By Andy Kubis and Cristy Meiners, producers
“Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.”
- Walter Cronkite
Our library series ends today with two stories that are rather depressing. The first is about the trend towards privatizing libraries. A few weeks ago, the New York Times ran a story about the issue and we spoke with two librarians caught up in the imbroglio. Stephen Klein works for the Los Angeles County Library System and Jackie Griffin is with the Ventura County Library System. The two talk about what it will mean for their communities, for their jobs and for their patrons (now customers) once the private firm takes over next year. The CEO of Library Systems and Services, Inc., Frank Pezzanite, is quoted in the Times story as saying: “There’s this American flag, apple pie thing about libraries. Somehow they have been put in the category of a sacred organization.” Many people couldn’t agree more.
Next we turn to the subject of banned books with Barbara Jones, director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. The OIF tracks formal requests to remove a book from a library or classroom because of an objection to the book’s content. A link to the most frequently banned and challenged classics – including Winnie the Pooh and Charlotte’s Web - is here. High on the list is Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. A teacher in Tulsa, Oklahoma was fired In 1960 for assigning the book to an eleventh grade English class. The teacher appealed and got his job back, but the book was removed from the school’s library. And just last year, the book was challenged in the Big Sky High School in Missoula, Montana. You can see a list of the most challenged books of the last year here.
I’ll Take Moby Dick and a Back Hoe
Our initial brainstorming session for this series produced a list so long that it needed its own Dewey Decimal number. One of the stories we couldn’t get to is about all of the unique libraries out there, serving their communities in interesting ways. At the Taylor Community Library in Taylor, Michigan, patrons can check out fishing gear – tackle boxes, rod and reel combos and a wide assortment of hooks, lures and sinkers. The Richmond Public Library in California has a seed-lending library, the Iowa City Public Library loans art, Pittsburgh has a Toy Lending Library, and the Seattle Public libraries loan portable Kill-A-Watt electricity meters so patrons can gauge how much power they are using at home. And in California, we visited the Tool Lending Library, attached to the South Branch of the Berkeley public library. Here’s an audio postcard that didn’t make it to air. Special thanks to Teresa Shelly for production assistance: