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Amy Wilson in the Lexington Herald-Leader has an in-depth story on just what went on when two Lexington, KY librarians library workers were fired for withholding a copy of THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: BLACK DOSSIER from an 11-year-old girl.

What followed has become a battle of principles that is larger than the women ever imagined.

It has become a question of what public libraries are enshrined to do, what role they are to play in monitoring children and whether they get to decide what people get to read.

What complicates this is that the graphic novel in question meets no standard of obscenity by the law.

According to the story, Sharon Cook, 57, above left, and Barbara Boisvert, 62, above right, basically colluded to keep the book out of circulation — Cook, who had become disturbed by the book’s imagery, checked it out for a year, meaning no one else could check it out. However, when an 11-year-old girl put it on hold, Cook was unable to continue her delaying tactic — and Boisvert stepped in, removing the hold, and keeping the book out of circulation.

Both were fired for their actions. The Jessamine County Public Library has not commented on what they call a personnel matter.

Cook seems to have some kind of obsession with the book — she’s still carrying it around in her knapsack, the dirty parts marked with post-its. This, despite what she describes as her mortal danger when reading the book:

“People prayed over me while I was reading it because I did not want those images in my head,” she says.

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And what are those images? In the rather lively comments section below the story, a reader posts a link to a Flickr set of the naughty bits. This is the only one that’s remotely NSFW. So yeah, probably not something that anyone would want the average 11-year-old to be reading unsupervised.

HOWEVER, Faux News style, in the image description, user melymbrosia writes:

Should the book with these images be shelved in the children’s section of a public library? 

To which, probably most rational folks would say “No way!” except the book was not shelved in the children’s section. It was shelved in the Graphic Novel section, which Cook apparently thought was perilously close to the children’s section.

You can see how some (arguably) good intentions are getting a bit warped here. Those who argue that it’s a parent’s job to supervise their children seem to be in the majority — and libraries have gone this route before and the outcome is always that it it is not a library’s job to censor what people can or cannot check out.

We’ll leave the last word to commenter Ringer, who writes:

Can’t we just be happy the kid is at the library at all? Guess she’ll learn to stay at home and view the most horrible smut anyone can imagine on the internet!


  1. I could completely understand not letting an 11-year-old check out the book, I might even call that responsible. (I’ve actually been waiting for some community to have a freak-out, since the earlier volumes are often shelved in the children’s section… which is odd when you consider how the Invisible Man passed away.) Trying to pull it out of circulation and then going OCD over it… that’s bizarre.

    Having heard the whole story, I’m not so sure “being fired for withholding a book” is the whole story. I wonder if there was a bunch o’ wacky behavior and this was just the first actionable thing.

  2. Okay, so the book was in the Graphic Novel section, not the children’s section.
    Couldn’t it be labelled “not to be borrowed by people under the age of 18”?
    Or is that a no-no in libraries.
    Then just reassign it to the adult section for goodness sakes.

  3. Anyone who has ever worked in any management position knows that it is dangerous territory to talk about personnel terminations. Say the wrong thing, and you could find yourself sued. So it’s not a surprise the library will not talk about the firings.

    The argument has probably already started that the fired workers were fired for trying to protect the children. They weren’t. They were fired for violating library policy.

  4. My wife, who is a librarian, commented on this story saying that she’d have let the girl check it out, as her library’s policy is that parents are responsible for monitoring their kids’ reading habits, and the book had been approved for general circulation at a level higher than hers. Just like this library in Kentucky.

    That they didn’t know to do that, or knew and didn’t follow through, strikes me as more of a personnel issue. But is this truly a fireable offense? Seems like a rather hair trigger

  5. “Why should there be a universal ratings system for comics and graphic novels when there is no similar system for prose and non-fiction? ”

    Because comics (like video games and movies) are a visual medium. You can stock a library with the most explicit and horrific stuff imaginable as long as it’s prose and no one will give a rat’s behind (partially because getting offended at prose would actually require one to take the effort to read it.)

    But god help you there’s a picture of a booby somewhere that can be viewed and reacted to without any real mental effort.

  6. “Because comics (like video games and movies) are a visual medium. You can stock a library with the most explicit and horrific stuff imaginable as long as it’s prose and no one will give a rat’s behind (partially because getting offended at prose would actually require one to take the effort to read it.)”
    which is a funny comment because the way the Invisible Man meets his end is completely left to the imagination of the reader :)

  7. I totally agree with you, Ben. But the funny thing about comics being different because they are a visual medium…

    There aren’t advisory ratings labels on art or photography books.
    There aren’t warning labels on the books in the “relationships” section.
    Both sections can be filled with illustrated or photographed depictions of nudity and sex.

    Why should graphic novels be singled out?

  8. However, when an 11-year-old girl put it on hold, Cook was unable to continue her delaying tactic

    From the article, “Cook used her employee privileges to find out that the patron desiring the book was an 11-year-old girl.” It may be acceptable for parents to oversee a minor’s borrowing habits, but an unrelated employee is snooping. Using the system to snoop on patron borrowing would be a clear abuse of those privileges. Libraries don’t like government officials snooping into patron borrowing histories (regardless of PATRIOT Act allowances). They, and their employees, have to walk their talk.

    I think any question of the appropriateness of “Black Dossier” for an 11-year-old is really beside the point in this case. We wouldn’t be discussing it here, but it could have been an 11-year-old requesting “The Turner Diaries”* and Ms. Cook’s and Ms. Boisvert’s actions would have still been wrong. They abused their privileges. Period.

