Association of College & Research Libraries


To the Editor:

Thomas G. Reid Jr.’s vitriolic letter (March 1992) reveals the purblindness of his reactionary ilk. It is he who is either confused or hypocritical on the issue of ALA’s position on the gag rule imposed by the Rust decision.

Reid conflates simply making referrals or providing information—what both librarians and health professionals do—with nefarious advocacy. Rust did not just “stop [federal employees] from saying one word in favor of abortion,” as Reid claims. It prohibited anyone receiving Title X funding from providing neutral information about it, even from pointing at the listings in the yellow pages.

For Reid’s strained analogies to make sense, it would be illegal for staff in federally supported libraries to refer readers to books that contained racial slurs (Huck Finn) or sexual harassment (.Clarissa), or to communist or anarchist tracts, or to publications of the Hemlock Society. Talk about PC! …

Moreover, Rust went further than a simple prohibition: it prescribed a unique, fixed statement that health professionals must utter if queried about abortion. This is more than censorship—it is political ventriloquism. Were such a positive injunction extended to the realm of political economy, we would be forced to mouth words devised by the Heritage Foundation and approved by presidential appointees.

All of this is precisely why it was legitimate and even necessary for the American Library Association to intervene in the Rust case on the side of freedom of expression—even for federally funded operations.—Jeffry Larson, bibliographer, Yale University

To the Editor:

I was glad to see the favorable account, written by Gail Junion-Metz and Ray E. Metz, of ACRL-New York’s 1990 symposium. However, I was surprised by the shallow interpretation of my talk and astonished by the statement that I called upon publishers to practice “bibliographic birth control.” This is a phrase I would never use seriously and expresses a concept I would never support. I was ridiculing those who would advocate such an unlikely, simplistic, and counter-productive “solution” to the problem of information overload.—Mary Biggs, Director of Libraries, Mercy College The authors respond:

The information on the New York meeting which we used in our C&RL News article was obtained from the Winter 1991 issue of the Metropolitan New York ACRL Chapter Newsletter. The article titled “Highlights of Access to Excess? Issues of the Information Explosion” contains a two-paragraph description of Ms. Biggs’s comments. The following is from that description: “While publishers should practice voluntary ‘bibliographic birth control,’ librarians must help sift ‘essence from excess.’ If in our attempt to ensure that more librarians learned about this important program, we inadvertently misinterpreted the speaker’s intent, we’re sorry.—Ray E. Metz, Case Western Reserve University, and Gail Junion-Metz, Cleveland State University

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