We’ve seen the unfortunate hysteria over the Confederate Flag. Behold what seems to be a disturbing similar trend regarding books. One of our readers became involved in a controversy over the fact that a branch of the Thomas Crane Public Library in Quincy, Mass refused to stock a book by the late Dr. Samuel L. Blumenfeld.
The controversy arose when it was discovered that after the book donor’s gift to the library was rejected, the donor discovered that the library had taken part in a “Banned Book Week” event where “freedom to read” was celebrated. A 2014 article about the event was printed in the Quincy Patriot Ledger, as reported by Lane Lambert.
Here is how it went when a supporter of the book wrote to the library, the newspaper reporter, and also attempted to send a letter to the editor to point this out, and the response from both the library and the newspaper.
It started off with a letter to the reporter about the 2014 article, which was copied to the librarians and the library trustees.
Dear Reporter Lane Lambert, and Deirdre Sullivan, Acquisitions Librarian, main branch Thomas Crane Public Library in Quincy, Mass.
We read with interest Lambert’s 2014 article about “Banned Books Week” at the Crane Library in Quincy.
“It’s not the library’s place to ban books,” Milton teen librarian Amy Rosa said.
We are wondering if Crane will observe “Banned Books Week” again this September 2015? We are sure if they do, you will want to write about how the Crane Library has been in reality, banning books.
The reason we ask is, they have recently banned, by virtue of rejection, a donated book from the estate of a very well-known and well-respected education author who just passed away. His name is Samuel L. Blumenfeld.
There is no pornography, racism, or otherwise untoward material in Blumenfeld’s book; only the framework for a strong public educational system.
As a teacher of 35 years we and others in our educational community find it highly hypocritical that the Crane library, specifically Deirdre Sullivan their Acquisitions Librarian, sees it important to keep books such as those complained about by parents, but not an informational text such as Blumenfeld’s, which Sullivan claims “did not meet their criteria”. (Apparently, “Heather Has Two Mommies” is deemed more appropriate).
We could not find contact information for Ms Sullivan, but have copied Ms. Sullivan’s fellow librarians in the hopes they will forward this email to her to let her know that if she is going to ban Sam’s very excellent and informative book, the Crane Library will be exposed as biased as to what books they will keep and not keep. In addition, banning this book means the Crane Library is misleading the public about their concern for “banned books” especially during “Banned Books Week”.
Next, a letter to the editor of the Patriot Ledger was sent…
To the Editor,
Many of us in the education community were truly astounded when we learned that Deirdre Sullivan, Acquisitions Librarian for the Thomas Crane Public Library in Quincy, recently rejected a book that was being donated from the estate of the late Dr. Samuel L. Blumenfeld (1927-2015).
Considering that Crane joined the national observance with special displays and invitations to celebrate “the freedom to read” during “Banned Books Week” in September of 2014, many of us cannot find an explanation for this act of censorship on the part of Ms. Sullivan.
(See “South Shore libraries to observe Banned Books Week” by Lane Lambert, September 19 2014: http://www.patriotledger.com/article/20140919/NEWS/140915767)
Dr. Blumenfeld is an internationally recognized educational author (10 books) and educator, who has also created beneficial programs for students. His books are instructional as they help teachers to be better teachers. There is nothing controversial in the book that was donated, and then unceremoniously rejected by Ms. Sullivan.
It is hoped that the Ledger will investigate this issue, considering that “Banned Books Week” will be coming up in September of 2015. We will be interested to see if the Crane library still participates, and is truly dedicated to protecting all literature and the “freedom to read”, as they have claimed in the past.
The Editor, Amy MacKinnon, responded…
Thank you for your letter to the editor. I appreciate your input.
What gives you reason to think this was an act of censorship as opposed to a space/needs issue? Did someone at the library specifically say that the work of Samuel L. Blumenfeld is banned at the Crane?
I look forward to your response.
To which the letter writer responded…
Thanks for your quick response.
