Discrimination and Shelving
James Nimmo writes "
The next meeting of the Metropolitan Library Commission of Oklahoma County is Thursday, August 25, 3:30pm at the Belle Isle Library, 5501 N. Villa, OKC. That's halfway between Penn and May on NW Highway, in north OKC. There is free parking and a large meeting room at this location in which the shelving policy will be on the agenda.
The current policy has been challenged by the right-wing demagoguery of GOP Rep. Sally Kern (HD 84-Bethany) who insists that the Metro Library is harboring obscene gay-friendly childrens books like "King & King" as quoted in the Oklahoma Gazette earlier this summer. Rob Abiera and www.gayOKC.com has a link to articles and op/eds concerning this issue.
Your past letters, faxes, and phone calls have been invaluable in supporting professional library standards during the course of this debate. But even the healthiest of structures need reinforcement from time to time. If you're unable to attend the Commission meeting please send support at the addresses and phone numbers posted at the end of my article which follows.
Feel free to copy/paste as you see fit or as my words may spark your own thoughts on the need for full equality and unprejudiced standards in our public library.
Maintaining the Mission or
Exercising the Hypocrisy of Fools?
I'm reasonably confident that the Metropolitan Library Commission's self-image is one of being a good conservator of the taxpayer's money. The Commission's own survey a few years ago indicated that taxpayers were comfortable that the library was the best example of money being well-spent and they were receiving the best return for their tax dollars.
Three Metro-sponsored projects come to mind in this regard:
1) Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man commemoration
2) "Fighting the Fires of Hate: Nazi Book Burning"
3) the upcoming "Oklahoma Holocaust Remembrance Exhibit"
All three events acknowledge important national and world examples of minorities persecuted due to ignorance and bigotry. By supporting these events Metro is doing what a library should--serving our society's memory through the printed word and visual images.
The current shelving policy debate is on the same level of importance as the examples I've given. Though it might seem to have little of the repercussions of the earlier examples, Metro's decision in the matter will have an effect for years to come on the treatment of all topics in this library system. Being a public source of information it will also influence the population of Oklahoma County in how minorities are perceived as a whole, both in person-to-person interactions and in the dispersal of public services.
Your decision will become widely known in hours as in the internet world important stories won't stay obscure. Whether the policy is based on the right of free inquiry or restrictive religious prejudice; whether it relies on Constitutional fundamentals or religious fundamentalism, this policy will affect attitudes in Oklahoma County and the entire state.
Ms. Sally Kern has tried to make the argument that the passage of a restrictive marriage amendment last year can dictate how a public library shelves its books. It is outrageously over-reaching for Ms. Kern to impose on the Metropolitan Library System the idea that this amendment is even tangentially related to library policy.
Though seemingly aimed at protecting children through an imaginary, undefined period of innocence, no example of harm has been presented by those opposed to professional library standards. Children are instead being used as a hostage shield by those backward-thinking politicians and bible-thumpers who are driven rabid by the growing realization that gay people are human, too, and that they are a part of mainstream America.
Having sponsored two exhibits from the National Holocaust Museum dealing with minorities and repressive political power it would seem a desertion of mission, it not deliberate hypocrisy, for the Metropolitan Library Commission to cave to those demands created by Ms. Kern in her attempt to make the Commission a stepping stone for her political longevity.
This policy debate is not a contest of a majority being superior to a minority, but rather if equality, science, and fair play are going to be given the importance they deserve. The alternative is to relegate these admirable human qualities to the back of the shelf, pushed there by ignorance, political expediency, and financial blackmail--none of which forward-thinking people would acknowledge as commendable points-of-view for a public library.
Oklahoma City, OK
The Metropolitan Library System facilitates the free flow of information and ideas by providing access to materials, services and programs to Oklahoma County's diverse community.
All Correspondence to the Library Commission is sent to:
Metropolitan Library System
300 Park Avenue
Oklahoma City, OK 73102
The phone number is (405) 606-3726
Note: Faxes may be sent to Library Commission members at the library system's administrative offices: