Friday, March 21, 2008

A Request we can't Honor

We received a letter from an inmate asking us to refrain from bringing books with sex and violence into the jail environment. His goal was less about moral reform than psychological well-being. He said that literature can damage the minds of the readers so as to cause more harm to the minds or elicit more illicit activity from those who are caught up in "The Game."

Our library service to jail does have some limitations, but it is not structured as a program for psychological self-improvement. We cannot assume that reading books with sex and violence (which often include hard-hitting lessons on the moral repercussions of one's acts,) damage readers' minds. We follow A.L.A.'s guidelines for library service to special populations and bring the full range of material available in a public library. Even if fiction has not become established as classic and morally uplifting, it deserves a chance to be read.

The real pity is that many voices are censored by simply falling through the cracks of the publishing world. Moral clarity might be hiding out there in some amazing minds, but we will never hear it. These cracks in the tolerant surface of the publishing world continue to suck down dissenting voices and alternate views.

Contrary to our best intentions, censorship does occur. The Jail Administration and some Deputies occasionally ask us to censor certain books for their perceived effect on morale or because they are being used to break rules and subvert authority. This kind of censorship is rare and, on occasion, we offer a rebuttal and give reasons why the books have been popular and pose no threat. Sometimes we lose.

Our distressed inmate concluded with a request we can honor: "Please bring books like the Dancing Wu-Li Masters." We'll do our darnedest to satisfy his book request, as it falls within our guidelines of honoring requests for educational literature. We would gladly offer him the best non-fiction self-help and philosophy our budget can buy.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Labeling "The Poor"

For many years, marauding bands
came to the border of our land,
but could not pass the place called Avengel.

One day the bands broke through the wall
with spurs and whips and cursing calls
they won the day, and ended our Self-Rule.

The strong were sent to fill their jails.
The weak were poisoned at their wells.
But death was not the final scourge;

A final desecration lay in store.
Survivors were renamed, "The Poor,"
and asked to show the victors gratitude.

For this, we rose up from our cells
and towns and cities we rebelled!
To thank "The Rich" is more than we can do!

Dan's 2-Cents: Aren't we all Poor? Aren't we all inwardly the same, with threats of Outside Invasion heaped upon us to divide our strength and weaken our resolve? This poem is a call for Self-Rule. Only with the restoration of Self-Rule will we have Sufficient Funding.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Detectives were hired... to determine which books have the least appeal to inmate readers. This is a difficult call, but seventies sci-fi often tops the list. It is a really hard sell.

However, our sleuths recently discovered a book cart that was completely empty except for two "Romances:" Linda Howard's White Lies and Christine Feehan's Dark Challenge. (300 men rejected these hot titles. Of course, a sneaky "podworker" could have squirreled them away for a little private reading in the "book closet.")

What are two puzzled Librarians to think? The staff cannot assume that Howard and Feehan are destined for the dust heap. NO!! Someone will treasure these tomes! Just listen to the blurbs on the back covers:

"Something is different. Even unconscious, this man is tougher, rougher than the man she remembers. He doesn't remember anything, but his effect on her is intense... sensual... uncontrollable...." White Lies

"Julian Savage was golden. Powerful. But tormented. For the brooding hunter walked alone, always alone, far from his Carpathian kind....When Julian heard Desari sing, rainbows swamped his starving senses...." Dark Challenge

Would YOU take home this purple prose? Hmm...on a lonely night, well, ...naahh. The quest for rejected books continues, so look for future installments of The Left Behind (on the Cart) Series.