11 April, 2009

Of Nietzsche and Witchcraft...

Every three weeks, we pack up our books and head to Williamsport, the largest local public library in our county. Sadly, when I say it is the largest local public library, that is really nothing to get thrilled about. As long as I can remember, the James V. Brown library has been the best of the competition, while the other local libraries in the county are beyond pathetic in comparison.

This saddens me. It is a library. Recently, the James V. Brown library built a whole new building just for children and teens, with a cyber cafe and coffee bar for kids to come to after school and on weekends to hang out and do homework. They turned the old children's wing into an adult cyber cafe. That's great. We all know that the days of print books are numbered, but they are certainly not over.

In the past, we have donated unique books to better and broaden the horizons of the community. About ten years ago, we donated nearly a hundred books, all in brand new or barely breathed on condition on subjects like paganism, wicca, philosophy, demonology, self-help, vampirism and actual witchcraft. Three of the one hundred books we donated appeared between the six libraries in our county. Three. All of the other books disappeared. Since then, I stopped donating books and money to the library because of continual and obvious censorship.

I know that about 80% of the libraries I have visited while living in Pennsylvania have suffered this same fate. Even living in downtown Pittsburgh, the Carnegie library system's several branches were completely bereft of books on things like the occult. The Carnegie branch near our house was an absolute joke, not even carrying a useful selection of books on Catholocism.

Libraries, you are a wonderful resource. You provide knowledge for people of all ages, encouraging literacy and a love of reading. Because I have always wanted my daughter to love books, we have spent our weekends combing through the weak, censored selection of books in the public library. It worked. She loves books, but now even she is disheartened by the lack of variety in subject matter.

Here are five examples of library failure in my county:

Books by Friedrich Nietzsche: 0
Books on the subject of Paganism/Wicca/Witchcraft: 0
Books by Charles Bukowski: 0
Books on Christianity: Over 1000 between all six libraries
Books by or about Aleister Crowley: 0

Nietzsche? How can there be nothing by Nietzsche? And when you search on the subject of Wicca, one books comes up: an anti-Wiccan book called Dewitched : what you need to know about the dangers of witchcraft and wicca.. The fact that there are no books by Bukowski actually makes me sick. In high school, before there was an internet to google everything under the sun, I did a biographical research paper on Aleister Crowley. There were three books in my school library that had incredibly limited information on Crowley, (One of them eas actually about Led Zeppelin...) and literally nothing else in our entire county on the man. I borrowed books from friends and family to complete the report. The fact that there are over 1000 books on the subject of Christianity between the six libraries in our system is a grave sign of religion influenced censorship.

Well guess what. Living in this forsaken town my entire life, I still followed my curiosity. I went to the city bookstores for books when necessary, and today I use the internet. It is this type of blatant meddling that disheartens me so much that I could really care less what happens to the library system at all. When you are drowning and floundering, looking for a hand, I will not hold mine out. Not when you deny the actual spread and pursuit of knowledge and wisdom.


Rachel Cotterill said...

But... what can they possibly have against Nietzsche?! I'm pleased to say that I've observed no such censorship in UK libraries, so maybe you need to come over here to do your research ;)

writtenwyrdd said...

That is a shame. I dont' donate to the local Maine library because they will just sell my books. I offer them mint condition sf and fantasy paperbacks (which the library sorely lacks) and they turn their noses up and say to me, "well...let me see if we have a book sale coming up. Otherwise we won't take them." Bah. I don't even go there to research anything. I'll pay for an online library subscription first. They don't exactly censor; but they don't get anything new but NYT best sellers. And they don't get rid of outdated reference material, either.

The libraries were so much better in California when I was a kid. I sure hope they aren't going the way of your PA libraries now.