Library workers fired for colluding to keep graphic novel from being checked out by 11-year old girl


Two workers at a Lexington, Kentucky public library were fired after it was discovered that they had teamed up to keep a copy of Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier out of circulation.

According to the story, Sharon Cook, 57 and Barbara Boisvert, 62, basically colluded to keep the book out of circulation -- Cook, who had become disturbed by the book's imagery, checked it out for a year, meaning no one else could check it out. However, when an 11-year-old girl put it on hold, Cook was unable to continue her delaying tactic -- and Boisvert stepped in, removing the hold, and keeping the book out of circulation.

Both were fired for their actions. The Jessamine County Public Library has not commented on what they call a personnel matter.

Cook seems to have some kind of obsession with the book -- she's still carrying it around in her knapsack, the dirty parts marked with Post-Its. This, despite what she describes as her mortal danger when reading the book:

"People prayed over me while I was reading it because I did not want those images in my head," she says.

Alan Moore, destroyer of library workers

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  1. Sounds more like they were conspiring to keep it from being checked out by anyone (and creepily obsessing over the dirty bits).

  2. I thought libraries were about allowing information to get into the hands of the public….unless of course you think you are one of God’s special people

  3. Eh, it wasn’t that damning. Now “Battle Royale,” there’s a graphic novel to corrupt the youth with!

  4. I got sworn at by the parent of a 14 year old for letting her take out manga, she – the mother believes that we have a duty of care to censor what children read. I told her ummm… no that is her job. We just provide access and guidance not censorship

  5. Cook sounds a bit like that matronly schoolmarm in the first League who’s ostensibly keeping her girls’ school students free and pure of the devil, yet who especially delights in erotic canings etc. (It’s where the League meets Hawley for the first time.) Lovely irony, and on his BDay to boot!

    Damn, Cook-lady, read “Aereopagitia” and get back to me…. NOT

  6. Also, when did libraries start housing graphic novels? They sure didn’t when I was a kid, but oh how cool that would’ve been. Hmmm…may need to head to the local branch after work tonight and see what they have. I never thought to look around for a graphic novel section.

    1. My library has a pretty large selection of graphic novels, including the entirety of ‘Sandman.’ :)

      These people should never be allowed to work in a library again – at least Cook shouldn’t, anyway. Clearly, she is more interested in forcing her morals on others than in doing her job. Reprehensible. Reminds me a bit of those pharmacists who refuse to dispense birth control because of their religious beliefs – except she has less (ie, no) legal ground to stand on. (and they shouldnt either IMHO, but anyway..)

    2. Gandalf23, our local library here in Michigan has a HUGE collection of manga. I’m always impressed with their sci-fi/fantasy selection too.

    3. My local libraries do too. I think it depends on the library’s selection; if it’s a small library, it may not have enough graphic novels on-site to warrant its own section.

  7. Just so you know the Jessamine Public Library is in Nicholasville Kentucky, not Lexington. Two different communities, two different sets of attitudes.

  8. One small quibble: while this story was published in the Lexington, Ky. newspaper, the Jessamine County Library is actually to our south in Nicholasville. There’s no chance the Lexington Public Library would not be involved in a stunt like this. (Now questionable accounting practices, that’s another matter.)

  9. Lexington-Fayette County Public Library or Jessamine County Public Library? Two different libraries; two different counties.

  10. I wonder, if it had been an adult that requested the hold, would they have allowed it out of their supervision? I don’t condone the actions of these librarians as the accessing of a patrons personal info for the purposes of selective lending is beyond horrid. But I can understand why they were concerned. Children and young adults each have their own personal level of comprehension and maturity when consuming information from different sources. If I had encountered any of Alan Moore’s works, or even Neil Gaiman’s Sandman in my teenage years, I don’t think I would have had the kind of intellectual maturity to understand or appreciate them properly. But the mature content in these books would in no way have scarred me for life, and I highly doubt the 11 year old would have been mentally damaged. She may have simply ended up with a lot of questions she probably had before reading the book anyway. The sad thing is that these women destroyed their own careers by not minding their own business. Had they not taken it upon themselves to act as this girl’s parent, the worst that may have happened is that her real parent may have decided to make a complaint to the library about the appropriateness of the book. The librarians would have kept their jobs. For all the librarians knew, this kid’s parents may have helped her place the hold. Ultimately, they deserved what they got

  11. Eleven. The naked ladies and the poodle and the guy behind the easel? I’d really want to be able to guide my pre-teen kid through the imagery. This is a dilemma. Don’t Marion the Librarian to play town censor but, eleven. (And they were so moral that they couldn’t make the book vanish and chalk it up to anonymous pilfering.)

