Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Week 1 Introduction and Thoughts

Hi everyone! My name is Jonathan. This is my last semester in the MLIS program. I have really enjoyed it; but I am so ready to be done with school. 20+ straight years of education is enough for me. I need a long hiatus. Haha. I am the “Adult and Young Adult Program Coordinator” at the Sandwich District Library; but, as it is a very small library, I wear many more hats than my job title allows.

I am using a pseudonym because I hope to create an online presence beyond this class as a “Library Game Expert”, if you will – I am going to attempt to successfully promote the integration of Role Playing Games as a successful, educational, and literacy-promotional program appropriate for public libraries. Hence, LibraryRPGamer.

I don’t know why, but I always love reading the “old style” of writing as exhibited in Chapter two of John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty”. Grated, I thought it was very, how should I say, long winded and took me many sittings to finish; but, I also found it almost poetic as well.

For this blog post, I am going to focus on one aspect of Mills’ discussion: “Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied”

Primarily, I agree with Mills in that an error in opinion, even if the originating opinion was true, is only a partial truth because it is merely a shadow of the first. However, being devil’s advocate here, why should we allow false truths to be spoken when they have the potential to hurt the public? In my CHI (Consumer Health Information) class it was emphasized that false truths, or inaccurate medical information, should be removed from the shelf. One prime example of false truths within medical publications is the many health books – and I use that term loosely – by Kevin Trudeau. Mr. Trudeau has been sued and found guilty of incorporating falsified data and non-realistic procedures stating them as “medical cures they don’t want you to know about.” He argues that these accusations are part of the conspiracy; but, many scientists say that his suggestions are hog wash. So, I ask you, should these false truths and slighted opinions, which have been found by court of law to be potentially harmful to the public, remain on the shelves? Or, does freedom of speech dictate that we should include Trudeau’s books within the collection based on principle alone?

BTW, this post is a bit late due to technical complications with Blogger.com. Please forgive the tardiness.


  1. That's an interesting point Jonathan. I don't think the books should be pulled, but cataloged differently and put in a separate location from the actual medical texts -- perhaps History of Medicine? (Although in the case you describe above it appears this guy was just making things up and not just laying out theory of the time that may have been incorrect). For example, we have a large History of Science collection in Special Collections that is frequently looked at, yet completely inaccurate according to what we know today. It's important that we look at those past opinions and ideas in order to better understand the present.
    Yet, I think this depends on the library. If it's a public library, I think the books should be withdrawn, because that book might be misshelved or laying around and someone might start performing surgery on themselves. So -- it depends on way we view the resource, and the type of library these resources live in.

  2. I see both sides of this discussion, to keep the books vs pulling them. Cataloging these books differently could work, or at least cataloging them more specifically. The Trudeau book could be cataloged with the memoirs or within the health/medical books under a specific section, perhaps alternative medicine? BUT the situation gets dicey when we have a "just stick it there" solution to books like these, with the danger of labeling any section in which Trudeau books with their misinformation and falsified facts are shelved as the "wrong stuff" shelf.

    Mel's point about it depending on the library gets complicated when considering who has wanted this book to read - is it the physicians and scholars, or is it the general public? If it is the latter, it most definitely will be called for in a public library and therefore must be dealt with in that setting. In an information ethics perspective, Jonathan's question still stands: do we allow false information that is potentially harmful to the public remain on the shelves? Is there anyone in the course working currently in a public library setting or another setting in which a situation like this could/has come up, and could provide some insight as to what they did and why they did it?