OK, here’s the story. Last summer, a horrific murder was committed in the small town of Cheshire, CT (a suburb of New Haven and Hartford filled with commuters to those cities, ESPN in nearby Bristol and other places). The murders were apprehended leaving the scene and are currently awaiting trial. The judge assigned to the case has imposed a gag order on the participants. In spite of the gag order, one of the murderers met with a reporter several times. The book that came about as a result of those interviews has now been published.
There are several issues that are, I think, uncontroversial and which can be dealt with quickly. Yes, the prison royally screwed up. I am also disappointed by the reporter and publisher. While I think that they have the right to write and publish the book, I do not think that it was a good idea (or in good taste).
The initial response from the community was, I think, correct. There was a call for a boycott of the book, the publisher, and Amazon (one of the sellers). While I think that calling for a boycott of Amazon might have been overreaching, I heartily support the boycott. I would hope that with only a few exceptions (noted below) that no one buys the book.
The boycott wasn’t enough for some. A group of citizens (actually some folks who have been making political hay from the tragedy from the beginning) crowded (unannounced) into the town’s library committee meeting and have demanded that the librarian reverse her decision to buy the book for the library collection. Members of the crowd also asked for the discipline or dismissal of the librarian.
The role of the public librarian is to buy material that is of interest to her patrons and is of importance to her geographical area whether or not she approves of the message or means the author took to get the information or anything else. It was the responsibility of the librarian to buy the book. Those seeking to punish the librarian and seeking to have the book removed from the library are asking for nothing more than censorship.
One argument that one hears is that “I don’t want my tax dollars paying for that book.” It is the responsibility of the library to buy material of interest to the community. There are plenty of books in the library that I find offensive. However, it is not my right to prevent you from reading them.
The solution for speech that we do not like is not censorship, it is more speech. Boycotting is political speech expressing our disapproval of the book. Fight the book not by punishing the library and librarian and the Constitution, fight it by not buying it and not checking it out.
I would love it if the book was only purchased by a few libraries in locations to which this crime relates. I would further love it if they never circulated. Do not censor the library! Do not punish the librarian for acting as her job required!