Columbia Library columns (v.2(1952Nov-1953May))

(New York :  Friends of the Columbia Libraries.  )



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  v.2,no.3(1953:May): Page 1  


Burning the Books

The men who make and serve musewms and libraries
certainty are truly happy. ... They are free men, above
the necessity for judgment between good and evil.
It is theirs merely to assemble and arrange the evidence.

— Lawrence C. Wroth

WE HOPE that librarians, by and large, still feel them¬
selves free men. Some of their number in overseas
Libraries of the State Department can today hardly be
happy men, as brash Congressional investigators denounce them
for admitting onto their shelves the books of authors labelled sub¬
versive. They are on the carpet, in fact, for exercising that very
prerogative of superiority to moral judgments accorded them by
Professor Wroth. Recently a Congressional Committee has in¬
vestigated "obscene" literature. Congressmen Celler and Walter,
in a tart minority report, point out that the majority of the Com¬
mittee go beyond the problem of obscenity to criticize a variety of
other ideas in the condemned books, and that "this comes danger¬
ously close to book-burning."

In spite of the distant glow of inquisitorial fires, they continue
in the Columbia Libraries "to assemble and arrange the evidence."
To contemplate this serene and never-ending process gives us
reassurance in a world so eaten-up by moral indignation.

Besides, it has been estimated that to remove a book from our
library shelves costs 36 cents. A respectable bonfire would require
at least i ,000 volumes. Could we afl^ord, in the present state of Li¬
brary finances, even to gather the books for a Uterary auto-da-fe?
  v.2,no.3(1953:May): Page 1