The Right’s War on Libraries – Transcript

Raquel: Welcome to Rite Gud, the only podcast that helps you write good. I’m Raquel S Benedict, the most dangerous woman in speculative fiction. As part of this podcast’s dedication to sparking controversial attention getting discourse, we have a new piping hot take for you here today.

Libraries are good. They’re good. We like libraries. Having fun isn’t hard when you’ve [00:01:00] got a library card. But in this country, libraries are under attack by a small but zealous movement among the far right. Here to tell us about this is librarian and Steve Harrington impersonator, Eric Sandwich. Mr. Sandwich, thank you for coming on

Eric Sandwich: Hi. Thank you for having me.

Raquel: Now, you are a librarian in your day job.

Eric Sandwich: Yes, that’s right. I have my pseudonym of Eric Sandwich at night, but, during the daytime, when I’m not also impersonating Steve Harrington– I got a haircut recently, unfortunately, so maybe that– I know I, it was getting too unwieldy, but, it’ll come back and, uh, so I’ve lo lost my Steve Harrington powers briefly, but my librarian powers remain as strong as ever because yes, I am a librarian.

Raquel: Yeah. Librarian by day. A sandwich by night.

Eric Sandwich: Yeah, it’s a painful transformation. Yet somehow I endure.

Raquel: Like in Flashdance.

Eric Sandwich: Yeah. Um, yeah. Also, I weld, uh, that’s not true. No. I’m a librarian. I work for Brooklyn Public Libraries, and, uh, I’m happy to, help [00:02:00] out the public and, be, a controversial hot, topic in today’s, in today’s anti educator anti librarian discourse.

Raquel: That’s right.

So obviously we like libraries. We know that you can get books there and you can read the books there for free and you can borrow them and then you bring them back. And if you bring them back late, you might have to pay a staggering late fee of like a dollar.

Eric Sandwich: Mm-hmm.

Raquel: Um,

Eric Sandwich: we, uh, send the hounds after you too.

Raquel: yeah. Yeah, there’s a lot of that. The dollar pays for the hounds.

Eric Sandwich: Mm-hmm.

Raquel: But aside from that, aside from you can get books from libraries, what else do libraries do for the communities they serve?

Eric Sandwich: Just to let you know, a lot of library systems, including my own here in Brooklyn, we’ve eliminated the fees. So there are no more fees any anymore. Uh, yeah, we did the math and it turns out people, it’s like a sun cost fallacy or some, something like that. I don’t know. People turn in more books

when they feel like they’re not gonna get punished for it.

Raquel: Oh wow. That’s cool.

Eric Sandwich: [00:03:00] yeah. So I mean, what we do is we wind up charging you the full price of the book if it’s out for like a year or something. But, uh, if you just turn in the book again, you’re, you’re good to go. It’s funny the library has both, like a de facto and a dejure at de ure de, effect.

There is a, use value to libraries and a technical value to libraries, and they’re both, uh, incredibly valuable. On paper, we’re just sort of the information center. So, we have internet, we have computers, we have technologies, we have the information that, people can come in and need and use. And you might think, well, we’ve got the internet.

Why is it that we need that? And the quite honest answer is, anybody asks me that question, the honest answer is, You have the internet, you know how to use the internet, you know how to use computers. I’d say roughly half the given population doesn’t.

Raquel: Yeah.

Eric Sandwich: yeah. Most people are not as familiar or fluent with online or computer culture as you are.

So I’ve had someone come up to me and said, “well, I can just [00:04:00] download all the books that you can for… I just know how to do that. So why should I have the library?” And, uh, I mean, nevermind. No, you don’t, right? No, you can’t. I, I know for a fact that you can’t. There’s tons and tons and tons of, I don’t wanna get too far off topic, but all of the databases that you think you’re downloading the world’s knowledge from, were all compiled by Silicon Valley dorks.

And, they’re all tilted toward hard adventure, science fiction, and, engineering and technical schematics. You’re not going to have a whole lot of stuff unlike, I don’t know, cultural studies or, in depth historical stuff. You’re just not, because it’s all tilted toward one way because all this internet stuff isn’t an unbiased universe.

They’re all programmed by people, and a certain group of people. But that’s getting a little too off topic. The reality is, most people just aren’t familiar with even email or how to click. They’re not. The world isn’t online. And every time there’s a new technical development, it just leaves behind older people, younger people, like really younger [00:05:00] people who don’t have that, who don’t have like the support systems that you might. I say you in a general sense, not you, Raquel.

