Bard College begins “decolonizing” its library as Pecksniffs comb the stacks searching for bad representations of “race/ethnicity, gender, religion, and ability”

January 21, 2022 • 9:15 am

Given the priors, Bard College, a pricey and exclusive liberal-arts college in Annandale-on-the-Hudson, would almost certainly be ridden with wokeness: the priors are its location in the Northeast U.S., it’s tuition (see below), and the fact that it’s a liberal arts school. And indeed, Bard is right up there with Reed College (on the West cost), Middlebury College (Vermont), and all the New England Ivies and “sister schools” (Wellesley, Williams, Smith, etc.) at the top of the wokeness scale. It’s thus not surprising that Bard has started an initiative to “decolonize the library”. This report came in my newsletter from Bari Weiss’s site, but isn’t on that site–at least yet. It was part of a news summary by Nellie Bowles.

Pecksniffery has reached a new high!

(Note that Bard is the college featured in Steely Dan’s son “My old school,” along with William and Mary.)

Here’s Nellie’s exposition (indented), but see below as well. Her tip came from a writer I admire, Emily Yoffe, who actually went to Wellesley.

“To Begin the Process of Decanonization”

It’s always fun to check up on what’s going on in academia. Here’s an announcement that showed up in the Bard College library newsletter (Bard tuition, $57,498 a year):

In keeping with campus-wide initiatives to ensure that Bard is a place of inclusion, equity, and diversity, the Stevenson Library is conducting a diversity audit of the entire print collection in an effort to begin the process of decanonizing the stacks. Three students, who are funded through the Office of Inclusive Excellence, have begun the process which we expect will take at least a year to complete. The students will be evaluating each book for representations of race/ethnicity, gender, religion, and ability.

So, to paraphrase this library announcement: three Bard students, chosen and paid for by the Office of Inclusive Excellence, are tasked with reviewing every book in the Bard library to evaluate how well it adheres to their moral standards. Facing outrage from library-fans, Bard quickly retracted and rewrote this announcement and clarified that the audit was more high-level analysis of each book and author.

Still I like to imagine these students marching through the stacks, pulling every spine, reading every page to examine for “representations of race, gender, religion, and ability.” Does Charles Dickens dehumanize someone with a limp somewhere? I bet he does. There’s some nasty ableism in Beowulf. Was Aristotle a feminist? This could take a while. Also, I think I kind of want to be on this committee.

The term decanonize means exclusion of a person’s name from a list or catalog. It’s a term most commonly associated with the church, who decanonizes to demote a saint who’s on the outs.

There’s of course a whole new intellectual underpinning for all of this. Here’s the librarian Sofia Leung, who offers trainings and workshops on critical race theory in libraries:

“Our library collections, because they are written mostly by straight white men, are a physical manifestation of white men ideas taking up all the space in our library stacks,” she writes, asking her readers to pause and think about that in her essay, Whiteness as Collections. Or watch her talk with the University of Michigan on the “‘Ordinary’ Existence of White Supremacy in Libraries.”

The announcement about decanonization came in a cheery library update. It wasn’t the top item. It’s just there between an alumna to be honored and a local cleanup effort. Decanonization is a casual, business-as-usual sort of activity, hardly anything to pay attention to or ask about.

When I wrote to ask about the announcement, Bard officials explained that this was all a big misunderstanding. Nothing the library newsletter had about this effort should be taken literally, they told me.

[JAC: When you’re found out saying an unpalatable truth, just claim it was a metaphor]. Bowles continues:

“It will help us understand and answer questions about representation in our collections and build a more inclusive collection going forward,” wrote Betsy Cawley, the director of Bard libraries. “Nothing is being removed, recategorized, or replaced.”

Decanonization is not decanonization at all. Judging each book does not mean judging each book (“an earlier brochure entry suggesting that has been revised”). It is just a fact-finding mission to learn more, not to remove anything.

In some cold upstate New York panic, they retracted and rewrote the whole thing. “The erroneous entry has been removed,” the school tells me now.

Regardless, if any Common Sense-readers would like to read books that three Bard students deem offensive, please turn yourself in to the local police station.

(We got word of this thanks to the great Emily Yoffe, who’s in touch with several library-loving whistleblowers. Thank you. TGIF is always open to tips:

Bard’s denial is hilarious: if this is not about censorship, what is it about? How can you “build a more inclusive collection going forward” if you don’t pick and choose books for the library based on how “inclusive” they are? I don’t believe their denial at all.  After all, there are 400,000 books to sniff through!