    *or “Huckleberry Finn,” any Harry Potter book, “Catcher In The Rye,” “Soul On Ice,” etc.

  9. Not that I’m particularly against the idea of a voluntary industry-wide ratings system, but that has absolutely no bearing on this particular story.

    The library’s policy is to not limit access on any books. It’s not a private institution like a movie theater or a game retailer. It wouldn’t enforce ratings, nor is anyone legally compelled to enforce them. Ratings are merely guides for the consumer, and as many librarians have already argued, it’s not the library’s place to interpret them for its patrons.

  10. As a parent I’d be pretty happy with a librarian that would withhold a questionable book from my child until they verified with me it was okay. But what these people did in keeping it out of circulation so that no one could read it is wrong and more along the lines of censorship, rather than making sure an item was appropriate for a child.

  11. Also speaking as a parent, though, I’d note that it’s not the librarian’s job to interfere with my kid’s ability to check out a book. It’s my job, as the child’s parent, to decide if material is questionable for my child. If Junior checks out a book that his mother & I think is inappropriate, it’s incumbent upon us to explain to Junior why she can’t read this book until she’s older (or, alternatively, to read it with her to discuss/contextualize the inappropriate matter).

  12. I gotta side with Randy here: long lost are the days when I went to the library to snoop in the anatomy books or at the photography section to study modern photographers.

  13. Here’s a couple of things that I have noticed no one has mentioned regarding this whole incident.

    The first is that the Jessamine Public Library has a clear “Confidentiality of Patron Records” policy. [Link]
    Here is the first part of it:
    “All Jessamine County Public Library circulation and other records which indicate the identity of library users, especially as they connect library users with material or services used, are confidential. This confidentiality extends to information sought or received, including library materials consulted or borrowed, database search records, reference interviews, circulation records, registration records and all other personally identifiable uses of library materials, facilities or services. Such information may not be disclosed, except to:
    a. Persons acting within the scope of their duties in the administration of the library or library system.

    b. An agency or individual or any local, state or federal government, pursuant to a process, subpoena or court order authorized pursuant to a federal, state, or local law relating to civil, criminal, administrative or legislative investigative power. All such requests must be made to the Library Director who is the keeper of the records.”

    Here is the other thing, Children under the age of ten are not allowed to come to the library unatended.
    “Unattended Children Policy”: [Link]
    So its not like the library is letting kids run around doing whatever they want, they are expected to be supervised. However, I can see that people will point out that kids the ages of 11 and up don’t need to be supervised and take out whatever they want. But the library policy also allows parents to look at what their kids have out.

  14. You know Dave Z, in theory that’s a nice idea. Parents should monitor their kids reading and purchases. My wife and I always tried to do that when our children were young. But it’s my experience in my comic store that most parents DON’T monitor their children’s reading and depend and expect us to make sure that what their kid buys is appropriate. They don’t seem to care until after the book is purchased and then, if they don’t think the item is appropriate, they are up in arms over us allowing such a purchase.

    We actually haven’t had much of a problem over the last few years along these lines. Whether it’s PC or not, we DO monitor the age of the reader and make a determination that what they’re planning to purchase is age appropriate. If we have any doubts, and the parent is available, we’ll ask them to approve the purchase and explain why we are asking. If the parent is not in the store, we’ll put the book aside and explain to the child that we’d be happy to sell them the item, but that we’d need their parents’ approval. Most kids understand, especially if the book is labeled mature. They know they’re trying to stretch the bounds of what they can read. And most parents really appreciate that we’re being careful.

    In an ideal world we wouldn’t have to do that. More parents should be as responsible as you. But this is my business, my livelihood, and I can’t let one half-wit, angry and ill-informed parent destroy my business. Peope depend on me. My employees depend on me. I don’t think I’m being paranoid, it’s happened.

    I realize that’s not what this case is necessarily about. But I can understand why a library or an organization would restrict access to certain material for certain age group.

    Dan Veltre
    Dewey’s Comic City
    Madison, NJ

  15. Some very valid points. Thanks all.
    I’d like to point out a few things.

    A rating system isn’t there to keep people from checking out or buying books…but to inform parents.

    My kids check out 5-10 books EACH a week. It is nearly impossible to keep up with them all.

    A publisher simply taking on some social responsibility to say “There’s some nudes in here. There’s some bad language. THere’s some blood. Etc.” would go a long way to helping parents be better parents.

    Just a helping hand.

    As to why we should compared to OTHER books…
    Comics aren’t prose books. They are considered by most of the world to be “kids books”. And because of this…and the fact that they have bright and attractive art…kids seek them out.

    As someone else pointed out…you don’t get too many kids reading through prose books.
    But comics are a completely different thing. They love them.

    A bit of warning is all that would keep something like this from happening.

    Oh…and Nick. THat’s quite old. I think we’re looking for something a BIT more up to date.

    Thanks though.

  16. My parents never controlled what I read, watched, or played. I was always an advanced reader, and would read nearly anything I could get my hands on– including books with naughty material. What kind of degenerate life am I leading now at 22?

    I’m in law school. Those damn comic books.

  17. I don’t disagree Dave Z. I’m not asking the library or anyone to parent for me. At the end of the day all responsibility certainly lies with the parents. I’m just saying I wouldn’t be mad at all if they put acquiring the book on pause while they double checked with me; I wouldn’t see it as interfering. I’d be thankful for the consideration and helping hand.

