September 16, 2018


(This is what libraries looked like when I started working in them.)

All we need these days is another embarrassing story about West Virginia. Well, guess what? We got one. This one hit a little close to home.

First a digression. By an accident of fate, I spent 10 years working in public libraries in WV. I started out as a part time janitor after high school. In fact, I got some of my best reading done when I was supposed to be cleaning the little library in my home town.

After the big flood of 1978 trashed my town, including the library, there was a lot of extra work. Eventually I started working with the public. I really loved bantering with people, waiting on kids, helping people find the information they needed (even if they weren't very clear on it sometimes) and putting on programs people wanted to come to.

Aside from the whole poverty thing, it was a good gig.

Libraries are like little liberated areas carved out in the midst of the reign of greed. They are refuges for people of all ages and passports of the mind.They are places where people can make a fresh start on education, careers, and personal development. They are places that provide a venue for many diverse viewpoints.

They're also outposts of free speech and bulwarks against book banning. Or were meant to be.

That's where the groan comes in. A national news story recently broke about the library director in Berkeley Springs who tried to keep a copy of Bob Woodward's Fear off the shelves. Fortunately, the library board lost no time in reversing the decision.

I'm hoping that the exposure this incident has gotten sends a loud and clear message that this kind of **** is not to be tolerated.

The distance between book banning and book burning isn't that far.

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