Friday, June 30, 2006

Here's to unilateral censorship, so much for being professional

One of my colleagues pointed this story out for me from the San Antonio Express-News for 6/29/06. Title of the story is "Incarnate Word Cancels NY Times Subscription Over Story." Apparently, the Dean of Library Services at University of the Incarnate Word felt that he did not agree with The New York Time's coverage of the administration's financial surveillance. His way to express this disagreement? He cancelled the library's subscription unilaterally. Here's his shameless declaration of "it's my way or the highway:"

"Since no one elected the New York Times to determine national security policy, the only action I know to register protest for their irresponsible action (treason?) is to withdraw support of their operations by canceling our subscription as many others are doing," Mendell D. Morgan, Jr. wrote in a June 28 email to library staff. "If enough do, perhaps they will get the point."

So in other words, it's perfectly ok to deprive the rest of the community of a source of information just because your politics clash with the publication. If librarians throughout the nation went on this principle, we would have empty libraries because there is always going to be some material expressing a view or idea that is disagreeable to someone. Just because he is the dean does not make him one to self-righteously decide what his patrons and community reads. Could we then remove items that other patrons object to, but that he appreciates? As if this lack of professionalism and display of pettiness was not enough, his university pretty much has chosen to stand on the sidelines and give a weak statement on supporting the First Amendment. Apparently the First Amendment rights of the rest of the academic community are not an issue. There is simply no excuse to blatanly censor or remove a source from the library because you disagree with the politics of that source. To do so is to renounce the name of librarian in order to become yet another self-righteous censor who somehow thinks he knows better when it comes to what the rest of the community should read. To say this person, regardless of his politics, gives a bad name to our profession is to put it mildly. You want to cancel your own personal subscription to the NYT and urge your friends to do the same? That is perfectly within your rights to do so. No one is saying the dean has to renounce his political beliefs. But depriving everyone else in a library, which is supposed to be a place of learning that welcomes all views, is immoral and unprofessional.

Update note (07/03/06): The subscription has been reinstated. However, he did not do it out of a sudden change of conscience or coming to the senses. In fact, he sees his actions as perfectly acceptable:

In announcing on Friday that the subscription would be reinstated, Mr. Morgan said that he did not believe his use of the university library as a forum for personal protest was inappropriate, but that he did regret having failed to consult library staff members.
Oh, so in other words, it is perfectly acceptable to use your position of power, which is actually more like a position of trust, to bring in your personal vendettas and agendas. How very magnanimous of him. I wonder what library school, if any, he went to. So in other words, he just reinstated it because he got a little too much heat.

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