Banned and Challenged Books LT Library

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Banned and Challenged Books LT Library

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Edited: Sep 10, 2008, 12:48 pm

Would there be any interest in creating a Banned and Challenged Books library on LT? I'm thinking of a project along the lines of the Legacy Libraries, where many people participate in its creation and maintenance.

I did find the UABannedBooks Library on LibraryThing which is similar to what I was thinking of, but I don't know if it is still active or not.

There are definitely lists (such as the annual list provided by ALA) that we could work from. I'd also like to make it a more international library and not so USA-centric. The Beacon for Freedom is a great resource for censorship world-wide.

We could use tags/comments for such things as reasons why the books were challenged and where/when they were challenged.

I definitely want to do this, but I'd love it if I didn't have to do it alone! So, any interest or ideas?

Sep 10, 2008, 12:57 pm

I would love to participate. I don't have a great deal of time once school starts but could still help somewhat.

Sep 10, 2008, 1:21 pm

I would be delighted to participate (as I suggested back on that other thread...), and in fact, I have library science students in my "Intellectual Freedom" class that might be interested, as well.

We should ask the UA user. I think surely "BannedBooks" or "BannedBooksLibrary" or "LibraryOfBannedBooks" should be available ... ?

Sep 10, 2008, 1:44 pm

I think it's a great idea. These specialty libraries are definitely nice to have.

It would also be nice if we could list resources on the profile page that were country-specific to contact organizations that help fight book banning.


Sep 10, 2008, 2:18 pm

Hooray! There's interest! Great ideas so far, keep them coming.

I'll send a message off to the UA asking if they're still active.

3>"bannedbooks" is already taken, so shall we go with "BannedBooksLibrary" then?

Actually, you mentioning your interest in a project on the other was what inspired me to open this up to other users. I've been thinking about it for some time now, but it never occurred to me that others would be interested. Duh! on my part. :-)

4>I like the idea of including resources on the profile page. I'm thinking links to the ALA Banned Book page and the Beacon of Freedom would be a good start. Other recommendations?

Sep 10, 2008, 2:33 pm

I've left a comment on the UA library. The last book that was added was added in January 2007, so I'm not sure they're continuing with the project. I'll go ahead and snag "BannedBooksLibrary" as a user name. I won't get much of a chance to work on it until this evening.

Drop me a comment at PhoenixTerran and I'll private comment you the password to the account.

I'll try to come up with some sort of suggested procedure for adding books. I suspect this'll be a big library, and we won't want to end up with 20 copies of Harry Potter.

Sep 10, 2008, 3:19 pm

BannedBooksLibrary Profile

It's pretty bare right now...but it's a start!

Sep 10, 2008, 3:34 pm

In tagging my library, I frequently include tags for inclusion on particular lists or bibliographies. It seems like that might be a good way to handle banning / challenging incidents, especially for works that have multiple high-profile incidents of being challenged.

For example, we could have:

* "ALA 2007 Banned Books list"
* "US Comstock"

I might try a few out to see if it works okay.

Sep 10, 2008, 3:50 pm

I didn't even think about including those as tags--that'll be nice to have, especially now that long tags are allowed.

Sep 10, 2008, 4:29 pm

I've started 2, and added a few more books ... gotta feed the hungry angry baby, now, tho!

Sep 10, 2008, 4:42 pm

How about organising the tags in a systematic way from the outset to save work later? (By the way, happy to pitch in Phoenix, if you'd PM me the password). It might help with a merge once Collections come online because we may want to have sub-collections for different groups. I was thinking of something along the lines of :

Reason: xxxx
Country: xxxx
Institution: xxxx
List Source: xxxx
Status: xxxx

Within Country, it could be formatted by state (e.g. Country: USA: Texas) to cover individual states banning works,

Institution, I would envisage things like 'Public Schools', 'Libraries' or any notable individual institutions.

For Status I was thinking along the lines of 'Current' or 'Past' bans, or something like that.

This would mean that all the tags for a particular reason would be grouped together in the tag view, all tags for country, all tags for status etc. which would make it a better search interface.

If you want to have a better look at what I mean, have a look at my library tags which I organise in a similar way and tell me if you think it will work?

Sep 10, 2008, 4:49 pm

I like it, klarusu.

The status might be hard to determine, though. And can you explain Institution to a bit more? I'm not entirely sure what that would be tracking.

Sep 10, 2008, 4:54 pm

I guess I was thinking more along the lines of where it was banned. For example, there will be past books that were just banned in certain countries full stop but I get the impression that there are institutional bans that happen in the US now, for example certain books banned from public schools or libraries but still sold in shops. I might be wrong being from the UK .......

Sep 10, 2008, 5:02 pm

Oh! I see what you mean now, and you're right. It's not usually public libraries or school libraries as a whole in the US--more often it is a specific school or library.

Sep 10, 2008, 6:00 pm

I'm just off to bed but I've harmonised the tags before I go for a snooze! It strikes me that this is going to bring up all sorts of interesting stats in recommendations etc. I'm going to go and blog about it tomorrow. It's going to be interesting to see how the stats on the books break down when there are more entered. Maybe we could tag for date period somehow - we'd then be able to see which countries ban the most and in which time periods etc. I'm getting quite excited in my little organisational head!

I'm quite happy to volunteer to keep an eye on tags and make sure that they are as detailed and harmonised as possible. Then people that are adding don't have to worry too much about how they enter the tags as long as the information is there. I can check at regular intervals and look up missing info from books light on tags too. (OK, my inner geek is breaking free......)

Sep 10, 2008, 6:01 pm

OK, that was me! I've become schizophrenic already!

Sep 10, 2008, 6:14 pm

Re: Not wanting 20 copies of Harry Potter, I like checking stuff and filling in gaps so I'm also happy to keep an eye on the books in the library and merge details of any duplicates that appear.

I would envisage that specific information will be dealt with via tags and collections. So, for example, we could have country specific collections and further division achieved via tags. So, for Harry Potter as an example, there would be a single copy in the library, possibly appearing in the relevant country collection (e.g. USA and anywhere else that it's been banned as a book will be able to be in multiple collections) then tagged with other attributes (e.g. States, Source of Info, Reason etc.). Until collections come on line, it would be tagged with whichever country it was banned in (e.g. USA, A.N.Other, etc)

Sorry, I just get too excited about organisation!

Sep 10, 2008, 6:58 pm

17>Sorry, I just get too excited about organisation!

No need to apologize, I'm that way, too! If you want to go ahead and keep an eye on the tags, that would be fantastic.

Also, I remembered that on the Library Statistics page, LT already keeps track of "work multiples." ( I'll volunteer to keep an eye on that, which of course doesn't mean other people aren't allowed to. :-)

Sep 10, 2008, 7:07 pm

Excellent idea.

Sep 10, 2008, 8:46 pm

Wanna help? :-)

Sep 10, 2008, 10:56 pm

Looks like we're going to need a paid account soon. I'm willing to fork over the money, but won't be able to until Friday. Unless someone else wants to do it before then?

Sep 10, 2008, 10:57 pm

This message has been deleted by its author.

Sep 10, 2008, 11:28 pm

>20 PhoenixTerran:

Sure; PM me with a password and a link to a list you want me to work on.

Sep 10, 2008, 11:38 pm

#21 - Sorry, i answered you earlier on your account. Never occurred to me that my name wouldnt show up since I was logged into the account adding books. LOL

Sep 11, 2008, 4:09 am

I wish I could stump up for a paid account buy I'm absolutely flat broke right now (living in unfunded grad student land for the next few months!) .... I'll compensate by hard work!

Edited: Sep 11, 2008, 6:13 am

I've started working through the Beacon for Freedom database and they actually have a lot of info on there for banned publications - 2 questions:

1. Do you think it would be a good thing to include a bit of info in the 'Comments' sections for the library if there is a source of additional info available?
2. Are we sticking solely to books for now? I have assumed that we are and ignored any 'Closed' publications (such as periodicals)

(This is klarusu, by the way....)

Sep 11, 2008, 7:04 am

I have no problem buying us a lifetime account, it'll just have to wait till payday on Friday. In the meantime (I guess it's really only one day), we can step back, see how things are going, and come up with some recommended procedures. 200 seems as good a stopping point as any.

I've been working through the Beacon for Freedom database, too. How are you going about it? I did a search for English and then limited it to the reason to Criminal (there weren't any) and then changed it to Moral to start with.

1) When you say "source of additional info available" which bit are you talking about? Do you mean the source that they give for where they got the info? Generally, I'm all for including as much info as possible if you feel like adding it. Comments will probably be the best spot for that.

2) Personally, I've been skipping over everything that isn't a book. It is the BannedBooksLibrary, but I'm not adamant about keeping it to only books. But once we expand it, where do we stop? :-) That, and LT still doesn't handle other Media particularly well, yet. But, like I said, I'm open to the possibility.

And a question of my own, do we want to "claim" our work at all? I was thinking in the Private Comments we could add our username when we do work, whether that's adding the book or adding tags or just fixing something. That way, we know who to ask if there's questions about something and just generally keep track of who's doing what. So, opinions?

