are based on editorial excellence, professional production, originality of the narrative, author credentials relative to the book, and the value the book adds to its genre.
“The Barefoot Book” won the Gold in the category Body, Mind & Spirit, where it was up against 9 other finalists. The winners were announced at the American Library Association‘s Annual Conference and Exhibit.
This is replete with irony.
The very good news is that these Book of the Year Awards are used to bring to the attention of librarians books that they might not otherwise have heard of. Winning the Gold means that a lot of libraries will probably be getting the book and thereby getting the word out. The irony is that you will probably not be able to be barefoot when you pick up or read “The Barefoot Book” in your own library. From a survey I did, approximately two-thirds of libraries in the United States ban bare feet.
I’m not too thrilled with the American Library Association (where the awards were announced), either. They have a high-minded sounding Office for Intellectual Freedom that supposedly cares about access to library materials, and even have a document entitled Guidelines for the Development and Implementation of Policies, Regulations and Procedures Affecting Access to Library Materials, Services and Facilities that would seem to preclude such barefoot bans. However, when I tried to enlist their help in my lawsuit against the Columbus Metropolitan Library for denying me access, the ALA was not particularly helpful. (All they did was provide copies of their Library Bill of Rights to the Court.)
My lawsuit is even mentioned in the ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Manual. Here is what it says:
By contrast, the court will uphold exclusions where the rules are objective and precisely defined and the library offers some process formal or informal, for appeal. For example, in Neinast v. Board of Trustees, a court upheld the constitutionality of evicting a barefoot patron from library premises. The district court held that the library was a limited public forum but that the shoe requirement was constitutional. The court held that “[t]he shoe requirement is a valid, content-neutral regulation that promotes communication of the written worn in a safe an sanitary condition” because “[a]s evidenced by various incident reports, the Library’s floor sometimes contains feces, semen, blood, and broken glass, all of which pose a significant danger to barefoot individuals. The Sixth Circuit appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision, concluding that the shoe requirement was narrowly drawn to achieve the goal of protecting barefoot patrons from harm that might come to them from materials found on the library floors and to protect the library itself from the potential of lawsuits and litigation costs if sued by a patron for injuries sustained while barefoot.
The trouble with this description (while true — that is what those Courts said) is that the Courts basically made up evidence. Or, I should say, the Courts blindly assumed, without any evidence, that the presence of such things as blood or feces actually posed “significant danger to barefoot individuals.” We barefooters know otherwise. But the Courts also stretched the incident reports. For instance, one of the incidents with blood didn’t even have blood on the floor, but was on the wall of a woman’s restroom. And the glass (which also really is not much of a danger) was all outdoors, where the barefoot rule did not apply.
Those Courts also justified their decision based on potential “lawsuits and litigation costs”. To do so, they had to ignore the fact that, at least here in Ohio, libraries have something called statutory immunity from such tort claims, and further more, the status of library patrons also means that, under tort law, the library is not liable for mere negligence but only wanton or willful behavior that injures a patron. That is a tremendously high standard.
Well, they did get litigation costs, but it was in defending my lawsuit.
One hopes that when all these libraries pick up “The Barefoot Book” because of the award and that they actually read . . . the . . . book and take it to heart. But I’m not holding my breath.