Friday, October 23, 2009

Library Craziness!

Check out this story that I found on Comic Book Resources:


Libraries Two library employees in Nicholasville, Kentucky, were fired last month after they refused to allow an 11-year-old girl to check out The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which they dubbed pornographic. However, the policy of the Jessamine County Library states it's the responsibility of parents to decide what's appropriate for their child to read.
The fired employees, Beth Bovaire and Sharon Cook, stand behind their decision, asserting that the award-winning comic by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill contains lewd pictures that are inappropriate for children.
"If you give children pornography, a child, a 12 year old, can not understand and process the same way a 30 year old can," Cook told a local television news station. [WTVQ, WTVQ]


I have to say, I'm a little torn over this. I don't think the library employees deserved to be fired for this. I understand and applaud the library's policy, BUT maybe the employees were just trying to cover their own asses. I know I've done this at the shop several times. Not that long ago, a 14 year old came in to buy League volume 1. His mom was with him, I told her she might want to look at the book first to make sure it would be appropriate for him. I, as a retailer, do not want to be the one to decide what is appropriate for any child to read. For example, all of the Vertigo books out there, have a "suggested for mature readers" printed on the front of the comics and the graphic novels. If I encounter a child (if you can't drive yourself to the store, I will consider you a "child") that wants to buy Vertigo books, I always double check with the parents. I don't want to get slapped with a law suit for selling pornographic material to a minor. I support the CBLDF but hope to never have to use them as a source for launching a legal defense. I absolutely agree with the principle that the library supports of not censoring any checkout by a minor, I find it downright amazing that a library in Kentucky supports this right so strongly. Couldn't the library just have reprimanded the employees instead of firing them? It seems a little extreme. I'm betting if these employees had gone ahead and let any under age child check LOEG out, there would be at least one parent out there trying to sue the library for exposing their precious children to "pornography." I do not agree with the assessment of these employees that LOEG is "porn" . "Lost Girls?" Oh yeah, definitely porn, but LOEG Vol 1? Adult themes and situations for sure, but I would call it "suggested for mature readers" before labeling it "adult", "porn", or even "erotica". Volume 3 on the other hand, what with the Tijuana Bible insert perhaps could be considered "adult." Thanks for the controversy Alan Moore! (That crazy old White Wizard loves to stir up controversy over any type of porn. If the old man had it his way, there would be a whole class devoted to Victorian Porn in kindergarten.)

Odd note: I just walked over to the shelf, and I'll be damned, NO WHERE on the LOEG graphic novels does it say "suggested for Mature Readers" I guess that is only a Vertigo thing, not America's Best Comics (Moore's imprint at Wildstorm, which in turn is a imprint at DC). I checked a bunch of the Vertigo GN's, and yep, sure enough they do have the "suggested for Mature Readers" tag line printed on every volume. That is really all we need on these books, so that the publisher's ass is covered. Every store and library needs to find some kind of middle ground for how to handle these situations. I'm betting that most bible-belt conservatives would NOT want their children checking out LOEG or any other "suggested for mature readers" title, in fact these very folks would stage a protest outside of any public institute that has these types of materials on display on a shelf low enough for the kiddies to stumble upon. How many times have I heard stories about comic shops that sold "adult" or even "suggested for mature readers" books to minor, only to be slapped with a lawsuit or at least threatened with a lawsuit? Thank god that the CBLDF exists for this very reason.

There is you food for thought for the weekend, nothing like scratching your head over the strangness of it all. What a strange f'd up world we live in.


  1. "Pornography"? Really? While I understand their reluctance to lend out LOEG to a child, tarring any work of fiction that happens to portray sex or, God help us all, boobs as pornography is jut beyond the pale. Perhaps they were fired because, as librarians, they should understand the difference between adult-themed fiction & pornography.

    As for the Mature Readers tag on the ABC books, wasn't part of the reason that Moore parted company with DC originally because they wanted to put that tag on Swamp Thing? I believe that he thought it was offensive because it insinuated that other comics readers were immature otherwise. Can't find anything about it on-line, but I'm sure I remember reading soemthing about it back in the day.

  2. I once heard a teacher say that the japanese comic "Ranma 1/2" was an adult comic because their was occasional nudity in the book. Actually Ranma is intended for junior high level readers and even has furigana characters which help readers sound out unfamiliar kanji characters. I doubt any fans of Ranma in the U.S. view the book as porn but we comic fans are still in the minority, It seems that the majority of the American public does not, or refuses to distinguish any difference between Pornography, Erotic Art, and the Nude in art. It's all labeled as "porn" whether it fits a legal definition or not. And it's clearly a negative label despite the rise in popularity of pornographic material in any form. I wonder how parents feel about sending their children on field trips to the art museums these days. They may not realize they could be exposing their children to "porn". For example, Manet's painting of nude women at a picnic, and many other classic works of art were originally designed to titillate and were paid for by patrons who intended to hang them in their dens as private pornographic works of art. Perhaps now the same prudish reactionary parents who look down their noses at nudity in graphic novels are the ones who enjoy these classic erotic paintings in museums, and consider themselves enlightened patrons of the arts.

    I once I had an Art History & Philosophy class where we spent an entire class on a debate over what was "Pornography" and what was "Erotic Art". The conclusion we eventually came up with was that Pornography is designed for temporary use and has no lasting artistic value, while art survives. Most people would consider the photographic works in Playboy as a clear example of porn, and yet many of the classic pin-ups from years ago (most notably centerfolds of Marilyn Monroe and Bettie Page) are still remembered fondly as works of art. But Playboy has already been stamped with the "Porn" label so it must either be bad or at the very least have no redeeming value other than feeding mens dark appetite for sexual excitement. I myself find a lot of joy and happiness in making art and especially drawing the human form. I admire the human form, especially the female human form (take that however you like) and I have spent many hours in life drawing classes becoming a skilled artist. And yet some people who look at my work still see it as nearly porn, and don't seem to understand that after years of work, the only thing I'm excited about is making the drawing. Victorian attitudes of morality still seem have a grip on western culture. Other countries have far surpassed us in their attitudes toward nudity and eroticism in art.

  3. I actually work at the library in question. There is a lot of misinformation out there about this and the original report only represents one side of the story. Unfortunately, since this involves a termination, the library can only talk about policies it has in place and not what happened here or why the "librarians" were let go (they were actually library clerks and have no library training or degrees.

    I understand a lot of misunderstandings going on about the library. Some things people fail to mention is that these books are shelved in the adult section of the library. The library also has a very clear policy that the parent is in charge of the use of the child's card (this is standard library practice). Also, a public, quasi govenrmental institution does not operate the same as a private business. While a private business can comment on what any customer is buying or have bought for them, libraries have confidentiality policies that prohibit this. These policies extend to children, but parents have full access to their child's account and can close it at anytime if they feel their child is not able to use it within the parameters they define.


  4. Working in a library denotes having "No library training"? Furthermore, as I understand it, one of the ladies was one class away from completing her degree. Yes I will agree misinformation abounds, like the fact the one of the ladies was willing to compromise if the books in question were moved away from the "teen" book section of the library. Yes they are in the "adult" section, but their location places them right next to the teen section. Even librarians must be responsible, and unfortunately too many librarians hide behind the First Amendment as do many others in order to avoid taking responsibility. I personally love comic books, and I don't mind if there is nudity in them, however, I am an adult, and if i choose to look at them, then it is my right, and I am old enough to make that decision for myself. Yes parents can oversee their children's library usage, and that is a good thing, however, I applaud the retailer above who takes responsibility for his/her store and let's parents know what may or may not be suitable. Perhaps the library should do the same thing.