Also, do you think we should create our own Talk group for the project to help us stay a bit more organized? (And maybe get a bit more recognition in the process?)

Sep 11, 2008, 8:17 am

27 > quickly -- i'm a bit snowed for the next few days, and any time here will be snuck in -- (a) our own talk group isn't a bad idea; (b) let's focus on books for now; i've also been leaving "series" untouched out of uncertainty about how to handle them. what else have folks been doing about series?

Sep 11, 2008, 9:11 am

Here's our group!

BannedBooksLibrary. I wasn't feeling particularly clever this morning, but we can always change the name. Also, feel free to add or modify the description.

Edited: Sep 11, 2008, 9:40 am

Hey Phoenix, I'm working through by country on the BfF. I've gone through UK and am just about to start US. I've started tagging as 'banned books' and 'censored books' too because I thought each book should have a 'banned' tag so that it registers on the site-wide tag stats for 'banned' etc.

As for additional info, I was thinking along the lines of where there are intersting snippets about why a book was banned/censored over and above the basic reason - I've come across some interesting trivia.

Like the idea of claiming in the private comments - might be an idea to put a note in there if we change something significant in case someone wants to query it - not sure how this would work though, larger scale tagmashes or amendments are better done through the tag screen and too much work to claim individually on the works page. Maybe mention in the group (which I'm going to join once I've reclaimed my own identity) - I could start a thread for 'Significant Tag Amendments'?

As for recognition, I just messaged Tim and asked him to come and have a look and suggested he blogged us in the LT blog to raise some awareness - let's make him sing for his supper ;)

Hope all this is OK. Just *shout* at me online if anything's wrong with stuff I'm adding etc. ;))

(a.k.a. klarusu)

Sep 11, 2008, 9:50 am

30>As for recognition, I just messaged Tim and asked him to come and have a look and suggested he blogged us in the LT blog to raise some awareness - let's make him sing for his supper ;)

I was just about to do that myself, glad I checked here first. Maybe we could get him to coincide it with Banned Books Week here in the US, which is coming up soon. And hopefully get us put on the "Member Projects" section of the group page.

I'll let you be the contact person for all of this, since you already started it.

Thanks for all your help, keep up the great work! (Everyone!)

Sep 11, 2008, 9:54 am

I'll let you be the contact person for all of this, since you already started it.

Or you can if you'd rather - it being your little baby! I've just had a bit of time on my hands today (and what a great time-sink this is!). I messaged Tim from BannedBooksLibrary so anyone can check it, I figured that would make it easier than if I did it from my profile. Just boot me up the bum if I'm doing too much, I get easily excited by good projects! (klarusu again!)

Edited: Sep 11, 2008, 3:04 pm

Okay, I'll send both him and abby an e-mail about the project. Don't worry about doing too much, I'm glad to see that others are excited!

Sep 11, 2008, 5:58 pm

Can I raise some concerns:

1. This isn't a "real" library, even of a dead person, but an attempt to make "lists." As a library, what this user does will affect the rest of LT. Members will share books with it, it will affect recommendations, etc.
2. Maybe LT should have a list function.
3. We could add a field to Common Knowledge, easily, for this. I'm thinking it would be a banned status field. You could enter what list it appears on/who banned it.

Sep 11, 2008, 6:31 pm

Point taken that it's not a 'real library' per se - that does go down the road of questioning what a 'real library' is. Does that mean that you're now encouraging us only to input books that are physically in a certain library because I really didn't think that was the way we had to look our accounts. Many people catalogue books they don't own, wishlists included.

If you're saying that a library can only represent books we've read, owned or not, doesn't that invalidate a portion of dead people's libraries because we cannot know now all the books they've read? I don't think that's the case on either point.

It will affect the rest of LT, as do random book collections with no unifying interest factor that people enter for whatever reason. Members will share books with it and wouldn't it be an interesting library to share your books with. How would if affect recommendations in a negative way?

I like CK, but it wouldn't do the same thing as this library, methinks, but it's late and I can't articulate that part of the argument well..... would it be easy to bring up books by country or reason en-masse? Would it be easy to order and sub-select the library according to country subsets or reason?

Sep 11, 2008, 6:33 pm

Tee hee, sorry, it just occurred to me, wouldn't it be ironic if the banned books library was actually banned ;)

Edited: Sep 11, 2008, 7:07 pm

I am merely an interested bystander.

In response to Tim's first point, I would say that I want to go there to see which books we share. Recommendations is such a behemoth that I don't think it matters that I might get a recommendation to read a banned book because I owned a banned book. There is precedent, namely Early Reviewers.


Sep 11, 2008, 6:47 pm

Good point rdurick, I'd like to know how exactly this differs from the Early Reviewers library - other than that there is unifying factor of literary interest instead of an organisational factor. I love watching the ER library ....

And if the effect on others is an argument, what about people that catalogue DVDs and music?

Edited: Sep 11, 2008, 7:24 pm

The rule on LT has always been that you have to have real connection to the works—you bought them, you read them, you want them, etc. This first came up when a member wanted to add all of Project Gutenberg to his library because, he argued, if it was online it was "available" to him. The TOS puts it:

"LibraryThing is for YOUR books—books you own, have read or want. Under normal circumstances, this rule doesn't matter, but it would not be appropriate to fill your LibraryThing catalog with all the books in your local library or, for example, Project Gutenberg."

The result of this is that LT libraries have some coherence in a social system. You *share* something with the library if you share a book. This allows member-to-member connections. And it allows recommendations. When libraries contain arbitrary lists, it pollutes this. People who have Galileo books are told to but Heather has Two Mommies because both are banned, etc.

Re: Early Reviewers. I admit defeat there. The reason we have that account is that many of the LTER books are too new. No member has them, so there's no work. If there's no work, there's no work page. It can't have a cover. It can't be on an author page and if the author has no other books you can't even have an author page! etc. etc. So Abby started the LTER account to basically fool the system. It's not high on my list, but I'd still like to get rid of that. There's another one we made for books coming through the events system, for the same reason.

So, here's my proposal. Wouldn't it be better if a book had, down in the CK section, details on who banned it and why? Think of Rowling and all the data that could be assembled there. Or think of Galileo and of clicking to get all the books listed in the Index.

Wouldn't that be cool? Isn't that better than seeing that "BannedBooks" has the book?

My thought is that we add a multiple-part field for banned books. The main entry is the banning entity. You can put simple details in the parentheses., eg.

Index Librorum Prohibitorum (1680-1821)

Then the Index Librorum gets a page, like series and characters and etc. ANd on that page there is a free text description area.

Work with me on this? Figure out how to make it work?

Sep 11, 2008, 7:26 pm

34>You raise valid concerns, Tim. And if you really want us to stop, we will...but can we have a conversation about it first?

1) As already mentioned, there are already plenty of libraries that aren't "real." (And as klarusu points out, exactly how are you going to define that term?) Another example of a similar project is MostDisturbingBooks. This wouldn't even be the first Banned Book Library on LT. I'm not anticipating any negative effects--we're entering good data. Of course, I'm not familiar with all of the intricacies that go into recommendations, etc. Could you expand on what you are afraid this account will effect, and why it would be negative?

2) LT should absolutely have a list function. The BannedBooksLibrary is a bit too complex for a mere list, I think.

3) This is definitely an option, but I'm not sure it would have the same functionality that is currently provided by having a library/catalog.

Sep 11, 2008, 7:28 pm

So how do we add banned information to books that currently have no users? How do those books get into the system?

Sep 11, 2008, 7:29 pm

By the way, collecting banned-books metadata isn't a new idea :) It was discussed on the Open Library boards. I posted something too. See:

I proposed capturing "approvals" too. I would be glad to add a CK banned field, which can be contextualized--differentiating between a book burned by Nazi mobs and a book that some patron in Georgia wrote a letter to the librarian about.

Edited: Sep 11, 2008, 7:31 pm

34>You raise valid concerns, Tim. And if you really want us to stop, we will...but can we have a conversation about it first?

Yes. Absolutely.

Look, I want to emphasize, I think this is a great idea. I am pleased as punch that people want to do this. You guys are awesome. I am raising some concerns, and I am trying to figure out how to make it a better idea.

Sep 11, 2008, 7:32 pm

42>Thanks for that link!

Sep 11, 2008, 7:43 pm

One thing that BannedBooksLibrary can do that CK cannot (that I know of, correct me if I'm wrong):

I can see how many books I share. I then immediately know how many of my books were censored, banned, or challenged in some way. I find this a valuable statistic. I know, for a fact that, that other LTers do as well and are looking forward to this capability.

Edited: Sep 11, 2008, 7:52 pm

I like the library idea. Why?

I'm a semi-casual user of librarything. I want to keep track of my book collections so I don't buy multiple copies (still wish/hope/pray "copies" was/will be a sortable field so I can reduce my current multiples to help obtain more new books) and I'd love a wishlist library in the future. But I am not a librarian or someone who reads the Book Review (although I am reviewing books as I read them since joining librarything), I don't 'follow books'. Other than wondering what it was, I haven't checked out CK and have no desire to (no offense intended - it isn't my interest; can understand why it would be someone else's).

