Letters

Closing the Book
Gordon Young's peppy but skewed piece about me ("Card-Carrying Fetishist," Sept. 18) deserves a peppy but skewed response. I can't supply one. All I can say is that the San Francisco Public Library's current policy of weed-whacking its collection in order to make it fit the inadequate shelf space in the New Main is part of, or at least consistent with, a larger plan, openly referred to by the city librarian, to change SFPL from a research library into what he calls a "public library" -- that is, a smaller collection of current, popular works supplemented by several "focus collections" in specific areas. There is no record of much of what was pulled from library shelves in the past nine years in accordance with this overall plan of "leveled access" -- the only available clues are a 32-megabyte computer report that mainly covers 1995 and early 1996 (a "Purge of Items Declared Withdrawn" that I had to sue the library to download), and the usefully out-of-date card catalog, which, for all its flaws (all search tools have flaws), shows what the library owned at some point in the past.

In a speech, I called the library's former practice of sending thousands of old, valuable books to landfills "a hate crime directed at the past" (your reporter slightly misquotes me) because that is what I believe it was: The language is harsh because what the library did was disgraceful. Perhaps it is pointless or pathetic or weirdly fetishistic to want to try to prevent a generously funded public library from removing further last copies of out-of-print books from its shelves, as it continues to do. (According to a recent SFPL memo, the General Collections and Humanities Department must decrease the linear footage of its non-circulating book collection by 10 percent by the end of October, because the department is out of stack space; some of the books are going to Brooks Hall, the library's under-the-street bibliographic spillway, and some are being discarded.) Still, the public voted for a $100 million bond issue to pay for a building that would, among other things, safely house the existing collection; thousands of people gave money to the library's philanthropic agencies in the conviction that they were helping to bring that about. And I do think that SF Weekly's use of words and phrases like "Rasputin" and "Unabomber" and "messianic zeal" and "the Baker brigade" and "nutbag" (and even the funny "a few books shy of a shelf" epithet on the cover of the issue), all in connection with my part in this controversy, has the cumulative effect of trivializing anything that I or any other rational, freethinking person might choose to say in opposition to the library's destructive policies.

Nicholson Baker
Ely, England

Crank Case
"Unspun" should be renamed "Unhinged." Anyone who lacks the simple capacity to laugh at the ebullient wit of Michael Moore ("Moore Is Less," Oct. 9) is unhinged.

Ray Valdez
North Beach

Jean Pool
It's a sad day in this town when camp gets mistaken for "authentic country" ("Rhinestone Cowpie," Music, Oct. 2). The Kunts were as country as, well, kuntry spelled with a "K." For us goobers growing up at the Kmart, that joke ain't all that funny -- we'll take the Swingin' Doors' hot licks over the Kunts' cheesy smiles and knowing winks any day. As for the dour Michael Batty -- around here, even gas station attendants use the verb "deconstruct" with irony. Too bad the critics still can't tell fakes from the real McCoy -- or vice versa.

John Randolph
Mission

 
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