I’ve decided that Denton has too many people. It feels as though it has as many people as much larger city, without the infrastructure to support it. 288 is a veritable nightmare, and there’s only two Starbucks in the whole city! (Though yes there are many other very nice coffee places). Though that’s the problem. It’s not a city, but it’s growing population is encroaching the size of one. Even if the infrastructure does grow to match the population, it won’t be during my stay. Or perhaps it’s just because in a real city you expect a crowd but in little old Denton it just seems unfair to have difficulty finding parking or wait in long lines at lights.
Today’s coffee shop was not my first or even second choice for the day, but a place I stopped in randomly when I couldn’t find parking at either of the other places I had considered. It’s Banter Bistro, just off the downtown square.
My first impression was not positive. The building came off as dark, dank, and depressing, and I was glad that the weather’s enough to sit outside. They serve beer as well as coffee, and the place definitely feels much more like a bar than a coffee shop. It was nearly empty, but conversations carry in the room that is basically a big box. My mocha was stupidly expensive, the barista clearly uninterested, and the latte art was messy.
But I looked up the place on-line (after having to ask for the wifi password), and it turns out that it’s much more of a night-time venue, with food (with great reviews), live music, and a weekly open mic. The mocha I got is *very* tasty, and there is some cool local art on the walls. I’m very much enjoying the nice weather outside and have made a mental note to come back some evening to enjoy their food and music. I have a feeling that the venue would be perfect for an acoustic open mic or small combo jazz. Definitely a complete change of opinion, and I am very much enjoying my morning here.
Frances Jones’ Defusing Censorship: The Librarian’s Guide to Handling Censorship Conflictsis a book written for librarians about censorship in libraries. It was written in 1983, but most of the information is still very relevant today. I find the topic of censorship and libraries fascinating, and really enjoyed this book.
The book begins with “a brief history of censorship in libraries”, which is much briefer than I would have liked. Given the level of detail in the rest of the book, a fuller history/introduction chapter would have been appropriate. Nevertheless, the chapter is well written and provides an appropriate set-up for the book. It also introduces the American Library Association’s Bill of Rights, an integral document in debates over access to disputed material in libraries.
The first third of the book examines the issue in the context of school libraries. Jones explores the legally protected rights of students, parents, teachers, and school boards, as well as mentioning situations in which removing a book from the library would not be censorship (obscene or damaging material, or regular removal of outdated or overly worn books). Jones then details a number of specific court cases that have relevance to censorship and school libraries. I enjoy how Jones provides a narrative story of the case and not just a dry summary. The school library section ends with a look at the most commonly protested material (which, to my surprise, included works on secular humanism).
The next part of the book looks at censorship and public libraries. Few court cases have arisen over censorship in a public library and Jones explores the reasons for this. Jones also goes through the rights of patrons and library employees, exhorts librarians to have a well written selection and reconsideration policy, and looks at legal cases that are relevant. Jones summarizes the most common challenges to public libraries, mainly the possibility of sexual material being accessed by children (including sex ed books geared towards children) and challenges to specific groups using library meeting rooms.
The final section deals with “coping with conflict” once it arises. Jones has a chapter on internal censorship (censorship in various forms done by librarians) and how to deal with it, as well as a chapter on “responsible planning and effective response.” The book concludes with useful appendices including sample written policies, statements from the ALA and other organizations on intellectual freedom, a list of banned books, guidelines for giving an in-service training on intellectual freedom, and contact information (address and phone number) for various organizations that could provide assistance in a censorship conflict.
Overall I found this book to be enjoyable, an easy read, and full of helpful information. It provides a great background on a very important topic at just the right level of detail. I would love to see a new edition that covers the last 30 years of related legal history, but a large amount of the book is still very applicable. I am hugely surprised over the kinds of things that have invoked patron rage, everything from a library letting a meditation group use their meeting room to a book titled “The Wonderful Story of How You Were Born.” Even though it is geared towards librarians, this is a book I believe anyone interested in censorship would enjoy.
Full disclosure: I did not finish reading Carson McCullers’ The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. I got exactly halfway through before I decided it was just not worth my time to finish reading it. I got absolutely nothing from it. I started reading this book at the suggestion of my boyfriend, who had heard good things about it. I had never heard of it before, but it seems to be decently well known.
McCullers’ book follows the lives of several different individuals in a small town in the South in the 1930s. Each chapter is told from the view of one of the main characters, alternating which character every chapter. It’s entirely a character story, since there is no overarching story line. Which is fine, other than the fact that I hated the characters. I had an oddly strong disliking, for one reason or another, of almost all of the characters. They also struck me as unrealistic and illogical (and not in the ways that real people act illogically). The book contains a series of tragedies with no lessons or words of wisdom to gain from them. This could be seen as a commentary on the tragedy of life, if the characters weren’t so un-lifelike. Certain character’s chapters are narrated in authentically awful grammar, which really annoyed me, since reading bad grammar makes me cringe. Outside of that, the writing style seems to me to be nothing of note. The small town setting was not often focused on, and in many ways seemed timeless, so there was nothing for me to take away from the novel in that regard. I just could not get over how much I disliked almost all of the characters (which is highly unusual for me), and the characters are all the book has to offer. This book has been acclaimed by some, but what they see in it I just do not understand…