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  • An unpublished briefing note for the TPL Board revealed the real reason: This “fringe” writer’s books “are intensely misogynistic”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”

Statement in advance of rubber-stamping of advertising program

I hate the ads on date-due slips, as do you. I filed a complaint to the farcical Advertising Review Working Group. Linda Hazzan reformatted my valid-HTML complaint so I would look as incompetent at computers and typography as TPL is, and the Working Group rejected every single point. It authorized in retrospect unlabelled PSAs, and allowed the paid vendor of the program to advertise itself despite the fact it already was.

I was invited to make a presentation tonight – at what I thought was a meeting of the Advertising Review Working Group. Nope: It’s to the full Board. It felt like I was facing a fucking firing squad all week, so I submitted the following statement. I fully expect the obstructionist secretary Nancy Marshall to refuse to distribute it, citing “clear days” or other such jargon.

Confidential to Linda Hazzan: It is not actually your job to defend the indefensible.

I was invited to present in person tonight, but, after feeling nothing but dread for the last week, I decided it was better for both sides if I didn’t subject myself to an atmosphere of mutual suspicion and of contempt.

Facts about the TPL ad program

  • Nobody wanted it. At all. It exists because this Board did not have the guts to demand an actual budget increase. (This year’s de minimus requested increase is the status quo in drag.)

    Though not quite as reprehensible as goading librarians into a strike, an achievement you will wear for the rest of your careers, it remains a stain on the library’s reputation that nobody had the guts to stand up to the fat, boorish mayor and his vindictive budget chief. (The only time the mayor reads is when he’s behind the wheel.) Yet in a Damascene conversion, Chair Ainslie has suddenly found his balls in the last couple of weeks and is now flailing impotently. When we needed him to stand up for library users, he pushed an ad campaign.

  • The Board will not reject any advertising. The Advertising Review Working Group is a farce – but that should have been expected given that it is made up of Boardmembers. The first set of date-due slips contained an ad for an ambulance-chasing lawyer, which was deemed fine and dandy after the fact.

  • The Board hides behind Linda Hazzan, who will say absolutely anything to excuse and appease the contractor, Receipt Media. (As such, her credibility is shot.)

    Asked to confirm that the Board actually knew Receipt Media was publishing unpaid, unlabelled PSAs, it didn’t. The Board clearly does not understand that every date-due slip already contains an ad for Receipt Media; it then retroactively granted that company tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of additional display-ad space.

    So you won’t pretend not to understand what I’m saying, there is no review of ad campaigns; no ads are or will be rejected; Receipt Media gets the equivalent of a kickback through free ad placement; unpaid, unlabelled PSAs run as if they were ads. This appeasement of and covering for a private contractor stands in hallowed Toronto civic tradition, dating back to MFP and manifesting itself elsewhere with Astral. It’s unethical and you’re all implicated.

  • What Hazzan downplays as mere mixed response from TPL patrons is more likely principled and angry criticism of it, which she might claim is “balanced” by comments submitted by friends and family of Receipt Media. There is no public support for this ad program and any claim to the contrary is an outright lie.

  • The preponderance of display ads for Receipt Media and of PSAs prove that Receipt Media can’t sell ads on receipt media. Hazzan’s report confirms that advertisers are dissatisfied with the program, which barely works for them (i.e., it doesn’t work).

  • Oh, and it brought in only 20 grand. Now we know what this Board’s principles are worth.

To recap: Nobody asked for this ad program. Nobody likes it. It’s run unethically: TPL staff and Board cover for and appease the contractor. There is no oversight. Advertisers don’t even like it. In fact, the only people who like it are you.

So what are you going to do? Re-up this failure for another year. You’re in far too deep in this misadventure – plus it’s already been accounted for in next year’s budget. Tonight’s process, like the Working Group, is a farce. It’s a fait accompli.

A bit more on that atmosphere of suspicion and contempt

The Board must not be under any illusions about how much it is loathed. The strongest defenders of the library hate your guts – with reason, given your cravenness and incompetence. (I ask again: Do any of you even use the library? Especially Foderick?) It might seem a blessing in disguise that one of Boardmembers’ favourite activities is resigning, but all we get in return are a new set of pikers who allegedly didn’t even have library cards until they were appointed to the Board.

You’re damaging the only civic institution Torontonians actually love, and we hate you for it. We are running out the clock until your terms mercifully expire. We will spend the next term undoing your damage. Still, you will always be the Board that put librarians on strike.

TPL Board meetings carry through the dinner hour. If I’ve learned nothing else from the backsides of library date-due slips, you have a choice of pizza joints you could visit.

Saaay… here’s a crazy idea

Dinging everybody a buck for holds not picked up was a cash grab disguised as a way to pay for all that manual handling of what turn out to be pointless holds. The $1 fine for overdue DVDs is of course pure spite.

But with those fees, the pikers, seatfillers, pols, and lobbyists on the Board have managed to scare off library patrons. (Report [PDF]: “[T]he introduction of the fine had a significant impact on usage.”) People are now afraid to place holds and circulation is down for the first time in living memory. People are even thinking twice about signing up for library cards – also previously unthinkable, but at least consistent with the degree of philistinism of a Board that actually goads librarians to go on strike.