If the banned books are in a library, I can be amazed when I discover that books I own have been banned by a particular eejit group without having to seek out that info - which would require me to visit CK for that particular book which requires some knowledge of the banning in advance.

And once the library is more populated (should it be permitted), I'd find it interesting to browse for other surprises.

Edited to add: The problem with being distracted while posting a comment - someone else beats you to the same point :-).

Sep 11, 2008, 8:00 pm

Hi Tim, I'm kinda new to all of this and have no knowledge of LT's in and outs but Phoenix makes a helluva good argument in this respect. I started tagging my own books as banned because I want to know which ones I have are banned. We have 6 kids and always encourage them to read as many books as they can that are banned, regardless of the reason, but trying to find out which books are banned, where and why... which ones are challenged, etc. is really time consuming and discouraging sometimes. Being able to compare a personal library to a master list by seeing how many we share is exactly what I would like. Having the option of quickly looking up more banned books to see what we would like to get next is an even bigger bonus.

Anyway, that's my untechnical 2 cents.

Sep 11, 2008, 8:00 pm

>45 PhoenixTerran:

Right! Some of us (probably including all of those energetic people who entered so many books today) want to read banned books, others may wish to avoid them. I have noticed a number of threads where people were asking for books that don't have {whatever}. Someone who wants to avoid graphic violence could check the banned book list, and avoid books that have been banned for that purpose.

Banned books might also be useful when selecting books for children. I have always sought out age-appropriate banned books to give to my nieces and nephews, and those books are among their favorites. But a book that is appropriate for 14 year old may not be so good for a 10 year old. I don’t know if the details of banning would let us calibrate which titles are not suitable for , say, age 10 and under, but it is intriguing to think about.

The tag “banned” is currently used 1,543 times by 198 users. That suggests a fair amount of interest for identifying these books, by whatever mechanism.

Sep 11, 2008, 8:05 pm

So far I share 21 books with BannedBooksLibrary and find it amusing to see some of the titles. I see this as a very interesting project that will add more to my LibraryThing experience than it will take away. So a vote in favor of...

Sep 11, 2008, 8:20 pm

Tim, if recommendations is one of the major concerns, would it be possible for BannedBooksLibrary to be completely left out of the recommendations algorithm?

Edited: Sep 11, 2008, 8:27 pm

The sharing function is the one thing that CK cannot cover right now - not that I don't ADORE more CK.

If we do get a list function that can share and/or allow us to "work" lists, that would be the awesome. ^^

And, to echo >50 PhoenixTerran: - if we could get Libraries that are excluded from recommendations, that would be a nice all-around compromise.

Sep 11, 2008, 9:32 pm

Another advantage of having the data stored in a library as opposed to CK:

Users can more easily manipulate the information through views, etc. They can see the information how they want to see it while CK is more static.

(Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love CK--especially with its more recent developments!)

Edited: Sep 11, 2008, 11:15 pm

... I think a CK field(s) would be absolutely great: it would allow much better scope for tracking the necessary information. tagging in't quite right -- this data wants to be structured.

But, it won't have the "how many books you have in common' feature: I'm glad several other people mentioned it, because that was what immediately struck me: "How many banned books do you have?" ... and all the nice 'commonality' stuff that currently exists with connections / libraries.

I totally get the conceptual difficulty here. Without creating too much of a precedent or seeking "exceptionalism", maybe there's a way to combine the best features of both? ... but i'm having trouble imagining it, at this hour when i'm falling asleep. maybe someone else will come up with something genius tonight, for me to ooh and aah over in the morning.

... btw i don't think "Lists" will work for this, because we are talking thousands of books, I believe -- probably a bit long for a "List". (not to discourage Lists! i truly believe they will be a big hit with LTers both casual & obsessive) ... while one could get around the big-list problem by doing a bunch of individual lists ("ALA top 100 ..."), that would raise a copyright problem, IMO -- selection, ordering -- the things that make a collection of data copyrightable would indeed be the things that one would want to keep in the list.

Sep 11, 2008, 11:34 pm

I have another thought I'd like to throw into the mix if I might be so bold. Banned books is, I believe, a bit more of a relevant issue than even we are acknowledging here. Books is the one thing that absolutely EVERYONE on LT has in common. The act of preventing access to books by anybody, be it a government agency, religious body, or overly controlling parent should be something that we are all aware of, educated on and prepared to take a stand on. If we relegate it to something like CK, which is not used by a number of people who simply enjoy the ease of the main LT site, then it feels as though we relegate it to the same level of importance as any other issue on LT. I would argue that it is MORE important. I imagine that if you polled every person on LT and asked them if they want to have their access to books controlled by someone else, the answer would overwhelmingly be NO. I believe that the users on LT WANT to read these books, more so because someone has tried to prevent access to them. I would also posit that if a library of banned books were built, giving the users the same ease of use and ability to manipulate the books as everyones personal library, people would use it. In addition it would give us, and others, a wonderfully accessible opportunity to educate people on this topic. I know I like to think that I am fairly well informed on this topic but even I was unaware that books were still being burned in this country as late as 2001 and possibly later. I wonder how many other people don't know that? or how many believe that practice ended with the Nazi's?

Just some food for thought.

Edited: Sep 12, 2008, 12:35 am

> overly controlling parent

Here I get off the boat. There is a big difference between government action against a book, author or publisher and parents who doesn't want their daughter to read a certain book. Is is the difference between the government forcing Jews to wear yellow stars and your mom telling you you can't go to the prom with that on. The latter may sometimes be unfair, but it's unfair in a very different way.

This sort of redefinition is harmful, here as elsewhere. If you call every opponent a "terrorist" or every policy against a people "genocide" you can lose the moral authority when the real deal appears.

In that connection, I am somewhat uncomfortable when "banned" is defined down to mean "challenged"—often little more than a library patron writing a letter asking, without success, for a book to be removed. I feel the same way about "censorship" when a publisher refuses to accept a book, or changes their mind on it, as happened to the O. J. Simpson book, or the recent historical romance about Mohammed. Ditto when a religious organization with no state power to urges its adherents not to read a certain book. Those may be bad. Book-lovers can oppose them. But are they censorship?

Some members may disagree with me here. That's fine. I don't think it matters for the feature.

I'd like to create a feature with reliable, interesting data--data about various ways books have been challenged, banned or suppressed.

I do not see CK as "relegating" the feature. On the contrary, every member can add a book to CK, easily and in the course of normal business. Adding a book to a LibraryThing catalog, by contrast, involves signing in and out of accounts. It also involves giving out passwords.

The Legacy Library model works well when there's a well-defined collection to catalog. A small group does it, and when they've done it, it's done. Recording "banned or challenged" status is not like that. It's more like an award, for which we use CK.

Sep 12, 2008, 1:08 am

I have to disagree with your comparison of a parent challenging a book to your mom telling you that you cannot wear a certain outfit to the prom. My reference to an over- controlling parent was not a referance to one who polices what their own child reads but rather those that challenge a books presence in a public location. If it were ONLY the parent's child being affected then that would be one thing, but when anyone challenges a book at a library they are asking for access to that book to be denied to everyone who may use that library. That is censorship. It seems as if you are saying that because the censorship occurs on a less dramatic level than a government outlawing the possession or sale of a book, then it shouldn't be treated as such. Censorship is suppression. Denying, or attempting to deny access is suppression. The two examples you give, a parent denying access to a book to only their child or a church urging it's followers not to read a book is not what I was referring to. Each of those involves a personal INDIVIDUAL choice, and therefore, I agree would not be censorship. But when you deny, or attempt to deny that choice to someone else... well, many would define that as censorship indeed.

I also agree that this has no bearing on the issue at hand though and frankly I welcome the chance to debate this, and so for that I thank you and hope that there are no hard feelings.

When I said relegating I chose that word because there have been similar discussions on another group regarding dissemination of information and where that information is available. Many people there, who also have accounts here, for whatever reason, are hesitant to move beyond areas other than the ones they are most comfortable and familiar with. That is my only concern. Well, that and being able to match books in an individual library as I said earlier.

Sep 12, 2008, 3:55 am

Re: Loads of Tim's points..

I can see the point about lists vs libraries totally. I don't really think that anyone would want spurious libraries turning up for all sorts of things like the '1001 Books List' or 'Orange Prize' etc. etc. I guess this didn't seem like quite that kind of library to me at the outset but I wouldn't want to set a precedent that meant that we get all sorts of these kind of libraries.

So, let's see if we can work with CK to get something great too. I love CK so if we could get the functionality that this library gives, great.

In that spirit:

What I Liked About Having A Library
1. I liked that I could see 'Books Shared With This Member' and automatically have a one click selection of books to browse
2. I liked the 'browseability', that is that I could go to the library and very simply bring up a selection of books that a particular country banned or that were banned for a reason. I like the fact that at a glance you would eventually be able to see which countries have a 'book banning' history or certain time periods did.
3. I like that in the comments field there could be extra information - so if I share a book with the library, there will be a bit of trivia about why it was banned (some were surprising to me as I inputted this and this info enhanced my 'browse')

Can CK Suffice
I don't think it will be perfect but it can go a lot of the way if we think about it carefully.

