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  • An unpublished briefing note for the TPL Board revealed the real reason: This “fringe” writer’s books “are intensely misogynistic”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


Dan Peon, with a greasy finger on the nuclear launch button

A couple of weeks ago at Metro Hall, I left the Bookmobile and took a picture of its back end:

Back end of Sprinter

Almost immediately the white or Hispanic staffmember (male, glasses, newsboy cap) came out of the van in a huff. “Excuse me?” I tried to ignore him. “Excuse me? That’s the last picture you’re gonna take,” he said.

At this point he was walking right up to me:

Man walks toward me menacingly

“Touch me and you go to jail,” I told him. I’m not gonna touch you, he said. You can’t take my picture, he said. He had a paranoid belief he was visible through the smoked windows (he wasn’t and I told him so). I told him I had every right to take the Bookmobile’s picture on public property. (Actually, I have more rights than that.)

He eventually walked away.

I called the Answerline on the spot and talked to Kelly Buehler, who works in mobile services. She took an incident report, a step I don’t trust because those are used to document (i.e., permanently tar) customers who get out of line with staff. She agreed to talk to staff about de-escalation. She started out claiming she would remind them of the policy on photography, but I got her to accept that what she should be saying is there are no rules about photographing the exterior of libraries (or Bookmobiles).

I later complained to Buehler’s boss Elizabeth Sutter, who thinks even less of me. (All I remember from the one meeting I was begrudgingly allowed to have with her at TRL was her line “Can we wrap this up soon? I’ve got something at 10:30.”)

I gave both these managers a week to fix the problem. They didn’t. So I complained to Jane Pyper.

And here we are today (2014.03.12), where quintessential petit fonctionnaire Dan Peon sends along, via Microsoft Word attachment, the following threatening letter (excerpted, but nothing important elided):

I am sorry you had such an unfortunate incident when you photographed the Bookmobile at the Metro Hall stop. As you state in your E-mail message, it is fine to photograph the exterior of branches and Bookmobiles. In response to this incident, there has been follow up with the Bookmobile staff to explain this kind of photography is allowed, and expectations about customer service have been reviewed.

However, I need to address your response to this incident. Specifically, I am referencing your online Twitter postin about one of the Bookmobile staff and the accompanying derogatory comments.

He means “This cunt from BK2.”

In an E-mail letter I sent to you dated January 2, 2013, I advised you to refrain from making derogatory comments about library staff, and further advised that when making comments about persons who work for the Library, or who use the Library, you must ensure the comments are appropriate and consistent with maintaining a welcoming environment that respects all persons and fosters inclusion and equality. […]

Further, it is stated, any behaviour that does not support a welcoming environment and/or violates the Rules of Conduct could result in suspension of Library privileges, exclusion from the Library and prosecution.

The language you have used in your Twitter posting describing the Bookmobile staff member is completely inappropriate and unwelcome, and you have not complied with our request to refrain from making derogatory comments about library staff.

If you have not done so already, you must remove immediately the Twitter post and photograph about the Bookmobile staff member. In addition, this letter is to warn you that your inappropriate and derogatory comments about the Bookmobile staff violate the Library’s Rules of Conduct, and that further disregard for the Rules of Conduct may result in exclusion from one or more branches (including the Bookmobile) of the Toronto Public Library and suspension of library privileges for up to one year, or other action as appropriate.

I want to reiterate that you are welcome and encouraged to continue to visit Toronto Public Library and use its many services, and that we recognize your right to make comments about the programs and services provided by the Library. However, these comments have to be consistent with the Library’s policies that maintain a welcoming environment that respects all persons.

In other words, these cunts at the Library, who fall all over themselves about freedom to read and host concerts by bands like Fucked Up, think they have authority over my free-speech rights outside their property. Toronto Public Library: Would you like hypocrisy with your self-checkout?

