Comic Relief

Are you a man or a mouse?

They talked about the novellas and "had a pretty in-depth discussion of how did this happen, and why," Veio says. But for Veio and the rest of the commission -- whose eight members are all appointed by the mayor (although not all by this mayor) and govern the library (even a century ago, when this system was set up, Denverites recognized that elected officials should not be able to dictate what a library can and can't contain) -- this is about more than a couple of comic books.

"It's part of the self-examination we're going through," Veio explains. "How can we deliver library services going forward for current and future generations to maximize this asset for our community? Our community is changing, and we want to be responsive to that."

The library was plenty responsive that afternoon, when shortly after Veio's lunch with Ashton, the novellas were removed from the shelves. In a subsequent letter to commissioners, Ashton explained that all of the novellas -- which he likened to "Mexican soap operas that you have seen on Spanish-language television," and which the library has been stocking for over a dozen years -- would be reviewed "to determine whether they meet the guidelines of our current collection policy."

According to the DPL's website, selection criteria under that policy include: relevant to interest and needs of community and current demand; extent of publicity and critical review; significance of subject matter, permanence or timeliness of subject; local interest (author or subject); relationship and importance to the entire collection; availability of material electronically; availability of material elsewhere in the region; authoritativeness: reputation or qualifications of author, artist, publisher or producer; quality of presentation style appropriate to content and audience; suitability of format to library purposes; and price. No particular criterion addresses whether Joyas de la Literatura -- one of the series that makes up part of the DPL's collection of more than 6,500 novellas -- must meet the women-protecting dictates of the Coalition for a Closer Look.

At the library commission's next monthly meeting -- which, in another bit of nice timing, is August 18 -- "there will be an in-depth review of our existing policies," says Veio. "We are truly doing our best, and we want to do the right thing."

No more Heming and Hawing at the DPL.


"We're nothing if not supporters of the First Amendment," says Celeste Jackson, the DPL's public-relations manager, who was at Monday's protest to keep an eye on the public and answer reporter's questions. (In his letter to commissioners, Ashton also noted that he'd be out of town through August 10.) The irony wasn't lost on her: The library, a bastion of free speech, would protect the speech of those who'd like to control its future. Even if that speech was sometimes less than literate: "Resign Now Rick Ashley" one protester's sign demanded.

"Get a Real Bike You Pussy," read another protester's shirt, in what could have been a symbolic reference worthy of Gabriel García M´rquez to Hickenlooper's scooter. Or not. Another was wearing a shirt featuring the outlines of naked women along with the line "Experienced professionals wanted. Several positions available." In English, of course.

I feel safer already.

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