Friday, January 18, 2008

Ideological Neutrality, The Best American Comics-- Chris Ware Editor, Pennyroyal Caxton Bible (Barry Moser Illustrator)

One of the central tenets of working in a public service agency is that a public agency does not endorse a particular religion or political party. The library is supposed to serve all ideologies. This is quite hard to do in some cases.

This means for official purposes we cannot support a particular candidate for mayor, or hold to a particular viewpoint. Thus we have "Holiday Parties" and either use inclusive symbolism or no symbolism at all. I am sure this angers some people, but in a way it is necessary.
It is also frustrating at times. One of the most frustrating examples of this was having to get books on eugenics that we have kept for historical purposes like "The Task of Social Hygiene" by Havelock Ellis for people, or get occult books for teenagers. Getting the eugenics books for the guy was quite hard, because he also asked for books on ethnophysiology.

Despite being neutral in service, many libraries have a tendency to order books on a liberal basis. We don't get a lot of books by Jerry Falwell, or books endorsed by Focus on the Family for example. People have a tendency to select items which they like based on their values.

Another issue which we run into is having to talk to very religious people. While it is wonderful to do this, it is also very hard sometimes when you are supposed to be ideologically neutral in service. The first words that you hear are "God bless this Christian nation." Or in one case, "Have a nice day, you are the beloved."

Part of the ideological neutrality is the concept of inclusiveness in religious and ethnic material. We have to order at least some material on sikhism, buddhism, baptists, christianity, islam, American Islam, occultism, atheism, new age material, and other religious material. Another change is that we no longer have a "black heritage" collection we have a "multicultural collection" where we also order books on hispanics, asians, and other minority groups.


I am enjoying reading The Best American Comics 2007, edited by Chris Ware. I am not going to say the comics I didn't like, that is the advantage of collections, you can say which parts you happened to like. I liked the autobiographical comics by Jeffrey Brown, they are about his collecting music cds and his relationship with his girlfriend. He seems to be as obsessed with collecting cds as I am with books. I liked the comic by Adrian Tomine, his statement about people from Berkeley California liking Manhattan, New York is absolutely on the money. Charles Burns has a really beautifully illustrated piece on relationships. My favorite comic strip in the whole book is Wimbledon Green by Seth. It is another autobiographical piece about growing up.


This is a rather personal thing. I have a copy of The Pennyroyal Caxton Bible illustrated by Barry Moser. It claims to be the first fully illustrated bible in the last one hundred years. The illustrations are quite beautiful, and the text is very readable. The illustrations are black and white woodcuts. It is both a work of art and a bible. Barry Moser has illustrated many of the classics of literature.

My father gave it to me on my birthday. Things were a bit difficult at the time. This is a link to information on the work.

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