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« LM-Net | Main | Threat level orange »

Will we do better with The Golden Compass than we did with Lucky?

“Thou shalt not” might reach the head, but it takes “Once upon a time” to reach the heart. Philip Pullman
Given the recent discussion of Philip Pullman trilogy that begins with The Golden Compass and our individual reactions toward it on LM_Net, it might be a good time to review the American Library Association Code of Ethics especially items 2 and 7.
  1. We provide the highest level of service to all library users through appropriate and usefully organized resources; equitable service policies; equitable access; and accurate, unbiased, and courteous responses to all requests.
  2. We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources.
  3. We protect each library user's right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted.
  4. We recognize and respect intellectual property rights.
  5. We treat co-workers and other colleagues with respect, fairness and good faith, and advocate conditions of employment that safeguard the rights and welfare of all employees of our institutions.
  6. We do not advance private interests at the expense of library users, colleagues, or our employing institutions.
  7. We distinguish between our personal convictions and professional duties and do not allow our personal beliefs to interfere with fair representation of the aims of our institutions or the provision of access to their information resources.
  8. We strive for excellence in the profession by maintaining and enhancing our own knowledge and skills, by encouraging the professional development of co-workers, and by fostering the aspirations of potential members of the profession.

Regardless of our own religious values or personal tastes (or that the religious right will be mounting a pressure campaign to have these books censored), all public school librarians should fight to keep Pullman's books on their shelves. As well as C.S. Lewis's books. As well as any writing that has been critically and positively reviewed.

Our profession needs to handle this one better than we did the Power of Lucky last spring!

Oh, I personally really like Pullman's His Dark Materials series. I've read them all and am currently enjoying re-reading them.

nk.jpgAs to the movie - one word: Nicole! I just may have to see it twice - but only to make sure the movie's values are suitable for children.


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Reader Comments (10)

Self-sacrifice, humanism, suffering and redemption. I mourned the death of the witches, and admired Lyra's growing awareness of her mission.

Pullman's themes are universal and compelling, and his style is haunting.

If only there were more writers of his calibre.

October 31, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterdiane

I'll be the first to admit, my personal convictions and my professional duties will be at war over this one. Thanks for the professional reminder. My email inbox has already begun to receive invitations to boycott the movie. I'll read the book, gather my thoughts, and determine both professional and personal stances from there.

November 1, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKitty Forbus

Thanks, Kitty.

I also try to remember that we are defending a process and a concept, not a particular resource.

All the best,


November 1, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

I'm sorry, I'm missing something. What's the controversy about?
Isn't it fiction?


November 1, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMiguel Guhlin

Hi Miguel,

Several religious organizations are forming organized protests against the movie and books, as I understand it.

For example,

By creating controversy, these materials tend to get a very wide readership, ironically. Nothing like banning something to make one want to read or view it. The forbidden fruit, as it were.

All the best,


November 1, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

A very thoughtful approach to The Golden Compass by Sr Rose Pacatte, FSP director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies in Culver City, CA


November 1, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

I'm sorry that the ALA expects its librarians to disconnect their beliefs from their work. I think it is a schizophrenic way to live a life - one set of ethics for work and another set for the other 2/3 of our lives.
It is convenient to dismiss something because it is only a work of fiction. Fiction is a powerful means to say deep things. It can also be a front for advancing hatred. In Pullman's case, hatred of the Catholic Church. It is his stated belief.
I also find it difficult to believe that the ALA would support fiction that promoted conservative rather than liberal causes. The cry for intellectual freedom rings from only the left side of the fence. It would be much more authentic if librarians were encouraged to promote intellectual freedom from a neutral standpoint.
As it is, those of us who don't want to divide our ethics into pieces are left disenfranchised by our own organization.
Should Pullman's books be pulled. No. But in our reader's advisory capacity, we should mention its anti-C S Lewis bias. That is only fair.

November 1, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTrish Crew

Hi Trish,

As a proponent of intellectual freedom, I would never dream of removing your comment from this blog. Hearing ALL points if view is the point.

I don't see the ALA stance as liberal or conservative. Only that all citizens, including children, should be able to hear a diversity of views and use their minds to help determine their beliefs. As I said earlier, I would fight to keep CS Lewis on my shelves just as strongly as keeping Pullman on the shelf.

Oh, the ACLU, the other "intellectual freedom" organization, has just come out in support of Senator Craig's free speech rights in bathroom stalls! So I guess it supports conservatives as well.

All the very best and thank you for writing this. I am sure you have many librarians who will agree with you.


November 1, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

I have been waiting for this brouha since I first read the trilogy, in fact I am somewhat sad that it took a movie for the outrage to begin. On the other hand, I wish (because I love the books) that it had stayed below the radar so that libraries wouldn't remove it, as some surely will.
Meanwhile Nicole Kidman ho-hum, now Sam Elliot as Lee Scorseby - can't wait!

November 1, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMary Ann Harlan

Hi Mary Ann,

When I heard the fuss about Harry Potter, I wondered why we hadn't heard more protests against Pullman's work. I am hoping the outrage (and the movie, of course) will get lots of people reading these wonderfully subversive books!

I will have to disagree with the Sam Eliot/Nicole Kidman comment however. Sam does have the better mustache.

All the best,


November 1, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

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