Robot 6

Library worker’s battle with Black Dossier began a year ago

Black Dossier -- The Absolute Edition

Black Dossier -- The Absolute Edition

More than a month after two Kentucky public-library employees were fired after refusing to allow a child to check out The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier, details surrounding their dismissal finally are emerging.

In a lengthy article in the Lexington Herald-Leader, we learn the story didn’t begin on Sept. 22, when Jessamine County Library circulation-desk attendants Beth Bovaire and Sharon Cook decided the graphic novel was inappropriate for the 11-year-old girl who had reserved it.

Instead, events date back almost a year, when the 57-year-old Cook, appalled that children had access to the Alan Moore-Kevin O’Neill book, challenged its inclusion in the graphic-novel section, which apparently is tantalizingly close to Young Adult Fiction. When that didn’t work, she checked the book out of the library — and kept renewing it, effectively removing it from circulation, until Sept. 21. That’s when Cook tried to renew Black Dossier again, only to discover the computer wouldn’t permit her to do so because the book had been placed on hold … by a child, no less.

According to reporter Amy Wilson, on Sept. 22 Cook spoke to two of her colleagues about the problem, and Beth Boisvert, a part-time employee, decided to remove the hold, prohibiting the child from checking out the book. The next day, Cook and Boisvert were fired.

Cook still has the library’s copy of Black Dossier, and is being charged 10 cents a day in late fees.

Wilson’s article includes plenty of background on the library’s policies, and Cook’s efforts to challenge the book according procedure, which required her to, y’know, actually read it: “People prayed over me while I was reading it because I did not want those images in my head.”

Cook and Boisvert contend the graphic novel amounts to pornography, and that the library could be committing a felony by making it available to minors. They want the citizens of Jessamine County — “we are a conservative community,” Boisvert says — to determine whether Black Dossier, and presumably other works, meet community standards for obscenity, and to decide what books their children have access to.

In short, they want county taxpayers to select what appears on library shelves, and where.

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Comments

20 Comments

Alan Moore – Disturbing conservative religious librarians for over 30 years.

Anyone else tempted to donate a copy of the book to that library? if enough people do it, maybe the late fees on taking all of them out will drive this lady broke and homeless and nobody will ever have to hear about her crazy ass again.

Don’t these people have any understanding of what professional ethics are?

“In short, they want county taxpayers to select what appears on library shelves, and where.”

Surely that’s not the issue. If county taxpayers are paying for the libraries then it’s perfectly reasonable that they should have views on what the libraries do, as with any other local government service. (If local taxpayers were lobbying the library to spent more money on reference books and less on romance novels, or vice versa, would anyone say that was none of their business?) The complaint here would be that the proposed policy is a bad one, not that taxpayers should have no say in making it.

The relevant portion of that article:

“any child 17 or under must have the consent of a parent or guardian to have a library card. And no child under 11 should be in the library unsupervised. (Parents choose if their children can access the Internet or if they can check out DVDs.)”

I think it’s certainly an issue, yes. While I agree it’s reasonable, and expected, for taxpayers to hold views on the library, school system, public parks, etc., and seek to improve them, I can’t, offhand, think of any local institution more micro-managed by the public than libraries.

While I don’t think Black Dossier is appropriate for an 11 year old, well, I guess that is more up to whatever the parents think their child can handle. I think that while a teenager is probably able to handle that kind of decision on their own, an 11 year old, that’s pretty young, especially for the antics of James Bond in the Dossier.
Also, never mind that the Dossier is so dense and detailed, I applaud any 11 year old who can finish it and understand it.
I love the “all or nothing” attitude of religious zealots and scared small town conservatives. It’s like, how about, you have a “Adult Graphic Novel Section” and a “Kids Comix” section. That way no 8 year old will accidentally end up with a copy of Preacher and no 26 year old will end up with a copy of “Archie & Veronica”.
But then again, that would require people acknowledging that maybe, the year isn’t 1963 and comic books are actually skewed toward an audience in double digits now.
It’s a depressing, weird, backwards story. On the one hand, I agree with them not giving it to a child, on the other hand, I don’t agree with them demanding it be banned.

@ Kevin : Schools

I wish people would pray for me when I read Jeph Loeb comics. I could use all the help I could get.

Thank God they’re being charged late fees!

Since the book was originally purchased because of a patron request, the library obviously has at least some taxpayers who want LOEG: Black Dossier to be in the library’s collection. It doesn’t matter if the person was a library worker or just a library patron; she needed to follow set library procedures if she wanted to challenge the material. She obviously didn’t. She is now acting criminally in deliberately keeping the book past the loan date. I don’t know if the library has a set maximum amount of time a book can be overdue before starting collection procedures or pressing charges of theft; many libraries will also disallow further use of the library card until the material is returned AND all fines are paid.

The library did everything right – the book has received good reviews, has appeared on “best” lists published by mainstream media, the book was shelved in the appropriate area of the library. The library workers behaved in the most egregiously unprofessional manner possible. They worked in a PUBLIC library, an institution that serves the ENTIRE community, not just their little, narrow-minded segment. They need to set aside their personal preferences and beliefs in order to serve the entire community. I do this all the time – I’m a pastor’s wife, a librarian, and a passionate advocate for the freedom to read. If I can do it, so should they.

Not to be a complete stick in the mud here, but I didn’t see anywhere in the article where the ladies in question were identified as church goers on any level. I know it’s easy to lump the religious together with conservatives, because they often overlap, but being one does not equal being the other.

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

… and they have not even ordered “Lost Girls” yet :P

Just a quick note of clarification: to my knowledge, these older women were not librarians – they were staff working the circulation desk. Being a librarian myself (which requires a Master’s degree), librarians should and usually do fight against censorship and for the freedom of information and expression in all it’s forms. Peace,

The Disobedientlibrarian

TalesofBraveUlysses

November 10, 2009 at 6:00 am

Being someone who has spent time in “conservative communities,” the actions of Cook and Boisvert are not at all surprising. And the closer to the Bible Belt they are, the deeper the censorship. At one college I was a guest lecturer at in Mississippi, I discovered the previous head of the theatre program, a conservative Christian, actually censored certain works from William Shakespeare from the student body.

“Don’t let the buttbrains win.” – from the TV series Murphy Brown.
Unfortunately, that seems to be the case more and more.

Also keep in mind that the ladies do not even know the 11 yr old girl reserved the book. Her parent or older sibling, or anyone with access to her library card, could have reserved the book under her account. What you have here is a case of library employees abusing their privileges. They did not want the book to circulate, period. There’s nothing saying they would not have taken off the hold no matter the age of the person who reserved it. This “11 yr old girl” reasoning is just an excuse to garner sympathy.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the only way they found out the relevant cardholder in question was 11 years old was accessing the library’s patron database in a way they were not permitted to do. Unauthorized access of computer data is a crime in Kentucky, even if it isn’t done for the purposes of fraud, and doesn’t cause any damage, see: Ky. Rev. Stat. § 434.853, http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=13494

FUCK IT.

Someone is reading. We should applaud this. A lot more people in this country should follow suit.

Why even bother with a separate “graphic novels” section anyway, just chuck it in with the “fiction” collection.

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