Prelude to Freedom To Read Week

We’ve been moving things around at my library. There’s been a major redesign effort. Three months after our original estimated completion date… well, almost everything has moved to where it’s permanently going to be, even if we’re still waiting on the new shelving and lounge furniture.

A few weeks ago, the graphic novels moved from where they’ve been living, on the last two shelves of the Young Adult fiction (though they’re not a teen collection), to their own set of shelves! In a visible location! And properly spaced, they actually take up at least four shelves now, with more books on the way.

The section itself has existed for at least a year. Some of the books in the collection have been in the library for much longer than that.

After moving the graphic novels to a central location, time it took for someone to complain?

Less than twenty-four hours. It took a day for three of the books to be declared disgusting, sexually perverse filth.

Aren’t you glad our library patrons are paying attention?

Me, I’m glad for a concrete reconsideration-of-library-materials form, a definite policy and procedure, and a department head with a fierce commitment to intellectual freedom. (Also, shamefully, that though I’ve got primary responsiblity for that particular collection, the three challenged books predate anything I’ve ordered.)

The best bit though, was how incredibly concerned she was that they were THAT CLOSE to the WASHROOMS. Yes, your friendly neighbourhood public library frequently provides CONVENIENTLY LOCATED pornography for JUST THAT REASON. (It’s not like we don’t already have Anais Nin, an entire section of romance novels of varying degrees of explicitness, and a whole section books on sexual health, education, etc.) Also, that we’ve DELIBERATELY put it on low shelves to appeal to children. (Um, no, it’s on the middle two shelves because we just don’t have enough stuff in at any given time to fill the top and bottom shelves.)

For the curious, the books in question are: My Most Secret Desire by Julie Doucet, Acme Novelty Library by Chris Ware, and The Frank Book by Jim Woodring.

She then came back in a week later and objected to
A.L.I.E.E.E.N., archives of lost issues and early editions of extraterrestrial novelties
by Lewis Trondheim. (I don’t deny that it’s a wierd little book, but her biggest concern is the pooping alien. Heaven forbid she venture downstairs to the kids’s department and find Everybody Poops, or The Potty Book.)

The response from management… well, one decidedly tongue-in-cheek suggestion to change the graphic novel section to read “Pornography!” (we decided that it would ultimately lead to too many disappointed patrons, not to mention problems of classification and the need for several new magazine subscriptions), and the head of adult reference has asked if I think the wall over the graphic novels is a good place for our Library Bill of Rights and intellectual freedom policy.

I’m wondering the individual in question is planning on working her way through the whole section, one disgusting book at a time. I’m morbidly curious about what’s next–the sex in Breakfast After Noon by Andi Watson? The sex and drug use in Persepolis 2? Maus, for having cute cartoon character mice, yet not being appropriate for children?

But really, while trying to ban books may be cheaper in the short term, perhaps therapy might be the most effective course of action.

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