    1. (And they were so moral that they couldn’t make the book vanish and chalk it up to anonymous pilfering.)

      Naw, they were jilling off over it.

  12. “People prayed over me while I was reading it because I did not want those images in my head, she says.” I don’t see why not. Evidently there’s plenty of empty space there. And my library also carries them. Without brown paper wrapers.

  13. That’s wrong-headed. But also wrong-headed is a local librarian that insists on filing all graphic novels in the “YA (young adult)” section.

    I keep trying to suggest that maybe “From Hell” would be better shelved elsewhere.

    Plus, I get weird looks when I spend too much time in the YA section looking for graphic novels…..

    There’s a perfectly good Dewey Decimal classification. Use it!

    1. “From Hell” definitely doesn’t belong in the YA section. I saw Maus in the YA section of the local branch library. I heartily approve of young adults reading it, but it still in the wrong location.

      Also, Christian haters: where’s the love? Seems like you’re just as closed-minded as the two ex-librarians.

  14. But I can understand why they were concerned.

    I can understand why people think anybody who looks remotely Arab is going to explode a bomb in their face, but it’s still stupidity.

    If I had encountered any of Alan Moore’s works, or even Neil Gaiman’s Sandman in my teenage years, I don’t think I would have had the kind of intellectual maturity to understand or appreciate them properly.

    Assuming both that there is a “proper” way to appreciate something and that the kid in question is no more mature than you were at that age.

  15. I can’t even get this in Canada. Some weirdness about copyright rather than morals, which is half nice, half irritating.

  16. OK, I’ll be putting the Black Dossier on my ‘to buy’ list now. Congratulations oppressive ex-librarians, you just guaranteed Alan Moore a sale.

  17. Hmm. I think it’s acceptable to shelve graphic novels in their own section, and not necessarily among general fiction or in the genre sections. After all, it’s not unprecedented in libraries to sort material according to medium; we have sections for picture books and for films/DVDs (I mean, why not shelve movies according to genre among the books?).

    I’d take it a little further and divide them among age groups though — comics for adults, comics for kids, etc. The problem is a lot of libraries just don’t have enough of that material to create these individual sections, so they just lump them together. I don’t think it’s necessarily a judgment, but just a matter of space and practicality.

    Director Critchfield can not talk about the firings, but he did say he was surprised Tuesday to receive a petition saying The Black Dossier and 3 other books represent a threat to public safety.

    The petition reads in part, “This community is known to have sexual predators, and works such as these encourage those predators to act out their desires or at the very least justify their desires.”

    So you’re saying… If we get rid of all the books, no one will act out their predatory sexual desires? Great! Problem solved!

  19. Wow. Yes, the material might be a bit much for an eleven-year-old. Then again, is the child going to the library herself or is there a parental unit with her? I was checking out grown-up books when I was eight, but my parents gave them a quick check to make sure they were age appropriate. Age appropriate in my family being limited to anything not having a centerfold. then again, my father MADE me read ‘Catcher in the Rye’ when I was 14.

    I just found out last week my library has some graphic novels; on the ‘returned but not shelved cart’ was the graphic novel of World War Z (just incidents of zombie attacks, not the whole thing).

  20. The wonderful result of many one-off attempts at censorship. It just causes more interest in the material. I’d never heard of this before today. Now I’m curious.

  21. Jeez, if those librarians had problems with Kev O’Neill’s “disturbing” imagery, they should check out his work with Pat Mills on Marshall Law.

  22. As an adult, I don’t think I’d recommend The Black Dossier for an 11-year-old.

    On the other hand, 11 is a pretty good age for occasionally reading things that adults don’t think you should read. Certainly I was reading stuff that was too old for me at an even younger age.

  23. “People prayed over me while I was reading it because I did not want those images in my head,” she says.
    Uh…or you could try NOT CARRYING THE BOOK AROUND IN YOUR PURSE. What an effing moron.

  24. These two were clearly not the brightest bulbs on the tree, no?

    If they were so obsessed with keeping the book out of circulation — why didn’t one of them simply sneak it out of the library throw it away?

