Controversy over Reference Titles

We all know how fanatic beliefs can cause conflicts. We also know that, in our profession, such conflicts are common. Not everybody agrees with our approach towards our library’s Collection Development. We are trying to create a diverse collection. No library has every possible title out there. However, librarians attempt to include something for everybody in their orders.

Some months ago, I took over the Reference section in one of the two libraries I work for. The first thing I did was to replace outdated information in areas where such information can be harmful in one way or another (Medicine, Language). After the first couple of months, I started adding titles based on users’ requests. In a couple of cases, people asked for Wicca books. There was an older multi-volume encyclopedia in the Reference section, but people wanted something lighter and easier to read than an encyclopedia. I added three titles to my next order and suggested a couple of more to the non-fiction librarian. Suddenly, it dawned on me that there might be reactions, but I dismissed those thoughts and concerns as unnecessary.

In the end of October, one of the assistants of the Adult reference Department notified me that she had been “harassed” by a user because of the librarian’s Reference choices! This person stated that she did not agree with the Wicca books. My assistant attempted to explain that the topic was requested by other users and also that we try to buy items for everybody without discrimination. Apparently, these explanations and justifications did not satisfy the user. She replied that she goes to different libraries and checks what librarians are ordering! She was very disappointed about our library.

Suddenly, I realized that I ordered a couple of books on Native Americans in the Michigan area, including a Chippewa dictionary and American-Indian history in the area, because a couple of users asked for them. After the religious controversy, would that be a new racial one? I cannot stop thinking of the fact that so many people consider the library their private book collection and want everything to agree with their beliefs. The simple “you don’t like it; don’t read it” idea is not enough for these people. This reminds me of Hitler’s attempts to control what people read and listened to, by burning everything he felt did not agree with the Third Reich approach. If users like the one mentioned above were allowed to take action, they would burn half of the books in our libraries. How much have we learned from history and how much have we evolved?

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