'We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion...

by tosca on Friday, July 1, 2011

...and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still."
~ John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859

In which Tosca moderately expresses her disappointment at what passes for 'journalism.' An epiphany that came about as a result of reading an online article that discusses how Auckland Libraries will stock a controversial book and is amazed that this is considered 'reporting' - and I use that word loosely - because it's rather stating the obvious, isn't it? Isn't that what public libraries do? Stock books? And which controversial book in particular? We have thousands of books, a good chunk of which have been challenged and or banned at some point or another.

It's Friday and this is meant to be my Ms. Cranky McRanty Pants post but it's more that I'm expressing my disappointment in what serves as 'journalism' these days than ranting. Although I promise to keep it moderate, I mean, hell, it's almost midnight and I'm frozen solid and, earlier this evening, was blowing hot air up an inflatable pony's ass for Remy the Pooh's first birthday.

I have numerous alerts set up - Google alerts, RSS alerts, message board alerts... You name it and I have it set up. One of the things I do in my role is monitor what's being said about our organisation, where, by whom and in what context. If it's in the form of social media then it's my job to decide what we respond to and how. Needless to say, it keeps me on my toes. Luckily it's a part of the job I enjoy quite a bit. My alerts go bonkers with newspaper mentions everyday but I wasn't expecting the one that I saw this morning which read Auckland libraries to stock controversial book. I've never been a fan of anybody who states the obvious, and pointing that the library will stock a controversial book is a given. We stock lots of them. Let me name a few:

  • Harry Potter
  • On the origin of species
  • Lady Chatterley's lover
  • The hoax of the twentieth century
  • Twilight
  • Hitler's willing executioners: ordinary Germans and the Holocaust
  • Of mice and men
  • The DaVinci code
  • The holy blood and the holy grail
  • The bible
  • The catcher in the rye
  • The story of O
  • Fanny Hill: memoirs of a woman of pleasure
  • The adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • Ulysses
  • Lolita
  • The book of Mormon

  • These don't even scratch the surface of what we hold. We offer everything that we reasonably can - and by 'reasonably' I mean that we can find/purchase - and leave it to customers to choose or choose not (how very Yoda sounding). We are not in the business of making judgement values about books. If we were I'd have a branch full of romance novels and that's it. We do not censor. We provide people with the widest range of resources that we can and that reflects community views. Yes, even those that vary. When we purchase items we do so free of bias and with professional expertise. And yes, that includes Macsyna King/Ian Wishart's book, too.

    I don't consider this 'news.' I consider it stating the obvious. Speak to all of the public library managers in New Zealand and then tell me you have a well-thought out article and are not merely stirring the pot and/or provoking scandal.


    Unfortunately the news isn't about us - you're right, we're simply doing what should do.

    The news is that other organisations, unlike the one we work for, seem to prioritise the opinion of 35000 different facebook profiles who might over the rights of their user bases to access the most noteworthy book in the country in contradiction to that LIANZA expectation.

    by banjosinthestacks on July 2, 2011 at 7:11 PM. #

    I don't think the writer meant to convey that. I think that was purely unintentional. We see it, though, but I'm not sure he meant to do that. Admittedly, I'm quite cynical about newspapers, anyway.

    by catatonia on July 3, 2011 at 10:15 AM. #

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