    Since they had no compunction about violating the library privacy regulations, why would a little petty theft have been so hard for them?

    Was the book possessed, perhaps? Or was the spirtitus inside it influencing their beady brains? Perhaps it had a confundus charm applied to it? Praying over the book to prevent its imagery from infecting her might be a clue that something is really wrong with these two.

  25. > The petition reads in part, “This community is known to have sexual predators, and works such as these encourage those predators to act out their desires or at the very least justify their desires.”

    > sexual predators
    Likely their town has an 18 year old that had sex with his 17 year girlfriend, or someone who peed in an alley outside a bar at 3am. Both could be registered as sex offenders.

    > works such as these encourage those predators to act out their desires
    Citation definitely needed. I’ve never heard any proof of this often thrown claim.

  26. I’ve dealt with opinionated Library workers in the past…

    One time I was looking for some “Von Daniken” books, saw no titles except one of those filth “DeBunker” books and asked them and got a big lecture on how he was a nutbag…

    BUT- They weren’t trashing them or hiding them. They hated them because they were so popular in spite of that. People checked them out, and wore them out, and lost and KEPT them. AND they had to replenish them again and again and again, which to them cost plenty since they couldn’t do so by just going to a used bookstore.

    So, I went to a used bookstore. Talk about coincidence! The owner had a standard office paper box FULL of them he was thinking of trashing! Ah the smell of a box full of 70s cheap paperbacks! True Childhood nostalgia! I had to insist on paying him $5 for the whole thing!

    I kept a selection of personal titles since I’d only had “Chariots” otherwise and gave the rest to the library which greatfully and grudgingly accepted it. And, yes, it’s been years and they haven’t been short on “Da SPace Godz” literature anymore! They keep two copies of each volume in circulation and then put more in when those disappear.

    They disagreed with Von Daaniken, but doing this frees up more funding for real books of literature and real science education books. Cost me $5, saved them hundreds! Who says an individual can’t make a difference:-)

    Now, if only I could get them to take (and not trash) my copies of “Apocalypse Culture”… Well, I only have volume II, but might get I for a while… But that’d be pushing it, no?

  27. I’m not saying that they should have destroyed the book — but given the extent of their rule breaking from the get go (IANAL but deliberately keeping any books out of circulation for moral reasons seems about as defensible as a mail carrier not delivering mail he or she deemed immoral). Destroying the book would also be cencorship, which is bad. Very, very bad.

  28. There’s another related issue that isn’t getting much press. The librarians apparently used their employee access to find out who had placed the hold and then found out how old she was. So there was also a violation of privacy. Libraries thankfully don’t like that.

  29. I read about this when it broke on libnews, and it is just chilling to me.

    See, librarians (and aides and anyone with catalog privilages) have an enormous amount of power to abuse in this fashion. You can lock of book away from a community, hiding it in plain sight. If that doesn’t give you the willies about the precarious nature of free-reading, I don’t know what will.

    Add to that, the importance of a community library. In New York or Chicago you can just go to any number of bookstores, comic shops or even suburban libraries to get the book you want. In a smaller community, your options are limited. Younger readers don’t have credit card access so they can’t order books online. In short (too late) your right to read has been compromised by someone’s moral objections. Someone who didn’t even have the guts to follow the set complaint procedures that every library has. Cowards.

    I’ve dealt with patron complaints. Most people are well-meaning, polite and just want to express concern. My grad school advisor said the best thing to do was be utterly polite, get them a coffee or some water, show them the complaint form, inform them politely about the process and thank them for visiting the library. The vast majority of these complaints about materials end right there. They’ve been heard, spoken their piece and will move on.

  30. Black Dossier is the book with the pornographic Tijuana bible in it (spoofing 1984). It should not be loaned out to 11 year olds, should it?

    Do Libraries have a duty to keep bona fide pornography on their shelves? You can argue ‘artistic merit’ but Moores whole point in including an ‘obscene’ form of art is to deconstruct the whole idea of artistic merit.

    Interesting perspective here:

    1. Yes, full Tijuana Bible is reproduced in this book, and the plot is driven by…ok, I love Alan Moore and this series, but it is simply fair to say that the book is all about really weird old-guy turn-ons which I didn’t understand.

      Would it be fair to put post-Zap Crumb comix in a library? Yes. But the library would know what they were getting. I don’t reckon this library knew it was buying such edgy material. If there were a back-room section to your comic book store, this book would belong there. And I think the librarian in question was right to believe it shouldn’t be read by an 11 year old.