Yeah. And, uh, . And of course, I mean that old, that old stick and point, poor people, sorry. It’s not just about having enough money to own a computer or get on the internet. It’s about having computers your whole life and having computer access your whole life. And knowing the vocabulary and the rhetorical grammar of using computers.

I mean, there are people who come in and they can’t click, they can’t send an email, they can’t read. I believe you even had an episode on, uh, our inability to teach kids how to read pretty recently

Raquel: Yeah, yeah. Quite recently.

Eric Sandwich: So most people just can’t, like, they need a place to, in order to figure this stuff out. And that for that is the library.

But then there’s also, you know, that is on paper. So on paper that’s impressive enough. But in practice we’re, [00:06:00] most people don’t have, I mean, this is everybody. This is including all of you, tech savvy, young hip, millennials with a disposable income, right? You do not have a place to go other than the park that isn’t your home or isn’t, a place where you have to spend money.

There is no third place for you. In the win in the summertime, there’s the park and people, they’re already trying to defund those. But then in the wintertime, it’s really just us. And you know, a lot of people said, well, that’s not really in the mission statement of libraries, right? To just pick up all the slack of all of the cut public services.

But, uh, I mean, what can we do, right? A mission statement, schmission statement. We are here to serve the public. And if you need a place to just hang out and exist, without spending cash, we’re here for you. And then as a result, we have programs, all sorts of different community programs that ideally would be picked up by a fully funded community center or you know, whatever.

But it’s us.

Raquel: The library is the one place you can hang out for hours without having to buy [00:07:00] something or without being inundated with advertisements either.

Eric Sandwich: Yeah. It’s, uh,

Raquel: Every space it’s either you have to buy something or someone is at least trying to sell you something.

Eric Sandwich: And the way that this is disturbing for a lot of people is very funny because we get some people who maybe don’t come into the library that often. They’ll come up to me and they’ll say, “oh my God, do you know there’s, there’s like a homeless guy back there.” And they go, yeah, they’re people

Raquel: Yeah,

it’s warm. It’s December. He wants to not die of hypothermia

Eric Sandwich: we have a big sign that says we are a heating center because it’s us that can be the heating centers. And that’s it. The idea that you are allowed to exist without having all this stuff. I mean, it’s controversial here, even here in New York City, right? Because, our glorious mayor recently said that if you have like obvious, uh, mental illness symptoms and you’re just sort of outside and not in your home, we are involuntarily locking you up.

It’s a horrible stuff. So, [00:08:00] and the latest war on the homeless, but the, the war on the homeless is just another step of, like, every aspect of our lives needs to be commercialized. It needs to be bought and sold to. It needs to be advertised to. And the libraries are one of the few places where that’s just, you just have a break from that.

Raquel: Yeah.

Eric Sandwich: Yeah, it’s good stuff.

Raquel: I, I mean, it, it’s a break from that and it’s also a, a home for education classes. It’s also, I, I know my local libraries do a thing where they help low income people file their taxes every year.

Eric Sandwich: We do that, we do, job, prepping and, uh, resume help. We’ll do any program under the sun. Obviously we do the story times for the little kids. And then we do, crafting programs and things that, ideally people could just get together and do by themselves without having to again, like monetize it or buy something expensive.

We’ll just provide it for you. Cuz we want people coming in and we want, the community to come in. They’ve tasked me to set up YA programs. Cuz there’s a crucial point in, you know,[00:09:00] parents will bring their kids in and then at a certain point the kids get, to a certain age where they have a little more independence and they usually drop off going to the library or reading.

So, you know, I try to set up programs that, lures them back into the library. And I try to, usually I try to meet them where they’re at. But you know, I’ve got an anime club. I come in and I play, the PG 13 animes and I screen them first because I mean, yeah. Yeah. We’re, uh, you know, what if you, I mean the nerdy kids gotta have a place to go and it’s great.

It’s great having, cuz

Raquel: You’re getting them to leave their parents’ basements for an hour or two. That’s, that is a fucking public service right there.

Eric Sandwich: Absolutely and it teaches, I mean it teaches ’em a lot of stuff. It teaches ’em sociability. You get to see, I mean, I’ve seen people go like, “oh my God, I have friends , I am talking to another human being.” I think, uh, at my anime club, a couple met each other at one point and uh, when they

Raquel: Oh,

Eric Sandwich: they started dating.