To address 1. above, if the "parent" CK entry is banned/challlenged/censored then if that entry became a term that could be sortable within individual catalogues then this would serve a very similar purpose as I could group all banned books together within the library.

The browseability and information issue is possibly a bigger fish to fry. Is there a way to include fields for each book that would contain this information somehow? Not a facetious question, I actually am just crunching my mental cogs to see how this would work. I think that this would be a compromise feature maybe, that we could achieve a degree of functionality but not complete but that would be fine.

You're right with the accessibility issue of using CK vs a library, so maybe it's a trade off between getting a bigger input on getting the information into the system vs the volume of information we could hold in this place. As long as people hyperlink to the page on whatever source we use that a work occupies, the information will be there. Just a few more clicks away.

As for the non-owned books, I guess that is just something we'd have to accept. It's a long standing thing that you need a 'connection' with a book to add it - it's what makes tagging on a site-wide scale so much better than Amazon (thinking of you Anne Coulter example, Tim).

I don't want to do something that goes against the grain and sets a precedent that we all regret in the long run. I don't normally disagree with you Tim, so I figure if you've got concerns, you've probably got valid points...

As for the 'list function', yes, it would be nice but I agree with lquilter that right now I don't think it applies for this particular example (not to say that I wouldn't like a list function, but I'm not going to cry because it's not here, there are other more important things like 'Collections'). It's worth bearing in mind that once 'Collections' come on line, people like lists and you might open a can of worms where people begin to set up a collection for '1001 Books' or a certain prize etc. so thinking about a list function might alleviate that threat.

Edited: Sep 12, 2008, 6:54 am

55>I am somewhat uncomfortable when "banned" is defined down to mean "challenged"

We are not doing that. In fact, we are tagging each book in such a way to indicate when a book has been challenged vs. banned vs. censored. It's called BannedBooksLibrary because that's a much shorter name than BannedChallengedOrOtherwiseCensoredLibrary. If you're really that concerned about what people might perceive as the definition, we could always just input the books that were literally banned--there will still be a significant number. We have stated in both the library profile and the group profile that the library contains all type of censored materials.

Additionally, we are not making personal judgments on these issues. We are working from recognized lists. I'm not going around adding books that my Mom wouldn't let me read. We're not adding books because we feel that have been censored in some way. You won't find books on the list that had a hard time finding a publisher. You will find books that have recorded histories of being banned, challenged, and censored.

And we cite/tag the source for each one of them. We give the reasons when available. We give the country the ban took place in. We give the time period the book was censored. We even give trivia and further details (this is where your death versus pulled from a public school shelf comes in) in the comments field. All based on a source material--we're not making it up. We're not leaving it for others to figure out and wonder when looking at the catalog.

I'd like to create a feature with reliable, interesting data--data about various ways books have been challenged, banned or suppressed.

That, as I hope I've explained above, is what we're doing.

Sep 12, 2008, 7:23 am

Some more advantages/disadvantages (though it's hard to compare since I don't know what the CK would look like, also how Collections turns out might also effect some of these)

CK over Library
~The data will be visible to all, not just those who have found the BannedBooksLibrary
~More people able to work generally means more data entered
~History of changes, and who made them, automatically kept
~Most likely a better overall structure than using tags

Library over CK
~Structured, coordinated effort of a small group generally will provide more consistent data
~Less likely to be blatantly, or accidentally, vandalized
~Possible to add books not currently in system (that way we wouldn't have to keep working through the same lists over and over)
~Less general confusion/anger over the addition of another CK field (which seems to happen every time)

Sep 12, 2008, 7:41 am

The capability/functionality of a library/catalog already exists. The CK has not been designed or implemented yet. So, two questions for Tim:

1) Would the LT Team's time and effort be better spent working on the development and improvement of other features?
2) Which is typically more costly for LT processing power, sever space, etc--a single (albeit large) library, or a CK field?

Also want to throw out this: If you would like this library to stop, does that mean you will be going around to all the other "list" and "not real" libraries to ask them to stop, too?

Edited: Sep 12, 2008, 8:35 am

apologies for the scattered nature of the below thoughts.

#39 Tim: The result of this is that LT libraries have some coherence in a social system. You *share* something with the library if you share a book. This allows member-to-member connections. And it allows recommendations. When libraries contain arbitrary lists, it pollutes this. People who have Galileo books are told to but Heather has Two Mommies because both are banned, etc.

Re-reading, I want to challenge (npi) the terms "pollute" and arbitrary.

In fact, arbitrary lists are the essence of personal library catalogs, and will be even more so once Collections are in place. "home in Boston" versus "@storage in California" ... "living room", "shelf 3", "oversized" are about as arbitrary as you can get, especially in a largish collection, or one that includes "arbitrary" selection criteria. For instance I personally collect "banned books" and also "copyright challenged books", which, indeed, make for highly diverse collections. "Thesis research" might seem to be a discrete topical collection, but could include a wide variety of relatively arbitrary reference titles, minor asides, wrong paths of research, etc. ...

Yes, we presume all this means a "personal connection", but people's ideas of what such a connection might entail are really divergent: ever read, ever owned, still owned and still loved, inherited from the distant uncle we never met ...

anyway, i guess all this can be summed up as (a) the collections here are already really arbitrary, and (b) i presume the recommendation-generating algorithms must compensate for a certain amount of arbitrariness.

(Plus, you know, personally I would be very happy to have both Galileo and Heather Has Two Mommies.)

of course, I don't dispute that the BBL is arbitrary in the sense of not being an individual person: the connections are only one-way personal.

... other ways I thought about handling this:
# some sort of group, but there aren't collection-comparison features built into the group;
# a library that is expressly excluded from some kinds of calculations -- maybe that's neded anyway, because, for instance, some of my most-in-common libraries are institutional accounts. No personal connections there -- I wouldn't mind seeing "Quatrefoil" or whatever it is in its own group of "institutional libraries" or "non-individual libraries". Heck, maybe that would be useful for these family-collections.

... laura

Edited: Sep 12, 2008, 9:29 am

#61>institutional accounts. No personal connections there

That's one of the things that was bugging me about the whole, 'can't do this, it's a list, no personal connections' argument. What on earth is personal about institutional accounts or small booksellers? What about people who have a second account to catalogue books that are, for example, stored in the summer house or in boxes in the attic. This is seen as an individual library, in reality, it would all belong to one person.

I'll say what I did above in #57, I think CK will do something it won't do everything. I really don't want to do something that will open the floodgates to libraries containing the 1001 Books List or the Booker Prize list but I saw this as something more than a list, as a shared 'entity'. I feel as connected to this particular library as I would to my wishlist because, with an interest in banned books, this is, in essence, one enormous wishlist for me because they are all on my translucent TBR pile. So, I guess one question would be, what's so different between this and a wishlist library essentially. If Laura above particularly collects banned book, are you implying that she can't make a wishlist library, or if she can, then where's the difference? There are a lot of people who use second accounts for wishlists now, are they wrong?

This isn't a snotty comment, it's an observations which can be refuted with pleasure because I really do just want to get a working solution to get this information out there but do you think that the essence of the argument here is, ironically, personal connection with the subject matter? Tim, you feel a personal interest and connection with the Legacy libraries and so, despite the fact that they are just a list of books belonging to someone dead, you see them as more than that because you see it as a long-lasting connection that they made with the books. I, on the other hand, have a personal connection with the books on the banned list because it is something that interests me deeply (especially with the connections I have with Eastern Europe where censorship has been an issue for so long). I am not really interested in whether I share books with Jefferson, it won't affect my book buying/reading habits. I am interested in whether I share books with BannedBooksLibrary because those are books I will try and add to my long-term wishlist.

That said and without rancor, can we work together to get CK to fulfil a compromise solution? Thinking of it from a Legacies point of view and Tim with your knowledge of how CK can work, hypothetically, if Legacies had to go on CK tomorrow instead of existing as a library where would the gaps be and how could you fill them with CK functionality? Because that's kind of where I am with the whole banned books issue.

To make it workable and to try and make fields that reduce the margin for eroneous data input, the information I would like to see at a minimum is :

Source of Info
Countries Involved
Time Periods Involved

I think the key for me was to do something that was added-value for LTers from just going to the relevant database and individually searching books. The library gave that because I would be able to interact with this on an equal footing, look at what I shared, look at what I didn't have etc. etc. en masse instead of searching for each of my 1000+ books individually on each source. Can we put CK fields in place that will give the 'added value' because if we can't and we're just going to duplicate databases elsewhere, then I would suggest that it wouldn't really be worth the effort because there is already a wealth of energy and effort that has been put into the construction of the source databases.

I have ideas for lists but I'm going to start a thread on Recommended Site Improvements because it's going off topic....

Sep 12, 2008, 9:57 am

If we have "Source of Info", and that's citing countries involved, time periods involved, reason -- then if we have multiple sources, the countries/time/reason should be attached to *that* source. ... that would be a real benefit that tagging a library doesn't provide, but it would require something different w/r/t CK than we currently have. maybe a big deal, maybe not.

also, i would note on:
* Source
* Location (instead of "country", why not do location as we do CK locations currently -- as much specificity as is available; calculations can be done later on)
* Date (instead of "time period", again, do dates with as much specificity as is available; calculations can be done later on)
* Reason

Sep 12, 2008, 10:04 am

#63 lquilter, good point about location and dates - I was still stuck in the mindset of the generalisation necessary for tags to be clean enough to be effective. It would be great to be able to list in CK 1969 USA, 1854 UK etc.

