I need to find a way to synch up the clocks. WordPress thinks I am writing this 5 hours ahead of now.
Last night I wrote a bit about Ralph Munn and some of his ideas. I picked some of his more controversial notions, so lets go over them. Munn changed the Carnegie library into an academic library because he thought libraries should be “educational, informational and cultural.” Good notions to be sure, but he was perhaps too high-minded and shunned works he found popular but uninformative. This preferential, but it doesn’t amount to censorship which is still a very relevant topic. Just look at this.
What is acceptable in a library and what isn’t? This is an argument that may never end. What is so objectionable that it does not belong in a library? Pornography? I imagine most people would agree on that. A public library that is open to all ages should be age appropriate even though what is age appropriate is not a settled argument.
What about material that is racist, out of date or just wrong? Libraries should contain as much up to date information as possible. Older books can be sold or donated to special collections. Even though some books fall out of favor, the fact that they existed does not need to be swept under the rug. Telling people what we thought at one time tells us how far we have come. It is a record of our progress.
What about awful things like ‘The Leopards Spots’ or ‘The Turner Diaries’ or ‘Mein Kampf’? I say no, they should not be removed either. Of course they are offensive, and the fact that they ever existed should not be lost. Whitewashing history helps people forget the past and then we are doomed to repeat it, especially when some abridged version of the past allows the less well read to think “Maybe that Hitler guy wasn’t so bad?”
I think the past should stand as it is. Certain books need a frame of reference or parental guidance because some books are not equal to others and are not accurate depictions of the world.
What about popular trash like ‘Twilight’ or ’50 Shades of Grey’? Yes, I would let them stand too. One of the most important lessons you can learn is humility. Just because you think something sucks does not mean it sucks. To each their own. Nazi’s ban books and we are not Nazi’s.
Munn believed that libraries should eschew popular trash and changed the Carnegie Library. I don’t think what he did rises to the level of censorship, but was it the right move? To leave out certain books because he didn’t like them? He did not see their value but that did not mean they didn’t have any. If I saw a public library going in that direction I might be worried.
As for Munn’s preference for women, it’s unusual to see men strive to work in a field so classically pink collar, even though it only became pink collar for sexist reasons. Well I and the other men pursuing an LIS degree for an LIS career are working hard, even harder than I thought, and do it because we love it. There will probably never be a movie about the man who tried hard to be accepted in his library and was bullied mercilessly by his female coworkers ala ‘North Country’. The paycheck is probably not going to be glorious and I myself want to be a librarian because the East Lansing Public Library has been so meaningful to my life. Sexism manifests itself in some odd places. At least Munn’s sexism came from his wish to see libraries run properly. He probably never saw women as cheap labor either. I suppose he meant well.
For my last entry tomorrow, I will focus on Munn’s life and why he is still relevant.