udjibbom (udjibbom) wrote,

the goatwhore plot thickens; or, more in censorship news

so today i checked on the status of my library holds again - i was actually doing it in a work-related capacity, since i've been waiting for about two weeks now for the VHS copy of the 1960s film version of our book club selection, Black Like Me, to come in - several of our participants have expressed a keen enthusiasm to see the film and i have to admit i'm kind of curious myself: but, to date, no luck.
but i also couldn't help checking on the status of the goatwhore album i've been waiting for and, after my recent conversation with one of the librarians, i was somewhat surprised to learn that - after having been in circulation, or at least being renewed on a regular basis for approximately three months or more, the item is now listed as: "No Item Information."

this is interesting for several reasons. first of all, the item was clearly in circulation or, at least, being regularly renewed, as of three days ago - which is when i was told a library staffer would be "looking into this"... and now there's no item information? that can't possibly be coincidence, can it? someone asks some questions about an item and, huh, there's suddenly a change in it's status?
well, sure: if it was a perfectly innocent situation, like the disk being lost and the patron constantly asking for a renewal so they can just have a few more days to check under the couch cushions again. that might result in someone from the library checking up on the story and finally deciding, yeah, you lost it and you're gonna have to pay the fine and we're gonna have to change the records to reflect this as being unavailable.
but that isn't what happened. listing something under a heading like "no item information" isn't the same as saying the item is "missing" or "lost" or "we don't know where the fuck it is" - if the item is missing, lost, damaged or otherwise unavailable AND is a regularly enough requested/circulated item, then there's a decision made as whether to replace the item or not. [i know this from having worked at a library in college and having used them all my life, but it was also confirmed by the librarian i talked with today.]

and, yeah: an item with multiple hold requests and a history of sustained circulation would get replaced - that's criteria this item fulfills, as evidence by the fact it's been both requested by me [and two others] AND unavailable for our use for more than three months now. if it had been sitting unused on the shelf for months and was suddenly unavailable, it'd be a much more difficult case to make that enough people wanted it to justify a repurchase.
but a listing like "no item information" is  a lot more nebulous - ordinarily, that status wouldn't trigger any sort of review; it's a grey area and it wouldn't be flagged for replacement consideration since it might, as a friend suggested, just be misfiled or shelved wrong or perhaps never even purchased in the first place - that clearly isn't the case here, since the library has a record of circulation up to three days ago. but now the same item has the sort of ambiguous classification that allows things to go unremarked upon...
unless someone makes persistent inquiries, of course.
"There's something strange about this," the librarian i spoke with told me today. "It's a mystery - I'll have to check into this."
while she couldn't say for sure, she did tell me it -appeared- as if someone at a different library had entered this classification, which is apparently a fairly significant red-flag: you might report another library's items as lost or damaged or stolen but it's the responsibility of the home collection to enter that status into the system... and that doesn't appear to have been the case in this instance.
again, not to be a crazy conspiracy kook, but it almost seems as if someone at a different library became aware of something this offensive being available and got hold of it and took it upon themselves to not only remove it from circulation but do their best to make it appear as if the item was no longer available - unfortunately for them, they didn't have the access privileges necessary to completely delete the records from the system.
i'm not going to go so far as to say i hope someone gets fired over this but part of me thinks that a justifiable punishment - this is censorship, dammit. should an item as potentially offensive as an album by a band named GOATWHORE be not only freely available but supported with public dollars?

i'd argue yes, that a democratic majority doesn't have license to silence unpopular or divisive opinions, attitude or art. we can reasonably disagree whether the library should have ever purchased the item in the first place, because i'll agree the public isn't obligated to support unpopular opinions... but once the item entered the collection [and it may have been donated, i don't know how or why the album became library property] it should be freely available to anyone who wants access to it.
because what's the alternative? i don't agree with anything sarah palin has to say, for example, so does that give me a moral right to steal all the copies of her book from any library in the land and destroy them so no one else can be poisoned by her idiotic ideas? why stop there? i should probably keep them out of book stores, too, since people probably shouldn't be allowed to buy those books anymore than people should be able to check them out for free. but, you know, sarah palin herself is just gonna keep spouting her nonsense, so i should probably do something to silence her - right?
of course not - but that's just the sort of slippery slope this asshole started strolling down with the goatwhore album. "i don't like this" or "i don't think people should be able to listen to this" was almost certainly at work* here and i think allowing or condoning or failing to punish that sort of behavior - especially among the librarians we trust to safeguard these materials in the first place - is not only troubling but, ultimately, a danger to freedom and our security as a people.
*i'm not omniscient and there could be a dozen perfectly innocent explanations for this - maybe it is lost or maybe it was accidentally damaged. i don't think that's the most likely possibility, but that probably has to do with my relatively pessimistic attitude about some things, censorship obviously being one of those.
a simpler question: doesn't this bother anyone else?
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