Sep 12, 2008, 10:08 am

62: if ... we're just going to duplicate databases elsewhere, then I would suggest that it wouldn't really be worth the effort because there is already a wealth of energy and effort that has been put into the construction of the source databases.
I actually think even if it ends up being a recreation of data elsewhere recorded, it's of use, because a book's history -- publication, censorship, bestseller status, etc. -- are all important facts about a book. Thus far we have done a lot of publication stuff but with CK we've been adding in more information.

... it seems like if "Collections" eventually creates "Smart Collections" -- auto-collections based on various criteria -- and the Smart Collections works on CK-based field -- then that would pick up some of the functionality.

That said, I still -- personally -- see a "Banned Books Library" ("banned" being read broadly within reason to include censoring, challenges, banning, inclusion on prohibited-reading-lists, etc.) as a useful entity in itself, a la the Legacy Libraries. I didn't know about the Early Reviewers collection or whatever it is. I think of this almost as sui generis. (Although having said that I can immediately come up with at least one other interesting example: works litigated -- e.g., copyright, defamation, etc.)

Sep 12, 2008, 10:17 am

That said, I still -- personally -- see a "Banned Books Library" ..... as a useful entity in itself

Me too, I'd love to find a way to compromise with Tim and not open the floodgates to all sorts of list-libraries because I do think this is separate. What CK won't do, and I think it's a big point for having a library, is allow the entry of books that no-one owns and the ability to browse the collection was a huge pull for me.

Sep 12, 2008, 10:31 am


It seems like you're very attached to CK - and that's fine (after all, I have a CK problem, and I fully own that).

Does this mean that we'll eventually look into something list-like - where Lists can be created you can track progress against those lists? (I'm thinking of something List-of-Best-ish, but where it actually reads against your library.)

For those that don't know what I mean - here's their Booker Prize list:


Anyway, if we could have CK-generated lists (difinitive - and I know this would require awards cleanup in a major way) and then some free form lists that people could "adopt" or "work," that would be agreeable...

Although I still like the idea of having the library. And, to be honest, to hear about "dilution" when one of the top libraries has over 10,000 "wish-list" books...well, how can one really have a connection to 10K "wish-listed" items?

Edited: Sep 12, 2008, 11:04 am

From the public profile of one of the 50 top libraries:

"Currently I own only about 5,000 of the 15,000 books on my list."

So, if this is acceptable and a benchmark, as long as we own at least 1/3 of the books on our communal list (between the lot of us) then we're hot-to-trot? Or is there an actual cut-off? Or is it, perchance, arbitrary and does it depend on how public you are about what you're trying to do? The point I was trying to make is that at least we're open about what we're trying to do with this which would enable, surely, Tim to exclude this library from recommendations if it was such a problem. Don't get me wrong, I don't think that libraries should be policed but to suggest that this library is going to 'pollute' recommendations implies that recommendations work well in the first place, which, for me at least, they don't. Probably for exactly the reason that every collection is inherently arbitrary in nature to a degree, some more than others.

The Legacy Library model works well when there's a well-defined collection to catalog. A small group does it, and when they've done it, it's done. Recording "banned or challenged" status is not like that. It's more like an award, for which we use CK.

I don't think that banned status is more like an award. I think that part of the problem we have here is that it is on the cusp of both - there is a complete and well-defined historical record (which we have started to work with and there is no reason to think that it would not be more effectively inputted by a small group as legacies work with). There is also a dynamic element that means that there will be a low level of constantly updating to take on board current bans that change. I still don't think that this is best achieved by CK but it might be. I think if this library sat firmly in one camp or the other, we wouldn't be butting heads so much.

Sep 12, 2008, 11:12 am

I think most of us are in agreement that going the CK route would be the most fair and equitable. To those still asking to continue with the library, I would say that if the bannedbookslibrary Library is allowed to continue, that we shouldn't be the exception. It is my feeling if we are allowed so should the other "lists" mentioned above.

To be clear, I am in favor of using CKs to provide this information. I understand the issue with doing it this way is to see how many banned books you have. Tim, would it be possible to create (and I can formalize this on the appropriate forum if you would like) to create a "reporting feature" to allow people to pull data from the system. An example might be "How many banned books do I share with lilithcat?", "How many books do I share with Redrygon that where published between 1980 and 1992?", or "Show me all books that where published by Roundhouse in 1980." This would allow LT users to see how many banned books they have, and what other banned books other LT users have.

To address the issue of vandalism. There is a certain level of trust required to give the password out over the internet to someone you have never met. It would be trivial to obtain that password and lock everyone else out, and then vandalize the entire Library if we are to trust those that ask for the password. At least with a CK we can fix any potential vandalism.

Regarding the books that are not already in the system. We will have to troll banned book lists in order to keep the Library up-to-date anyway. I can't imagine there are going to be a great many books out there that have been banned that no LT member owns. Perhaps we as a group could create a goal of finding those books, buying them, adding them to our libraries and correctly entering the data into the new CK?

Sorry for the long response.

Sep 12, 2008, 11:28 am

69>I can't imagine there are going to be a great many books out there that have been banned that no LT member owns.

If you look at the BannedBooksLibrary and sort by shared, you will see that already there are quite a few that no other member has. A small handful of these may be combineable, but for the most part these are loners.

Good point about the vandalism.

And I don't think that BannedBooksLibrary would be an exception already pointed out, there are many many libraries that are just as "unreal." Unless Tim brings his foot down, and specifies exactly what people can and cannot to with their libraries (and then polices that), there are always going to be issues.

Other "list" libraries are already on LT. The only difference (from what I can gather) is that we brought ours to the attention of the LT Team.

We will have to troll banned book lists in order to keep the Library up-to-date anyway

To some extent, this is true. Generally, though, these are new lists from year to year. We'd be keeping track of new lists, and new additions, but I don't fancy going back and working through "Books banned in 1832" (hypothetical list used for clear example) every time someone adds a book to LibraryThing to see if it's on there.

Edited: Sep 12, 2008, 11:30 am

I think most of us are in agreement that going the CK route would be the most fair and equitable.
I don't really think that's a fair statement and I don't think 'fair' and 'equitable' are quite the right words to use to describe having to go over to CK.

I also don't think that the examples given above are really what it's about. It's more about mining the data for things like 'major Countries that ban', 'major time periods', my own interaction with the banned books (not to do with what I share with other users), individual information about banned books, how it breaks down reason vs country (do they cluster), type of book vs reason (i.e. fiction, non-fiction) etc. etc. Less social (as defined by whole of LT).

I don't think vandalism is really an issue, as you say, any shared input takes the risk and I'm have faith in things like CK being rather self-regulatory on that count - the more people involved, the more likely erroneous information is to be spotted and corrected.

I can't imagine there are going to be a great many books out there that have been banned that no LT member owns.

Out of the 200 entered, there are 36 not owned by members. Also, as we were preferentially entering books that didn't need a manual add, this number would be expected to increase as the library becomes fleshed out. That's nearly 20%, at the lowest percentage. Add to that the fact that we have begun by inputting English language countries in the most part (UK and USA are notable by their presence), one could imagine that percentage to be even greater by the end of the input stage of the project. That's significant to me!

Sep 12, 2008, 11:32 am

Sorry, for clarity, I don't think that the first statement accurately represents the debate position and I certainly haven't yet been convinced that CK is the way to go.

Edited: Sep 12, 2008, 11:42 am


From my perspective, the consensus so far seems to be that CK could be a viable option for this type of information but currently (especially as it doesn't exist yet) doesn't have all of the wanted functionality that a library/catalog currently provides. We're still working on a solution/compromise.

ETA: Which is not to say that the library/catalog doesn't have its drawbacks, too!

Edited: Sep 12, 2008, 11:48 am

For the sake of making it clearer what kind of data-mining you can do with tags and how efficiently. It just took me 5 minutes to pull out some comparable stats for 3 countries (bearing in mind it's a proto library so the stat mean nothing at the moment).

I compared USA, UK and South Africa:

Total Books: USA 67 / UK 26 / SA 57 (eventually useful for 'major banners')
Of those books, # of fiction: 65/15/46 (useful for how the categories divide)
Of the fiction books: USA = 50 for Moral, 15 for Political, 12 for neither moral nor political. UK = 12 for Moral, 9 for political, 1 for neither. SA = 45 for moral, 2 for political, 1 for neither. Think of these as percentage-comparisons on a larger scale with a more complete list and there are a lot of data-mining possibilities that are going to be accessible to a normal level user who just knows a bit about using +xxx and -xxx in the tag search option. A great source of comparative info. I just don't think CK can fill this kind of 'Academic' gulf....

Sep 12, 2008, 11:57 am

The only difference (from what I can gather) is that we brought ours to the attention of the LT Team

The 1001Fantasy library was OK'ed by Tim.