And what bothers me most of all is that, traditionally, librarians have opposed this kind of Pecksniffery, pushing back against people’s wish to keep this and that book out of the library. In the past librarians were the most vigorous and treasured defenders of free speech, blocking the doorway between the censors and the books. That doesn’t hold any more.

By the way, Sofia Leung is not listed as a librarian at Bard College at all, nor does her c.v. does mention that position (perhaps Bowles didn’t mean to imply that). The head librarian at Bard and her email address is here. Bard’s president has an email address here, and I’ll be writing to both of them.

The Wall Street Journal also has a new article about the “diversity audit“, which is also dubious about the motivations of Bard:

The point of the audit at Bard originally appeared to be picking books to remove. The announcement in Notes, the library’s newsletter, described the project as a first step in “the process of decanonizing the stacks”—academic jargon for breaking the connection to the past. A follow-up from the staff seemed to suggest that the eventual aim is a major deaccessioning (to use a librarians’ term: litotes for getting rid of books).

A representative of the library, however, later said in an email that was forwarded to me that the project was designed “to increase our understanding of our collection, not to remove books.”

This leaves unspecified the reason the information is being gathered in the first place, but the librarian waved away the students funded by the Office of Inclusive Excellence, stating that actual librarians will decide about the library’s collections, not student workers.

And perhaps this audit is merely a sop to activist students and diversity administrators. But it does seem at least a surrender to the idea that content is determined by the extraliterary characteristics of the author. And if the audit does include content, the result could be a straightforward Index of Prohibited Books—even if, as seems unlikely, the librarians aren’t pressured eventually to act on the information that the students catalog.

If anything should anger people, even if they’re woke, it’s this kind of implied censorship. Removing books from libraries is just as bad as burning them: it removes access to the WRONG IDEAS.

Let Bard hear from you if you see this as an especially egregious violation of free speech and academic freedom.

61 thoughts on “Bard College begins “decolonizing” its library as Pecksniffs comb the stacks searching for bad representations of “race/ethnicity, gender, religion, and ability”

    1. Well said, Mark. Maybe an interested donor could send every member of their governing board a copy of Fahrenheit 451 with an enclosed note suggesting the library’s path can easily lead to unexpected outcomes.

    2. Heinrich Heine said it in his book “Almanso” (1821) “dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen“

      1. Thanks! I put my post in quotes to show I was quoting (that is, not original to me), but didn’t know the source, and would have guessed Voltaire, had I been asked.

        1. I had heard it before, but I associated the quote with Heine when seeing it in the “Introduction” section of the museum at Dachau KZ. That was shortly after coming across the prototype gas showers and thinking about the careful, deliberate engineering they represented. An intelligent person (most likely a man, from the date if no other consideration) thought carefully about how to production line killing people, then tested his ideas with prototypes, and probably revised the design before going full scale. That must have inspired some self-examination on the trolley-bus home to his family. Or not.
          And a couple of days later, the KZ provided some good sight lines for photographing the 1999-08-11 total eclipse.

  1. They should just make it simple. Burn the whole library building down. They can throw in some witches and warlocks and take care of two birds with one brimstone.

  2. I’ve been waiting for this to start. It was only a matter of time before someone actually went into a library, and realized that they were storehouses of Wrong Think. I will be interested to see the reaction of the professional librarians as this goes on. One of my daughters is a professional librarian at a university. They seem to be pretty solidly anti-censorship.

    1. Unfortunately, the profession is drinking deeply of the social justice DEI Flavor-Aid. In January 2021 American Library Association (ALA) Council endorsed a “Resolution to Condemn White Supremacy and Fascism as Antithetical to Library Work” which, among other things, charged the “Working Group on Intellectual Freedom and Social Justice…to review neutrality rhetoric and identify alternatives”. In June 2021 this group recommended ALA (and therefore professional librarianship) replace neutrality with a “radical empathy” framework. In the professional and scholarly literature, neutrality is now widely understood to be a dirty word. It is discouraging and scary to see an increasingly selective application of intellectual freedom in the name of “justice”.

      1. My friend, are you a member of the ALA? I am and will continue to be, because I want to vote in new Council members who will act as antipyretics to the woke fever that has infected the Association.

        1. Yes, I continue to be a member for the reasons you outlined. I have also found fellowship within the Heterodox Academy.

          1. Glad to meet a like-minded fellow librarian! I have heard of the Heterodox Academy. I will look more deeply into it.

  3. I wonder if the decanonized books will be brought together in the new Barred Library. (Apologies in advance!)

  4. Three students, who are funded through the Office of Inclusive Excellence…

    Orwell would have a field day. The Office of Inclusive Excellence, deciding which books to exclude.