Yeah, they were the

Raquel: oh my God, that’s so cute.

Eric Sandwich: I know they started wearing these little like, please don’t judge me. I bought a bunch of like cheap cat ears. And I said, here you can have some cat ears.[00:10:00]

Raquel: Yes.

Eric Sandwich: So, you know, I said, here we have some Pocky, and also these teens, by the way, they try to get one over on you a lot because they keep saying like, “Hey, can we watch this, this, like next month can we watch this show?”

And I’m like, sure, let me screen it first and I’ll watch it. And it’s like, you know, Boku No Upskirt. And I’m like, no, we’re not. Nope. So I nope can’t, I’ll get in trouble for that one.

Raquel: Yeah. No kidding.

Eric Sandwich: yeah, it’s, I, I mean there is an argument to be made, like why is it that, here in our western culture, we accept a lot of violence on the screen for kids and not a lot of sexuality.

And that’s an argument for someone who isn’t, isn’t beholden to the public. I’ll let the philosophers debate that for me, it’s what will the parents yell at me about?

Raquel: Yeah. What will get us sued? What will get unfavorable media coverage for our library. You know

Eric Sandwich: Yeah, exactly. What’s going to get into trouble. But then the other things, it’s like just meeting the teens where they’re at. So at one point we had this group of, these group of high school kids, and they [00:11:00] were playing this very loud game of Dungeons and Dragons on one of our tables. And other patrons were complaining about it.

And some library staff members were like, we gotta kick ’em out. We don’t like to do it, but they’re making too much noise. I said, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Bring them into our, pick them up. You know, there’s a, there’s a Patrick Meme, right? Pick it up, put it here. You pick ’em up, you put ’em in our meeting room.

Now it’s a statistic. Now it’s something, now it’s a teen program,

Raquel: Yeah.

Now you’ve had got a tabletop R P G club or something.

Eric Sandwich: club. And that went very well for a while. And then the most tragic thing in the world happened. They grew up, uh,

Raquel: No.

Eric Sandwich: It happens. Yeah. Then they went off to college and, uh, now I’ve gotta restart the– I’ve gotta find some other, uh, nerds to come in

Raquel: Yeah,

Eric Sandwich: and play our game.

Raquel: Yeah. You gotta leave a trail of Doritos going to the library.

Eric Sandwich: trail of Mountain Dew. No, I mean, and it’s like, you know, you might think that these are, yeah, these are nerdy tasks, but these are things that the kids are doing. You meet the kids where they’re at, what they’re [00:12:00] already doing.

Raquel: Oh yeah.

Eric Sandwich: to find a space for them.

Raquel: Oh, of course. And I mean, if they’re, if they’re there, like, Hey, you’ve got shelves of fantasy literature. Hey kids, maybe you could read one of these books.

Eric Sandwich: and then you sort of guide them in through. You, you tempt them with the YA fiction. And then when they’re ready, I don’t wanna force ’em already, but when they’re ready, we, you say, if you like that, maybe try this thing that’s a little more, a little more heavy, you know, a little more…

I don’t wanna say literary, but um, I

Raquel: I know what you

Eric Sandwich: I’m talking Yeah. You know what I mean?

Raquel: Yeah. You can be a snob here. It’s okay.

Eric Sandwich: Oh, okay. Great. Woo.

Raquel: Yeah. And I mean, otherwise, where are these kids gonna go? Maybe they could hang out in a friend’s house, but I mean, going to someone’s house, if after you just met them, might be a little anxiety inducing. Otherwise it’d be like, okay, go to a cafe. But then, then you’re taking up a table in a cafe for hours and hours and the employees are like, “fucking move.”

Eric Sandwich: yeah.

Raquel: “Buy something or get out. Come on.”

Eric Sandwich: and a lot of these kids, they don’t have– maybe their home life isn’t that great. Maybe they need [00:13:00] a third place where they can be away from their weird family.

Raquel: Maybe we should define the phrase third place. You’ve used it a couple of times.

Eric Sandwich: well, like a,

Raquel: do you know the name of the sociologist who came up with it? Because I do not.

Eric Sandwich: I do not either. I should probably know that

Raquel: But the Third Place, it’s a place you go that’s not home or work.

Eric Sandwich: Yep.

Raquel: the very, very sort of simple, basic idea. But in contemporary American society, we have very few Third Places.