Sep 12, 2008, 12:03 pm

75>Oh! I hadn't seen that one before. That's a neat collection. Thanks for mentioning it!

Sep 12, 2008, 12:03 pm


I understand there are a lot of books in the list that do not exist in LT, however how many books do that we personally don't own. I guess the perspective from which I speak is that there are plenty of books currently owned by someone on LT that I don't own. Enough to keep me buying for years. Are there some that will be missed, absolutely. Perhaps what I don't understand is the need for every banned book to be listed, if no one has read it, and there are no reviews for it, why include it? Maybe I'm not die-hard enough. I'm not buying books just because they are banned, I buy banned books because they are good reads, or enlightening.

Regarding other Libraries not following the rules, I don't feel that justifies us doing it too. The Exception of which I referenced is the request to leave us out of the "Recommendations Algorithm". If the LT staff does that for us, others will ask. Then some jerk like me will come along and ask them to remove my library from the algorithm because I want to have my privacy respected. (I also don't think the government should know about every book I buy either.) In this respect it seems to me we are asking for special treatment. Should those other libraries have books they don't own in their library, no.

Random side thought: Additionally I would like to point out that Tim has not (in what I have read from above) stated we absolutely will not be allowed to have a Library. He has been making suggestions to us in the hopes of coming up with a better solution. Now, allow me to define better in this case as within the guidelines and rules of LT, while allowing us to track and use the information we require. Again, from my perspective, it appears he is reaching out to us for help rather than slamming the door in our collective faces. I have gotten the feeling from some of the other posts that perhaps there is some anger directed at Tim for his suggestion of using the CKs. I hope that is a misinterpretation on my part.

You make a good point regarding the older lists. I had not considered that. I'll think on that point and try to come up with a better recommendation/counter point then my last comment.


Perhaps I have misunderstood the term CK. Is this a separate site? I am basing my comments on CK = Common Knowledge on each book. I will continue to reference the Common Knowledge section of the book pages as CK until such time as I am corrected.

I would defend my choice of fair and equitable as valid. Following the rules is generally fair. I'm sorry to hear that others (perhaps unknowingly) are not being fair as they are breaking the rules, but that should not change the way we address this issue.

To be sure I understand what you are asking for. You would want a list of the top 10 countries that ban books? I think the reporting could cover this, as well as the 'major time periods' if the reporting tool was written robustly enough. The problem is that when getting into this type of reporting it will require more out of the user. So allow me to amend my recommendation. Perhaps LT could create a reporting feature that would allow users to create customized reports they could then share with other users? (Additionally, I'm unhappy with the label reports, but I have not yet come up with a better descriptor. I work in the business sector and that term is stuck in my head perhaps.)

As for the books no in LT my comment to PhoenixTerrain is applicable here. I guess I don't feel as strongly that ever book ever banned needs to be a part of this list.

Sep 12, 2008, 12:04 pm

>75 DaynaRT:, 76,
That is a neat collection, but I am somewhat surprised that it would get an okay over banned books. Is it because it was voted on by members so Tim considered them to have more of a 'connection' to the books?

Sep 12, 2008, 12:07 pm

70>Regarding other Libraries not following the rules, I don't feel that justifies us doing it too.

True, true. It's just frustrating though. Especially when some of them have been "approved" as fleela mentioned.

Sep 12, 2008, 12:14 pm

Tim can you comment on any differences in the 1001Fantasy library and our proposed library?

79> True, true. It's just frustrating though. Especially when some of them have been "approved" as fleela mentioned.

I agree. :)

Edited: Sep 12, 2008, 12:17 pm

Didn't realize this project would be breaking the "rules" when we first started it, as there are several precedents. Which is why it's on voluntary hold. :-S

Where did Tim go...we were supposed to be having a conversation. :-)

Sep 12, 2008, 12:18 pm

#77> Not mad at Tim at all! Bless him. Just disagreeing about a certain point - don't you go terminating my account for not agreeing with you this time Tim ;) I never get mad at Tim because he gave me LT!

I want much more than the top 10 countries, I want a tool to be able to look at them comparatively on all levels (see #74) and see whether, for example, total amounts of banned books are higher in one than another but more are banned for 'moral' reasons in one and a higher percentage 'political' in another. More 'moral' bans during a certain time period, a shift from 'moral' to 'political' over time. It could be an illuminating resource if used that way. (Caveat - these are just examples, don't read into the actual reasons I quotes). It would be great to look at books that were banned under a certain administration for example....

As for exceptions, they've already been made. In all fairness, the Legacy project is a great big exception if you're going to apply the letter of the law to libraries exactly 'multiple users' who input other peoples libraries that are not 'their books' - but what a great exception!

I think that the reason we're all spending so much time arguing the case is because we love LT and want Tim to understand where we're coming from. If we were all really angry with him, we wouldn't do this!

Sep 12, 2008, 12:19 pm

#81, yep, come back Tim! How dare you have more important projects.... *sniffles off to nurse bruised ego in corner*

Sep 12, 2008, 12:27 pm

I'm not mad at droupou either for the record - when I disagree about issues it's not personal, just in case my comments were misconstrued at all - sometimes things come across in the wrong way when they're written down ;)

Sep 12, 2008, 12:30 pm

Klarusu. Not at all. Presently I'm thinking on older lists, and waiting for Tim to comment on the differences in Libraries... :)

Sep 12, 2008, 2:17 pm

Hmmm ... waiting for Tim ... is rather Beckett-like .... many pregnant pauses! Seriously, Tim, come back to us! Can't really argue this out until you answer some questions and talk to us about the capabilities of CK to 'fill the gaps'

Edited: Sep 12, 2008, 2:26 pm

I left him a message on his profile a couple of hours ago. And I've seen him posting on other threads today. Hope he doesn't avoid us for too long, he's going to have a lot of posts to read through!

Sep 12, 2008, 2:40 pm

77> I'm not upset at all. Just musing over various possibilities & what will and won't work, worse, better, or at all.

A few other comments:

(1) Some of the "academic" (i.e., statistical / quantitative) purposes that people have envisioned for the data will not, it seems to me, be well-suited by the LT database -- whether collection/tags, CK, list, or some combination of these functions. As a db developer myself, I have to say that some things need their own dedicated DB. Purpose and functionality drive structure, and that's just mashing too many purposes into this. (IMO) Search some of the online banned book resources, which are probably more precisely tailored to generating that data.

(2) I can see at least one difference b/w BBL & the 1001Fantasy library which, upon looking at it, appears to be generated as a list by the Green Dragon group.
The main difference is that it is in fact generated by an LT group, so has some kind of relation to LT society.

However, IMO it would be better handled as an actual "list" -- whenever that functionality is made available. (Maybe it should be available for groups as well as individuals.)

(3) As far as "exceptionalism" goes -- I would rather see Tim et al think of the functions desired and desirable from a sitewide perspective, and develop new options to meet those needs. I don't consider that "exceptionalism". The 1001Fantasy library is "exceptionalism". Doing "don't-include-in-recommendations" on an ad hoc basis would be a series of exceptions. Developing an option or setting or level is adding functionality. If the BBL is really against the rules (either officially or as practiced) then, okay, maybe it's a worthy exception -- at least a partial case has been made, I think -- or maybe it's an example of why the possibility for "exceptions" needs to become a function.

... sorry if unclear; baby crying!

Sep 12, 2008, 2:58 pm

Wow. Much to say.

>56 SpongeBobFishpants:

I don't think we disagree. If the "parent" is trying to censor books at the library, that's a different matter. I thought you were making wider claims.

So, no hard feelings. Even if we disagreed, there'd be none. But we don't. :)

>58 PhoenixTerran:

No, I'm not accusing you of doing that. I think having a single library conflates the issue somewhat, but as long as the metadata was clear—if they were in different collections--then I'm not too worried on THAT score.

> That, as I hope I've explained above, is what we're doing.

No argument from me.

>59 PhoenixTerran:

Good summary of the plusses and minuses.

>The capability/functionality of a library/catalog already exists. The CK has not been designed or implemented yet. So, two questions for Tim:

No. Adding CK for this would be pretty minimal work. Adding the "page" for the CK—like series, etc.—could be easy if it were like awards. If more is wanted, that could be harder.

>61 lquilter:

I see your point, but imagine if this spread? We could do awards as libraries too. Or places. Or main characters. Or atuhors. A case could be made for each. But the end result would be to subvert the idea of LT's libraries as coherent collections of a person or group.

>What on earth is personal about institutional accounts or small booksellers?

Institutional acounts often have a LOT of coherence. Most of our institutions are small, specific things. The books at the Nabokov Museum, or some specific church "hold together" in a way that a collection of lists of "banned books" do not.

Small booksellers, on the other hand, are excluded for precicely this reason. They are misusing the system, and they pollute it with data that doesn't cohere.

>So, I guess one question would be, what's so different between this and a wishlist library essentially.

You actually want the books on your library. They weren't added there because someone in Walla-Walla or Wasilla wanted them. As for the idea that you want every banned book, I think you are in the minority. You may well want to support banned books, but if this feature is to take off, it should be exceedingly open--books banned anywhere by anyone, with metadata to tell them apart. I doubt you are really interested in ploughing through the pamphlets of the Muslim Brotherhood.