    Here, I will do the entire offices’ job, for free: the Inclusivity policy you are looking for, to keep your library excellent, is “all of them.”

    Couldn’t they just gives these folks a roll of sticker dots, and tell them to put red ones on the books they don’t like? Makes it easier for the rest of us to know which ones might be good.

      1. Yes. And they don’t even realize the irony. The same people who go on and on about diversity just can’t handle it if they have to interact with a person who thinks even somewhat differently then they do.

        New strategy: Say that you are offended and harmed and hurt by people who specify their pronouns.

  5. How clear is the regressive nature of the far left in this. They are in effect working in parallel with members of the far right who are even now trying to ban books that sympathize with BIPOC experiences.

    1. They are in effect working in parallel with members of the far right…

      This was remarked upon by Diane Ravitch almost 20 years ago in “The Language Police.” The right wants to censor sex and violence (and now leftist thought); the left wants to censor insult and personally offensive words. They sometimes work together against free speech advocates and the political middle to censor publicly available books, movies, music, etc: you help me put warning labels on rap music, I’ll help you take the word “fat” out of SAT reading comprehension paragraphs.

  6. … a diversity audit of the entire print collection in an effort to begin the process of decanonizing the stacks. Three students, who are funded through the Office of Inclusive Excellence …

    Better they should “cannonize” the Office of Inclusive Excellence right off campus, as in the old “human cannonball” circus act.

  7. “Our library collections, because they are written mostly by straight white men, are a physical manifestation of white men ideas taking up all the space in our library stacks,”

    So here we come, full circle.

    When many great works on science, philosophy, history, and other aspects of the human condition were written by “straight white men,” they were not writing with me, a woman, in mind. They didn’t think I would relate to such things.

    But women read them, understood them, and appreciated them anyway. So did people of color, and gay people. What they thought were white men ideas really weren’t. They were ideas for everybody.

    And now they’re not. Turns out the white man ideas aren’t for such as me. Again.

    1. So if they ‘decannonize’ E.O.Wilson, or Charles Darwin, of Steve Pinker (etc.) and remove their books from the library how will their knowledge be replaced?

      Or will they only decannonize the arts and humanities stacks?

      In other situations the Beatles were ‘only’ straight white males… should their back catalogue be expunged?

    2. Interesting last sentence, Sastra. I went another way with your post. Where you thought of the sexism/discrimination aspect, it made me think of the Nazis rejecting ‘Jewish’ science…and losing. And then the USSR rejecting ‘capitalist’ biology..and losing. And then it made me think of China’s rising economic power vs. the west’s, and what it might mean for developing countries in places like Africa if the west losesdeclines and authoritarian regimes such as China become internationally predominant.

  8. Some may remember (while wishing not to) that several years ago an author made a small fortune by re-writing a classical romance novel, and thus we had Pride and Prejudice With Zombies.

    I sense a market out there where one could re-write those and other classical works, because you know they always promoted the cis white male patriarchy. So we could re-stock the shelves with Little Trans Women, and Thought-Crime and Punishment.

      1. No need to rewrite,The Office of Inclusive Excellence just screams “sequel”.

        It’s also with some amusement that I note that if we did as Orwell did and transpose the date, 2022 becomes…2022.

  9. “Our library collections, because they are written mostly by straight white men, are a physical manifestation of white men ideas taking up all the space in our library stacks…”

    The stupidity of this statement boggles the mind. Just because a topic is written about by a straight white male does not make the topic a “white man idea.” A book about the engineering of suspension bridges doesn’t mean that suspension bridge technology is solely the purview of cis white men.

    And it is yet again evidence that the extreme left and extreme right agree on the concept of censorship…no daylight at all between them on that point.

    1. A false equivalence. But if damning both sides helps you condemn this Leftist insanity, I’m OK with it.

  10. “The students will be evaluating each book for representations of race/ethnicity, gender, religion, and ability.”

    Religion seems a strange bedfellow in this effort to perpetuate wokeness. What am I missing here?

    1. Well, consider that the acronym of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion spells out DEI…so those who become over-motivated by certain extreme interpretations of it could be the first fundamentalist DEIsts.

  11. “Time Enough at Last,” the Twilight Zone episode has Burgess Meredith as a book-a-holic who locked himself in the bank’s vault to read at lunchtime; a quiet spot. Following a nuclear attack he finds himself the only person alive and proceeds to line up stacks of books to read for decades to come. Alas, in Twilight Zone fashion, he accidentally shatters his glasses and is unable to see clearly.

