Anti-Bush books reshelved
SILVERTHORNE – The heat of the presidential election helped spark a book controversy at the North Branch Library when a couple complained a new book display bashed Bush.The books are no longer on display but can be found in the regular shelving system.The story began the week before Labor Day, when part-time Silverthorne residents Dick and Mary Clark made one of their frequent visits to the library and took umbrage with a selection of volumes in the new book section, near the checkout counter.At issue, according to the Clarks, were seven books they characterized as anti-George W. Bush administration books; “The Lies of George W. Bush,” “Worse than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush,” “Bush’s War for Re-Election,” “Hoodwinked: The Documents That Reveal How Bush Sold Us a War,” “President of Good and Evil,” “The Bush Dyslexion: Observations on a National Disaster” and “Cruel and Unusual: Bush/Cheney’s New World Order.”In a letter to Summit County Library director Joyce Dierauer and in a subsequent interview, the Clarks claim that the library should have displayed an equal number of books with a favorable view of the present administration.”My wife and I hereby formally suggest that the library system, a tax-supported organization, remain neutral and not push one political bias to the exclusion of alternative views, especially in an election year,” the Clarks wrote in their Sept. 7 letter.
“That branch has a tendency toward leaning liberal,” Dick Clark said in a telephone interview last week, referring to a previous incident when the couple claimed a requested book by conservative author Sean Hannity was not forthcoming. “There was not a single conservative or pro-administration book there,” Clark added, referring to the September selection in the new-book shelf.Vanessa Woodford, the head librarian in Silverthorne, said the branch does not promote any particular political agenda or ideology, but strives to uphold its role as the caretaker of information and knowledge.”In the broader range of what’s happening in the country, I’m concerned about this type of subtle intimidation,” Woodford said. “It’s scary to have a person say they’re going to go to your boss if you don’t do what they say,” said Woodford, who with 35 years in the library system is one of the county’s most long-term employees.After a short discussion with the Clarks, Woodford asked if the couple wanted to censor the books and suggested they write a letter to formalize their complaint.The Clarks said they do not support any form of censorship; they are not asking that the books be removed from the library, only that the selection is balanced.
They understand that the library can’t do a day-to-day count to make sure that all political viewpoints are equally represented on the shelves by equal numbers of books, but said that such a prominently featured “display” should be neutral.For her part, Woodford said the books were not part of a political display, but were part of the library’s new book section – an attempt to provide easy access to top-selling and frequently requested books.”We try to satisfy the demand,” Woodford said, explaining that the selection of books was shaped by best-seller lists, reader requests and staff input.Dierauer subsequently met with the couple in her Frisco office. After speaking with the Clarks, she visited the Silverthorne branch and agreed that, at the time of her visit, the selection was “extremely biased.””Our role is to stay neutral and provide information,” Dierauer said, adding that the library in Frisco, for example, features a voter information display geared toward getting people registered.Both Dierauer and Woodford said it was the first time they could remember any sort of questions or challenges arising over a selection of books or a display, with one exception, when patrons ask that an adult-themed book on tape be marked as such.
Are the Clarks self-appointed guardians of political correctness in the Summit County library system, or are they fair-minded individuals doing their civic duty?It depends who you ask. While their criticism of the books may not rise to a particularly egregious example of censorship, it could still be considered a challenge, said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, of the American Library Association, advocating for a library’s right to feature and display any selection of books it chooses. Caldwell-Stone said similar questions crop up again and again – thus, the intent of Banned Book Week is to make citizens aware that there have been challenges to all sorts of books from all points on the political compass. This year’s Banned Book Week, which was last week, featured the most banned books from the years 1990 to 2000, she said.She pointed to Article 3 of the Library Bill of Rights, which states: “Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.”The Clarks were not comfortable discussing the situation in the context of Banned Book Week, emphasizing that they were not seeking to have the books removed or censored.”We would have liked to see more balance. We thought it was inappropriate for a tax-supported institution to promote a political agenda,” Dick Clark said.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.
Now more than ever, your financial support is critical to help us keep our communities informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having on our residents and businesses. Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.
Your donation will be used exclusively to support quality, local journalism.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User