The difficult financial situation of the public libraries in Westchester county is obviously an important problem. It was taken up in guest columns last November 24 by Barbara Hickernell, president of the Westchester Library System Board of Trustees, last December 20 by Edward Temkin, medical librarian at St. Agnes Hospital, and on January 14 by Sandra Miranda, director of the White Plains Public Library.
Aware of that problem and noticing an imbalance in the Middle East collection of White Plains Public Library, I offered it a gift subscription of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. To my great surprise my offer was rejected. I pointed out to Ms. Miranda that the Library carries Commentary, a magazine sponsored by the American Jewish Committee, in addition to Midstream and Tikkun which also represent the same side, while it has only one, Middle East Policy, representing the other side. In her reply she grossly misrepresented what I have pointed out by saying: "You have not, however, established that the Library's collection denies access to the point of view available in the magazine you offered." Disingenuously, she made the issue one of "access" instead of "balance."
In her column, Ms. Hickernell emphasized that the mission of the public library is "to provide materials and services on all subjects and viewpoints." Also, Mr. Temkin rightly pointed to the fact that "Only in the public libraries will students find these materials in abundance." The key words here are "all subjects and viewpoints" and particularly "abundance." But it seems that Ms. Miranda doesn't agree. That she would deny patrons an additional source of information is the last thing one would have expected from a library director.
ý[Mr. Temkin also mentioned the role of public schools and libraries as a place where students learn how to participate in the American democracy. So, when I asked "How can a citizen be informed in a balanced way on this subject with an unbalanced collection?" Ms. Miranda replied: "We know our collection to be well-rounded as to format and point of view in the area in question." Obviously, a false statement.]
It is worth noting that Tarrytown library which accepted my gift subscription is one of 3,300 libraries across the United States receiving the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.
January 25, 1994