    It might be a cool summer job to go through a library and see what’s there. Whenever I see a photo of the British Museum reading room I wonder, what are in ALL THOSE ANCIENT BOOKS?????

  12. The better solution would be to set aside a specific section dedicated to the old, unacceptable stuff and label it what it is: Products of ignorance and antiquated belief systems. That stuff might be fun to read for nostalgia’s sake or as an object lesson, but we have so much work today that isn’t racist, sexist, etc. Reflections and comments on a created reality, shared and supported by only a few white men is hardly worth crying over, considering the way these white men discarded and destroyed thousands of years of non-white cultural heritage, forcing the world into a vacuum of ignorant, racist oppression. Aren’t you happy to be waking up from the ignorance of white supremacist thought? Or would you rather return to the terror of what we had 100 years ago?

    1. Oh, and who, exactly, is to decide what went into that section? (I get the feeling it might be you!). If I were in charge, there would be no such section, because I wouldn’t trust ANYBODY to set off a section of a library for “offensive books”. So you would set aside Newton, Darwin, Einstein, and all the stuff written by “white men”.

      Thank GOD that you’re not in charge of such an enterprise.

      It’s as if you think modern libraries have submersed us in oppression and white supremacy. I got news for you–libraries don’t do that: they give us all the materials to assess for ourselves.

      What I’m not happy about is having people like you come over here and tout themselves as the right people to be censors.

      You’re just parroting the dictum that we now know what literature is good and worthy.

      As for the white man racism, it’s too stupid to dignify with a comment.

      I suggest you go post at Teen Vogue, where you’ll find like-minded censors. Really, it makes me laugh to think that anybody, much less you, is the arbiter of what is “old and unacceptable.”

      Here is the ALA’s list of the books most challenged last year. Would you set all of these aside as “old and unacceptable”? Because for sure SOMEBODY would. You just want to be the somebody that determines the ACCEPTABLE books.

      George by Alex Gino
      Reasons: Challenged, banned, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, conflicting with a religious viewpoint, and not reflecting “the values of our community”
      Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
      Reasons: Banned and challenged because of author’s public statements, and because of claims that the book contains “selective storytelling incidents” and does not encompass racism against all people
      All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
      Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, drug use, and alcoholism, and because it was thought to promote anti-police views, contain divisive topics, and be “too much of a sensitive matter right now”
      Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
      Reasons: Banned, challenged, and restricted because it was thought to contain a political viewpoint and it was claimed to be biased against male students, and for the novel’s inclusion of rape and profanity
      The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
      Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct by the author
      Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin
      Reasons: Challenged for “divisive language” and because it was thought to promote anti-police views
      To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
      Reasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and their negative effect on students, featuring a “white savior” character, and its perception of the Black experience
      Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
      Reasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and racist stereotypes, and their negative effect on students
      The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
      Reasons: Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicts child sexual abuse
      The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
      Reasons: Challenged for profanity, and it was thought to promote an anti-police message

      1. Jerry while I agree that Ms. Marie’s idea is a bad one, libraries have limited shelf space and just due to pragmatic limitations, librarians have to make decisions all the time as to what old books must be removed from circulation or at least ‘storage-roomed’ so that new books can go on the shelves.

        Soooo, someone has to make the “what goes on the shelves” decision she talks about, whether we like it or not. I’m not a librarian, but I expect the “content neutral” way they do it is to look at circulation numbers – if a book hasn’t been checked out in 20 years, it’s a good candidate for removal. However when it comes to text books and things like that, I can see a case for having people – hopefully experts – base the decision on their subjective notion of quality. Maybe that astronomy book is really popular (so “circulation” does not give a reason to get rid of it), but if it teaches that Pluto is a planet, that’s maybe a good ‘subject matter expert-based’ reason to take it out of circulation. Likewise medical texts. I don’t care if that 4 humors book is really popular, if i gotta make room in the ‘medicine’ category for new textbooks, that might be a prime candidate to go. How to make those selections, using human SMEs, without opening the door to heavily biased SMEs, I don’t know. It’s a human societal problem and probably has no ideal objective solution. But the least-worst solution probably looks a lot more like “subject matter expert professional society recommendation” instead of “DEI panel recommendation.”

        1. Yes, I understand that sometimes libraries need to get rid of books, but surely you realize that your claim, which is true, is not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about either removing books because they’re ideologically impure OR just getting those books in the future that are ideologically pure.

