Gail Sweet, library director of the Burlington County Library System (BCLS), in April asked Library Commissioners to approve the removal of the book after a member of the conservative group 9.12 Project contacted Sweet requesting that it be taken off shelves.
While direct calls to Sweet were not returned, she did respond to an email request explaining BCLS's decision to take Revolutionary Voices off its shelves.
"Thank you for your interest but I have nothing to say on the topic," Sweet wrote.
Created by American television and radio personality Glenn Beck, the group vows to defend the constitution of the United States-and is the same organization that advocated Revolutionary Voice's removal from New Jersey's Rancocas Valley Regional High School this Spring.
Edited by Amy Sonnie of the Banned Librarian, Revolutionary Voices was named by School Library Journal in 2001 as one of the best adult books for high school students and was celebrated by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) as "the first creative resource by and for queer and questioning youth of every color, class, religion, gender and ability."
Although no formal complaint was filed, BCLS Library Commissioners supported Sweet's recommendation to "remove "Revolutionary Voices" from" library shelves, Sweet wrote in an April 27 email to Beverly Marinelli, a grandmother and member of the 9.12 project, who told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the book is "pervasively vulgar, obscene, and inappropriate."
"As the copies that are checked out return, we will take them out of circulation," explained Sweet in the email to Marinelli.
Then in a May 3 email, Sweet told staffers that they needed to "pull" Revolutionary Voices from library shelves. "How can we grab the books so they never, ever get back into ccirculation (sic)," Sweet wrote to BCLS staffers. "Copies need to totally disappear (as in not a good idea to send copies to the book sale)."
But when Andy Woodworth, a librarian at the Bordentown branch of BCLS, asked Sweet whether a formal challenge had been lodged, she said no. "It was recommended both by Marge and by me that the book be removed," she wrote Woodworth in an email dated May 24, referring to assistant director, Margaret Delaney. "The commissioners supported our decision. There was no official challenge, no actual vote by the commissioners." When Woodworth pressed to find out on what grounds the book was removed, Sweet responded on May 25 with two words: "Child pornography."
A call to Woodworth was referred to Sweet.
BCLS's formal process for handling controversial materials, as found in documents obtained by the ACLU, states that patrons must fill out a Request for Reconsideration form, and then a "committee of staff selectors as designated by the Library Director will review the material in question."
The American Library Association recommends that every library have a written policy in place explaining how books are selected for library circulation. And many public libraries use a formal process when handling challenges.
"It's considered best practice to have a formal process, and a written request," says Lindsey Dunn, a teen librarian for the Eva Perry Regional Library in Wake County, N.C. who sits on a committee that looks into book challenges for its library system. "It allows for not just one person's opinion."
In the case of BCLS's removal of Revolutionary Voices, an informal, rather than formal written request appears to have been made. In addition, Sweet's email indicates that the committee was made up of her and one other person.
Assistant director Margaret Delaney confirmed that she is the "Marge" mentioned in Sweet's email as also recommending the book's removal, but she's not allowed to talk about the situation.
"Gail told me," says Delaney, when questioned about who instructed her not to speak about the book's removal.
Way to go, Glenn Beck stans. >:(