Spot the Empire Librarian's blog

Welcome to a librarian's online musings on libraries, literature and information media.

A recent letter to Library Journal.

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I recognized that book reviewer’s job  is a challenging position.  And collection development is even more challenging.  As a librarian I have a  budget to purchase within and expectations  of my community to meet. I challenge patrons to open their minds and be accepting of alternative  ideas.  However, I was disappointed  that a recent purchase, based on a LJ review was not what was describe,  or not fully describe, in a recent book review.   I was further disappointed that the reviewer did not understand that not all books are appropriate for all communities.

While I might appear boastful that my letter was published,  and that I am inadvertently calling attention to my error,   I wish to warn other librarians to pause before they make the same error I did, lest they find themselves in a similar predicament.

Thank you to the various librarians who have reached out to email me their similar concerns about this very book.  You are not alone.

Sometimes a vase of flowers is more than a vase of flowers.


I must share my disappointment regarding the review of Scott Rothkopf’s Jeff Koons: A Retrospective(LJ 9/15/14, p. 74). As a library director, I am eager to build my community’s collection to have a wide variety of topics and points of view on a variety of subjects. I do this within the shrinking confines of my library’s budget. This is our job as librarians. I am wholeheartedly against censorship.

This being said, I feel rather cheated by the review. Why did the reviewer not mention a warning of photographs of full frontal nudity, sexual penetration, and what some might label pornography? Many of Koons’s pieces capture the banality of everyday life pushing the limits of “What is art?” Admittedly, I was not prepared for a neighboring municipality’s library to contact me to rethink the placement of this acquisition. Would I have still purchased it knowing of the sexual depictions if they had been mentioned in LJ’s review? Perhaps; perhaps not…. The review could have been more descriptive of the actual contents.

However, at this moment I have a $65 investment in a book that is sitting on my desk and am forced to deal with a censorship issue, one of my own making. I feel let down by LJ.

—Sarah Potwin, Lib. Dir., LaGrange Assn. Lib., Poughkeepsie, NY

LJ reviewer Michael Daskin replies:

Contemporary art promotes inquiry of controversial issues, something we should celebrate. The artwork in the Jeff Koons catalog (for an adult collection) has been uncensored in museums. Rather than warnings, LJ reviewers and librarians should encourage patrons to read the book with wisdom and an open mind.


as cited  in Library Journal, December 2014, p. 12.

Author: spotwin

While I am a librarian , I am a reading cheerleader. The purpose of this library blog is to better promote reading and information literacy to my community. I love books, reading with my son, properly placed apostrophes, canoeing, locating the nearest Starbucks, cheering the Montreal Canadians, and Cherry Garcia ice cream.

One thought on “A recent letter to Library Journal.

  1. I’ve read this several times,and each time my inner Grumpy Cat says, “No.” Smart selection beats censorship very day of every week, but it’s hardly an informed purchase when the review is based on a museum catalog for an “adult collection.” Booooo, Library Journal!!!!!

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