Just before Freedom to Read Week 2015, Toronto Public Library banned an author

  • The library made up an excuse (“out of scope”) not to add three books on manhood by Jack Donovan to its collection

    Covers of ‘The Way of Men,’ ‘Blood-Brotherhood,’ ‘A Sky Without Eagles’
  • An unpublished briefing note for the TPL Board revealed the real reason: This “fringe” writer’s books “are intensely misogynistic”

  • The department that selects works for the TPL collection is all-female

  • TPL’s Materials Selection Policy emphasizes that a variety of views will be expressed by the library’s collection… unless women in one department dislike an author’s claimed politics

  • TPL effectively banned an author from its collection (not a book, which itself was previously unthinkable, but an entire author) and kept it secret

I submit more blue forms (title-suggestion forms) to the Toronto Public Library than anyone else. Running the numbers, I see 282 titles, encompassing thousands of individual pieces, that the library bought on my suggestion. I have an emphasis on foundational gay and lesbian cinema and on graphic design.

On the obverse of the blue form, TPL lists a limited set of reasons to reject a suggestion. Last fall, I saw a new excuse for rejection on several of my items – “out of scope” for TPL’s collection.

I challenged that in a letter to the Board, which appeared to have the expected result – none. (My letter was merely received for information, i.e., filed.) I contended that Collections Development could not make up new reasons to reject suggestions and asked that they simply be honest about what was going on – those items did not suit the taste of the staff at Collections Development.

Three of those suggestions were for the books of Jack Donovan, a gay male – he would prefer “homosexual” – who writes about the virtues of manhood and masculinity. (Already half my readership has its hackles up, because it is axiomatic – to them – that masculinity is a virtue only if a female-to-male transsexual claims to have it. I’ll get back to political biases later.)

I filed an access-to-information request and was shocked to see an unsigned internal briefing note that was apparently presented to the TPL Board, in response to my letter, in October 2014. The TPL Board kept this briefing note secret. To quote the relevant paragraph (link – to Wikipedia! – added):

Books by Jack Donovan – a fringe writer whose books are intensely misogynistic and against what he calls feminized gay men. We do have a number of books with a positive view of masculinity and gay men, e.g. Why Are Faggots So Afraid Of Faggots?: Flaming Challenges to Masculinity, Objectification, and the Desire to Conform (2012), Masculine Identities: The History and Meanings of Manliness (2012).

There you have it: The ladies of Toronto Public Library banned a “fringe” author because he is “misogynist” according to Wikipedia. Continue reading “Just before Freedom to Read Week 2015, Toronto Public Library banned an author”

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