Friday, September 4, 2009

Banned in Leesburg Too?

In a VERY long blog post, SafeLibraries calls attention to a book challenge in Leesburg, Fla., that is somewhat a miniature version of the West Bend controversy. The two books in question are Maureen Johnson's The Bermudez Triangle, and Only In Your Dreams, a book in Cecily Ziegesar's Gossip Girls series.

It is really worth your 8:51 to watch Johson's video response to the challenge on YouTube (CLICK HERE). If you have trouble with the links within the video, CLICK HERE for the 3:57 Fox News story and CLICK HERE for the local TV story with book excerpts.

Of course, underlying much of this is a failure on the part of many to read the challenged books, or even just to skim them enough to judge the work as a whole rather than on out-of-context excerpts, as the author points out in the video.'s a LOT like the West Bend situation.

Unsurprisingly, SafeLibraries supports the would-be censors in a long tirade against the American Library Association, the National Coalition Against Censorship, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, and the Kids Right to Read Project. I guess the National Council of Teachers of English just neglected to weigh in on this one.

SafeLibraries asserts that just moving or labeling books isn't censorship. I could almost believe him, if just a few lines later he hadn't written about the need to convince the library to "legally keep such material from children." The Leesburg parents take the same line, claiming they're all for open access, they just don't want that open access to extend to these books. Not quite as bad as Ginny Maziarka in her WBKV radio interview, saying at one minute that she doesn't want to ban books, then a couple minutes later talking about removing at least two or three.

He writes: "Legally Protecting Children is Not Censorship." This really is a great sound bite with a lot of gut-level appeal. But if you think about it, it doesn't really say anything. The word legally automatically precludes the possibility of censorship, since censorship is illegal. Protecting is a wonderful idea, but he doesn’t say from what. This issue is about books, and no book ever kidnapped or molested a child. Children is a word that automatically garners sympathy, but the books in question are in the Young Adult section, and a fifteen year old is not the same thing as a five year old, although the censors always want us to treat them the same. And back to censorship, already precluded by legally, making the entire sentence circular: it says nothing.

He claims the ALA is lying when it says the Gossip Girls book has "serious value," because elsewhere they say the same book is "perhaps not the most literary." He seems not to comprehend that there can be quite a gap between "not the most literary," in the context of art, and "lacking serious value," in the sense of obscenity. He is trying to make both the ALA and obscenity law say things they don't say.

He abuses, yet again, the Supreme Court's US v. ALA decision, claiming that it not only covers internet filtering but also "implicitly the underlying book collection policies." He's making that part up. The decision doesn't say that. The decision was about internet filters, and even that only within the context of the strings attached to certain federal funding programs. This is what he wishes the decision to say, but it doesn't.

He writes: "I suppose if defying the US Supreme Court is something with which you agree, the ALA is an excellent source, but I would never be able to sidestep the US Supreme Court so glibly." Of course, he doesn't offer any specifics on what the ALA does that "defies" the Supreme Court, or explain how one even CAN defy the Supreme Court. I don't think he can explain it, since his concept of defiance is based on quite imagniary interpretations of the Court's decisions.

SafeLibraries tries, yet again, to alter the basic meaning of the Board v. Pico decision. Of course, this was about removing books, not re-shelving, and about a school library, which has some different legal issues than a public library has. Oh, and he forgets to mention that the Pico decision was an utter defeat for the censors, and the removed books went back on the shelves. He likes this decision because it says that "pervasively vulgar" books could be removed, although it doesn't define that concept. SafeLibraries thinks it means what HE wants it to mean.


  1. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, even if in a mocking sense.

    Consider, for example, the real deal: "Shakira - She Wolf," and the mocking imitators, like, for one, "She Wolf Shakira SPOOF! What the !@#! is a SHE WOLF??! Parody!"

    The original is the better version, no?

  2. If the above comment is supposed to communicate some message, I'm afraid it is lost on me.

  3. So is Safe Libraries saying that he wears leotards and high heels and gyrates in sparkly caves and cages? He better keep that a secret from Ginny. I doubt that she thinks cross dressing is OK.

  4. The Leesburg Public Library staff members have proposed a compromise. It has been approved by the Library Advisory Board and will be presented to the Leesburg City Commissioners at the meeting on Monday, September 28th.

  5. Thank you for posting the update. I'll see if I can find enough out to post the results as a full article on this blog.

  6. dustymatthews@earthlink.netSaturday, September 26, 2009

    Our local newspapers are The Daily Commercial and The Orlando Sentinel.

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