Mayor's decision raises issues of priorities at City Hall

Houston Chronicle looks at Mayor Bill White's decision to restrict public library access to a sexually charged tome. The editorial says It would have been more appropriate for the mayor to have applied the same sense of urgency to appointing a special investigator to sort out the Houston Police Department crime lab mess and leave the selection or rejection of books to professional librarians. After all, the citizens who elected Bill White undoubtedly voted for his financial expertise and ability to make the city run smoothly, not his personal opinions about which public library books should be kept under lock and key.

"Now we know what it takes to get the administration of Mayor Bill White to bypass committees, task forces and established procedures in favor of taking immediate action. Judging by the hubbub surrounding porn queen Jenna Jameson's autobiography, How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: a Cautionary Tale, to jump-start the mayor, just have a city councilmember complain about a sexually provocative book in the city library."

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Yes, but all the citizens of Houston can relax knowing that they have been protected from finding themselves seuxally aroused. God knows we wouldn't want THAT.

how it looks depends on where you stand

"It would have been more appropriate for the mayor to have applied the same sense of urgency to appointing a special investigator to sort out the Houston Police Department crime lab mess and leave the selection or rejection of books to professional librarians. After all, the citizens who elected Bill White undoubtedly voted for his financial expertise and ability to make the city run smoothly..." [emphasis mine]

Maybe he was focusing his financial eye on why "professional librarians" are getting paid to make such bad decisions.

Re:how it looks depends on where you stand

What made the selection of that book a bad decision?

Re:how it looks depends on where you stand

Whether the selection of it was good or bad is open to debate. Making it accessible to anyone regardless of age is a bad decision.

Re:how it looks depends on where you stand

If the book is put on the regular adult non-ficton shelves, open to all, what is, in your opinion, likely to happen that would require the book to be restricted?

Re:how it looks depends on where you stand

1. That it lowers the bar in terms of what is considered appropriate in a public library's open collection.

2. That anyone under 18 would ever base a future sex, career, or reading related decision based on it.

Re:how it looks depends on where you stand

I can understand #1 to a point. However, I think of it as making more available what members of our community want to read.

I don't think that one book, all on its own, is capable of doing that. The opposite could be equally true, and equally valuable. Someone reading the book may decide that they would never base their future sex, career, or reading matieral based upon the book. It is impossible to determine the effect that one book, any book, is going to have upon an individual. I don't believe that you can even make a good guess of what effect the book can have on someone reading it. We all come to books with a different set of experiences and expectations. Those experiences and expectations are what might give the book meaning to us, and help (or hurt) us in the decisions we make. To restrict a book based upon the remote (in my opinion) possibility that it will cause harm is to set librarians up as somehow more knowledgeable about what is good for out patrons and what is not. That is not power I wish to give to my librarian, or my mayor.

Removing the book from the general adult non-ficton area prevents patrons from browsing that topic area and discovering the book for themselves. Unless they have heard of the book, they will not look for it, or find it. I think they are restricting a book not based on any facts, but based upon a lot of supposition.

Re:how it looks depends on where you stand

What are you talking about? The library is not the be-all-end-all, simply because we don't have it doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Nice avoidance of the second point btw.

Re: simply because we don't have it

"simply because we don't have it doesn't mean it doesn't exist"Right, that's if it doesn't exist in the Google index it doesn't exist! Google == everything.

Re:how it looks depends on where you stand

I thought I had addressed the point with: "It is impossible to determine the effect that one book, any book, is going to have upon an individual. I don't believe that you can even make a good guess of what effect the book can have on someone reading it." Or simply put, It would be a shame if someone under the age of 18 made important decisions based soley upon one book. I don't think the possibility that there are a few out there who might justifies restricting the book.

Re:how it looks depends on where you stand

I'm not sure what you're talking about when you say "simply because we don't have it doesn't mean it doesn't exist."?

Re:how it looks depends on where you stand

In both of these I was clear that the only right answer is that you do not possess the only one. That does not require an IMHO, it is fact.