    But as to the subject at hand, these librarians weren’t really trying to help out a parent. That’s just a smokescreen and a nice-sounding excuse they glommed on to. It appears to me they were keeping a book they objected to from being checked out by anyone of any age.

  18. Alexa, can we all agree that if it leads to Yet Another Lawyer, your path may truly be the wrong one :)

    Just a joke – please don’t sue me…

  19. What’s the big deal? The kid would have read the James Bond parody parts and skipped everything else. I’m 50 and that’s what I did!

  20. Hold the phone. The image above is more NSFW that two folks getting down doggy-style? I find that hard to believe.

  21. From the behavior of the library employees, no labeling or publisher ratings would have stopped them from doing what they did. They made up their minds that LOEG was porn and took it upon themselves to be the morality police. The one (Cook) violated established library policy by invading the privacy of a library patron AFTER she violated library policy by retaining the book in her possession beyond the loan period. She refused to comply with the library’s policy AS CLEARLY STATED. This whole thing started well before the 11-year-old placed a hold. And as been stated elsewhere, the child may not have been the one who wanted to read the book. As a librarian, I can tell you that parents will use their children’s library card for themselves, especially if they have the maximum allowed amount of fines on their card and can’t borrow anything.

    The library had the book in an appropriate section, i.e. NOT in the children’s department.

    And please, the two women are NOT librarians! It was sloppy journalism to call them such; and when they have been identified as nonlibrarian employees, it’s sloppy practice to continue to call them such.

  22. Excuse me, Sava, but you still claim that this wouldn’t have happened with your much-beloved ratings… but haven’t shown where it wouldn’t have happened. Would Cook and Boisvert not have kept the book out of circulation? Or would the 11 year old not have put a hold on it?

    It doesn’t sound like any of that would have not happened… but hey, if it gives you an excuse to trumpet your desired rating system, don’t let reality start standing in your way.

  23. I knew the whole “wouldn’t check a dirty book out to an 11 year-old” wasn’t the whole story. These two idiots colluded to keep a book out of circulation, meaning they felt entitled to keep the entire reading public from reading a book by one of the most well-regarded living writers. These pathetic would-be commisars deserved to get shit-canned.

  24. As a library circulation worker, I am not allowed to censor anything that is checked out by anyone. Children can check out “R” rated DVDs, graphic novels from the adult section, or anything else that is on our shelves. We believe it is the parents’ responsibility to monitor what their children read and/or view. That, I believe, is the entire point of having a ‘public’ library. Something no librarian should abuse.

  25. I’ve often heard that “Librarians” as a whole are liberal/libertarian; the problem comes from the fact that the people they work under and the people they serve are not

    And per Caroll’s remark above mine: and apparently more so than the “circulation desk employees”!

  26. Some libraries have an opt-out program that allow parents to request special cards for their kids that limit their checkout ability to the youth section. A relative few automatically restrict the materials kids can check out.

    Otherwise, at nearly every library in the country, any patron of any age can check out anything. That means Puzo’s Godfather novel, R-rated movies or the Black Dossier. If the library’s policy is to allow such free and unfettered access — which is in line with the ALA’s widely publicized standard — to unilaterally violate such a policy is censorship and a rejection of the employer’s expectations of its employee.

  27. Ratings systems are for lazy parents and simple minds. Plus, yeah, what parents do and do want want their kids seeing varies by country to country, area to area, family to family. The usual example is that Europe is more offended by violence and America is more offended by nudity and sex.

    Meanwhile, this librarian sounds like a bit of a loon. She had people praying above her while reading the book to keep the bad thoughts out. And I thought worshiping a Roman snake god was nuts. I always figure if you’re really that worried about reading violent or sexual scenes, either don’t read it or have faith that your faith is strong enough to go through such an experience. Meanwhile the library I’m sure is scared to call her on this in fear of being sued for religious discrimination.

  28. This story, the more in-depth you get into the article, comes off as insane.

    My favorite part is this:

    “She just didn’t want this book in the Graphic Novel section, which is located next to Young Adult Fiction. She didn’t want it adjacent to what she calls “exaggerated comic books,” like the X-Men series, and real comic books, like Spider-Man, which are so enticing to children”

    She calls The X-Men comics, which teach tolerance for all kinds of people ‘exaggerated comic books’ (whatever that means), while she refers to Spider-Man as a ‘real comic book’, which is enticing to children.

    HA HA. Funny how she mentions spider-man. The article mentions when she was reading LOEG she had people praying over her so the images wouldn’t go into her head…..I wonder what she did when she read One More Day, in which Peter makes a deal with a demon from Hell to save the life of his beloved aunt, thus getting rid of his ‘traditional marriage’ and upending his life…..???

    Ha ha ha

    But yeah, the article clearly states that she took the book out and held it long before the 11 year old requested it. So their argument of saving the children from a book that wasn’t even in the children’s section REEKS of bullsh**.

  29. Having experienced a similar situation when I was employed at the Omaha Public Library (Madonna’s Sex was the naughty book), this library has done everything correctly. They have written policies regarding challenged books. They followed library policy and allowed a patron to read what she wanted. When employees violated library policy, those emploees were fired.

    The only mistake was not having a mechanism for citizens to comment at library board meetings, but that will be addressed at future meetings. (In Omaha, the board allowed people to comment at three monthly meetings before tabling the subject. The book was restricted to adults, the only book in the library cataloged as such.)

    The library is now publicizing the open reading policy, and I hope it makes parents more responsible.

    The simple solution to this mess: make LOEG a reference volume, noncirculating, only to be read in the library. Yes, it can be stolen, but so can anything else in the collection.

