Sea Change: Librarians Demanding Censorship

Quote (all emphases mine):

Jason Homer, executive director of the Worcester Public Library, said the revelation came as a shock in late January when he started looking at the collection from Hoopla, the electronic media vendor.

“We’re talking about deeply damaging information that’s not factual,” said Homer, who manages the second-largest library system in the state. “And with no kind of reference check, no authority … minimizing the voices of LGBTQIA+ and minority voices or underrepresented groups.”

Quote (all emphases mine):

Alison Macrina, director of the nonprofit Library Freedom Project, said the scope of the misinformation offered by Hoopla stunned her and other librarians who found dozens of problematic titles or publishers among the 60,000 e-books the service offers.

“Basically, any search that you do, for any sort of, quote/unquote, controversial subject, you get all kinds of disinformation. It’s all like ‘COVID is a Chinese hoax.’ ‘COVID is a is a punishment from God,’” Macrina said. “Feminism retrieves all sorts of garbage on abortion. Homosexuality is just like, ‘pray away the gay’ stuff. The worst ones had primarily misinformed disinformation, but all of them had it within the first few results.”

Quote (all emphases mine):

Andrea Fiorillo, who co-chairs the Intellectual Freedom/Social Responsibilities Committee at the Massachusetts Library Association, said Hoopla has undermined librarians’ work and industry ethics.

“It’s kind of painful,” Fiorillo said. “It’s hard when we have to spin our wheels, saying, yeah, the Holocaust happened and [this book] doesn’t belong on our shelves. And it doesn’t increase your intellectual freedom to have access to content that is so wrong. And not only wrong, but dangerous.”


[Deborah] Caldwell-Stone added that she thinks the situation is “a little bit of shared responsibility” with local librarians.

“It’s up to the individual library, and the library workers to ensure that the resource is in compliance with the written policies and mission of the library,” she said. “You know, and every library is different, every library will have a different approach to different books.”

Brief comment:

At a time when our profession is doing its regular self-back-patting ritual for resisting the efforts of parents or school boards who would gladly label books like Gender Queer or All Boys Aren’t Blue as beyond the pale of human consumption (at least for kids) or, even worse, insist that libraries remove them, it’s good to remember that the censorious presuppositions of Fanatics don’t stop at the card-swiped door to the Technical Services office. In the story above, we see an instance where a collection of morally and factually dubious materials ended up in a collection of e-books offered by a service that many libraries contract with and LIBRARIANS THEMSELVES organized to have them removed. They didn’t seek to inform or warn users as to the nature of the e-books or even label the materials (both of which would have been serious, but less major crimes against intellectual freedom). No. They zealously jumped straight to an insistence on removal.

Then, compounding the crime against professional ethics, one of the librarians involved even tried to use the blog of the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom to do a self-righteous victory lap, and I thought that it had been published but, just checking, it appears it wasn’t (or, in keeping with the theme, someone in the ALA removed it). At any rate, it was the same people who wrote this:

As Jacob Mchangama writes in his new book, the “culture of free speech” is fading in western democracies. If librarians are the canaries in the coal mine of intellectual freedom, I’d say there is a methane leak of censorial attitudes that not even we–especially not we–are immune from.

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