Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Chris Powell Misses the Point

Even public librarians answer to democracy, by Chris Powell, Managing Editor. (Manchester Journal Inquirer, 2/1/2011)

Excerpt: Enfield's Town Council responded hysterically and boorishly to complaints from a few local Republicans that a film series being planned by the public library should not include Michael Moore's "Sicko," a polemic more or less supporting nationalization of the medical insurance system.

Yes, "Sicko" is political advocacy. But instead of thanking the Republicans for their comments and asking the town manager to look into the matter and report back or even inviting the librarian to the council's next meeting so he might explain what was happening and what he meant to accomplish, a majority of the council members jumped to the conclusion that the librarian was trying to propagandize for the Communist International. The council members told the town manager to block the showing of "Sicko," and the mayor went so far as to warn that the council could take out its displeasure on the library's budget.

Eventually the council members calmed down a bit, maybe realizing that political balance in library materials might be achieved without threatening anyone. They had no evidence that the librarian was trying to do anything except his job as he saw it. Indeed, having been reprimanded by the council without a hearing and then counseled by the town manager, the librarian quickly added a conservative polemic to the film series and "Sicko" was rescheduled

But then Powell offers this ill-considered conclusion.

As badly as the Enfield situation was handled, the underlying issue was just an ordinary public policy judgment, not constitutional right, and a more practical question seems not even to have been asked. That is, in the age of video discs, who really needs libraries to become theaters, to do more with movies than check their video discs out to whoever wants to watch them at home?

Yeah, and while we're at it, who needs libraries to host book discussion groups, to do more with books than check them out to whomever wants to read them at home.

The point, Chris, is that library-sponsored programs provide people with an opportunity to connect with one another, share opinions, and learn more about specific topics in which they have an interest.

Related article:
Outcry over showing of 'Sicko'.  (1/21/2011)

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