Patron says "thought police" keep books from libraries

Daniel writes "In an article called Thought Police at the Library, Lew Rockwell columnist Gail Jarvis speculates why his local library did not accept his purchase recommendations:

"We know how political correctness has "cleansed" various organizations, but the damage it has done to public libraries has largely escaped notice. To illustrate how PC has imposed its censoring dictates on these essential facilities, I will use the Beaufort County Public Library in Beaufort, South Carolina. No doubt, it is well representative of other public libraries."

If you stick with the article, you'll find some possibly valid criticisms of how libraries are wedded to mainstream review tools to evaluate possible purchases. I have not read the books in question."

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I worry about this

I think about this a lot. Maybe it's the part of me that had journalism training (a little of it, anyway) that wants to present all sides of the story... Or maybe it's the part of me that has a problem with political correctness in general...

I still think Jarvis doesn't quite grasp collection development policies. Just because he requests a book for the collection, doesn't mean everyone will want to read it. If it's an academic type title, it just might not fit in a public library. It might be a great book. But the truth of the matter is, there really is limited money and limited shelf space, and we have to stick on those shelves things we think will benefit the most people.

And yes, Amazon technically is a book seller. But I don't think my library, anyway, considers them a vendor. Not sure why, myself. Perhaps some other LISNewster can elaborate... I know there are books I've wanted, I've seen on Amazon, and haven't been able to get through library vendors. I don't really think they're feeding Jarvis a line of bull just because they want to tick him off and not fill his book requests. That's not why we're here, after all.

Thought Police?

Why do people make an assumption that if the library doesn't purchase a book big brother is watching? Just because someone has said that a book should be added or worthwhile then there should be immediate purchase. The real thought police are those who try and present off beat, extreme position, or very leftist material as good and important books to to buy. Reviews are opinion and even when presented by "reputable sources" are still just opinion. A reader's suggestion is just opinion. In the United States we are protected with our rights to express opinions which do not agree with our own. If as professionals we were "obligated" to make our collections politically correct, reflect viewpoints that do not fit our readership, then we are victims of another kind of thought police. Libraries have to stop being agenda arenas and start helping to educate, which is the traditional role. Retail businesses consider their patrons why can't librarians?

What about

interlibrary loan? That's how we address esoteric/arcane reading needs of our patrons.

Re:Thought Police?

The real thought police are those who try and present off beat, extreme position, or very leftist material

Or very rightist, or extreme on any axis of the political spectrum, I assume you mean to say? While I've read neither book mentioned in the original article, the hosting website doesn't lead me to believe that views put forth by the authors hosted are necessarily (a) mainstream or (b) leftist.

Actually, I'd disagree anyway. For the last two years, a vast number of America's bestsellers have been extreme on one end of the spectrum or t'other (think Savage Nation or Stupid White Men; Treason and Reason). Surely the fact that they represent extreme viewpoints doesn't change their readership and probable desirability for many public libraries? The thought police would be thouse who said only moderation and centrism are permitted in libraries (pleasant though a little moderation might be).

Libraries have to stop being agenda arenas and start helping to educate, which is the traditional role. Retail businesses consider their patrons why can't librarians? There seem to be three contradictory viewpoints here:

  • Don't have an agenda (is that possible with a collection development policy? A robotic one, perhaps: "order every requested book under $50", or "order every Kirkus starred book").
  • Educate (I don't think anyone can educate without an agenda! Every teacher needs to decide what's worth teaching).
  • Consider the patrons, who may or may not request a book with an agenda, as this columnist did, or who may request books of no educational value.

I'm not sure I understand which of these you're advocating.

Re:What about

201 libraries have his first title, 476 the DiLorezo Real Lincoln book, and 294 have the Multiculturalism book by Gottfied. (The last is also an ebook I'd be delighted to give him an account.)


No library can order all of the books that its patrons request. If he wants it in the collection that badly he should buy it and give it to them. Then if they don't add it he can bitch and moan about censorship.

Re: Just because he requests a book....