    Ratings also help one to find “the good stuff”, and to make that which is naughty to be seen as glamourous and appealing and forbidden. And we all know happens when you eat forbidden fruit…

    The only problem… slippery slopes cause avalanches. I remember salivating over Raquel Welch’s fur bikini, Farrah’s bathing suit, and Cheryl Ladd’s baby blue satin top…in the Second Grade. And what about the lingerie models in the 1979 Sears catalog? Or the topless natives in National Geographic?

  30. I’ve often heard that “Librarians” as a whole are liberal/libertarian. . .

    They (public librarians) are liberal as far as choices of reading and viewing material are concerned; they have to be, or they’d go crazy, and if a public library doesn’t provide books that patrons want to read, the turnover rate is terrible, and that stat can get people fired. Librarians live or die by their statistics.

    Back in 2003, when I was at the Grand Forks AFB Base Library, a problem developed with a censor who would use a marker to black out “bad” words in novels. The rented novels with blacked out words were unreturnable. I experimented with ways to get rid of the markings; Goo Gone liquefied the ink, but it bled through to the other side of the page, and I couldn’t blot up enough of the ink to make the words readable. So, the censor won.


  31. Prose books already do have a content labeling system. Go to any book store or library and you will see any book that is intended for non-adults clearly segregated into Young Adult (13-17)*, Intermediate (8-13), and Beginning Reader (6-8), with age breakdowns often clearly posted.
    While these are clearly reading ability level breakdowns and there will always be some disagreement about where the books go (Holes by Sachar has editions printed for both YA and Intermediate, for example) and what content is appropriate (the controversial Gossip Girl started as a YA book series), it’s something that has aided parents librarians and booksellers find appropriate books for kids for decades. It’s also important to note that having these books in these sections does not prevent someone from shopping/browsing in the other "grown-up" sections, it is a guide for people who want guides.
    My local library has graphic novels in at least 4 sections, 2 of which are age-related. (Some of them are still shelved with Peanuts in the non-fiction cartooning section, but that’s a whole different problem…)
    What those 2 library employees was wrong (on several levels), but would likely never have happened if there were clear target demographics on the book and appropriate racking.
    I wonder how many grown-ups would have checked out that book if it had been racked in the Fiction section instead of a nebulous "graphic novel" section? (Yet another different issue)
    * the age ranges are off the top of my head and may be slightly different than posted in your locla library or book store

  32. I have made the “librarian/library worker” usage consistent throughout.

    >>>>What those 2 library employees was wrong (on several levels), but would likely never have happened if there were clear target demographics on the book and appropriate racking.

    Uh, no. One of the library workers took it upon herself BEFORE ANY 11-YEAR-OLD GIRL BECAME INVOLVED to remove the book from the GRAPHIC NOVEL SECTION, and keep it out of circulation. This has nothing whatsoever to do with a kid picking up something naughty that was shelved in the wrong section.

    Evidently, the girl could use either Google of the library’s card catalog system, though.

  33. Also keep in mind that the ladies do not even know the 11 yr old girl reserved the book. Her parent or older sibling, or anyone with access to her library card, could have reserved the book under her account. What you have here is a case of library employees abuses their privileges. They did not want the book to circulate, period. There’s nothing saying they would not have taken off the hold no matter the age of the person who reserved it. This “11 yr old girl” reasoning is just an excuse to garner sympathy.

  34. I find this argument of “rating” comics amusing. Rember that Alan Moore himself was ticked with DC’s policy of labeling Swamp Thing as being for mature readers? It was his contention that the reader should decide for him/herself what is appropriate for them. I could not agree more.

    I was reading adult books and undeground comix (in a couple of large hardbound volumes taken out from my public library) at 10, and I turned out all right.

    These women, if my understanding of the report is correct, deserve to lose their jobs. It is not the job of librarians to police or deny the public literature.

  35. Dan Veltre,

    As owners of a privately owned businesses you and I have every right to exercise our judgment about what materials we deem appropriate to which customers as long as those criteria aren’t discriminatory, based on race, gender, religion, etc. Since public libraries are by definition, publicly funded, their employees have no right to exercise judgments which violate library policy. In other words, they have no right to speak for their community. By choosing to work there, they’re obligated to enforce library policy. If they want to change library policy, I’m sure there are mechanisms in their local community to organize and petition for changes, and if they did so, I would applaud them for standing up for the courage of their convictions and not acting in the subversive and cowardly manner of personally restricting access to the material. They’re censorship vigilantes!

    However, restricting physical access to library grounds to unaccompanied children younger than a certain age is permissible, because that can be framed as a health and safety issue.

  36. FROM Dan Kleinman’s blog:

    “A library worker then sees that an 11 year old has placed a hold on some material she decides is inappropriate for children.”

    No, Dan, that isn’t true. Go back and read the story again, this time with an eye for fact.

    One library worker had already taken the book out of circulation for a year before the 11 year old requested the book. Another then removed the hold, and took the book out of circulation again. They got fired for violating library policy, not for protecting the “chillldrun”.

  37. Dan Kleinman,

    Once again you distort things to your own agenda. However, I will agree that Amy Wilson’s article was well written. It was the first one that actually portrayed the entire incident in a balanced manner. All other reports have championed Cook and Boisvert as standing up to “the man” and being underdogs. I’m glad Amy Wilson interviewed them and included a number of quotes and facts to show why they deserved to be fired. They may not know it, but they don’t belong in a library setting if they still are defending what they did and don’t see why they were dismissed from their jobs.

