Bookworm is a find, spacious, inviting, and well-stocked. I gave a short reading, a longer talk, and enjoyed the lively Q and A. Thanks to Ali, the good folks and Fulcrum Publishing, and all attendees!
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The enemies of literature

Every year, apologists for the restriction of reading stumble over themselves to "mock" Banned Books Week. Walther (Oct 1, 2023's " The Enemies of Literature ") upholds the grand tradition. Complaints about banning, the argument goes, are simply false. Walther writes, "In zero cases since the advent of Banned Books Week has a local or state ordinance been passed in this country that forbids the sale or general possession of any of the books in question." Yet Texas HB 900 was passed on June 13 of this year. It requires book vendors to assign ratings to books based only on the presence of depictions or references to sex. If a book is "sexually explicit" and has no direct connection to required curriculum, it must be pulled from the school. (One wonders what happens to the Bible, and its story of Lot's daughters, first offered by their father for gang rape, and whom he later sleeps with.) In Arkansas, legislation stated that school and pu

My book is out!

I am thrilled to report that my book, On Censorship: A Public Librarian Examines Cancel Culture in the US is now available. Many thanks to the extraordinary folks of Fulcrum Publishing. At every step of the process, they have been insightful, constructive, and a pleasure to work with. I would like to call out, in particular, Sam Scinta, Alison Auch, and Kateri Kramer. Sam reached out to me at the beginning, Alison greatly improved my drafts, and Kateri has been invaluable in booking various speaking gigs since then. Maybe every author is like this, but now that it's out, all I can see are the things I got wrong. When you write something, you know what you meant, and totally overlook those spots where you mumbled or misstyped. Fulcrum editors caught most of the goofs, but I managed to slip a few past them. As many authors have noted before me, all the mistakes are mine. I'm also chagrined that some of my edits apparently remained in my drafts, and never got forwarded to Fulcrum

Caring for our leaders

One day I was visited by a gentlemen who worked for a non-profit in the Midwest. His organization had formed to address a recurrent problem. The pattern looked like this: A fantastic new leader showed up in the community. That meant the community was able to recruit good leaders! The new leader hit the ground running, quickly forming key connections, and tackling significant issues. The new leader, responding well to early challenges, became the go-to person for other challenges. Slowly, the new leader's plate got full. Then over-full. Then way over-full. Then the leader burned out. Maybe there was a half-hearted attempt to get away for a while--a vacation, a sabbatical. But more often, he or she just imploded. There were substance abuse issues, broken relationships, or some kind of community scandal. But the root problem wasn't any of those things. The problem was that the community saved up all their problems for the new person, then kept piling them on until something broke.

Public Trust and Patron Privacy

[on behalf of the Colorado Association of Libraries Future Interest Group] In a recent Youtube presentation on the public good, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich cited a startling statistic. Public confidence that government did the right thing all or most of the time fell from 71% in 1963 to 16% in 2016. That was before Donald Trump became president. Pick an institution–the church, the Supreme Court, public schools, Congress, television news–and the general trend seems pretty clear. Confidence in institutions is falling across the board. There are outliers, but after reviewing this Gallup report , I can’t help but wonder how America’s libraries are doing. Today we’re witnessing the greatest surge of book challenges since the founding of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom in 1967. Some of these campaigns are certainly coordinated, but it’s not always clear by whom. These challenges aren’t just against particular titles or themes (although most of them focus on books by or abou

New chapter: Garfield County Public Library District

As of May 2, 2022, I have the distinct privilege of being the Executive Director of the Garfield County (Colorado) Public Library District . This post is a kind of summary of my feelings about that. This marks a new chapter in my life, stepping back into public library administration under very different circumstances than before. I feel called to it. The Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys are extraordinarily beautiful. I have barely begun to explore the thousands of miles of trails in the area. I love it. The views. The air. And a more subtle life of sound and smell. Of water and wildlife. Natural beauty brings and keeps a lot of folks here. In my first three weeks on the job, I interviewed 51 of our 68 staff. Leadership begins with listening. They had a lot to say. They were thoughtful, insightful, and resilient. It's been a tough couple of years. Here's my takeaway: we're poised on the edge of greatness. The service ethic, the passion, the connection to community, i

Corrections to my quote

A few weeks ago, it turns out, I had walking pneumonia. Then I was contacted by a journalist for the Deseret Magazine for some comments about the sharp rise of book challenges across the country. In response to one of his questions, I said something that bordered on incoherence. That happens sometimes when you're quoted. (Maybe it happens more often when you have pneumonia.) I don't blame the author, who doublechecked the recording. I blame me. I conflated two things I think into one mismash that I don't. So I wanted to clarify my comments. I was trying to speak about two kinds of challenges: the ones that try to reduce the real horror of slavery and racism portrayed in Beloved by Toni Morrison to nothing more than "too sexy," and the ones that paint the whole of another work, The Little House in the Prairie books, for instance, as being comprehensively racist, when that isn't the point of those works, either. In the end, most censorship challenges are redu