Another “hysteric” librarian for freedom

Back in 2001, right after the 9/11 attacks, the federal government enacted a piece of legislation called the USA PATRIOT ACT (which stands for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism). This legislation essentially gave federal agents and law officers powers they had never had before, to use in the fight against terrorism.

Unfortunately, one of the features of the USA PATRIOT ACT was that libraries and library files could be subject to searches — an officer could demand to know who had checked out the Quran or The Anarchist’s Cookbook, and the library would have to release that information. Worse, the library could not even let patrons know that their private check-out records had been violated.

Librarians are often thought of a quiet bunch, collecting cats and hats and rare copies of The Cat in the Hat. But when it comes to intellectual freedom? Woo-whee, we get all roused up. In 2003, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft accused librarians of stirring up “baseless hysteria” in reaction to the controversial Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allowed for the confiscation of library records. But, it’s happened — our fears were not baseless.

Librarians will go to great lengths to protect intellectual freedom. It recently came to light that a librarian in Kansas City, Missouri, was arrested during a public event because he was trying to defend a patron’s right to free speech.

The Kansas City Public Library, no stranger to controversial speakers, had in May 2016 invited Dennis Ross, former advisor on the Middle East to Presidents George H.W. Bush and Barack Obama, to speak on the topics of Israel and President Truman. Three off-duty police officers and the head of security for the Jewish Community Foundation were asked to serve as security for the event. Security’s job was not to prevent guests from asking controversial questions, but rather eject patrons only after consulting with library officials.

Well, things went wrong. Jeremy Rothe-Kushel, a local activist, asked a question about what he considered to be the US’s support of Israel’s “state-sponsored terrorism.” This question was answered calmly. But Rothe-Kushel’s next question was more aggressive, and at this point, security, under the impression that the library was a private building, came up to him to immediately kick him out. Steve Woolfolk, the library’s director of programming, stepped in to defend Rothe-Kushel’s right to remain in a public building and participate in a public forum. Rather than stay, however, Rothe-Kushel said that he would leave if asked to. Woolfolk walked out with him, the two of them led out by security. Then, suddenly, several guards grabbed Woolfolk, kicking him in the knee, slamming him against a pillar and finally flinging down into a chair, where he was eventually handcuffed. Both men were arrested; Woolfolk was charged with interfering with an arrest. Both cases have yet to be resolved.

Intellectual freedom is important. It is what allows us to learn and grown as humans, to nurture and develop thoughts and ideas that may, at some point, evolve into something else entirely. Intellectual freedom is what lets us read about evolution AND creationism, Catholicism AND Paganism, Capitalism AND Marxism. It’s what lets the confused 18-year-old read about homosexuality, the hurting 40-year-old learn about adult children of alcoholics, the grieving 76-year-old suggest hospice for a dying loved one.

You may not always agree with what you read in the library. But know that librarians will fight for your right to read.

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Filed under Arrests, Freedom of Speech, Hysterical Librarians, intellectual freedom, John Ashcroft, legal, USA Patriot Act

Rumble in the Jungle… of LibraryLand?

Welcome back, intrepid readers, writers, and researchers. It’s a brand new school year, and we embrace it with new… prejudice?


Shocked Tuxedo Cat is Shocked

Let us explain:

There is a publication called VOYA: Voice of Youth Advocates that is widely read by those who pick out books for young adult readers (the term “young adult” officially refers to readers ages 12-18, but there is nothing keeping a 30-year-old from reading Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl). On September 22, 2016, VOYA published a review of the book Run by Kody Keplinger. The reviewer, Rachel Axelrod, stated this about the book: “The story contains many references to Bo being bisexual and an abundance of bad language, so it is recommended for mature junior and senior high readers.” (And all this during Bisexual Awareness Week.)

Many people online, librarians as well as bloggers, were upset by this line. Even the author of the book was upset. After all, the sex between straight characters had not been called out for being for “mature” readers. In response to VOYA‘s review, Tristina Wright, herself an author, sent an email to the editor in chief, expressing her concern about the review. Wright is not only bisexual herself, but also the mother of a genderqueer daughter. She was concerned that not only would readers see bisexuality as “something to be warned against,” as well as something only for the consideration of “mature” readers. The editor in chief, Rose Mary Ludt, responded, in part:

Our writers and reviewers have various lifestyles and beliefs and that has never been a concern of mine and usually not even revealed to me unless the writer chooses to do so, so the assumption that I or VOYA magazine might be bi- or any other kind of phobic is just that, your assumption. A misguided one.

Since this is Bi Visibility Week, I understand your need to find and destroy your enemies in a public forum, however, VOYA magazine and I are not your enemies.

Thank you for reading VOYA magazine.

While Wright shared this email with all names blacked out, VOYA had no problems with posting the exchange on their website with all names visible. The magazine did, however, go back later and delete the post.

As you might imagine, hilarity ensued. Or not. Many people, LGBTQ+ people as well as allies, complained to VOYA. VOYA published non-apology after another on their Facebook page, then going back to delete the non-apology posts, comments included, as well as blocking several people from replying to them on Twitter.