  38. Heidi, I love ya, but did you read what I wrote? Nowhere did I even imply anything resembling the idea that “a kid picking up something naughty that was shelved in the wrong section.” is anything that happened.

    If comics and graphic novels were labeled and racked like prose books, LoEG would have been shelved in either the Adult Fiction between Adam Moore and Alvin Moore or an adult graphic novel annex instead of a nebulous “Graphic novel” section that has everything from Silly Lily to Lost Girls. If they were racked that way, it’s doubtful the book would have crossed the library employee’s radars to begin with. I’ll bet the Dark Tower graphic novels are in the Adult Fiction section at that library, because everyone knows Stephen King writes for grown-ups.

    A lot of people write and talk a lot about how comics don’t ever seem to get the respect they deserve. Maybe if the comics publishers stepped up and treated their products like “real” publishers do, the book stores, libraries, and readers would too.

    If the problem item in question had been one of Laurel K Hamilton’s later (and racier) Anita Blake (non-graphic) novels, the library employees would have still been (deservedly) fired, but the media wouldn’t have batted an eye.

    The whole point of my original post is that the technique of racking books appropriate for a specific age range together works really well for prose books, and it should be used for comics as well.

    (no formatting this time)

  39. Alan Coil said, “No, Dan, that isn’t true. Go back and read the story again, this time with an eye for fact.”

    And I addressed the library’s actions, specifically stating I was not addressing what the fired employees did.

    Further, it seems what I said is claimed to be untrue because of the tense of a verb! Had I said, “A library worker then sees that an 11 year old has placed a hold on some material she decided is inappropriate for children,” or perhaps “A library worker then sees that an 11 year old has placed a hold on some material she already decided is inappropriate for children,” that, apparently, would have been more to Alan Coil’s liking!

    The lengths people go to attack the messenger and avoid the issues truly amaze me.

    Be that as it may, I’ll go back and edit the post accordingly to change the tense. I wouldn’t want to “distort things to [my] own agenda.” I changed it to “decided long ago.”

  40. Dan Kleinman.

    Carry on with your agenda. It’s your right.

    But spare us the paralogia. Argue actual facts, not fantasy.

    What the 2 workers did had NOTHING to do with the fact that the hold was placed by an 11-year-old. It was their attempt to keep material they didn’t like away from other library patrons.

    Or maybe they really liked it TOO much, and were constantly reading it.

  41. Do your continued personal attacks about non issues advance the conversation any? Has the library not denied dozens of people freedom of speech? Has the library director not said kids have a First Amendment right to inappropriate material? Is ALA policy not the controlling policy in Nicholasville, KY? Those are the issues. Not me.

  42. To inject an entirely new perspective into the discussion…

    Sexuality is a realm of human activity that inevitably makes a mess of the boundaries demarcating the four spheres of an individual’s existence (public, personal, private, secret). At eleven years, it’s totally appropriate for a youngster to begin having questions about sex and tentatively examine her or his newly-developing desires (while intercourse is certainly out of the question, sneaking peeks at underwear ads in the newspaper is par for the course).

    Looking back on the earliest days of my sexual exploration, I’m thankful for the very public people (shopclerks and librarians) who gave me access to racy material that helped me wrap my head around this new frontier of experience that had yet to even make the transition from secret to private. These folks trusted that my parents were doing their part by talking to me about sex and monitoring my media consumption. And they were right. My parents kept me away from hardcore porn but were otherwise content to turn a blind eye to the books and comics that I thought I was sneaking past them. Little did I know that I was mistaking typical hang-ups about sex for the watchful eyes of Mom and Dad.

    Shopclerks and librarians perform a public service in serving as accomplices in the little transgressions that young people must commit to become adults. In cases like mine, these small rebellions are parentally countenanced and serve to liberate minds from fetters attached by the environment outside of the home. In cases like households run by the women in the article, these acts serve to bring desperately needed erotic imaginings to adolescents who are having that vital element of their psyches mangled through repression.

  43. Someone should send these women a copy of the Library Bill of Rights.

    Aside from the curtailing of intellectual freedom these women should have been fired for abusing their privileges. They spied on library patrons (which, how did they know the girl wanted the book and not her parent using her card? it happens) and they also used their privileges to override due dates to purposefully misuse library property. They were library staff and they essentially stole property. If I did that at the library where I work I would be fired for stealing from a taxpayer funded entity.

  44. Dan Kleinman said:

    “Do your continued personal attacks about non issues advance the conversation any?”

    Dan, I made no personal attacks. Your last post does not advance your argument in any way.

    Keep pimping your agenda.

  45. I see, reported today, that another library has come across a ‘censor or not’ situation. This one in South Dakota school. And the situation was resolved after a recommendation by a panel.

    Not by individuals.

  46. You know it might sound strange but I really miss the days of censors vs. comic book companies. And the whole argument about violence and indecent material. There was a whole Us Vs. Them mentality that as a reader, made it a bonus to read comics back in the 80’s.

    Nowadays, all it is complaining about the crap quality of the stories that the Big 2 churn out. And which franchise is next to get greenlit by Hollywood.

  47. Dan,

    As this is not your board, you have no right to tell me to drop it.

    However, I am dropping it. I have no more to say on this subject at this time.

    Have a nice day.

  48. Scott: My mother had six children. We each checked out “five to ten books a WEEK” from the library. That’s easily 60 books a week to go through. She was still, while getting a Masters degree in linguistics and working full time, able to monitor our reading material for appropriateness. Which meant I didn’t get to read John Norman’s Gor novels (shelved with the regular science fiction), or Tales From the Vulgar Unicorn (ditto) until I was over 18. (The reader’s regret those caused, well, that was another matter.)