Re:how it looks depends on where you stand

"I thought I had addressed the point with: "It is impossible to determine the effect that one book, any book, is going to have upon an individual. I don't believe that you can even make a good guess of what effect the book can have on someone reading it." Or simply put, It would be a shame if someone under the age of 18 made important decisions based soley upon one book. I don't think the possibility that there are a few out there who might justifies restricting the book."

You can't determine the effect a book will have? Really? How To make Love Like A Porn Star? You can't make an educated guess?

"I'm not sure what you're talking about when you say "simply because we don't have it doesn't mean it doesn't exist"."

Your argument strongly implied that the library not having the book deprives a person from ever having access to it.

Re:how it looks depends on where you stand

No Greg, I don't think you can make an educated guess about this particular book. People react differently to the same book. Your assumption that you can determine how even a majority of people will act upon reading the book is unfounded supposition.

What I was saying was that once the library purchased the book, why restrict it's access? Why make it less available for adults to read? I said absolutely nothing about a library having to buy every book out there, or that libraries have to provide, whithin their own collections, access to every book written. Once purchased, however, I believe that the library should not put up roadblocks to their patrons ability to find the book.

Re:how it looks depends on where you stand

If you can't determine some general value of a book then why ever read a review? Why have Reader's Advisory? Why have a YA or a children's section?

"Once purchased, however, I believe that the library should not put up roadblocks to their patrons ability to find the book."

If by 'any patron' you mean anyone of any age that's just irresponsible and foolish. I'm sorry but there no justification for that kind of arguement. It implies that all books are equal and that reading in itself has no effect. How can it? If Jan Karon is the same as Jenna Jameson then reading must be pointless.

Re:how it looks depends on where you stand

I don't think reading is pointless to the person reading. To assume that Jim Karon will always be of more value than Jenna Jameson is to assume that all people are the same, and that there reading experience must follow a predetermined and set course. There is great value in reading "bad" or "crappy" books.

I don't mean anyone of any age. We deliberately try and steer patrons towards books that we hope meet their needs. Pre-teens are routinely directed to the juvenile department. If teens were to ask me for a book about sex, you're right, I would not hand them Jenna Jameson's book. I would find a good non-fiction title that discusses teen sexuality. However, I am not all knowing. I do not have enough information about their background to know what they can and cannot digest, nor should I be making assumptions about why they want to read a particular book. What if they are doing a report on the porn industry? I think it is a mistake to treat them like they are brainless until they suddenly wake up on their eighteenth birthday, and have suddenly developed critical thinking skills.

Re:how it looks depends on where you stand

You need to add an IMHO to the above Greg

Re:how it looks depends on where you stand

A comment is an opinion by nature. Humble? Hell no.

Would you like to go back and place an IMHO in these two posts?

Re:how it looks depends on where you stand

You're trying to not take any responsibility for what is on the shelf and you can't do that. Its like seperating the Librarian from the Library. They're not two seperate entities, they're one and the same. The Librarian created the collection that's on the shelf, so he's responsible for it even if he's pushing some titles over others.

You're an adult, you should have some guideline, some moral, some value, that dictates what you feel a young adult should or should not have access to. We do it for drugs, driving, voting, etc. If your not willing to do it for books *then books don't matter*.

Re:how it looks depends on where you stand

I take responsibility for the books I buy. And, yes, the Librarian has created the collection. We also produce book lists, and engage our patrons, what ever their age, to try and find them the material that is most appropriate, in our professional opinion, to their age, maturity or interest. Keeping a book off of the general circulation shelves seems to me to be saying that we can't be trusted to do our job. I don't think we should keep books off of the general circulation shelves because someone might be harmed is a good idea.

Furthermore, we are not omniscient We step aside and allow parents to do their job, and ultimately decide was is, and what is not, appropriate for their children.

You'll note that the examples you provided have different ages: driving is (in Oregon) 16; voting is 18; drinking (which you didn't provide) is 21. I believe that since I'm willing to direct teens, et. al., to books that are age and maturity appropriate show that books do matter, adn that I do take my job seriously. I don't see the logic that says that if we don't restrict books the same way that we restrict driving, voting, etc..., that I'm in effect saying that "books don't matter." What I am saying is that a 17 year old that picks up Jenna Jameson's book and browses through it on the shelf is not going to walk out of the library a different, and totally changed and damaged human being.

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