          1. Well we’re talking about who decides which books to remove, and how they make the decision. There IS going to be a who even if all humans are biased, and there IS going to be a how even if all hows have some subjective valuation to them.

            So asking the rhetorical question “oh and who is going to decide what goes into that section” – implying that any person selected is going to be biased – isn’t a great rejoinder, since there does indeed have to be a who that decides what goes in each library section.

            We have to acknowledge that there’s going to be a who, and argue at the substantive level of why librarians or SMEs are better whos than DEI groups. And we have to acknowledge that yes, the librarians and SMEs will use criteria that are somewhat subjective (if not the criteria itself, then picking which criteria to use is certainly subjective) just like the DEI group will, and argue with the Ms. Marie’s of the world that “supported by only a few white men” is still a much worse subjective for selecting what must go than, say, circulation or even SME opinion as to what textbooks reflect our best current understanding.

        2. See, those reasons are far more practical. Especially since removing books because they lack attention or because of inaccurate knowledge means few would notice to object.
          But to remove a book bc its mere presence on a shelf might “harm” someone, well, it is belittling to assert that people need protection from an old book, however antiquated.

          We don’t know how far we’ve gone or where we are going unless we see where we’ve been.

    2. “forcing the world into a vacuum of ignorant, racist oppression”
      Are you suggesting that where there were no white men, there was less ignorance, racism and oppression? Where exactly was that, I know of no liberally enlightened (according to modern DEI standards) and non oppressive place anywhere in the traditional world, certainly not in the great civilizations of the old or new world. Hunter and gatherer societes or small scale low population density stone age agrarian soieties are/were relatively egalitarian everywhere, in Europe as well as in Central Africa or New Guinea .

    3. Let me add that I like your proposal. Setting aside a special section with “antiquated” books would be a good solution, at least much preferable to the undocumented pruning that goes on all the time in libraries. I am sure that earlier generations of librarians already sorted out and destroyed a lot of works no longer acceptable to the changed consensus post WW II and post 1968.

      I agree that the English colonists (it was they, not “white men” in general) tried their best to destroy native American and Australian traditions, probably believing to be doing something good, as these traditions were “antiquated” in their eyes. (I am not defending this!)
      But other European men elsewhere resurrected long lost traditions and histories forgotten by their descendants: Old Turkic runic script, the Hittite language, Cuneiform script and the Sumerian (among others) language and OId Egyptian, all can be read today and lost traditions are known thanks to some European scholars who in those days were the only ones interested enough in these things to really try and decipher them.

      1. I always put in a good word for English (and French) colonists because if they hadn’t persevered in the face of understandable efforts by the Natives to drive them back into the sea, there would be no Canada or United States today. Having prevailed, the colonists could have killed them all (as the Natives often did to each other during their own wars until around 1700), let them starve, or taught them to speak and write English so they could assimilate and contribute to the settler economy. Leaving to their own devices a large mass of people who spoke only one of a couple hundred aboriginal languages and had no understanding of writing, numbers, or skill with manufactured objects is not a recipe for success. (European settlers, priests mostly, did codify and document aboriginal languages, rendering them in written characters that are still used today.)

        I’m sure any books that espoused this view would not be welcome in the new Bard Library.

    4. Yes, and then any time anyone walks into that section, there will be woke students there to film them, confront them, and ask for an explanation as to why they were walking into the “books of forbidden ideas” section. Then you can either write a 5 page paper explaining why the book you looked at is evil and wrong, or you can fail to condemn and have your encounter shared on social media and then have your life ruined, be shunned by your fellow students, and become unemployable

    5. “Or would you rather return to the terror of what we had 100 years ago?”

      You mean where people of different skin colors are placed in different facilities (or is it “affinity groups”?); men and women are defined by crude stereotypes (or is it “critical gender theory”?); any sexual encounter is a fraught experience where every moment can give rise to something considered deviant and possibly life-destroying (or is it “verbal consent at every step”?); and people are defined first and foremost not by the content of their character, but by their skin color, religion, sexual orientation, etc.?

      You are the very monster you claim to be fighting. You are dragging us back into the dark ages. None of this is progressive. All of it is the very definition of regressive. We thought we had finally moved beyond such things, but people like you are determined to take us backwards.

      1. Take a look at your last paragraph. You can’t call other readers names; just stick to the arguments. You do this one more time and you’re gone.
        BTW, didn’t you used to go under another name here? Please give the correct answer.