    If a parent is determined, they can monitor their child’s reading material, video games and television viewing, regardless of the amount the child consumes or the number of children involved. And honestly, the rating systems for other media? Are pretty much ignored by the vast majority of the parents in the US. When I worked in a video game store, I could not count the number of parents buying Grand Theft Auto games for their 8-year-olds, despite the MA rating, and despite us informing the parents the games were full of violence, cursing and sex. I regularly see whole families in rated R gory horror movies, with children as young as 2 or 3.

    Most comic companies do already mark their comics with ratings. Marvel has a system (all ages books say, amazingly, “ALL AGES” above the barcode), all the manga have suggested age ratings on the back covers, and I have never seen an adults only comic that didn’t have “ADULTS ONLY” on the cover. Comics HAVE ratings on them, there’s just not a governing board like the ESRB system or the MPAA. (We used to have that in the Comics Code Authority, which went the way of the dodo for a multitude of reasons.)

    And, as others have stated, this case has nothing to do with ratings, and everything to do with library workers flouting library regulations. But hey, get that plank in there while you can.

  49. Elin…
    Amen. You’re absolutely right.

    But as you pointed out. Parents are generally stupid…ha ha.
    Anything we can do to educate them. To help their kids out…is a good thing.

    Thanks for understanding.

    It still baffles me that there are a few people out there who would OPPOSE informing parents about innappropriate things in a comic.

    The only answer I’ve heard (and this baffled me even more) is “if a book says it’s mature…we might not get as many sales”

    So…essentially…you WANT kids to read stuff that’s not written for them?


  50. This is a small quibble, but Lexington, KY is in Fayette County; this library is the Jessamine County Public Library. Jessamine County is next to Fayette County, but they’re two different places. The largest city in Jessamine County is Nicholasville.
    You might have to be from Kentucky to understand this, but people here tend to identify themselves as being from a county rather than a city (outside of the few larger cities), so to a Kentuckian it’s a big slip. Anyone else probably couldn’t place Kentucky on a map, much less Lexington, so…

  51. Just FYI, the “graphic novel” section at this library is in the teen section, right next to the kids section, on the first floor – and both these woman had written letters asking the library to relocate the more adult titles to art/illustration on the 2nd floor or perhaps anywhere else in the library where they wouldn’t be easily accessible to kids.

    Not that what they did is right; but if you do a bit of research, you might find a larger story here than what you think happened, and it might tone down our righteous indignation a bit.

  52. Just a quick fact correction because I grew up out that way and even more shoddy journalism drives me nuts. Lexington is in Fayette county, Jessamine county is Nicholasville & Wimore.

  53. The path to hell is paved with stupidity.

    These two numb nuts were to be the keepers of the books, not the judges of their content. The did not only try to keep this book from an 11 year old girl, but they tried to keep it out of circulation all together. Off with their heads!

  54. There’s a reason they call them GRAPHIC novels and this is
    the same reason they make good reading material for young
    people. Youngsters need to learn about the adult world
    before they are going to be ready to inhabit it. And the
    first step in learning to be an adult is learning to make
    choices on your own. Now, one wonders, how were the
    censoring adult described in this story prepared for their
    role in the “adult world”? Perhaps someone said a prayer
    over them and hoped that would be sufficient…

  55. Perhaps this author needs to check out a geography book from his library. The library in question was in Jessamine County, not Lexington, KY. They’re close, but not the same. The Lexington library has had it’s own share of problems this year; let’s not add false charges.

  56. HELLO PEOPLE, it does not say the Lexington Library! It says it was from the Lexington Herald. I know there is some local pride at stake but I don’t see what the correction in my blog post it.

  57. I purposely just showed these images to my 12 year old to see what he thought. I don’t even think his pupils dilated a little bit. He asked, “What’re these from?” I said “Some graphic novel I never heard of.” He said, “you mean a comic book?” and I said, “yeah, basically.” He said, “I don’t like the style.”

  58. These librarians should be fired yes.
    And it doesnt matter what section this graphic novel was in, the girl put in on hold….meaning she went in and reserved it. She didnt walk into the library find it at all.

  59. At age 11 I was reading on a Post Secondary level. There was just about nothing “appropriate” I could read that didn’t bore me to death.

    I read every VC Andrews novel possible, tons of romance novels, all Judy Blume (even her adult stuff which could be “inappropriate”) Mark Twain (but, I think I was more like 9 then), “My First Love And Other Disasters” which was by the “Sweet Valley” author and racier than those books. There were plenty of accounts of sexuality, many of them depicting teens or early 20’s and reasonable outcomes of getting onto sexual situations. Realistic descriptions and consequences, emotionally, physically, socially. The stuff that was total fantasy was obviously fantasy (romance novels, specifically).

    I thank my lucky stars every time something like this comes up that I was able to read anything I wanted. I was not allowed to watch Mtv or anything with PG-13 or R due to sexual content. I grew up Catholic. I ended up waiting for significant adult activities until I was legally allowed to vote or join the military or bear arms. I cannot say the same for my friends who were not as voraciously reading all the “smut” they could get their hands on. I think I was well-informed, well-prepared and I’ve made it into my 30s successful, well-socialized and relatively unscathed.

    I think the kids you have to really worry about are probably not at the library to begin with.