Things got so bad that the folks at SorryWatch had to step in:

…Saying “our writers and reviewers have various lifestyles” is like saying “some of my best friends are Black.” DO NOT. (Also, “lifestyles”? Ironic PBR-drinking-and-mustache-cultivation is a lifestyle. Being bisexual is a life, integral to someone’s sense of self.) Finally, the parting shot about “your need to find and destroy your enemies” is just WHACKADOODLE. ( even gave VOYA a free apology that they could use to defuse the situation. They declined the kind offer. And the situation continued to spiral downward, to the point where all sorts of websites and media are commenting on what was going on:

It remains to be seen how this debacle will continue to affect VOYA; several librarians have declared online that they have not only lost respect for VOYA, but will also no longer use the magazine for book-buying purposes. One reviewer quit as soon as things started going south. A reputable literary agent stated that he would pull his ads from the magazine and encourage others to do the same.

Now what, VOYA?

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Filed under Books, Discrimination, LGBTQ, Prejudice

Captain America: Civil War

So, “Captain America: Civil War” is due to come out in April. Some of you who are keenly interested in the Marvel Comics universe may be quite anxious for this movie to come out. Others may be wondering, “What’s the big whoop?”

The movie is based on a short run of Marvel comics called (you guessed it) “Civil War.” A superhero battle resulting in collateral damage makes the government wonder whether superheroes and mutants should register with the government in an effort to track and control them. This pending legislation pits hero against hero, as this question is raised: what is worth more, safety or freedom of privacy?

This argument is not unlike that which faces the United States on a regular basis. The bombings of 9/11 brought forth a flurry of legislation, intended to keep us safe, yet many felt that we were giving up our freedoms, that which made the United States unique, in the face of fear. The USA PATRIOT Act directly interferes with many of the beliefs that librarians hold dear. For example, we don’t believe in letting others know what books you’ve been checking out, or what you’ve been doing on the public computers. Yet the USA PATRIOT Act dictates that that information be made public, if necessary. I’m sure you can see the conflict here, and how it relates to Captain America.

We’re not asking you to think of libraries when you see this movie (well, librarians will, probably — that’s just the way our minds work). But definitely consider the different arguments that Iron Man and Captain America represent. Safety or freedom? (Oh, and another couple of questions: Tony Stark or Steve Rogers? Black Widow or Scarlet Witch?)

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Filed under Books, intellectual freedom, legal, Libraries, super heroes

Comics and Cosplay!

Hey, we’re back! And with news of a fun event being hosted by the E.P. Foster Library, part of the Ventura County Library System.

Foster Con 2016 is the 3rd such event hosted by the library. Foster Con happens on Saturday, February 27th, from 10am to 4pm. Comics, anime, and games vendors will be there to help you out with your geek needs. There will even be people dressed up like characters from the original Star Wars trilogy — come and get your picture taken with them!

Of course, events like this are generally more fun if you’re dressed like Deadpool or your favorite Firefly character, so go ahead and bust out the cosplay outfits!

WHAT: Foster Con 2016

WHEN: Saturday, February 27th, 10am to 4pm

WHERE: E.P. Foster Library, 651 East Main Street, Ventura, CA 93001

For more information:

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Filed under Event, Local

A Valentine for You

Hello! Here is a little Valentine’s present for you: we will be closed this Friday, Saturday, and Monday. Go have fun!

While we are closed, enjoy this love poem…

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Filed under Closed, Hours, Poetry

Welcome back to 2015!

Hello again! I hope that you had a great winter break. Did you get a chance to relax at least a little? Did you do any reading?

One of the things that your faithful correspondent did was do some reading of her own. I checked out three books from the library here, checked out a couple of e-books from the public library, and bought some books from Amazon. If you’re interested, here’s a little summary of what I read, if you are looking for something to read yourself…

  • Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher was a great book, but admittedly a tearjerker. Don’t read this while on public transportation. This book tells the story of a girl who has committed suicide, and mails out a bunch of cassettes to thirteen people, telling them why they are the reasons that she committed suicide. One reader that I know finished this book and told me that it was an amazingly profound book. I tend to agree with her. You won’t let people disappear into themselves again.
  • Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick was another tearjerker. This one is by the author of Silver Linings Notebook. It’s about a boy who, on his 18th birthday, decides to take a gun to school in order to kill his former best friend and then himself. There are strands of hope in this book, if you know where to look for them.
  • Paper Towns by John Green didn’t cause me to weep publicly — what a relief. But it caused me to think about the images of ourselves that we put forth to society, whether through Facebook or in real life. This is about a girl who disappears, and the group of friends who try to figure out the mystery of who she is.This one is being made into a movie

Right now I am reading Cat Girl’s Day Off, about a girl who can talk to cats, who is trying to solve a mystery surrounding a movie that is a take of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” Ask me, and I’ll tell you how it is once I finish.

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Filed under Book Reviews

Winter Break!

Today is the last day of finals! Isn’t that awesome? I’m sure your brains are quite relieved to have a little break from all the schoolwork. Here are a few things to keep in mind (so to speak) while you are catching your breath:

  • The Library will be closed from December 18th to January 11th.
  • The Textbook Lending Library will take place on January 7th, and you can pick up tickets on January 6th. More information here.
  • You can turn in books to the bookdrop down by the flagpole near Telegraph Road.
  • If you are looking for a 1-credit class, one of our librarians is teaching an entirely online class called “Using the Library of the 21st Century.” It’s a late-start class. It’ll help you get a grasp on the weirdnesses of doing research. The CRN is 32496, and it is LIB v01.

That’s it for 2014. Have a great, relaxing, and safe break. See you next year!

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Filed under Notice, Winter