      Disagree? Read the comic first. In fact, can we limit future comments to those who have at least googled the book?

      1. I’ve read it, and the Lost Girls collection another commenter mentioned (although most libraries I know do not carry the latter.) I bet the library in question knew what it was. That doesn’t make me, or them, wrong.
        No more than it is wrong of it to carry the Bible, or a Koontz novel. All of these things are possibly incendiary. It is your right not to check them out. It is your right to check your child’s library card, if you believe they are hiding material from you. It is your right to join them in the library if you do not trust they will make choices you would approve of.
        Yet remember, Children are curious, and they will always have access to things others do not find suitable – library or not. Even those who have parents who check their cards, or deny them cards completely. Theft can often be a result of over-censoriousness.

        Instead of putting up signs around a pool, hoping the children stay out, is it not better to teach them to swim?

        The library should not, and ideally does not, create or police the information we provide access to. You wouldn’t want us to.

      2. Alan Moore seems to have an intense interest in the aesthetic and cultural phenomena surrounding Tijuana Bibles. He includes one in Watchmen as well.

      3. “And I think the librarian in question was right to believe it shouldn’t be read by an 11 year old.”

        But it’s not the librarian’s job to limit access, it’s the parents. Seriously, PARENT’S JOB, NOT THE LIBRARIAN’S.

  31. It’s stuff like this that drives home that the librarian profession isn’t immune from the effects of a censorious mindset. Most of the people I met in infosciences were actually quite open and encouraging of anyone getting any kind of information they sought, regardless of age or perceived maturity.

    Oh, and when I was a kid, my mom had a friend who owned a used bookstore, and I used to spend a lot of time there rifling through the romance novels, purposefully looking for the sex parts, halfway out of amusement, halfway because I ALREADY HAD a “dirty mind”.


  32. Regardless of how old she was vs. the…explicitness of the material, that’s the parent’s job to police, not the librarians. Additionally, if they had been keeping it out of circulation for a year, that’s not actually about the 11 year old who tried to check it out.

    Frankly, I kinda wish my mom had been looking over my shoulder a little more often because I read Flowers in the Attic (incestuous rape and child abuse) and a whole bunch Dean Koontz (anyone read that one with the mind control rape?) when I was 11. Not exactly the introduction to sex that I wanted. But that’s on me and my parents, not the librarians, nor should it be on them.

  33. On the complete other end of the spectrum my middle school librarian, seeing that I was reading Stephen King, pointed me to a Dean Koontz book (Night Chills) that a couple decades later is still one of the more pornographic things I’ve ever read. She was an extremely nice old lady, at least in her late 60s at the time.

    Note to self: buy and reread Night Chills.

    1. Was it Night Chills with the mind control rape? I couldn’t remember if it was that or Shiver. (Though I think I have both of them somewhere).

      I got pointed to Stephen King a bunch of times, (and man did I want to like the gunslinger series, if only because some of the art work was very cool) but I hated everything of his I ever tried.

  34. #51 – Who decides the definition of pornography? You? There are plenty of important (non-graphic) novels that describe explicit sex (American Psycho for just one little example). Should libraries not carry those?

    In addition, my Dad had a huge collection of adult comix (Zap, Mr. Natural etc.), which I read repeatedly as a child, that didn’t in any way damage me. I have them now and if I have kids, damn right they’ll get to read them. They’re important, but need to be contextualized by a caring parent.

  35. Speaking as one who was once an 11 year old girl that book’s drawings are cool, and honestly no drawing ever corrupted or twisted my poor little mind the way that the “good intentions” of the people around me did.

  36. Good. Speaking as a public librarian, it is really disheartening to see professionals behave so poorly. The ALA’s library code of ethics would call this a serious no-no.

    We do not police information. We provide access and give guidance, period. If the eleven-year-old doesn’t have parents that actually live up to the title, well, she’s in for an eye-opening experience.

    On the bright side, I now have another title for next year’s banned books display. Sweet.

  37. The issue of how to catalog graphic novels is a harder one. There are so many ways to do it. With so many of them in our collections…and so many more being added everyday, we face a bigger problem than when they were considered kids stuff (if indeed that was ever an appropriate consideration.)

    As of now, my system approaches it from a format perspective, as graphic novel users seem to be more interested in having them all together. But it may be that one day they will need to be split up based on subject. For instance, Persepolis could be shelved with memiors. Maus could be shelved with WWII materials.

