Sunday, January 27, 2013

Libraries Need To Stay Out Of The Opinion Business

Last week I saw an article which did not sit well with me. It was written on the subject of The Manly Library's [of Sydney, Australia] reaction to Lance Armstrong finally admitting to illegal doping. The library reacted by saying that they were going to move all of Lance Armstrong's books to the fiction section. The story made a little splash in the world media as it went through its cycle.

I agree with the sentiment that Lance Armstrong deserves what he gets for the doping, playing on the world's sympathies and his cutthroat reactions towards his critics. I was an initial supporter of Lance Armstrong against his critics because I felt that they were ginned up by the French for dominating 'their' event. However, it turns out that Lance was the bad guy and I feel betrayed. Not that I am really into cycling or the Tour de France, but it was just one of those stories you get drawn into.

However justified The Manly Library [love that name] feels in their proposed action it really is the wrong choice. There is plenty of fiction sitting in the non-fiction section. We all have our own opinions of just what that is. I have my list of books that I would love to see moved to the fiction section. You see where I am going with this? This is the kindling that fires up people into making really stupid decisions. We all may feel justified in saying yes the Lance Armstrong junk is fiction, but that may empower people towards attacking another book. The defenders of that book retaliate by saying another book is fiction. This just begs to spiral out of control.

This is only one angle.This is a matter which can also be politicized. Many of those books would also be of a political nature. When you bring politics into the fray then it all goes to pot. The library needs to remain above the fray. It can't be seen as opinionated or political. That makes people angry. Angry people don't fund libraries. So please, libraries, maintain the high ground that you have with the people. They are one of the few institutions remaining which garners a high level of respect with the people.

Here is a link to the New York Post article which I read: