Censorship by the Library of Congress

*** It’s 2017. Almost two years have gone by since this post was published. The LOC again is celebrating itself for “protecting 160 million plus items” – except for books that are not published by an increasingly small number of corporate book publishers. In other words, the LOC is a backward bureaucracy that ignores important self published books. Americans deserve better!

“I cannot live without books.”

This famous statement by Thomas Jefferson was the theme of a recent National Book Festival held by the Library of Congress (LOC) in Washington, DC.

But the dirty secret is that the LOC can live without certain books – books that are not published by a small number of national and international publishers (i.e. corporations) that apparently have the LOC’s stamp of approval.  In other words, the LOC can live without self-published books.

I know this because the LOC has refused to catalog my 2014 book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, to make it available to policy-makers who are working on issues involving age discrimination. When I asked why earlier this year, I received the following email on May 18, 2015 from Kurt Carroll, Chief, Law Collection Services:

“The format, level of depth, and policy focus did not meet our criteria for addition to our research collection.  I consider this decision closed and do not wish to discuss further.”

Technically, censorship is the practice of officially examining books, movies, etc., and suppressing unacceptable parts.  In this case, it is not clear whether the LOC bothered to look at my book.   On its face, Carroll’s email is absurd.

Lacks depth? My book delves into law and case law and  is  heavily footnoted. Only a moron would say that it lacks a policy focus. The book is about the lack of equal justice afforded under current American law to older workers who are victims of age discrimination when compared to workers who are victims of discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion and national origin. It is also about the devastating impact of the Great Recession on older workers due to epidemic and unaddressed aged discrimination.

Censorship

I emailed  Carroll’s supervisor, Janice Hyde, and requested the LOC policy on self-published books. She ignored my request. I then called the  LOC director’s office and I was told he was “unavailable” and that there is no public ombudsperson at the LOC to handle complaints. On May 20, 2015, I sent a letter to Candice Miller, chairperson of the U.S. Congress Joint Committee LOC, which oversees the LOC, and asked whether the LOC has a policy on self-published books  and, if not, to formulate a policy in conjunction with self-published authors. I got no response.

Back to my book.

Perhaps Carroll considers himself an expert on age discrimination and made a professional judgment about the merits of my book.  I submit he doesn’t have more expertise than the senior attorney for the American Bar Association’s Commission on Law and Aging, who called my book “well researched and well written.”   According to David M. Godfrey, J.D.,  “Barnes argues convincingly that Title VII offers far greater protections and a significantly lower burden of proof for the plaintiff. [The Age Discrimination in Employment Act] has never been on equal footing with Title VII, and amendments and case law have made bringing an age-based case nearly impossible.”

Moreover, a national publisher offered me a contract to published the book. I rejected the offer because I didn’t think it was fair that the publisher demanded a whopping 80 percent of all e-book royalties (a position that the Author’s Guild now agrees with).  Why must an author submit to exploitation by a greedy publishers to satisfy the LOC? Why should it make any difference to the LOC how a book is published?

Many foundational American books were published on printing presses behind closed doors by radicals who were risking their lives.

 Thomas Paine’s  famous work, Common Sense, inspired colonists to fight for American independence in 1776.  Would the LOC reject that work because it was self-published anonymously?

It is possible, of course, that Carroll was unimpressed with my credentials. Among other things, I am an attorney and former judge who wrote two books published by Congressional Quarterly Press that are currently available in libraries around the world (including the LOC).  I edited a three-volume series of books on domestic violence that was published by a national scholarly press. and wrote two published law review articles. I am a former regular contributor to The ABA Journal, the leading magazine of the legal profession, and I have written several articles on age discrimination in employment for national and international publications.  If Carroll is waiting for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg  to write a book about age discrimination, he’s going to be waiting a long time.   She has lifetime tenure on the U.S. Supreme Court.

What Else is Missing?

While I’m sure some self-published books are unworthy of the prestigious LOC, I’m also sure that many self-publlished books are extremely good and important works that deserve to be on our nation’s library bookshelves.  If the LOC would turn my book down,  what else is being “censored” by these bureaucrats who portray themselves as stalwarts of the First Amendment?

Is it money? To get a copyright, an author has to submit two copies of his or her works to the U.S. Copyright Office; one of these copies is made available to the LOC free of charge. If funds are that tight, skip the next book/public relations festival and use the money to hire library personnel who will do the job that American taxpayers expect and pay the LOC to accomplish – which is to catalog important American books.

In donating his library to the LOC, Thomas Jefferson said: “I do not know that it contains any branch of science which Congress would wish to exclude from this collection . . . there is in fact no subject to which a member of Congress may not have occasion to refer.”   Is it really a  leap to suggest that Jefferson might agree that it would be useful to make available to Congress a ground-breaking book that describes the failure of the U.S. government to insure that older workers receive equal justice under the law?

The LOC needs to stop pre-judging self-published books. Times have changed and authors are no longer forced to sign unconscionable contracts with commercial publishers. The LOC needs a public policy on self-published books to insure that the U.S. Congress and the American public have  all of  the tools they need to make informed and sound decisions.  The LOC should get out of the business of censorship and remember that it is accountable to the American public for its very existence. We pay the bills – not the half-dozen American corporations that are recognized by the LOC.

Comments

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more. I am sure it is nearly impossible to get a book published and always has been. One case in point, the best selling Auntie Mame, which went on to inspire two films and a Broadway musical, was rejected by dozens of publishers, until someone took a chance. John Kennedy O’Toole killed himself because he could not get a decent response to his writing. His mother schlepped his manuscript of “A Confederacy of Dunces” after his death and the book won the Pulitzer Prize. Too bad he wasn’t around to see that. I am writing a book now and I am sure no one will risk it, and I’ll have to self-publish. Ah, well … this is not the only area where the powers that be are small minded, closed off, insulated and out of touch. The dearth of official communications channels is what has given rise to social media, You Tube, and all of the next estate where anyone can have a voice. It is up to us to work to get ourselves heard. I salute your blog and all your efforts!

Trackbacks

  1. […] the ADEA and adding age as a protected class under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Library of Congress refuses to catalog my book, to make it available to policy-makers, because it is […]

  2. […] Censoring Self Published Books […]

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