    As is, our “adult” section of graphic novels has Peanuts shelved there. Some shojo and shonen contain nudity and sex- some are very mild- but they are all in the teen section. As a person in change of the Graphic Novel collection in my branch, I can tell you I am working on this, but change is slow, and right now there is no real consensus.

    The best way to handle the library is the way you handle parenting in every other area. Teach your child what you find appropriate, and know what they are doing. I am in the middle of an intellectual organization muddle, I can’t represent your moral code (and you sure wouldn’t be comfortable with mine.) But if you want my insight into a particular series, I’ve probably read it.

  38. Would it be unreasonable for a library to have a section or selection of items with a minimum age requirement? I’m wholeheartedly opposed censorship (and vigilante censorship even more so), but the literary equivalent of you-have-to-be-this-tall-to-go-on-this-ride doesn’t strike me as any more of an issue than giving a movie a PG or R rating.
    Giving librarians a bit of discretion in rating content would allow them to tailor the selection to the local climate without enabling (or encouraging) them to ban things outright.
    If a parent felt that their child was mature enough to handle a particular item, they could always check it out on their behalf. This might even get parents more aware of what their kids are reading, and actively providing the context other commenters suggest is their duty. (I’m guessing kids who are covertly reading mature material might be less likely to discuss it with their parents.)

    1. I fully get (and enthusiastically encourage,) a parents desire to protect their children from material that isn’t appropriate for them. The problem is, the definition of appropriate is completely subjective. A will talk with people about what that means. I don’t pull punches, if someone asks me about content, I won’t sugar coat it…but I also need to know what content a particular individual finds troubling to asses it’s relative “appropriateness.”

      There really ARE people who think Harry Potter should be shelved elsewhere than the childrens section, but if I did that, I would be stigmatizing the material and passively passing judgment on those who would willingly go into that section to check it out. A parent who doesn’t care for Harry Potter is perfectly within their rights to deny their child access to it. But only their child, no one else’s.

      Same goes for sex scenes, reproductive health concerns, materials concerning gay people, conservative politics, war, etc. Its my job to give someone (anyone) what they are looking for without questioning why they want or need it. Libraries are careful no to include “porn” but that definition is shifty too. Does a tantric sex guide count?

      I think about it this way. Cataloging and shelving material is supposed to make things EASIER to find. Any attempt to make it less easy to find is censure.

      As I was saying before, in the very same section where Charlie Brown hangs out, so too does Battle Royale. Just two steps down you’ll find guides and Monet. Thankfully, cataloging is not static and discrepancies can be addresses (sometimes, slowly-slowly addressed,) but no matter what, the goal is to be accurate and accessible first. The shelves aren’t there to judge the appropriateness of a book. Librarians can guide, be we can’t be gatekeepers of propriety, when propriety is so nuanced.

    2. Yes, it would be unreasonable. Unless you want to get into the business of putting “ratings” on every book ever written.

      Books are already shelved in children’s, YA, and adult sections, and labeled accordingly.

      I mean, I read Lord of the Flies at age 14. In school. Required reading. It contains a really disturbing implied rape scene. Yet it was a great reading choice. I read Catcher in the Rye at the same age, from one of our bookshelves at home. Many people would have liked to forbid me from reading both.

      The headline on this item, I think, is unfortunate. It primes people to argue about whether or not it would be okay for a librarian to refuse to check out Black Dossier to an 11-year-old. But that’s not what happened here. The librarians refused to say out loud “We won’t let you borrow this until your parents say it’s okay.” In fact, originally it had nothing to do with 11-year-olds at all. They conspired to keep anyone, regardless of age, from checking it out because they thought it was just too dirty.

      I wouldn’t have nearly as much problem if one of them had told her she needed to have a parent with her to check it out. Even that is a gray area, though — what about a teenager who is looking for books on birth control or abortion, or books about being gay, when they might be in real danger if their parents found out? I do think the cases are qualitatively different, but it’s difficult to codify how. And I think it’s better to err on the side of access.

      And yes, I have some issues with movie ratings too.

      1. I mean, I read Lord of the Flies at age 14. In school. Required reading.

        We got to choose a reading assignment from a list in Mrs. Smith’s sixth grade English class. We picked Lord of the Flies. We were 11. It was the late 60s. Nobody was worried that we’d be scarred by exposure to literature. Hell, we read The Good Earth in fifth grade. That has concubines in it.

