Re: [Videolib]review of new Sandy Berman video

Steve Fesenmaier (
Mon, 24 Nov 2003 13:00:48 -0500

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Humanist Views
Hosted by Scott Lohman with guest Sandy Berman, “ unretired librarian”
Summer 2003 25 mins.

Scott Lohman, who has lived in Minnesota for 14 years, interviews
“ unretired librarian” Sanford Berman about “ libraries, books, and
censorship.” This is Berman”™s best video so far ““ he has the entire
minutes to precisely state what he thinks is going WRONG with the
American public library as an institution. The interview he quotes, from

New Breed, is not only his best single statement, but in my opinion, the

best, most profound challenge to the contemporary corporatized public
library. He was interviewed on June 10, 2003.

Sandy begins by reading part of an interview he gave the New Breed
Librarian website several years ago. They asked him, “ Have libraries
been dumbed down?” To this question he answers most emphatically, -
“ YES!” Libraries, he says, have become part of the corporate
mainstream, downsizing and outsourcing. They care only about circulation

numbers, digitization, and want to act like a Borders or Barnes & Noble
store. They have forgotten the library values that American libraries
have used for a century, presenting themselves as the “ peoples”™
university.” Rather, they are concerned with blockbuster books,
bestsellers, and Martha Stewart products. They have been told NOT to
examine the actual preview copies of children”™s books they receive, but

are told to use Baker & Taylor “ best lists.” They have also dropped
government docs because of the time and effort spent on their
cataloging. He points out that Los Angeles Public and Hennepin County
Library system both have either eliminated including these valuable
government-printed docs or greatly reduced their number. Sandy points
out that the actual data produced by government agencies and
Congressional hearings will no longer be included in the collections.
Rather, libraries buy hundreds of copies of best sellers because the
publisher promises to spend millions on promoting them. Another way
libraries have dumbed themselves down is by dropping thousands of
periodicals, many of which have very limited access on the web. Some
library periodicals will no longer be made available to the public so
they cannot read the main professional review sources ““ Library
etc. Libraries have always self-censored themselves, not subscribing to
local political publications, comics, zines, labor publications, etc.

The host asks ““ what can people do? Sandy answers that they should
suggest titles of books, periodicals, and other sources to their local
public libraries. “ They are YOUR LIBRARIES!,” he says. Recommend
““ as a group or as an individual.

He finally spends the last five minutes talking about the implications
of the Patriot Act for libraries and booksellers. In Section 215 of the
Patriot Act the federal authorities including the FBI are given the
right to inspect all library and book dealer records. And they cannot
tell the patron/customer that they have had this information requested.
The FBI no longer has to get a court order and give the librarian a
warrant. He says that there has been a storm of protest by some
librarians and others, and that two national leaders have proposed laws
to fix the situation. Rep. Berney Sanders has proposed the Freedom to
Read Protection Act -”“HR 1157- and Senator Boxer of California has
proposed S1158 ““ the Library and Bookseller Protection Act. People
should write these two leaders and express their support.

You can purchase a copy of this excellent videotape at:

$ 20 that includes shipping

Humanists of Minnesota
P.O. Box 582997
Minneapolis, MN. 55455-2997
(651) 335-3800

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