  60. Credit where credit is due, eh? Alan Moore is indeed a fine and powerful writer, but it’s the imagery of Kevin O’Neill’s artwork she says is doing the bad things to her.

    Remember, Kevin O’Neill is the only artist ever banned by the Comics Code Authority for his singularly unique visual style that goes beyond the bounds of comfort for some fragile minds. Alan Moore usually knows the strengths of the artists he works with and plays t them, but Kevin O’Neill deserves the fine credit for this one.

  61. I have been reading books and graphic novels with sexual content in it since I was five years old.

    For the life of me, I have yet to figure out what are supposed to be the negative repercussions of allowing children to read adult literature, sex or no sex.

    I have not become a slut nor do I constantly seek sexual attention. For all intents and purposes, I’m somewhat of a prude.

    I remain baffled.

  62. There are A LOT of separate issues at work here, and I think they’re getting entangled to the detriment of all.

    First of all, should libraries be allowed to dictate who is allowed to check out certain materials? That is the central argument here. I would say, as a government agency, the answer is no. Nobody wants to have to explain the birds and bees to their kids before they feel comfortable with it, but who is going to be the arbitrators of what is acceptable? Librarians? Who are they?

    Second, the placement of books intended for their target audience. I’ve read Moore’s “Black Dossier,” and it is a work that is an exploration of human sexuality (among other things). Does the fact that it is a comic book mean it is meant for children? Once again, no. Was this book shelved in the children’s section? No. In my experience, most libraries place graphic novels in the “Teen” section. Does that often make sense? No, but have you read teen novels lately? The “Gossip Girl” series is currently making millions on television, and I don’t think you’ll find anything there to like if you’re worried about your teenager. Then again, when has “text” ever made a difference?

    But the last part is the most important. If a library employee wanted to check out a book to keep it out of circulation, well, I can’t find too much fault in that other than thinking that employee is a bit nuts. However, once the hold was placed, the fact that the same library employee searched the patrons record (11-year-old or not) and of their own accord decided to abort the hold because they felt that patron should not read what they found unacceptable, well that’s despicable.

    For a moment ignore the content of the hold placed. More to the point, replace the “Black Dossier” with a book you may find more acceptable, such as “Huckleberry Finn.” Now imagine if your child placed a hold on the book, and a secret cabal of library employees found a problem with the book. In most states, your library account is protected BY LAW and for very good privacy reasons. Now imagine they accessed your child’s records for no other reason than to prevent them, your child, from checking out something they found unacceptable.

    That is an invasion of privacy and trust. Even if you agree with it, it is in violation of EXPLICITLY STATED LAWS.

    I don’t know many jobs that will keep you on once you have broken the law, no matter how high intentioned you might have been.

    If you want to keep arguing the role of public libraries in policing content, I can see that, even if I don’t agree with it. But the invasion of private records to promote a personal viewpoint…Are you comfortable with that?

  63. Most libraries I have visited and checked out the graphic novel section – and I do this a lot, because it’s a big interest to me if libraries display, what they choose to feature, etc – put them in the YA section. Black Dossier in no way belongs in any sort of YA secton, nor do plenty of other graphic novels – but a lot of titles slip under the radar because despite the understanding of the comics community, consumers at large still equate comics – even if they are hardcover or black and white or whatever – as a child’s medium. It’s a minor victory that the expected maturity level of a reader is now considered teenager, but really just furthering the comic book ghetto by not approaching it as a fiction like any other, with some aimed at adults, some aimed at teens, and some aimed at kids. There shouldn’t be a graphic novel section – they should be in the fiction sections and disseminated the same way “non visual” fiction is. Only at that point will graphic fiction be truly accepted and equal by the majority of readers …

    Still, the librarians sound like religious whack jobs whose actions are wrong, but intent not entirely. It would be nice if people like this learned that outright censorship only hurts their real concerns – there are actual ways of going about keeping entirely inappropriate material away from an 11 year old.

  64. I don’t give a hot damn what the book was, how old the patron was, or where it was located.

    Two desk workers fishing in a library patron’s records for personal information–didn’t we agree as a nation that the GOVERNMENT isn’t allowed to poke around in your records without a court order?

    If the government isn’t allowed to poke through your file and jot down notes on your vital statistics and reading habits (just for future reference, don’t be alarmed Citizen!), I don’t see why people think it’s okay for these two self-righteous busybodies to do it.

    Do you really think, after sort-of-stealing the book for a year to keep it out of circulation, that they would have returned the book if the patron had been 31 rather than 11?

  65. This IS my local library. Their policy is that it is the parents’ responsibility, and I fully agree with that. Oh, and by the way, the Graphic Novels section is NOWHERE near the Children’s section – they are on opposite sides of the room.

  66. I would have let my daughters check this out when they were 11. Then again, I did raise my daughters to be intelligent and insightful. Seeing a line drawing of buttocks wouldn’t have damaged their strong minds… It’s the kids that are constantly sheltered from reality that would have been shaken by a little bit of ink.

    As it was, when the oldest *was* eleven, we had some controversy because her school librarian wouldn’t let her check out the Harry Potter books. By the time I was making my complaint to the school, two of my daughters teachers had also filed complaints. I certainly WAS NOT the librarians role to decide what my daughter could and could not read. That’s MY job.