It’s as though these donkey-raping shit-eaters never watched, let alone learned the lessons of, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. (What would Brian Boitano Cathy Raine do?)

A TPL employee left his post to follow me onto city property and threaten me for taking a picture I had every right to take. Yes, I am going to swear at a city employee who threatened me. But what’s the real problem? When off the property, I curse like a sailor and I make managers nervous.

The Toronto Public Library wages a war of attrition against me. And they keep upping the ante: Issuing a threat, inducing me to stop using interlibrary loan, inducing me to stop submitting suggestion forms, pulling staff away from me when I’m having normal conversations with them (that’s happened twice), having a guy stalk over to me right there out in the open, then issuing even more threats. (Apparently involving “prosecution.” Under disclosure, can I get all the records TPL has on me?) It is the Library that is the aggressor.

I reminded Peon – again – of the Streisand Effect and warned him not to write cheques he can’t cash.

Scabrous means scabrous, you dumb cunts.

How to steal from the Reference Library

Hi. Still discouraged lately. But I have not stopped chatting with my friends at the library, taking out too many books (net 197 last year), and submitting more blue forms, with more attached documentation, than anybody else.

In a surprisingly unpopular decision, TRL has gone “express” checkout. This means that every single open-shelf collection object had to be tagged. This was a horrifically ill-managed process, which I complained about to people’s faces three times and filed other complaints about on other occasions. I have a raft of photos of this process I will deal with later. Quite frankly it’s a nightmare. I keep telling you RFID is an ideology and I keep being right. Then again, the last thing you want to hear from me is a claim that I am right even if I am. Join the club there.


One consequence of self-checkout is sticking decals into and onto every graspable object in the biggest library in downtown Toronto. Another consequence is it is now much easier to steal from the Reference Library.

First of all, stacks-request items are not tagged. Either they will be or won’t be (depends whom I ask on what day), but the fact remains that many of those materials are fragile or cannot be defaced by RFID stickers the way basically every magazine in the system continues to be. You can still steal stacks-request items. No change from before.

But now it is quite easy to steal no-circ open-shelf items. Here’s how you do it.

  1. Pull the book you want to steal.

  2. Gather up at least five circulating items that are similar in format to the book you want to steal. Need to shoplift a hardcover book in clear Mylar? Get a couple of those from the Browsery. Odd-shaped paperback? Language-learning materials are full of those. CDs and DVDs? Quite straightforward. (VHS? You’re out of luck. Music scores? Nothing looks like those, and they all circulate.) For somewhat higher confidence, choose similar subject-matter or title (rarely difficult).

  3. Put the book you want to steal somewhere far away from the already-scratched Feig RFID pads we are now stuck with because they’re cheap. Run the five circulating items through self-checkout. The security bit will then be turned off and you will now have a printed receipt listing, in too much detail, all the titles you have just checked out.

  4. Leave one of the checked-out items behind. You can easily just shove it in the (still almost completely unmarked) return bin, or leave it on a truck. Or you could hand it to a staffmember. You don’t have to do any part of this operation covertly.

  5. Place the item you want to steal inside your pile. I think fourth down from the top would work best. Stick your receipt, edge poking out of the top, inside the front cover of the topmost book.

  6. Go through the security gate as usual. Do so right behind somebody else. Of course show them your bag. For extra distraction, carry a previously-checked-out book from a distant branch and dig it out and show them.

  7. The security guard will vaguely look at your list of titles and will probably double-check the number of books against the number of entries on the receipt.

  8. The whole pile will be slid past the newly-installed gates. Stand there and nonchalantly pack them up.

  9. Walk out of the library. Do not walk into any other branch that has a gate.

You have now stolen a book from the Reference Library.

I leave it to the Bruce Schneier manqué(e)s in my audience to determine what the points of failure in the new system actually are. I know of at least four.

I figured out a way to test this technique without actually stealing a book. TPL can contact me if it wants to run such tests. (It won’t. That would mean admitting I was right.)