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LISTen: An LISNews.org Program -- Episode #214

This week's episode features a chat with Dan Lynch of Sixgun Productions in Liverpool about changes in the UK library world relative to the UK government reviewing the possibility of e-book lending there. Madam Producer also discusses a new report by Freedom House about Internet Freedom in the context of this week being Banned Books Week.

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Tintin OUT, then IN at Swedish Library

Swedish News (in English): Following a storm of media criticism, officials at the Kulturhuset library in Stockholm have reversed their decision to remove Tintin comic books from its shelves, saying the move happened "too fast".

"The decision happened too fast," Kulturhuset head Eric Sjöström and the organization's artistic director, Behrang Miri, said in a statement released late Tuesday morning.

The reversal comes after a report in Tuesday's Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper in which Miri said the library planned to remove Tintin comics from its shelves.

“The image the Tintin books give of Africans is Afro-phobic, for example. Africans are a bit dumb, while Arabs sit on flying carpets and Turks smoke water pipes,” he told the paper.

But after criticism of the move erupted in Swedish media on Monday morning, Miri changed his stance.

"I wanted to highlight an opinion piece about issues of discrimination, but realize now that it's wrong to ban books," Miri said in a statement.

However, Kulturhuset head Sjöström applauded Miri for prompting a discussion about discrimination.

"The issues of discrimination, equality and norms continue to be debated and discussed," Sjöström said in a statement.

Bookyard, a Library in Ghent, Belgium

Outdoor Library

From Tumblr: Bookyard is a project where Massimo Bartolini brings the public library to the great outdoors.

In Ghent, Belgium, St. Peter’s Abbey Vineyard has been a part of the town landscape since the Middle Ages. Now this historic vineyard has gotten a beautiful new addition, dubbed Bookyard, which was recently installed by the Italian artist Massimo Bartolini. Designed as part of the art festival Track: A Contemporary City Conversation, 12 sweeping bookcases align with the Abbey’s grapevines and harken back to an old world Europe that was once filled with bounded print, and free from digital forms.

Banned Book Could Lead to Imprisonment

From the Malaysian Digest, news that a Borders store manager in Kuala Lumpur is facing possible arrest for stocking a Canadian title that Muslim religious authorities find objectionable.

Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz was charged in the Kuala Lumpur Syariah Court for allegedly violating the Hukum Syarak by distributing or selling Irshad Manji’s book Allah, Liberty and Love.

“The management of Berjaya Books Sdn Bhd who own and operate the Borders bookstore chain in Malaysia is very disappointed that our store manager Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz has today been charged by Jabatan Agama Wilayah Persekutuan (JAWI) in the Kuala Lumpur Syariah Court for distributing a book by Canadian author Irshad Manji deemed to be against the Islamic Law (Hukum Syarak) and banned in Malaysia. The charge was brought under Section 13(1) of Prime Minister’s Department for Islamic Affairs Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom have also been named as respondents in the application for judicial review."

The Dutch Vote in Net Neutrality, the First EU Country to Do So

People in the Netherlands have reason to celebrate today, following the expected passing into law of new net neutrality regulation. The legislation in question was agreed upon back in June last year, but it's only on Tuesday that the nation's second legislative chamber gave its blessing to the move, making everything official. Under the new law, mobile internet providers like KPN won't be able to charge for access to particular services like Skype or throttle traffic through them — both techniques that the company was intent on using to manage its mobile traffic.

Some exceptional reasons, such as network congestion and security, are allowed for slowing down users' connections, but the general thrust of the law is that operators ought to be blind to the traffic they carry and treat all of it equally. Dutch lobbying group Bits of Freedom also notes that the net neutrality law includes anti-wiretapping provisions, making it unlawful to use deep packet inspection on users' internet communications without their express consent or a legal warrant. All in all, it's a good day for privacy and internet freedom in the Netherlands, now how about we spread the good cheer throughout the whole European Union? [ed- and North America?]

Tehran Book Fair versus the literature of Iran's Streets

From LA Times Jacket Copy: Readers walking into the Tehran Book Fair will not find "Memories of My Melancholy Whores"; the Gabriel Garcia Marquez book has long been banned. Yet if they can find a street stall, called nayab foreshi (Farsi for "forbidden items"), that book, and others, will be for sale.

The 10-day Tehran Book Fair, which attracts an average of 550,000 visitors per day, calls itself "the most important publishing event in Asia and the Middle East." It features publishers from the Islamic world, which are, like those in the West, struggling. Their troubles include the trafficking in pirated, banned books, reports our blog World Now.

“I can show you hundred titles of the books Xeroxed or on CDs sold in massive numbers right here in the sidewalks opposite Tehran University,” lamented Majid Taleghini, a publisher in Tehran. “We publishers are bankrupt and book smugglers are making a fortune. So what is the use of censorship?”

Frustrated writers say getting books past the government gantlet can take years, making it hard to eke out a living, even as the black market flourishes. Books must be submitted to the Cultural and Islamic Guidance Ministry, which picks out any offensive words, phrases or even whole paragraphs and insists on changes before texts can be printed.

The 25th annual Tehran Book Fair, which takes place at the Grand Mosque Mosalla, began today and continues through May 12.

A Changing Turkey, Reflected in Author Orhan Pamuk's Novel Museum

ISTANBUL — The first thing you see are the cigarette butts. There are thousands of them — 4,213 to be exact — mounted behind plexiglass on the ground floor of the Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk’s new museum, named for and based on his 2008 novel, “The Museum of Innocence.” Story and multi-media from The New York Times.

It’s a fittingly strange beginning to a tour of this quirky museum, tucked away in a 19th-century house on a quiet street in the Cukurcuma neighborhood, among junk shops that sell old brass, worn rugs and other bric-a-brac.

But it is also, like everything else on the museum’s four floors, a specific reference to the novel — each cigarette has supposedly been touched by Fusun, the object of the narrator’s obsessive love — and, by extension, an evocation of the bygone world in which the book is set.

“The Museum of Innocence” is about Istanbul’s upper class beginning in the 1970s, a time when Mr. Pamuk was growing up in the elite Nisantasi district. He describes the novel as a love story set in the melancholic back streets of that neighborhood and other parts of the European side of the city. But more broadly it is a chronicle of the efforts of haute-bourgeois Istanbulis to define themselves by Western values, a pursuit that continues today as Turkey as a whole takes a more Islamic turn.

Envisioning Future English Libraries

It appears that Arts Council England (a non-departmental public body associated with the United Kingdom's Department of Culture, Media, and Sport) has opened a blog seeking to discuss the future of libraries in England. The blog warns that it is only looking at the future while current issues with library services should be brought up with one's local governing authority or put to the forum at Voices for the Library or to The Library Campaign.

(h/t The Bill Thompson)

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