reellis67's blog

Blogger argues for the preservation of the library

I was skimming blogs today, as a change from the standard news sources, and found this interesting blog entry by a woman in Australia who was concerned about the death the the traditional library. She was worried that a new approach to book lending, similar to may online or through-the-mail movie rental systems, would replace the brick and mortar library, and that the commercialization of information in this way could lead to what amounts to censorship, either based on content or on the economics of stocking only in-demand titles - a concern that I share.

As we move inexorably to a brave new digital world, it is vital that we keep in mind - I know that I've spoken to this topic before, but it's important - that business do not have everyone's interests in mind, like the library does. commercial endeavors are for-profit ventures, designed to stay in the best range of low operating costs to income ratio possible, and this will inevitably result in a reduced selection of materials.

Why does this matter? Because these types of business will become, if they have not already, the number one competition for libraries, along with Google Books. While they certainly serve a purpose, and I'm certain that people will benefit from them, they will still be used, especially in financially trying times like we are now experiencing, as arguments to cut library funding. Why pay for something that someone else is already doing?

Censorship activists move outside the library

It is common to hear of challenges to books in libraries, such as this recent story - one of many - about 'And Tango Makes Three', or this one about a young adult book that was successfully remove from a school library, but a challenge to a bookstore? In this BBC story, an author, a poet, was singled out by a religious group who lobbied a local book store to not sell his latest work, a book of poems that they felt were "blasphemous". In the end, the bookstore merely canceled the book signing that has been scheduled - they still sell the book in question despite the protests.

My thoughts
Some time back the author Salmon Rushdie published a book that followers of a different religion felt was blasphemous to their beliefs. They condemned him for his writings and the outcry in much of Western world was quite great in his defense. Sales of the book skyrocketed. People openly supported Rushdie, a national of the same country as the author of this book of poetry. What is different in this case?

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A chance to participate!

The Office for Intellectual Freedom is beginning to compile it's list of book challenges for his year, 2008. Please follow the link below if you would like to participate. I strongly encourage anyone who has access to these figures to take part in the list. Actions of this sort help sustain the neutrality of our libraries by ensuring that undue pressure to censor library materials does not compromise our free access to information.

Participate here!

When the law is not the law

Libraries are involved with patron's personal information, we all know that. We know who has what book checked out, and in many system there is a record of who has read what, used which computer, etc. Even when there are no physical records, this information can still exist in the form of logs, computer related information that is carried over for a period of time (cookies, etc.), and when books are checked out of a State libraries the records may exist outside the library where the materials were accessed even if that library does not keep records itself once the materials have been returned. It's just a fact of life.

There are laws in place to protect us, the public, from abuse of those in power when it comes to these records. And, while they are certainly not perfect, from from so since 2001, they are still the law, and this is a land of law and order based on those laws - or so we are told. In certain circumstances, people in positions of authority know that if they use their influence to coerce members of the public to abandon their rights, they will often get compliance despite their request being illegal. It happens all the time.

Book challenges decreasing? Perhaps...

An interesting story came through my in-box the other day and I wanted to pass it along. It has to do with the number of books that are contested in local libraries, and how these requests are handled. According to this article, the number of books that are requested to pull from the shelves has been going down recently. The library in question, the Marathon County Public Library, requests that patrons fill out a form to contest a title and then the requests are reviewed by a committee, fairly straight forward, right?

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Something to consider - Google and the library

While reading up for my last post I found this article, which discusses Google's intent to manage %100 of the information in the world. Now, I'm sure that some people who read this post are going to think that this is about how evil Google is, but I do not intend that to be the main point of this post. As with my other post regarding Google, I simply want to bring all aspects of the situation to light to counter the heavy boosterism that seems to override issues regarding Google, especially in relation to libraries. It has been my understanding that the library was a place where people could go to get unbiased access to information on any subject, well, any legal subject, as outlined in a number of documents associated with libraries, such as the ALA Library Bill of Rights and the Intellectual Freedom Manual.

Google's growth makes privacy advocates wary

Most people today appear to me to love Google, but how much do people really know about this 'indispensable' tool? I'm not going to post an extended rant about how evil Google is in some people's eyes, but I do think that this AP story is worthy of consideration, especially considering the integration that Google is developing with libraries.

Google's growth makes privacy advocates wary


This article discusses how information that is collected by Google could be used in violation of current privacy statutes. Some Google tools, such as their Chrome web browser transmit your keystrokes before you press the Enter key. This information is then analyzed by their systems to predict your search terms and offer suggestions. There is an option to turn this feature off, but the activity still occurs, just without user notification, giving the sense that web activity is now 'private'. Along with the information typed into the web browser, your computers Internet address is also recorded, creating a history much like what is visible in your local web browser, but on their servers.

Key concepts from the article:

"It's about having a monopoly over our personal information, which, if it falls into the wrong hands, could be used in a very dangerous way against us,"

“Court says that with all its products, Google has more opportunities than its peers to capture personal information without users realizing it. “

Bunny Suicides book - an interesting turn of events

Upon discovering a book depicting rabbit ending their lives in a number of unusual ways, a woman in Oregon checked the book out of the library, refused to return it, and threatened to burn it and any other copies that were purchased to replace the copy she stole. After a time though, and a good deal of community outrage, she did return the book and claimed that her threats were fueled by emotion and distorted by the media and they should be dismissed as such.

This even brings up a couple of interesting issues; information access denial by patron action and the reaction of the community to such action. I find it quite interesting that a community, many of whom stated that they did not care for the book, felt that it still should be included in the library holdings, and some even sent funds with which to procure another copy. Given the circumstances, I have to wonder if the woman in question would not have come forth with the book, or have carried out her threats to destroy that which she felt objectionable has the media not picked up on the story.

How common is it for this sort of action to take place? Given the regularity with which these sorts of stories make the news it seems to be a fairly regular occurrence. According to the ALA, more than a book a day is challenged in the United States.

Further Reading:

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Banned author criticizes decision

Banned author criticizes decision

The original article may be found here


This article, which appeared in the DailyComet, Lafourche parish, Louisiana on Friday October 17th, discusses reaction of a books' author to the banning of his book titled “Black Hawk Down”, which was used as the basis of the Ridley Scott movie of the same name. The book was assigned to a 10th grade class, and a parent objected to the strong language used in some of the combat situations, the principle agreed and banned the book. The author commented in this article that he felt censorship always backfires and hence that there is little point in contesting the book. It offers an interesting look at this unfortunately common situation from the viewpoint of an author.


It is important to note that in this case there is a written policy in place for parent who feel that their children should not be exposed to certain material. This policy states that the principle has the first authority of rejection of material, and if they approve the material the parents may make an appeal. If they decide that the material should be banned, it falls to the instructor to begin the appeal process

Further Reading on this subject:

The original article, also from the Daily Comet, dicussing the specifics of the situation.

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