This was apparently not about a space issue. The letter of rejection, reprinted verbatum below, specifically stated it did not ‘meet’ their ‘selection criteria’. If some of the books mentioned in the 2014 article DO pass, and yet this one does not, I question the library’s standards. If they are not banning books as they claim, and believe in the ‘freedom to read’ there should be no ‘selection criteria’ for a non-fiction book from such a revered author. Blumenfeld’s book is instructional and is helpful to the betterment of education. Is Crane against that too? You would think they would be pleased to accept a book from such a recognized author as he.
Thank you for thinking of the library for your book donation. I am sorry to say that it does not meet our selection criteria. It will be at the circulation desk for you to pick up at your convenience. Thank you.
Thomas Crane Public Library
40 Washington Street
Quincy, MA 02169
MacKinnon wrote back…
That’s not evidence of a ban or censorship, but is simply a general declination of material. Without such confirmation, I must decline to publish your letter.
Thanks again for being in touch.
And the reply to this?
Wow interesting spin you have there which seems like you are covering for these folks.
How could any library reject a book from an author of such stature?
Are they going to remove “Gone With the Wind” as well?
It makes no sense at all.
And declining to publish my letter is also blatant censorship. Why not let the public know the facts, and then decide if this is hypocrisy or not? Are not LTEs supposed to be opinion pieces? What do you have against my opinion being heard?
You can’t chance that I suppose, because let’s face it, this *is* further censorship, and believe me, most would see it that way.
Not only is the book being banned, but you also do not want anyone to know about it.
That was the end of THAT conversation. Later a response from one of the librarians who had been copied on the letter to the reporter, was received…
Thank you for email regarding the recent donation of the book “Crimes of the Educators” by Samuel Blumenfeld and Alex Newman.
All gifts of books and other materials for the library’s collection are subject to the same criteria used for purchased materials. For non-fiction works, some of the relevant criteria are accuracy, authoritativeness, literary quality and readability, relative importance in comparison to other works on the subject, and availability of the material at nearby libraries.
Based on an examination of the book and the lack of any authoritative critical reviews, our collection development librarian has determined that “Crimes of the Educators” doesn’t meet our selection criteria and will not be added to the collection.
We do strive to develop a balanced and objective collection of materials that provides a diversity of perspectives. On the topic of public education, the following recently published titles are available at the Crane library:
- The Teacher Wars by Dana Goldstein
- One Nation Under Taught: Solving America’s Science, Technology, Engineering & Math Crisis by Dr. Vince M. Bertram
- The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education by Diane Ravitch
Although “Crimes of the Educators” will not be added to our collection, it is available from at least two other Old Colony Library Network libraries, including the Thayer Library in Braintree. Whenever we do not select an item for our local collection, we are always happy to help patrons get what they want either at a nearby library or via interlibrary loan borrowing.
Megan Allen, Director
Thomas Crane Public Library | Quincy MA
firstname.lastname@example.org | 617-376-1331 | thomascranelibrary.org
Interesting to note that if the book was available at two other branch libraries, why would it be refused at Crane?
A final missive was sent to the reporter, to let him know that the LTE would not be printed…
Dear Reporter Lambert,
Sad to say that your newspaper, the Patriot Ledger, has not only made excuses for the Crane Library’s rejection of the Blumenfeld book, but also refuses to publish the following letter, not allowing the public to decide for themselves whether the library is practicing censorship…
And this leaves us wondering, how anyone could think that “Heather Has Two Mommies” was in any way “accurate, authoritative, possessed literary quality or readability, or had relative importance in comparison to other works on the subject”?
Is THIS what passes for ‘good authoritative literature’ these days?
Addendum: Here is a copy of the library’s ‘bill of rights’.
Thomas Crane Public Library ALA Library Bill of Rights
Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.
Libraries should provide materials and information representing all current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.
Libraries should challenge censorship in fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.
Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.
A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background or views.
Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve and should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.
Adopted by Vote of the Library Board of Trustees, 11/13/89