A letter from a librarian to a patron who was upset about a book about gay marriage:
Recently, a library patron challenged (urged a reconsideration of the ownership or placement of) a book called “Uncle Bobby’s Wedding.” Honestly, I hadn’t even heard of it until that complaint. But I did read the book, and responded to the patron, who challenged the item through email and requested that I respond online (not via snail-mail) about her concerns.
I suspect the book will get a lot of challenges in 2008-2009. So I offer my response, purging the patron’s name, for other librarians.
Here’s an excerpt from the letter which really is the main point:
I fully appreciate that you, and some of your friends, strongly disagree with its viewpoint. But if the library is doing its job, there are lots of books in our collection that people won’t agree with; there are certainly many that I object to. Library collections don’t imply endorsement; they imply access to the many different ideas of our culture, which is precisely our purpose in public life.
Kurt Vonnegut – I Love You, Madame Librarian:
And on the subject of burning books: I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength or their powerful political connections or their great wealth, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and have refused to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles.
So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House or the Supreme Court or the Senate or the House of Representatives or the media. The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.
It is early days, admittedly, but as soon as you officially launch you open yourself up to analysis and ridicule. The complaints are valid, too; these results certainly donâ€™t seem to be on a par with Google, and for an underdog to succeed it needs to not only match, but surpass the market leader.
Some of the complaints are extremely serious â€“ with pornographic images popping up on search results, out of context, and even with the safe search feature turned on. If you canâ€™t trust the site for use at work, or by your kids, how much will it actually get used?
There are also worrying problems with Cuil as a business. It obviously doesnâ€™t have the same sort of cash behind it that Google does, but how long it will actually hang on to its meagre $25 million investment?
Sarah Carey, The Sunday Times columnist, also works for Cuil, and recently posted on her personal blog about how quickly the company is burning through this VC cash. The post has since been removed, but thanks to Googleâ€™s caching feature (not available on Cuil), the post can still be read here.
â€œI have a secret life. You may know me as a domesticated, rural housewife and while this is true, for the past year I have also tasted the life of an international software executive,â€ says Carey, before going on to describe day-to-day life at Cuil.
â€œLunch is ordered in every single day. Huge fridges burst with snacks and drinks. Bowls of strawberries and muffins lie around the rest area. The company pays for a personal trainer and gym membership for everyone. A doctor calls round each Friday, after the weekly barbeque, to see if everyoneâ€™s in good health. Employees drift in an out at times that suit themselves,â€ she continued, before temporarily expressing worry about the spending.
Never mind all that. A search for “Cynical C” doesn’t lead here nor does a search for “Cynical C Blog”. That’s not a cuil we can believe in.
In the religion of our day there is nothing original. All of its doctrines, its symbols and ceremonies are but the survivals of creeds that perished long ago. Baptism is far older than Christianity — than Judaism. The Hindus, the Egyptians, the Greeks and Romans had holy water. The eucharist was borrowed from the Pagans. Ceres was the goddess of the fields, Bacchus the god of the vine. At the harvest festival they made cakes of wheat and said: “These are the flesh of the goddess.” They drank wine and cried: “This is the blood of our god.”
Robert Green Ingersoll – “Myth and Miracle” (1885)