Huck Finn Stays at Mansfield, and Other Takeaways from ACLU's Banned Book Report

We're generally against banning books, but when it comes to Dean Koontz ...
The ACLU of Texas released its annual compendium of books that school districts have pulled from their shelves for being too coarse, profane, sexual, or otherwise too interesting for our precious children, despite every Mom in America having a copy of 50 Shades of Gray by her nightstand.

There's good news to report, actually: Only 13 titles were yanked last year, compared with 17 the year before. And some of those were simply moved from, say, the elementary-school library to that of the middle school. It's the lowest number in a decade.

That's largely a result of improvements in the review process. More and more districts are using committees to review books that parents -- or in one case a school bus aide -- find objectionable. This year, 59 percent of districts reported having a review committee compared with fewer than half the year before.

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Dallas Finally Stopped Cutting Libraries, But the Damage is Already Done

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The city is learning that if libraries are never open, people will never come.
Libraries, as we already know, have not been spared City Manager Mary Suhm's budget cleaver in recent years. The library budget has been chopped and quartered like perhaps no other city department, having been sliced in half since peaking at $36 million peak in 2007. That's decimated staffing levels, hours of operation, materials budget -- just about everything.

The hemorrhaging seems to be over now, with the city promising to keep its locations open for 40 hours per week and add $1 million to its paltry budget for new materials -- almost enough to cover all the 50 Shades books they need.

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Tinsel Author Writes: "Dallas Is Never As Interesting On the TV Screen As It Is In Person"

Hank Stuever is a critic for The Washington Post, but he did spend plenty of time down thisaway from 2006 through '08 whilst researching and writing his tome Tinsel, about o little town of Frisco and how its many merry residents guzzle holiday spirits. Which is something to keep in mind while reading his freshly minted review of ABC's Sunday-debuting G.C.B., set in Highland Park (pardon, Hillside Park) and based, of course, on Kim Gatlin's Good Christian Bitches, the first chapter from which you'll find below courtesy ABC and Hyperion.

Stuever can't stand the show, which had a sneak earlier this week at the Angelika in Mockingbird Station. Says it plays exactly as it looks in the new two-minute teaser seen above: "G.C.B. feels like a freshly unboxed set of life-size Rodeo Barbies arranged around a notion of what living in Dallas must be like." Then he goes on to make the larger point that all shows filmed in Dallas, be they fictional or factional, are kinda terrible because they cling to the hoary cliché that everything's bigger'n Texas when small-scale will do just fine. It's the same point Chris Kelly made in Texas Monthly last month, when he wrote that "the banality of G.C.B. is instructive: it reminds us that, given the choice between the broad and the specific, these shows always seem to opt for the broad." Writes Stuever:
Filmed in Dallas, G.C.B. strives only for the barest measure of accuracy -- to try any harder would be wasted effort, because all anyone wants from a show like this are gross cliches.

It has been this way with Dallas and television ever since Dallas first aired in 1978 (and will again, this summer, in a relaunched version on TNT). But Dallas is never as interesting on the TV screen as it is in person -- something about it becomes flatter, duller. That goes for fictional and reality shows; producers arrive from L.A. and just can't resist the ample visual shorthand: big hair, cleavage, Stetsons. The lazy mythos is woven with interstitial shots of steers and busy freeway stacks looming over the pastures.

Like the good people of New Jersey, Texans have no justifiable grounds to protest whenever TV decides to typify and mock them. That's because no one perpetuates Texan stereotypes more than Texans themselves. It's a sustainable brand value: That's just how we are here. That's Texas for ya, etc.
Just keep in mind: Only Sunday night's episode, the pilot, was actually filmed here; the rest was done in L.A. in an effort to keep costs down and the cast happy. I won't be watching; I'll dial up that last ep of The Good Guys I still haven't seen that somehow survives like a cockroach on the DVR.More »

Having Lost Its La Vista Home, Paperbacks Plus Makes a Move to, Where Else, Oak Cliff

I haven't been to Paperback Plus's La Vista location in about, oh, two months or so, when I picked up a copy of Schutze's book ... for Schutze, who collects such things. But a Friend of Unfair Park says it's gone -- has been for two weeks. That's because the shopping center in which the used bookstore sits was sold February 1 to Austin-based SL Lakewood LP, according to Dallas County records, and the owners of the East Dallas mainstay couldn't reach an agreement with the new owners. So that's that. There, at least.

