Magazine article American Libraries

The "S" Word

Magazine article American Libraries

The "S" Word

Article excerpt

June 17, 1992. It was a beautiful morning--blue sky, warm sunshine, nice breeze--and I was feeling great. My son had just returned from college, the oleanders were in bloom, and rumor had it that Sir Charles Barkley would be traded to the Phoenix Suns.

The desk full of mail in my office did nothing to dampen my spirits. First there was a review of my book, Unintellectual Freedoms, from the Australian Library Review. While not exactly glowing ("The book resembles a bad Woody Allen movie--therapeutic for the main actor and director, but tedious for the audience") it was rather flattering to be ripped in a foreign country, especially one so far away; and, hey, better a bad Woody Allen movie than a good Crocodile Dundee film.

Next was a nice letter from the folks at Wilson Library Bulletin thanking me for the "hard work, expertise, and special way with words" that I had given them during the past year. Also enclosed was a schedule for the coming year, which would be my thirteenth. I was looking forward to it.

And finally, there were 31 letters from all over the U.S. and Canada, one day's worth of the overwhelming response to the "Librarians and Sex" survey in my June WLB column. Even I was surprised at the good humor and fun that the profession was having with my tongue-in-cheek survey.

But then came the phone call. It was my editor to tell me that against her wishes, Mr. Leo Weins, president of H.W. Wilson Co., "no longer desired" my services (AL, July/August, p. 543). Apparently he was not happy with my survey. Now I really did feel like a character in a bad Woody Allen movie.

An emotional mixed bag

There's a great temptation to rip WLB; but in fairness, for 12 years I was given an extraordinary amount of freedom to raise controversial issues and take unpopular stands. Not one of my 114 WLB columns was ever substantially altered by an editor. Sure, the occasional, well, maybe more than occasional, misspelling was corrected and the random stray comma was cleaned up, but never was I asked to change something because it was controversial, explosive, or even inappropriate.

And I exercised that freedom vigorously. One letter I received expressed my impact at Wilson very well. A woman wrote that she did not necessarily like my columns, but she was grateful that I had made the "Letters to the Editor" section the most interesting reading in all of library literature. …

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