Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wasilla Library Rejects 2 Gay Childrens Books

I have negative news to report about the two books I recently donated to Wasilla Public Library, which I wanted to be on the shelves when Gov. Sarah Palin returns home on November 5 to resume her full-time duties as governor.

According to a report from the Library Journal blog, written by Norm Oder, the local librarian will not be accepting the books and instead they will be sold at a book sale to raise funds for the library.

While I'm disappointed my two donated books won't make it to the shelves, I'm still happy, as a gay man who supports strengthening public libraries, that "Heather" and "Daddy" will benefit the Wasilla library. Plus, it's nice to know other gay childrens books, such as "And Tango Makes Three," take up some of the real estate on the Wasilla library shelves.

From the Library Journal today:

[Background] In the wake of the Palin news, an activist donated two gay-themed children’s books to the library. Martin-Albright tells LJ, in news not previously reported, that the library will give HeatWasilla Public Libraryher Has Two Mommies and Daddy’s Roommate to its Friends group for sale.

Q: You had already stated that one reason that Heather Has Two Mommies isn’t in the library is that a book has to earn its real estate.

A: The library strives to achieve a balanced collection of materials in the major information categories, as well as a fiction collection calculated to satisfy the widest possible variety of tastes. All viewpoints and opinions on controversial subjects are represented whenever possible. Wasilla Public Library’s collection development states that materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation and that the library should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

In the past, Wasilla Public Library held both Heather Has Two Mommies and Daddy’s Roommate, although the books are no longer on the library’s shelves. Wasilla outgrew the size of its library about 20 years ago. Library collections are dynamic, and anything on the book shelves has to earn its real estate. If it is not circulating, it does not stay. This is not the ideal, but it is the reality. The books were removed as part of on-going collection development and not due to the subject matter presented in the books. Wasilla Public Library holds many titles that deal with the same subject matter, including the popular And Tango Makes Three.

All one has to do is look at thWasilla Public Library, Children's Roome books in question next to Tango, or any other well-made picture book, to see that Heather and Daddy’s Roommate are poorly constructed, lack engaging illustrations, and have too many words on the page to be useful to young readers. The books are poorly manufactured; they are insubstantial paperbacks that would not withstand repeated use. Moreover, the books are dated in illustrational style and content. Since they were published, several better-made books which are more appealing to children that deal with the same subject matter have been released. Wasilla Public Library houses quite a few of these titles on its shelves.

While the library agrees that Heather and Daddy’s Roommate are important books because they were ground-breaking and because of the controversy and discussions that have occurred in the 15-plus years since they were published, there are better choices for a dynamic, current, and appealing children’s collection. The donated materials, in accordance with our Donations Policy, will be given to the Friends of Wasilla Library for its annual book sale. You are the first reporter who has asked since the decision was made, so I guess this will be our first public announcement.


Anonymous said...

This would all be more believable if Palin had not just refused to sign a Proclamation affirming the dignity and contributions of LGBT Alaskans for National Coming Out Day. Gay bars used to not "bar women", but to bar those "wearing open-toed shoes". Same difference. Shylock demanded a "pound of flesh", not someone's life -- same difference. I would want to know more about gay-friendly books that are stocked on those library shelves before I let this library off with a pass for this refusal. Something about this smells about as stale as a full set of 1972 Encyclopedia Britannica. I could be wrong, but I just second-guess the refusal of pro-gay books from a state where clearly anti-gay Palin is governnor. Exactly how many pro-gay books do they carry? Where are they displayed? (child-level?). Do they actually circulate? Are they replaced if found to be "missing"? None of this is answered.

AndLastly said...

I find the tone and content of the response from the library to be convincing. The library clearly has a delicate position, and by setting themselves as objective librarians who consider the practical factors involved in book selection, while being conscious of political factors, I don't see how their position could legitimately attacked as something other than well considered.

I think there is a responsibility inherent in LGBT activism to be receptive to cogent arguments. It's important to recognize the justified intent of certain institutions to remain non-politicized to the best of their ability.

I don't think it's fair to haughtily brush off the library's response and assume prejudice just because the current governor is a lunatic.