    6. “forcing the world into a vacuum of ignorant, racist oppression”. The same world that gave you potable water, electric lighting, antibiotics, organ transplants, jet travel, and the rising standards of living around the world? That world? Billie, for your own mental health, get out of your head.

  13. In a related development, something called the “UW-IT Community of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Community of Practice” has issued a language guide, listing all those pesky “problematic” words
    and phrases which are to be avoided. These include such offenders as “blacklist”, “whitelist”, “black box” “tribe”, “tribal”. “grandfathered in”, and, of course, noun-phrases involving the words “master” or “slave”.
    Similar guides to problematic word use are no doubt available at many institutions of higher learning.

    At Bard College, the next step will obviously be an intensive search through every line of every book in the library for the presence of problematic words. This project will naturally require a massive increase in the funding of the “Office of Inclusive Excellence”. Perhaps the Bard College tuition, currently at a paltry $56,036, could be increased to fund this important project. Alternatively, all departments that practice
    “white empiricism” (e.g., Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Psychology, History, etc. etc.) could be defunded to free up the money for the important work of the Office of Inclusive Excellence.

  14. One purpose of a liberal arts college education is surely to learn about the past, of how material, social conditions and ideas of right and wrong changed over time, and realize that things normal now might be considered “problematic” in the future. There is no better way to learn this than with old books that submerge you in the past.

    The worst case of book purging I ever saw was when Western Germany took over Eastern Germany. I witnessed whole truckloads full of books being taken out of one municipal library. It was not a question of not enough room, the shelves were very empty after that.

    1. Very well put. On the current topic, even old and antiquated books that express jarringly abhorrent views about gender and people of other races are important to have around as references for comparison, and exemplars about how not to be. We need to discuss these things openly, not hide them.

  15. I remember at my grad program’s university, some of the professors’ offices shared space with the library, so you walked through the library any time you wanted to meet with one of your professors. One of the professors who I met with frequently had a large bookshelf about 10 feet away from his door, and there was a book just below eye level, leather bound and with gold brocade, that prominently stuck out compared to the other books any time you were leaving his office; this book was The Passing of the Great Race, by Madison Grant. It was an American text from some time during WWI that would be influential to the Nazis, and drew on continental European race theories of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries to posit the theory of a superior Nordic race. I always was somewhat amazed that it remained on the shelves, particularly so prominently (not on purpose, just a product of Dewey decimal), rather than be put in storage, but considered this to be a triumphal mark of liberalism: there were plenty of other books in the library that would contest, challenge, and debunk Madison Grant.

    Apparently now the idea is that we should just throw that book in the trash. How are the ideas in books like this supposed to be challenged if you can’t even find the actual text to challenge? You can’t “debunk” it, because there’s no concrete elements to debunk or debate.

  16. I understand that I’m bringing up the rear of this thread and consequently may not be read. Nevertheless, since I’m a librarian, I’d like to give a little insider perspective to the subject of removal, or deselection, of items from a library’s collection, a subject that has been touched upon above. Librarians have traditionally striven to be as neutral as humanly possible in the deselection of materials. For public libraries, which are essentially popular materials collections, the most commonly used neutral criterion is indeed the number of circulations over a certain period, say, three to five years. Those with no to low circs get removed from the collection and given to the Friends of the Library or other such group.
    Academic libraries, however, are a different type of beast, and their charge is essentially to keep items in the collection ostensibly in perpetuity. Of course this raises problems with storage, so, as some have written above, digitization (in the past, conversion to microforms) is a good solution. Many academic libraries have huge warehouses for archives of physical materials. I’m thinking of the U of C libraries in this connection. Jerry and other denizens of Hyde Park may find it interesting to learn that in my younger librarian days I hung out in Regenstein, and I was privileged to be taken behind the scenes to witness the construction of the newer Mansueto library. There I had my mind blown by a demonstration of the automated “page,” a gigantic robotic arm, that retrieves items from the deep underground archive. I offer this remembrance as an example of another high-tech solution to the problem of storage.
    Circling back to the topic of this post, Bard College is not deselecting items because of storage problems. It’s true motive is transparently a censorious one.

  17. I believe Botstein used to make a point of answering all correspondence. I’d love to see how he responds to Jerry.

  18. How can any institution charging $57k pa have a snowflake in hell’s chance of being inclusive? Censoring the library books looks like a performative act, in an attempt by a group of rich b*st*rds to salve their consciences.

  19. Isn’t it more efficient to share this task with all the other woke colleges? I think they can make the list of forbidden books much much faster if they do.

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