But here’s a krazy konspiracy theory for you.

TPL went from staff being flooded with holds to dick around with (checkins and elastics and hold slips and all that business) to having too few holds to take care of. Staff (this means PSAs and LAs) went from not being able to keep up to sitting there twiddling their thumbs. No, not at district branches (NYCL barely gets all its holds on the shelves by 17:00), but at the tofu ’n’ potatoes of the library, neighbourhood branches.

And here’s Mike “Not a Lobbyist” Foderick asking basically every branch (including Todmorden and Swansea?) to lose 0.2 of a full-time-equivalent job so there will barely be enough staff around to help grannies figure out the RFID systems at Fort York and Scarborough Centre once they finally open. (He might not get what he wants. And that’s second-hand information – I found no reference to anything like that in budget documents, though I could easily have missed it.)

So you the taxpayer aren’t paying for more staff or more books or more anything because the budget keeps getting cut, but you the library user are handing over loonies to the library which it then uses to squeeze branches dry so that new branches can basically function.

To paraphrase The Royal Tenenbaums, immediately after I publish this idea TPL might actually make it happen.

Kooky fun fact

I have a 60-hold limit (yours is 50) that I regularly max out and have actually gotten shit for.

Minor update

Yeah, hi. I don’t know what I’m doing with the library these days, or what it’s doing with me.

  • I keep telling you the Library Board is made up of pikers, seatfillers, pols, and lobbyists as far as the eye can see. Now we know its chair is willing to lie about driving drunk, albeit below the legal limit.

    All of these are the same people who:

    • Engineered a library strike, then sent the savings from that strike back to the city.

    • Then got the library’s budget cut.

    • Set up an advertising program one of whose first users was an ambulance-chasing personal-injury law firm (which refused to comment on that designation).

    • Started dinging people a buck for holds and for overdue DVDs, with the result that people are afraid to place holds and circulation is actually down for the first time in living memory.

    Should we also discuss the fact that it is now materially impossible for the public to comment in person or in writing on any issue before the Board at an immediately upcoming meeting? (This is the same Board that can and will refuse a written request to address it. How do I know? I’m the one they refused, after sitting around looking baffled at the request in the first place.)

  • Next?

    I still am waging this perverse cold war (I wouldn’t capitalize it) with Collections Development. That department and other petites fonctionnaires continue to swoop in and turn the screws on frontline staff who make the capital error of trying to help me. There is now an entire list of such staff harassed and countermanded by middle management – here as elsewhere, the most picayune yet power-mad stratum.

    I can only imagine how incensed CDD must be when we (not I – we) return rejected blue forms with an attached statement that, in effect, the reason for rejection was bullshit. This is the department that buys the TV series Gavin & Stacey, whatever that is, but deems Friday Night Lights and Southland inadmissible under criteria that actually aren’t published.

  • Levels of fuck-you in blue forms:

    1. Rejected

    2. 1 TRL reference-only

    3. 1 TRL, 1 NYCL

    Honourable mention: 1 TRL, 1 your branch

  • I was going to save this up till I actually had them in hand, but what the hell. There are two saving graces in this ongoing blue-form Kafka manqué.

  • Did you know they’re tagging the entire visible collection of the Reference Library in preparation for TPL’s new plan to facilitate wholesale theft of that branch’s irreplaceable items? You’d be surprised who inside the organization thinks this is the stupidest idea ever, in no small part because it is. You’d be even more surprised to learn that apparently the entirety of TPL management save one does not know what staff-only RFID checkout is despite its being in use in a dozen branches. That obviously means they do not know that staff-only is the correct configuration for the TRL Browsery.

Why don’t I take a break?

The last time I did that I missed the deadline to apply to become a boardmember. Now, we know that the lying – and now drug‑ and murder-implicated – executive administration would have smothered the thing in its cradle like a Somali crack baby, but I’m not making the same mistake twice.

In the back of my mind is always the following question: Will this be the week the library serves me with a notice that I am banned from its premises? While that would be the nuclear option, it is the only step they haven’t taken and I don’t put it past them. You wouldn’t believe the shit these graspers have tried to pull behind the scenes.

Want to go out for a soyaccino sometime? You’re buying.

Nuke Indigo

What I mean is “Eliminate Indigo ‘affiliate links.’ ” It can be done! If you don’t like the fact that the library is now a de facto Heather Reisman sales arm, you can block those links from appearing in your browser.

I noticed the affiliate links a few days before they were announced:

‘Chasing the Perfect’ with indigo.ca buy box

Let’s start a few steps back, though. Goldsbie’s piece in Now does a good job situating the TPL Board’s two obnoxious money-raising gestures – ads on due-date slips and shilling for Indigo – as the aftershock of the budget earthquake of two years ago. Except it took that long for the budget to really be reduced, so I guess the fear was simply ahead of its time.

At any rate, we have here a quote from Janet Davis, the lady who once lectured me in that condescending low voice she has (it’s preferable just to get yelled at).

“If people who can afford it start purchasing and not contributing a cent to the collective borrowing,” Davis says, “the demand will decline so you would have fewer people borrowing, fewer users. It would worry me if users declined because a certain slice of that group purchases as opposed to borrowing.”

This doesn’t make any sense. Continue reading “Nuke Indigo”