But our Friend directs us to the Lucky Dog Books' website, where on Friday it was announced that the bookstore's found a new home at 633 W. Davis in Oak Cliff, of course. Says the announcement: "It will take a couple of weeks for some interior work to be done before we can start in earnest to get it ready inside, but as you can see, there is some stuff to do outside as well while this is happening." I called over there today, and word is they hope to have the doors open in about a month or so. And, of course: "The store on Garland Road's up and running, and the store on Mesquite's still there." But, as Oak Cliff People notes this morning, neither one of those is across the street from Bolsa Mercado.

Why Does Big Bucks Burnett Need Big Bucks to Buy Back His Letter from Pete Townshend?

A few days back James "Big Bucks" Burnett, proprietor of the world's only Eight Track Museum (for now ...), sent out a mass email asking for help scaring up a few bucks for a letter presently being sold at for $599.99 on the eBay. The seller's advertising it as: "THE WHO/PETE TOWNSHEND SIGNED ORIGINAL LETTER REAL! WOW." And you'll note the letter, dated March 18, 1985, and penned on Faber and Faber letterhead, is made out to one James Burnett. The very same. And he needs it back, which is why, among other things, he's discounting the collectible vinyl he has stashed away in a very impressive corner of Dolly Python.

In a February 5 emailed, Bucks explained the meaning behind the missive: "it pertains to the Ronnie Lane autobiography I was supposed to help Ronnie with." Says Bucks now, it's "the only existing evidence of my deal with Pete to help Ronnie Lane publish his autobiography, from '85, when I lived with him." Lane, that is, not Townshend. Alas, says Bucks, "Manager botched the deal." Always does.

Yesterday, after Bucks dispatched another plea for help, I sent him a few other questions about why he sold it in the first place, whether he can even tell for sure if this is the real thing and not a copy of his original and why he's now in such a panic to get it back. He explains ...More »

Clearly, Mary Suhm's In No Rush To Find a Library Chief, as She Names Another Interim

Kris Sweckard
Received a note earlier in the day that on Tuesday, Mayor Mike, Comerica CEO Ralph Babb, Serita Ann Jakes (Mrs. T.D. to you) and a host of city council members are meeting at the North Oak Cliff Library Branch for "a major announcement" that will involve the "unveiling of [an] e-book collection and new high-tech library resources" courtesy, who else, Comerica. Also on the guest list: Corinne Hill, still listed as the interim director of the Dallas Public Library system -- though not for long. She's outta here February 15, choo-chooing to Chattanooga.

She told Brantley why a few weeks ago -- in large part because the city's taken forever to either take the "interim" off her title or name a replacement, which the city manager was was supposed to do by Thanksgiving using either Hill or two other finalists whose resumes it appears we can now forget all about. Why? Because, per the Mary Suhm memo you'll find below: "We will continue a nationwide search for the next director of the Dallas Public Library with the assistance of an executive search firm specializing in identifying the best candidates for major, urban systems." But time is of the essence, she insists, as Nashville, San Jose and a few other "major library systems" are also "searching for new leaders."

But in the meantime, Suhm has appointed yet another interim -- and someone with whom we're quite familiar, Kris Sweckard, who, for the last eight years, has been in ... the Office of Environmental Quality and the man behind its so-called Efficiency Team. (My, how prescient.) But lest you think that an odd job swap, Suhm reminds that prior to his coming to work for the city, Sweckard was in management consulting with PricewaterhouseCoopers focusing on "process improvements, change management, and technology implementation." Oh, that reminds me: You really must watch House of Lies. Anyway. More »

Not Gooder: Study Says Dallas Is Less Literate This Year Than We Were Last Year

A Friend of Unfair Park reminds me: It's that time of the year again -- time for Dr. John W. Miller, president of Central Connecticut State University, to rank 75 major metros' literacy levels using a handful of criteria ("newspaper circulation, number of bookstores, library resources, periodical publishing resources, educational attainment and Internet resources") to make sweeping generalizations about the state of big cities' "social health." And after seeing an uptick in our ranking last year -- all the way up to 44, nothing to brag about -- Dallas now sits at No. 51. That's the lowest Dallas has ever scored since Miller began keeping score. Back in '08, matter of fact, we were all the way up to 38.5. But now? Austin and Plano rank ahead of us. But look out below, Fort Worth (No. 54) and Houston (No. 60!).

Below, where Dallas ranks in those individual categories mentioned above. Spoiler alert: It's the "Educational Attainment" score that really dragged us down.More »

American Library Association Prez Calls on Dallas to Stop Cutting From Library Budget

The American Library Association, in town since Friday, begins its wind-down at the Dallas Convention Center this afternoon, when Lisa Loeb does her thing. But this morning, a Friend of Unfair Park notes: The state of the Dallas Public Library system is very much on the mind of ALA President Molly Raphael.