    3. Here in NYC the way it works (or the way it used to work when I was a kid) is that the libraries have children’s and adult’s sections. If you’re a kid, you can get a card that lets you take stuff out from the children’s section. Your parents can (as mine did) get you a full-fledged card that lets you take out from either section.

    4. I’ve had problems as a child with trying to check out ‘Adult’ books (Dune, to be precise). However, there were books in the kid’s section that were up there with Hubert Selby sex & violence-wise, they just had juvenile-looking covers.

  39. Hey, if she tries to check out that book, they can just taze her! She’s not old enough to read graphic graphic novels, but she’s more than old enough to be tazed!

    </bitter irony>

  40. Thank god (sic) they did not loan The Bible..have read that thing? (I did not) All that murder, son sacrifice etc No “naked” pictures though…

  41. The librarians in my hometown used to give me the fisheye for reading the Bobbsey Twins when I was in high school. That sword cuts both ways.

    1. Ha! I got a lot of “are you checking this out for your children/siblings?” when I started rereading the Black Stallion series in college.

      Now I want to go find The Boxcar Children and see if it is as awesome as I remember it being.

  42. I wonder if the Jessamine County Public Library accepts donations? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they received not one, not ten, but a hundred copies of “Black Dossier”? Surely, someone would notice if all one hundred copies of the book were checked out at once?

    (I’m not intending to cause trouble for the JCPL. I believe that the answer to censorship is to make the redacted information available as freely and widely as possible.)

    Then, when the furor died down, they could feel free to donate spare copies to various other libraries around the country….

  43. Holy crap, no wonder the rest of the country thinks we’re backwards, stupid hicks. “Sorry kids, but because someone has a problem with Harry Potter, Twilight, etc. soon the libraries won’t be able to carry that either.” GROW A BRAIN AND PARENT YOUR CHILDREN! It is SO NOT a librarian’s place to censor what your kids check out. I live in Lexington, and the Lexington Public Library system. Please remember that Lexington doesn’t equal all of Kentucky. Seriously. Nicholasville is not the same thing, they it is close by in distance.

  44. This may be a minor point, but these two individuals are described in the article as “library workers,” not librarians.

    “Library Worker” is a vague phrase. It could mean any employee in the building, from the maintenance person to the director of the library.

    For those of you who are outside the library field, here’s the scoop on the types of employees you’re likely to find at a public library:

    Shelvers/Pages: These people keep the shelves replenished with recently returned items and make sure the items on the shelves are in good order (alphabetical/dewey decimal/library of congress.) You’ll often find high school students in this role, but they don’t hold a monopoly on the position.

    Circulation Clerk/Worker: The employees who assist you at the circulation desk by checking out your books come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Education beyond a high school diploma is not often required (though it is typically welcome.) Customer service skills are paramount in this position. as they are often the bearers of bad news (e.g., your book is overdue.)

    Library Technical Assistant (LTA): these employees often complete a technical certification program or an associates degree in library science. They frequently have bachelor’s degrees in other fields. This paraprofessional position can be thought of as similar to a teacher’s aide in a school or perhaps a paralegal in a law firm.

    Library Assistant: Often has similar duties to an LTA, but has not necessarily had specialized library school instruction (or perhaps they are pursuing their MLS degree.) These people often have bachelor’s, if not master’s degrees in other fields.

    Librarian: These people(I am one) have most likely completed a master’s degree program in library science at an ALA accredited school.

    During their tenure at library school, they have been taught the importance of ensuring free and equal access to all types of information as well as the dangers of censorship. That’s why I find it hard to believe that these two were really librarians. If so, they have lost sight of what the profession is all about. As Jessi_Face points out, their actions fly in the face of our code of ethics.

    I’m certainly not suggesting that non-librarian workerss are unethical by nature or that librarians are superior by virtue of their educational background; I’m merely saying that the type of training you receive in an MLS degree program teaches you(almost indoctrinates you) to remove barriers to access of materials, not to put them into place (especially if you’re doing so based on your own personal beliefs.) Other library employees have not necessarily been exposed to this type of value system.

    The bottom line: Essentially all public libraries have procedures for reevaluating questionable books, and they certainly don’t involve workers checking them out for a year to keep others from having access.