"Just because he requests a book for the collection, doesn't mean everyone will want to read it."Silly shoe, logic is for kids! It's like I always say, if I don't like something it's no good, this is just the flip side of that coin, if I do like it then it's good for everyone.I believe this is actually going to be a new amendment soon.

Re:What about

No library can order all of the books that its patrons request. If he wants it in the collection that badly he should buy it and give it to them. Then if they don't add it he can bitch and moan about censorship.

You wouldn't really take anything that anyone bought and gave to your library, would you?

Re:What about

We do sometimes, actually. Computer books (because they get stolen so often), large type, books on popular subjects we probably wouldn't buy otherwise... things we really need/could use. But mostly people buy and give really popular stuff that we don't need yet another copy of, so it goes in the book sale.

I mean, we already have twelve thousand Danielle Steel books. C'mon. The quarter we sell it for is more valuable to us than the $5 we spend on materials getting it ready for circulation.

2 out of 3 ain't bad

Perhaps his library system isn't representative of all public libraries. Awfully sloppy writing for a columnist. You'd have thought that he would check on that first. My particular system carries both the Politically Incorrect Guide to American History and The Real Lincoln. We do not own Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt.

But I'm guessing that those straw men are much easier to know down than actually finding out if your assumptions bear any relation to reality.

Important Note: My system may be the odd man out... and his system MAY be representative.

Re:What about

I don't generally take textbooks, mass market paperbacks, book club editions and things more than 3 years old for the collection, but of course there are exceptions to those "no's".


If it is not obscene and less than 3 years old and we don't already have multiple copies of it then I would add it, or explain to the patron why I choose not to add it.


If someone feels strongly that it presents a different viewpoint than we have in the collection and wishes to donate it then I can't fathom that I would not add it, no matter how much I dislike it. In fact I am probably more likely to add something I dislike because it does probably reflect a different viewpoint than our collection.


Many patrons donate books they know will not be added to the collection as they know our friends have semiannual book sales and operate a book nook year round that generates just about $3K for our library.


If someone really wants to add a book and I don't want to add it I would offer them the same appeal as a book challenge gets. We have never had either in at least 5 years but if someone felt it that important I would probably encourage the board to add it even though I thought it not a good addition.


I think though this guy is confusing his battles. He can read the book through the library, but they just won't buy it. ILL would be OK, but he feels that the library should buy it. I think that there really is not enough money with standing orders, new books and the like that they cannot add the titles he wants.


To be truthful I think that accusing the library of censorship for not buying specific titles published two or three years ago is just silly. No library can be that organized. Geez I wish I had time to look at more than the cover of Publisher's Weekly.


This guy should just buy them and donate them or shut the hell up. If they don't add them or tell him why then he can bitch.

Patron-"thought police" keep books from libraries

Red flags should go up when evaluating books for addition to a library's collection when you read the words "revisionist history". I don't know of a single librarian that lists or uses amazon.com as a review source. Also, whoever submitted this topic to LISNews should at least bother read atcual reveiws of the books in question and not just take the opinion of the writer of this article as fact. And it is an "opinion" piece, to which the Mr. Rockwell is entitled. I had a patron give me a suggestion for purchase for books on a "revisionist" view of the Holocaust--that it never happened--to balance our current collecion of books on the Holocaust. I spent a great deal of time researching the books and authors he requested. The books were self-published. They were only available to purchase from the author--from his own website. Most were not available for purchase in the United States. One particular author had been banned from speaking in Canada because he incited a "hate" rally--creating major security problems. The reviews I did find said that based on the scientific evidence presented in the book the author could not prove the Holocaust did not happen--that in fact there were no findings to support his "evidence". Am I obligated to purchase everything one particular patron requests? Do I have to add every gift from a patron to the library's collection? Can I voice my personal view and disgust with the views of a patron? The answer to all of these questions is, NO. That is why libraries have materials selection and collection development policies that list the use of legitimate review sources, professional journals, etc. We also use our research skills to evlauate materials that provide a broad range and balanced collection to meet the wide range of our readers' interests.

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