Right now, of course, we're without a permanent library director ... or, for that matter, even an interim, what with Corinne Hill choo-choo'ing to Chattanooga. And as we discussed repeatedly back in September, the DPL budget gets smaller and smaller every year, even as the city preps new branches scheduled to be designed and constructed out of still-sitting-there 2006 bond funds, which we'll get to later this afternoon. Writes Raphael, the city's managed to do more than most with less than most, but a "precarious" position could get worse before it gets better, if it ever does. In the wake of most of the city's libraries being closed on Mondays, among other head-scratchers, she writes:
Such a reduction in hours means thousands of lost opportunities to connect patrons with needed resources and services. Not only is access to materials limited, but the size of the library's collection is dwindling as the library struggles to find funding to replace worn materials. New titles are becoming dearer, and patrons must add their name to long waiting lists to borrow new books or other items.

Now, once again local leaders are considering the upcoming budget. The library has shown it is committed to streamlining operations and meeting financial challenges with innovation and collaboration, but a library's resources and creativity can be stretched only so far.

Dallas Public Library needs our support. As local leaders work to develop a budget, we ask that they see libraries as part of the solution and restore funding. We must not turn a blind eye as Dallas leaders shelve the value of library service. Our communities must stand up for their libraries.
Read the whole thing here.

Corinne Hill No Longer Wants Dallas's Top Library Job. She's Taking Chattanooga's.

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Couple of days back I noted that Corinne Hill, the interim director of the Dallas Public Library system since July 2010, is slated to give a talk about "Re-imagining the Public Library in a Post-Recession Economy" when the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting comes to town next week. But she won't give the talk as interim head of the Dallas Public Library system. Instead she'll be doing it as the incoming director of the Chattanooga Public Library system. That's according to the Times Free Press there: "Corinne Hill, interim director for the Dallas Public Library, has accepted a position as executive director of The Public Library, library officials confirmed."

As you may recall, Hill was one of three contenders for Dallas's top job back when we thumbed through the stack of resumes in November. And word was Hill was well-liked by City Hall higher-ups. But at some point between then and now she either decided she wasn't going to get the job or didn't want the job. I've been trying to reach her all week; I was told today she's out till next week. Guess we know why. Updates forthcoming, if anyone calls back.

Update at 7:52 p.m.: Congratulations to the Friends of Unfair Park who've commented on this item. Your remarks have been duly noted by The Chattanoogan, which includes this in its story about Hill's hiring:
Her efforts won approval in the Dallas community; she was one of three finalists finally named after city officials hired a search firm that spent months trying to decide who should head the public library there permanently.

But the Texas search was exceedingly slow. Despite Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm's reported intention of choosing a library director by Thanksgiving, the city has yet to hire anybody.

No wonder then, several Dallas Observer readers commented today, that Ms. Hill is no longer willing to continue working at the Texas library.

"One of the risks you take when you procrastinate on filling a position is that good candidates will go elsewhere," one noted succinctly.
Update at 8:45 p.m.: Below is Suhm's memo to Mayor Mike Rawlings and the city council about Hill's departure, in which the city manager apologizes for the way they found out about it.More »

Where The DCVB's Sending All Those Librarians Due to Descend Upon Downtown Next Week

The American Library Association Midwinter Meeting's set for January 20-24 at the Dallas Convention Center, so you know what that means: Thousands of librarians, publishers and authors will be checking out the city for a few days. Perhaps the city can find someone amongst the bunch to lead the Dallas Public Library system, for which no director's yet been chosen out of the last-we-looked stack of three finalists. Though, I do see interim director Corinne Hill's scheduled to give a talk titled "Dallas Public Library on Re-imagining the Public Library in a Post-Recession Economy." And Lisa Loeb's coming home to give the "Wrap Up Rev Up Celebration."

Anyway. Whilst tooling around the ALA's website I espied a link directing convention-goers to a day-by-day itinerary specially prepared for the confab's attendees. And since we occasionally take a look at what outsiders recommend, I thought we'd browse the insiders' look-see at the city's must-to-do's -- and by insiders, I mean a visitors bureau run by a guy who lives in Southlake. Still. Look below. But, spoiler alert: Southfork and NorthPark are on there (and the Spaghetti Warehouse!), but, so sorry, Oak Cliff. You too, Fair Park.More »

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