  45. Funny thing is, the girl probably already knew of some of the book’s premise/contents (why would she randomly reserve a totally unknown book?). Double fail on the part of Ms. Morals.

    It reminds me of a book about the inquisition and witch hunts we had found at the library, a friend and I, when we were about 11 or 12. We checked it out a few times just to snicker and get grossed out at the rather explicit wood-engraved illustrations (women having sex with devilish creatures, naked people getting prodded and taunted by interrogators…). That sort of curiosity is pretty common and normal. That woman is probably just a poor religious nut brainwashed from birth, terrified of her own fascination with sexual material.

  46. I can only imagine how lovely Alan Moore might feel after reading about this. Especially this part:

    “People prayed over me while I was reading it because I did not want those images in my head,” she says.

    That’s right up his dark, dark alley…

  47. By all accounts the library did the right thing here. Two library employees (and thanks to Bonmot for sketching out that guide, as a Librarian myself I’ve had to explain that not everyone working in a library is a librarian many a time) broke library policy and countermanded the public’s right to read. They lost their jobs. Not something I wish on anyone, but when you violate one of the cardinal rules of an institution don’t be surprised if your time there is short.

    As a YA librarian I’ve dealt with non-librarian staff who had strong opinions about materials they saw coming into the library. Books like “A Child Called It”, “Harry Potter” and whole series of graphic novels have caused some staff to raise questions. But they’ve always done so openly and as members of the community.

    There’s nothing wrong with someone challenging a book, it’s their right to do so and a good library listens to all concerns. But when you sneak a book off the shelves you degrade the public trust in libraries. That’s bad for everyone.

    1. as a Librarian myself I’ve had to explain that not everyone working in a library is a librarian many a time

      Conversely, my cousin worked as a library assistant for five years after getting her MLS before she could get an actual librarian job.

  48. Did that librarian have someone praying over her when she last went to the bathroom? if God is everywhere then he’s in the toilet.. that’s just horrible and disgusting! She’d need to have LOTS of people praying over her for THAT kind of nonsense.

  49. I read Watchmen when I was eleven. Was some of the sex & violence a bit much for me? Sure. But I was eleven, not neonatal. I was able to process most of it, and stuff I wasn’t ready for pretty much just went right over my head (and the stuff I wasn’t ready for was more emotional than carnal).

    And really, no harm done. I grew up, stayed nerdy, and now I’m in library school. Yay, books.

  50. The problem is that these library assistants (because I’m certain they were not professional librarians) had no idea whether the hold was for this 11 year old or a family member. In my library, family members use each other’s cards to place holds if one person forgets theirs. It could very well have been meant for the parent.

    Also, I would like to know this library’s policy on limiting renewals. Most libraries I know of restrict the number of times you can recheck out an item, and overriding that is a violation of circulation policy. Library staff are expected to follow the same circulation rules as the public at the library where I work, and to disregard these rules is a performance issue.

  51. This may be very nitpicky but I would like to point out that these ladies were library workers not librarians. Perhaps with the appropriate education on topics such as censorship as are part of am MLIS they may have behaved differently. Well, probably not!

  52. Further proof that social conservatism, fear of sex and religious fervor leads to mental illness.

    Cook seems to have some kind of obsession with the book — she’s still carrying it around in her knapsack, the dirty parts marked with Post-Its. This, despite what she describes as her mortal danger when reading the book:

    “People prayed over me while I was reading it because I did not want those images in my head,” she says.

  53. Hey Cratermoon–we hate radical Xtians because they spend their lives trying to legislate their own fucked-up version of morality into law.

    “Lord of the Flies” and “Flowers in the Attic” were REQUIRED READING at my JHS/HS.

    Looks like I know where to donate any extra copies of “Lost Girls” that I may come across. I’ll be sure to sticky-note the page where Dorothy jacks off a horse while getting it doggy-style from a farmhand ahead of time.

    In fact, just to make sure that our bluenose censor notices it, I can have it enlarged and wheatpasted to her front door, and the doors/windows of whatever bullshit inbred storefront lobotomy factory of a church that she prays at every Sunday.

    Fuck Censorship.

  54. Weighing in on the age appropriateness of books. I started reading Stephen King Firestarter at 9 years old. I didn’t understand the drug references, and didn’t really care. The bit in the lab where it starts going wrong stuck with me for years, but mostly I just loved it cos it was about a little girl who could burn stuff with her mind, plus also, I saw the film and kind of fell in love with Drew Barrymore . You’ll never know how many hours I spent staring at stuff after reading that. I then went onto more King, Christopher Pike, and then Dean Koontz – loved Night Chills, although the more spiritual he gets the less I read him. I also read more standard teen fare and also younger stuff, and still do.

