Monday, June 17, 2013

Bette Davis Movie

1. I started working as a library page at the age of 15, in the 1950s. One of my first memories of that job was having a tour that included "the tower," an isolated part of the stacks. I was shown boxes of books that had been donated and were causing a challenge for the library. The books were in German; World War II had ended barely a decade earlier. The challenge lay in the perception that these books must not be put on shelves where they might be seen; that would suggest that the library board/staff members were German sympathizers. On the other hand, they could not be discarded: what if the donor discovered them gone and extracted vengeance? This probably seems crazy in the light of the libraries I visit that pride themselves on extensive world language collections.

2. About a year ago I chanced upon a book at the Minneapolis Central Library, The dismissal of Miss Ruth Brown : civil rights, censorship, and the American library / by Louise S. Robbins.
The book tells the story of a librarian in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, who was dismissed from her job because she refused to remove books about Communism from the library. [She also believed that African Americans should have the same access to library services as anyone else.] At the end of the book, I learned that in 1956 a movie had been made about her story, Storm Center, starring Bette Davis.

3. I found that the movie is available for sale on the Internet for about $20, mentioned it to a librarian where I now work (again, as a page), and she agreed to try and order it. It finally worked its way through the ordering and cataloging process. To my surprise, by the time it was available I was the
first of seven people on the request list--and I was headed out on my big road trip, so I had to suspend the request. I'm back, I got the movie yesterday, and it was well worth watching. I recommend it if you have any interest in the life of a librarian facing issues not far from some we face today. Yes, it is a black-and-white 50s movie; don't let that stop you!

Have your library get a copy, or try ILL; it's available through Ramsey County Library System in Minnesota. You are probably clever enough to find it through some online service, too. If you watch it, leave a comment to let me know what you think.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are welcomed, and I will generally respond to them. Please be tasteful; comments that are in poor taste will be deleted.
Sorry about the "verification" step; I added it after a rash of spammish comments.