>Source of Info
Countries Involved
Time Periods Involved

The big problem here is that CK is basically a one-term wiki. Sometimes we squeeze in a second term, eg., "Cambride, Massachusetts (Birth)" but that's aboutt he most we can do.

Now, I don't think using a library is MUCH better, insofar as tags aren't "fielded" either. You can devise specialized tags like "Country: India," but I see that as potentially poluting the tagspace too. And something like time period won't be searchable or sortable as dates, but only as strings, like tags generally.

>67 stephmo:

I'm deflecting your list quesiton. Let's talk about it elsewhere, and not now. Frankly, it's a long-desired feature, but it comes after a few others.

>I think most of us are in agreement that going the CK route would be the most fair and equitable.

On the contrary, the posts are largely running against it.

>An example might be "How many banned books do I share with lilithcat?"

So, CK—unlike libraries—has an API that can be queried from the outside. But no, that sort of complex reporting isn't possible now, or anticipated.


Frankly, I can't remember. Nor can I find it in my email. I'd certainly prefer if that were done in a lists function.

Sep 12, 2008, 3:43 pm

Hooray! Tim's back!

First of all, thanks so much for working on this with us. I can only begin to imagine how busy you are, and it means so much to me that you're taking time for this conversation.

Secondly, thanks for the informative response.

For me the fact that the library approach allows a bit more complexity (searching wise, and playing with data wise) than CK is probably the major selling point. As you mentioned, CK is a one-term wiki. But you're absolutely right about a library not being much better. But it is, just a little bit.

So, what is your personal (or official) feeling on CK vs. library/catalog now after we've brought up what we see as some of the plus and minuses of both methods?

If you'd really like us to stop the project (it's currently on a voluntary hold) and shift to CK mode, I think we'd all be willing. A bit disappointed, perhaps, but willing.

And it's especially irksome knowing there are other similar project and list libraries that are getting away with it, whether "approved" or not. ;-)

Sep 12, 2008, 3:58 pm

I know for sure that, even if I don't agree with the reasoning behind it, I would be happy to divert energy into making it as complete a record on CK as possible if we got the field(s). I think it's clear that neither approach is perfect by a long chalk and I'm not one for saying 'If it doesn't get done my way, it doesn't get done at all'.

The way I see it, inconsistencies aside (such as the fantasy malarky which I think is inadvertent rather than intentional, and personal usage quirks), Tim and crew have earnt a free pass to ask us to approach something differently if they feel strongly about it. (You kept the 'Tags' tab after all!).

So, would you envisage a 'Banned' (or whatever) in CK like the Awards and Honours field where on a single entry you could have something like:

USA (2004) Source: Beacon for Freedom

as a specific entry? So you put in country, date, source in one entry and then get a (+) field to add a second entry:

USA (2004) Source: Beacon for Freedom
South Africa (1987) Source : ALA

These are just random examples but would that work do you think?

Sep 12, 2008, 4:02 pm

Honestly, if it is switched to CK, I'm out. I would be quite happy to enter info into a library as workflow permits, but since I don't use CK and would therefore get zero benefit, I won't be entering info there.

Not trying to be a bitch, but to me CK info is only available to those that use CK which is a subset of the userbase (you won't know it is there otherwise - not to mention the problem of having to know that a book is banned in order to know to look it up). Having the info in a library makes it available to all to use or ignore as they see fit. I think it would be very "educational" since I think those of us who aren't really involved in the issue can be quite surprised at some of the books that have been or are banned somewhere. Having BBL pop up as having X number of books that you have gets that info to people in a simple, directly related to them fashion.

Sep 12, 2008, 4:09 pm

92>I think it would be very "educational" since I think those of us who aren't really involved in the issue can be quite surprised at some of the books that have been or are banned somewhere. Having BBL pop up as having X number of books that you have gets that info to people in a simple, directly related to them fashion.

A good point well stated.

And I stand corrected--not all of us would be willing to make the switch to CK, although some of us might.

I still favor the library approach, personally.

Sep 12, 2008, 4:11 pm

mwade, not wanting to thread-hijack, but you can opt to have CK field shown in your library view (I do it for awards and series) and they're pretty useful - not that I'm implying that you have to like them but if you're just missing the fact that you can have them as part of a library view, it's worth checking it out because they're pretty interesting. You can access the edit directly from the library view too.

Edited: Sep 12, 2008, 4:21 pm

I will still be willing to help if it moves to CK, but I'm honestly probably not likely to do as much as I would have because, like mwade, I don't use CK much (although I appreciate what it does to make LT better). I don't think doing it in CK will be as rewarding because it won't be as easy to see what everyone is doing, which will also lessen the group aspect of the project.

However, if Tim doesn't want us to do the library, I would definitely support something in CK that would acknowledge banned books. I see many of the problems with CK that mwade does (particularly having to know the book is banned to look for it, although it would be great to have that as part of the library view like other CK fields), but I would much rather have that than nothing.

Also, Tim, I'm super glad that you having a conversation with us on this, and I really appreciate your input and your brainstorming. I'm very glad we decided to go ahead and make the library lifetime, even if we don't end up doing this project, because it made me happy to contribute again (monetarily) to LT.

Edited to make more sense...

Sep 12, 2008, 4:18 pm

I appreciate the info, however, I did not know that and I'm guessing the majority of basic LT members don't either which means they won't have the banned field(s) in their view and won't happen upon the info re: their book(s).

Sep 12, 2008, 4:23 pm

mwade, Oh, totally agree. I was just mentioning it because I think that it's good and didn't want you to miss out ;) I think somewhere else on one of the collections threads, Tim mentioned what a small proportion of members actually change and customise their library view. Which also supports your point about most people not finding the info. I've also totally enjoyed browsing and tagging and learning from the library. That's why I say that I'll devote energy into getting the info out there on CK but I don't necessarily agree with it as the best vehicle. It'd be great to have both the library and the CK - two different approaches with differing levels of information in them.

Sep 12, 2008, 4:25 pm

When you are in CK, can you see who has a book or a tag cloud? If so, having the library would benefit someone wanting to fill in all the blanks on CK especially the source tag which they could then visit to obtain more info on the work.

Sep 12, 2008, 4:26 pm

I would still want to do as much if it moved to CK, but realistically I don't think I would end up doing as much as if it was in a library.

Working from more recent lists, and more recent works wouldn't be such a big deal.

I've been primarily working from the Beacon database (which is more comprehensive, and therefore at times more obscure). As was pointed out earlier, the library already has many books where it the only member claiming a copy. I know I would get frustrated trying to enter information into CK only to discover that book after book isn't in LT yet.

Sep 12, 2008, 4:30 pm

I don't think a large amount of books would end up getting the info if in CK for that reason and it would semi-die off with info only getting added when someone is trying to complete every field for a work.

One of the positives of a library is the count display. However silly, we are motivated by seeing a number grow and grow whether it is a height chart (okay motivation not really needed there, but they are cool when you are young), a fundraiser's chart or total books in BBL.

Sep 12, 2008, 4:31 pm

mwade, when you're on the CK page, you can see the number of members with your book but no tags.

Phoenix, it would certainly be significantly harder to keep it up-to-date on CK because instead of completing a country's history information, for example, and then only having to monitor recent/future bans, you would have to constantly go through all the books on the lists to see if any that weren't on LT are now on LT .... erk .... a logistical nightmare, and almost impossible to effectively police. There's going to be so many that slip through the cracks ....

Sep 12, 2008, 4:32 pm

This message has been deleted by its author.

Edited: Sep 12, 2008, 4:35 pm

101/102>significantly harder to keep it up-to-date on CK ... a logistical nightmare, and almost impossible to effectively police. There's going to be so many that slip through the cracks

Oh, too true. A significant drawback, I would say.

Sep 12, 2008, 5:52 pm

>95 DevourerOfBooks:
I see many of the problems with CK that mwade does (particularly having to know the book is banned to look for it, although it would be great to have that as part of the library view like other CK fields)

But if you could see all the Banned books together - like on a series page - would that work?

Sep 12, 2008, 6:02 pm

>104 ablachly:, It could definitely help, although I'm afraid that it would get so long that it might be hard to take in all at once. There is also still the logistical drawback in 101-103 for inputting data, although that doesn't necessarily mean that CK isn't the best way for LT to display the data.

Sep 12, 2008, 6:45 pm


You would still have to decide you want to see info on banned books as opposed to coming across it via shared books.

Sep 12, 2008, 7:47 pm


I agree with DevourerOfBooks--a single list would be much to long to be very useful, and would be rather overwhelming. Just take a look at the series pages for the Dummies or Idiots guides. That's only a few hundred books and it's still hard to take in.

Sep 12, 2008, 11:14 pm

It sounds to me like Nothing is going to work the way we as a collective group want it.

To me it is less important to hoist the BBL on other users, but rather to give interested users a means to find books they would be interested in that might have been banned. (For example when they are looking for something to read during banned book week.) To that end I think the CK's will work. I know Tim suggested it was not currently a feature, nor is it anticipated, but I would be interested in how difficult it would be to expand the capabilities of the API to allow more options for searches based on CK data.