  67. I think the problem with Black Dossier is a little more than naked buttocks and there is other library material that you can compare this to. My kids aren’t allowed to check out R rated DVDs from the library. If for some reason there is an R rated movie that I think it is okay for them to see, I can check it out and give it to them to watch. Seems to me that’s allowing the parents to make the decision of what their kids can encounter rather than the library or anyone else. By doing it that way, the material isn’t being kept away from kids, just requiring the parent take the responsibility of being the ones providing the kid with the material instead of the library. I just don’t see the big deal there. Regardless, what these librarians did was entirely wrong.

  68. Do you see the way that Poodle is LEERING at the bottom of the lady who is on one knee?

    You people DISGUST me and now I need some bleach for my eyes.

    Please pray for me.

    Naked women, poodles, graphic artists, impure thoughts, save my soul!

  69. For those who say “I can see not letting an 11 year old check this out), I’ll point out that the ethics of the ALA say that if they can get it to the counter, they can check it out.

  70. As a former librarian myself, I’d understand completely if Cook and Boisvert had gone to the head of the branch and asked for Black Dossier to get a “mature content” sticker of some kind. If the library doesn’t maintain any kind of an adult collection, there’s even an argument for officially removing it from the shelf, or transferring it to a branch that does (not one I’d support, but the case can be made). But just pulling it themselves, because they found it offensive? There’s a reason Banned Books Week is sacred at libraries, and it’s to fight exactly that impulse. They absolutely deserved to be fired.

  71. These librarians did not follow policy, and I suspect have been warned about similar behavior before. I cannot fathom what a parent or anyone thinks would happen if this girl read this graphic novel. Last I heard, reading was good. There is so much she could be doing that would be so much worse. I personally think it is great that she wants to read! I have worked in various libraries for about 7 years, and the only time we would prohibit a child from checking material out is if the parent had specifically said that they wanted their child’s library card to have certain limits on it.

  72. Just a note to recent posters —

    The two women were not librarians, just library workers. This was mentioned earlier in the thread, and is repeated now for informational purposes, not argument.

  73. Scott sez… “My kids check out 5-10 books EACH a week. It is nearly impossible to keep up with them all.”

    How exactly would you expect library staff to “keep up with” the thousands of items that they help patrons to check out each day if you can’t keep up with 5-10 books per child? Give me a frickin break.

  74. Good Lord, I’d be thrilled if my 12-year-old took on something as challenging as “Black Dossier” instead of that “Twilight” crap.

  75. Heidi, regarding your post from 11/18/09 at 6:25 pm:

    “HELLO PEOPLE, it does not say the Lexington Library! It says it was from the Lexington Herald. I know there is some local pride at stake but I don’t see what the correction in my blog post it. ”

    Yes, you do quote the Herald Leader, no argument there. You also refer to the library workers as being from Lexington. Therein lies the problem. The newspaper story you link to pretty clearly states that

    “Both women live in Jessamine County.”

    There’s where the need for (a small and, as most people stated, relatively innocuous but still factual) correction comes in.

  76. I read anythihng I could get my hands on sihnce I was four. My mother kept ‘naughty’ books in a locked drawer which I swiftly learned to open. One of those bgooks was Tobacco Road, considered steamy in its day. I found it very easy to pick the lock of the drawer she kept it in. i read it from cover to cover at the age of nine or ten. I hardly understood a word and was filled with a sense of vague depression. Maybe more ‘unsuitable’ were the Tarzan books, filled with blatant racism (at least in pre WW1 stories). Somehow I didn’t notice anhd grew up to be an anti-racist activist. I was once asked by a newspqper if

  77. This only an issue in the Midwest where the average settlement, I mean Small Town as popularly lionized in American music and politics, has a population of 1000 people. Most of the people are middle aged and are always looking for something to burn; books, disco records, etc. They’d like to burn anything, since burning people was outlawed after that awful civil rights movement that brought us Political Correctness and Muslim terrorists.

    A rating system would be too complex to get their minds around even though TV uses it. How would they even go about to even interpet a rating system? Rating systems aren’t mentioned in the Old or the New Testement. What does “Rated PG” mean to a evangelical Christian? Is Pro God or what?

  78. Yeah, they should’ve been fired for that. Who are they to decide what’s “naughty” and what is not? People like that should not work in the public sector.

  79. Hi,
    Being an avid comic reader I would like to point out that comics have had a history of self regulation since the 50’s starting with the comics code authority. DC is the only publishing company that uses it and their comics have to be reviewed by a board and meet certain guidelines before being able to print the seal of approval by the code on their comics. Marvel now has a ratings system of their own implemented that is very similar to videogames, and Vertigo (which publishes The League of Extrodinary Gentlemen) is owned by DC and is the label where they publish their more adult material. It is not rated because, well, all of their titles have mature themes.
    So yes, the comic book industry is self regulated.

    Also, in any public library I’ve been to, the graphic novel section is always put in the adult section in the library. Which is typically completely separate from the children’s section.

    And I think it’s unfair to single out comics for ratings and monitoring anyway. Libraries have numerous books on all kinds of subjects. Some with pictures and some not. How about non-fiction? How exactly would you go about rating something based off of real life?

    And yes I think the librarians were wrong for doing what they did. Not only is it not their place to monitor who checks out books, but it is also an invasion of privacy.

  80. I guess I’ll have to be the first to say that hacks who say “looks like X, Y, Z doesn’t care for children” are a bunch of fakes who also do not care about children.

    These phonies are here to stroke their adulthood at us and wonder why we still don’t know them on a first name basis.

    Take your attention hogging faux outrage elsewhere.

  81. “Most of the people are middle aged and are always looking for something to burn; books, disco records, etc.”

    I’d allow them to burn the disco records… that era was just embarrassing…