The 401st Blow :: Thoughts On Media

Burning Books

Posted in Policy, Rant by Noah Harlan on July 28, 2010

There is a stunning article today in the School Library Journal about a couple members of the Burlington County Library System (BCLS) removing a book from their system without following procedures simply because a member of Glen Beck’s 9.12 Project told them to. This is cowardly and disgusting. The book, Revolutionary Voices: A Multicultural Queer Youth Anthology (Alyson, 2000), was a recommended book by SLJ, an enormously respected institution supporting and advising school libraries.  The director of the BCLS is now refusing to talk about the situation and things only came to light when the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request. Ms. Sweet should be ashamed of her actions. If you’d like to call her, her office number is: (609) 267-9660, ext. 3021 or send an email through their online webmail system.

Here is a very concerning section of the story:

Although no formal complaint was filed, BCLS Library Commissioners supported Sweet’s recommendation to “remove “Revolutionary Voices” from” library shelves, Sweet wrote in an April 27 email to Beverly Marinelli, a grandmother and member of the 9.12 project, who told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the book is “pervasively vulgar, obscene, and inappropriate.”

“As the copies that are checked out return, we will take them out of circulation,” explained Sweet in the email to Marinelli.

Then in a May 3 email, Sweet told staffers that they needed to “pull”Revolutionary Voices from library shelves. “How can we grab the books so they never, ever get back into ccirculation (sic),” Sweet wrote to BCLS staffers. “Copies need to totally disappear (as in not a good idea to send copies to the book sale).”

But when Andy Woodworth, a librarian at the Bordentown branch of BCLS, asked Sweet whether a formal challenge had been lodged, she said no. “It was recommended both by Marge and by me that the book be removed,” she wrote Woodworth in an email dated May 24, referring to assistant director, Margaret Delaney. “The commissioners supported our decision. There was no official challenge, no actual vote by the commissioners.” When Woodworth pressed to find out on what grounds the book was removed, Sweet responded on May 25 with two words: “Child pornography.”

The decision to remove the book was made entirely by two individuals, avoiding proper procedure, and they are now not only removing the book from their circulation but she seems to be advocating destroying the books (as opposed to giving them away or selling them). This is disgusting behavior.

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