I know there is still no real answer for books that are not currently in LT. I don't see a good answer that will satisfy all parties involved. I personally don't know that I want every book ever banned added to the LT database. the more books we get the more time it will take for searches. If no one owns it, there is a reason, other than it was banned in (enter location here). That seems like a lot of extra data that doesn't serve the purpose LT is here to serve.

Just my 2 cents. :)

Sep 13, 2008, 3:04 am

I don't think we'll get an ideal solution, I'm OK with going with CK if that's LTs preferred way of handling it. It would be a start to get the info out there somewhere so I can at least access that info about my library (although I still stand by comments I made above about drawbacks ...) I'm going to stop arguing about it because I think it's becoming a bit circuitous and we may have to agree to disagree and accept a compromise whilst acknowledging that both sides have made salient points about the pros and cons of both approaches. Just because Tim gives us a CK field, doesn't mean the argument about the library can't still be made - like I said, no reason not to have both, but I'd love to get started inputting CK info ....

So, Tim, what about working out what to give us in the CK field? (see my post at #91, that or something different?).

Sep 13, 2008, 4:07 pm

I'm sorry that I came late to this discussion, but I do want to put in my two cents...

When I started to read this thread I got said "Goody! - and just in time for Banned Books Week." - thinking that maybe LT could profile it on the home page during Banned Books Week and generate volunteers (not me - I am a fan of benefitting from OTHER people's labor - got my own "combining" type projects I am working on).

I got all excited and went to the BBL profile and started happily considering all of the fun stuff I could do. --- see how many books I share with the BBL, see who shares the most books with the BBL (and how many books I share with THEM), do a tag sort and see how many tagged books about ____ there are, add it to my private watch list and be able to see as new books were added, sort it and display it in different ways...the list goes on. THEN I saw the "voluntary hold" and came back to read the rest of the thread...

"Awww, shucks." Another CK field is not NEARLY as interesting to me. While I DO use several of the CK fields, a number of them strike me as silly useless clutter (but I understand that others LOVE them...that's ok, there are enough features on LT that you can use a small fraction of them and still have a whole happy fulfilling LT experience!)

I don't understand alot of the technical objections/discussion about how this would affect the numbers but accept that this may be the case.

A question though - in the not-yet-unveiled "Collections" feature was it not discussed that perhaps some of the "Collections" could NOT affect certain things like recommendations? In which case could "list-like" libraries be asked to put ALL of their Books into such a "Collection"? In fact won't one of the types of "Collection" in fact be a "List" (i.e. "Wishlist") and maybe THAT could solve our "wanting-a-list-feature" problem along with these others?

Sep 14, 2008, 8:14 am

Stepping out of the library argument - CK Field Suggestion
I've been looking at the CK field for awards and this format could work OK for this I think?

The awards include Award/Date/Category from what I can see and the individual award pages then show Book/Date/Category and a check mark if owned.

So, for example, Tipping the Velvet has:

New York Times Notable Book of the Year (Fiction & Poetry, 1999)

in the CK field and if you click on the award it brings up a list of other members of this group organised by Title/(Order) Category, Date/Checkmark?. Wouldn't this work for Banned Books if the CK input was Country (Source of Info, Date). Then clicking on that country would bring up a list of all banned books by date order containing the source info? And would it be possible to have two references say Country/Reason bringing up separate pages (so, say, a page for USA and a page for Religious or Sexual Content or whatever).

Comments? Tim, possible or not?

Sep 14, 2008, 5:04 pm

So, I think the answer is... both.

1. I'm okay with this being a special exception. But everyone must understand it is an exception. I don't want it to set precedent.

2. I'm okay with a library here: (1) because not all the books are yet in Librarything; (2) because there's no way to see a set of CK books "as" a library.

3. I'm going to create the CK field tonight. Perhaps together, we can dream up some rules for it.

Sep 14, 2008, 5:59 pm

Just to be clear:

Does this mean we have your blessing, or at least okay, to continue entering books into the library as we have been doing?

Sep 14, 2008, 6:02 pm

It's like Christmas! A CK field and a library. Now I'm imagining Tim in a red and white ensemble with reindeer .... hmm ... or maybe not so much! ;)

Sep 14, 2008, 6:39 pm


>113 PhoenixTerran: - I would interpret Tim's post (#112) to be unequivocal - he is OKAY with continuing the Library project (but this does not mean that he will be encouraging others to develop similar - but obviously less worthy - projects). Go forth and enter...

He is ALSO going to get right on the CK part - so if you guys would propose some "rules" for this he can get the ball rolling.

I guess I would like to see:
Banned vs Challenged
Location: Country, State/Province, City/County/School District
Alleged Justification: sex vs drugs vs rock n roll (or whatever categories).
Miscellaneous info: open entry field for details or links to documentation

I think that at least Banned, Challenged, Country should take you to a "list" page.

BUT I have no idea how CK works so this may all be a bit much.

Sep 14, 2008, 9:05 pm

Yeah, go ahead and enter the books. I'd like to request that the "About this library" include something like

"Note on LibraryThing policy: LibraryThing is designed for personal and organizational catalogs--books owned, read or wanted by a person or a clearly defined group of people. "List-making" accounts are generally forbidden. For a number of reasons, the Banned Books Library was given special permission to continue as a "catalog" of banned and challenged books."

Edit as desired. The about should also indicate how members can get the password.

Sep 14, 2008, 9:23 pm

Does anyone have a suggestion what the CK field should look like, following how CK actually works?

CK is a one-term thing. Each entry has one term with a simple, optional explanatory or ordering field, eg.,

Place: Boston, Massachusetts, USA (birth)
Character: Tom Riddle (Lord Voldomort)
Series: Lord of the Rings (Book 1)

So, for example, it can record a significant place and add an explanatory note about why the place is important--eg., because the author was born there. But it can't hold that the place is at 2,000 feet above sea level, that the birth took six hours or that the mother was So-and-so.

I can see two approaches:

1. The list is the defining point. So, we label a book as "ALA 2008 Most Challenged"
2. The authority is the defining point.

There's also the issue of just what happened. I would like any system to preserve the difference between banned and ALA's "challenged" determination, which almost always involves a parent complaining to a library without effect. It is, IMHO, the point of Banned Books Week to express these notions as points along a continuum of dangers to freedom of expression. Fair enough. But the data should be clear.

Sep 14, 2008, 10:15 pm

I agree that the distinction between banned and challenged needs to be kept.

I'm not sure what you mean by "authority" being the defining point.

There tends to be two kinds of lists when dealing with these types of books. One is an ordered list (along the lines of ALA's most challenged lists) where one book ranks "above" another. The second type is more general and isn't really ordered (a simple list of books that have been banned).

Sep 14, 2008, 10:16 pm

Sorry, the banning or challenging authority. So, the town, state, school board, etc.

Sep 14, 2008, 11:34 pm

I could see the authority level working best at the country level, seeing as that's usually the most readily available information. However, I can anticipate misinterpretation at that level. Seeing And Tango Makes Three marked as banned in the United States might imply the United States as a whole (which did not happen), as opposed to more specific ban. We ran into this issue when developing the tags, but ended up using the country level in the end.

As to the distinction between challenged and banned--this would probably be best indicated by two separate CK fields. Or perhaps it would work as the defining point for a single field, with either the country or source as the secondary point.

Sep 15, 2008, 4:23 am

My two cents:

1. I think that the 'list' as defining point is difficult. I think it should be recorded somewhere because it will always be the point of contact for more detailed information but it's not a consistent point to have as the defining field - there's a distinct difference in my mind between something like the ALA Most Challenged List for a year which is a defined list of a certain status and something like the Beacon For Freedom database which is a large database collating information from other sources. I don't think I've explained this that well, but hopefully you see my point!

2. I think rather than authority, you would have to use country, merely for the reason that there is always country information and not always authority information and that authorities are not always clearly defined, especially with historical banning information.

This is a field that is in tandem with a library now. I think neither can achieve everything but together they can cover a lot in different ways. CK has to be a starting point rather than a definitive one-stop-shop. I think that there should be date info on CK because we have the ability to input individual years there whereas that wouldn't work for tagging. I think more detailed information about authority etc. is better handled by notes in the comments section of the library.

Edited: Sep 15, 2008, 7:30 am

On the "Banned/Challenged Lists" versus "Banned/Challenged Incidents" issue:

It could of course be handled by two separate CK fields, but we could also do it in one field with formatting.

Format every list or database with a single identifying term at the top, e.g., "List" (or "AAAAAlist" to make sorting easier. or more practically speaking ":List:" or some other special character that looks good, and sorts correctly but doesn't have any other special function in CK/Mediawiki ).

For example:
* :List: ALA 2007 Most Challenged (date |
* Littleon Middle School, Denver, Colorado, USA (Challenged | 2008 | Denver Post )
Format is basically:
INCIDENT OR LIST (Action | Date | Source)

Oct 4, 2008, 5:21 am

I found this link when I laid in books today. I found that some of my books have been/are banned.
You do not have the book by Agnar Mykle : Sangen om den røde rubin which was banned in Norway on moralistic reasons. This is the only Norwegian banned book I know of.