The board of a West Virginia library reverses decision to refuse ‘Fear’

https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/a-west-virginia-lib
(Simon & Schuster)
By Ron Charles Ron Charles Critic, Book World Email Bio Follow September 14 (Simon & Schuster)

Update Sept. 14, 5 p.m.

Connie Perry, the president of the trustees of the Morgan County Public Library in Berkeley Springs, W.Va., said Friday afternoon by phone that her town library will carry Bob Woodward’s “Fear.”

Perry said the library board did not know that the library director had refused to accept a donated copy of “Fear” until the issue was raised in media reports.

“The board didn’t know anything about this,” Perry said. “We have corrected that. The book has been accepted — in fact, two of them.”

Perry, who once chaired the committee to raise money to build the library, said, “Our policy always has been that we accept books. This just got blown out of proportion. It was an employee who . . . wasn’t aware of what she should have done. She should have just said, ‘Thank you.’ The board has corrected that.”

Perry noted that the library’s initial decision not to carry “Fear” had become a major issue in Berkeley Springs. “More and more people want to read it now,” she said.

Original story posted Sept. 15, 12:15 p.m.

There are fearless libraries, and then there are libraries without “Fear.”

Patrons of the library in Berkeley Springs, W.Va., won’t find a copy of Bob Woodward’s new book about the first year of the Trump administration. And the director of the Morgan County Public Library wants to keep it that way.

A disagreement has arisen in this small West Virginia town over whether the library should carry “Fear.” On Facebook, residents have mostly expressed dismay and outrage.

In the rest of the country, “Fear” is the book of the moment — possibly the book of the year. By the end of its first day on sale on Tuesday, it had sold about 750,000 copies in all formats, according to Simon & Schuster, and the publisher has ordered a ninth printing, bringing the number of hardcover copies to more than 1,150,000. Barnes & Noble announced that “Fear” is the fastest-selling adult title since Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman” was released in 2015.

But so far that’s not enough to move Donna Crocker, the director of the Morgan County Public Library in Berkeley Springs, a town of about 600 people.

She confirmed that the library does not carry “Fear,” but she declined to answer any questions about her decision. “I don’t want to get in the middle of that,” Crocker said by phone on Friday. “We have other Trump books.”

Berkeley Springs is the county seat of Morgan County, W.Va., which voted 75 percent for Donald Trump in the 2016 election.

Berkeley Springs resident Rob Campbell thought he could help out his library by donating a copy of “Fear.” He wrote a letter to the local newspaper, the Morgan Messenger, saying, “Recently I called to offer Fear, the new Woodward book, but the library declined my offer saying they wouldn’t be putting books like that on the shelves anymore.” He notes in his letter that he lives about a block from the library and is happy to share his copy with anyone else who wants to read “Fear.” “I decided to be a library of one book,” he wrote.

James LaRue, director of the office of Intellectual Freedom for the American Library Association, said public libraries should make selection decisions based on the reputation of the publisher and the author, the quality of reviews and the level of community demand.

LaRue said that he called the Berkeley Springs library himself and spoke with Crocker. She told him that her library carries “Fire and Fury,” Michael Wolff’s book about the first year of the Trump administration, but it has been checked out only a few times.

“Community demand is an interesting question,” LaRue said. “It may well be that there is a majoritarian view on this issue, but that does not mean that a library should sacrifice its obligation to present the other side. Our whole credibility as an institution rests on our willingness to provide access to the most current information in our culture.”

LaRue sounds optimistic that the residents of Berkeley Springs could soon check out “Fear.”

“I would be very surprised if she doesn’t end up buying the book, but that’s a local decision.”

Banned Book Week is Sept 23-29.

Ron Charles writes about books for The Washington Post and hosts TotallyHipVideoBookReview.com.