    I think it is up to the individual and their parents to decide what they can and can’t read. Just because *your* morality says ‘this is bad’ doesn’t mean it actually is. Just like horror movies and video games don’t make us killers. I now read and watch all sorts with my girls and have just started original Grimm Fairy tales with my 7 year old! I bet they don’t censor those!

  55. My department had to fill the display cases in the Library (an Academic library in a state university) a few months ago, so I chose to do “The History of Comics”. We ordered numerous graphic novels that are now part of our permanent collection. (Watchmen, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Maus, Understanding Comics, etc etc…some 14 or 15 in total.) We set up a “THRILLING ORIGINS” case, a “GOLDEN AGE” case, a “THE MCCARTHY SCARE” case, a “HOLY GRAPHIC NOVELS, BATMAN!” case, and finally a “COMICS-TO-FILM SUPER TEAM-UP” case. It was the most popular display in the history of our Library. After our display was taken down and the books shelved, they were some of the most highly checked-out pieces in our collections.

  56. One point: A lot of kids reading material beyond their age level often just don’t understand what’s going on, usually enough not to be influenced (“corrupted”) by it at all. I remember when I was a kid, I’d try and pick up adult novels, but give up after reading half a chapter because I couldn’t grasp so many things.

  57. Yes Alan Moore is so much more corrupting than a book filled with genocide, incest, murder, demons, and plagues. Wow is the Bible really more shocking than an Alan Moore graphic novel?

  58. I saw Judy Blume on a talk show back in the 70’s, being badgered about her teen’s-introduction-to-sex novel, “Forever”. Blume responded that “children are their own best censors”, and I think that’s really true. I specifically remember choosing not to read certain books that I came across, because I knew they would be too scary for me, and in fact I put off reading “Forever” for some years. On the other hand, I know I was very frightened by certain ideas that I accidentally came across. I don’t think there’s any way to avoid that, but I could understand a librarian wanting to warn a child that a book might be too scary for them. Are they even allowed to do that?

    1. Good question. Yes, of course we can, and often do! What’s the point of guiding someone to a bad reading experience? “Oh, You don’t like gore? Perhaps Creepers is not for you. Lets find something more to your liking.”

  59. Were these woman bona fide librarians with advanced degrees or just local clerical workers? I know from working in a library it’s not just librarians that can screw with book traffic.

    If they are actually degreed librarians, there’s an additional degree of shame involved. Librarians sign on to uphold the right of free access to information. As to marking the dirty bits…weird. Seems like there’s a chemical brain imbalance involved in this story somewhere.

  60. Please let us note the language used in the article. The two women were called “library workers.” I take this to mean that they were not librarians. Not that some librarians aren’t prone to this kind of behavior, but it’s much less likely given our education on access/censorship/free speech. This is a wake-up call to professional staff to supervise more closely and make sure their non-degreed colleagues understand the censorship issues and comply with freedom of access. Also, probably a good idea to shelve the more controversial manga/graphic novels in Adult Dewey instead of in the Young Adult section. That way if the kid finds it anyway (which he/she will), there is justification for the library in dealing with the parents–“we keep all kinds of books on our shelves, it is up to you to supervise your child’s access.”

  61. This didn’t take place in Lexington, It’s like saying something that happened in Jersey happened in New York. Sheesh.

  62. Just another librarian here to chime in and point out that they were library workers, not librarians. Librarians require a Master’s degree and generally, I would hope, be well-read on the issues of censorship.

  63. As a Lexingtonian, I feel I must point out a factual error: Lexington is not in Jessamine County. Lexington is Fayette County, and it is a bona fide city boasting a not-entirely-lame research university. Jessamine County is to the south and far more rural. The Lexington library system did have its own recent scandal, however: the former head of the library district was run out of town due to improper use of library funds. Good riddance, as by all accounts she was a harridan who abused her employees.

  64. Plenty of good raping, killing and morally questionable activity in the bible (and plenty of that questionable activity is the big guy himself).

    The decision to have this material in the library was already made. It’s not about morality or professional ethics, it’s about appropriate respect for the chain of command. These folks can be fired for that without any moral judgement coming into it.

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