So an example of a Third Place might be like your local pub where you go and just, you just hang out. It’s not like a Starbucks where you get your latte and you leave. Or maybe you just get your latte at the drive-through. You just hang out there for hours and you’re a regular there and you , meet people and you kind of interact with people who aren’t exactly like you too.

You get to know your neighbors a little bit. You maybe make friendships with people who you wouldn’t normally work with or live with, people who are on sort of different socioeconomic ladders through [00:14:00] society. And third places are really, really valuable and wonderful, and there’s not a lot of ’em anymore.

Eric Sandwich: It seems like a miracle, but it’s also incredibly basic. And all cultures have it except for ours because every second of our lives has to be, every part of our lives has to be monetized, individualized, and atomized. And it’s down to the architecture itself. I mean, the idea that you live in a town with a street and you go on the street and say hi to your neighbor, that’s not, that’s not a thing anymore, you know, maybe in the big cities.

But, that even then, it’s rare, right? But no, it’s like you drive to the place and then you drive to the, a place where you shop and then get out of there if you’re not spending, and then you drive home and whatever you do, do not talk to your neighbor. No. If I wanted to put on my little tinfoil hat, I’d say they did it on purpose, because if you talk to your neighbor, you might organize with your neighbor.

And if you organize with your neighbor, you’re gonna get some funny ideas about how much you’re getting paid at your work. But nah, I’m sure that’s not,

Raquel: no.

Eric Sandwich: No, no. I’m sure that’s

Raquel: No.

Eric Sandwich: Yeah. [00:15:00] Uh,

Raquel: Oh, and that is my phone that I forgot to put on mute. I’m so sorry.

Eric Sandwich: that’s quite all right.

Raquel: professionalism.

Eric Sandwich: No, I thought it might be your cat.

Raquel: no . My cat’s sending me a text that says like, bitch, it’s treat time. Come on.

Eric Sandwich: my treats? Little frowny face.

Raquel: treats? Just a picture of the empty bowl.

Eric Sandwich: Yeah. Oh, no.

Raquel: So the library is one such Third Place for a lot of communities.

Eric Sandwich: That and the park, right? Uh, well, you’re starting to, I guess some people really wanna enclose on the parks, right?

Raquel: Fuck sake.

Eric Sandwich: Like a literal enclosure like they did back in the English farming days or whatever. Uh, what, what was that thing they had were doing in Puerto Rico where like the

Raquel: Yeah. Privatizing beaches, or at least trying. And, and local people because, because of course the government sucks. Local people ended up tearing the construction sites down with their bare hands

Eric Sandwich: right. Good.

Raquel: because the cops weren’t doing their job.

Eric Sandwich: Based[00:16:00]

Raquel: Yeah. Extremely fucking cool.

Eric Sandwich: Because people know what they want. They do. They people are okay when it comes down to it. We’re just set against each other by society and hopefully with more public spaces, that we’re not hassled. Your inner, your inner okayness comes out, you know, and I see that at the library people, the co the patrons who come in, they’re like, a lot of ’em are horrible, right?

A lot of ’em are rude. I mean, a lot of ’em are rude and a lot of them have like a bad day, and a lot of ’em treat each other very poorly. But when it comes down to it, when you kind of, I don’t know, give them the basic service they want, and they’re like, oh,” well what, how much money? Or like, what kind of form do I need to fill out?

Or how many, red tape or hurdles do I need to go through?” Or like, ” how much do I need to put on my credit card?” You’re like, no, you get this for free. And then they’re, they’re, you see just the stress melt away because “oh, this is something that I can just have and not feel bad about finally.”

Raquel: Yeah,

Eric Sandwich: And what if, you know, what if society was a little more like that? That’d be nice.

Raquel: So in addition to being a Third Place and a free Third [00:17:00] Place, libraries also often act as a defender of intellectual freedom and freedom of information and privacy. In the early two thousands, after 9 11 librarians spent a long time really fighting tooth and nail against a section in the Patriot Act that required librarians to hand over patron reading habits to the police.

And this section also hit librarians with a gag order so that they were forbidden from warning anyone if the authorities made them hand over that information. So you would be forbidden from telling one of your patrons, “hey, the FBI asked us what you were reading.” So how and why did librarians get that hardcore

Eric Sandwich: Oh, we’ve always been hardcore. Uh, thank you though. No, it’s great. At our system. Uh, in fact, the last two systems I worked at, when you checked in a book, there’s just no record. Like, people will say, “well, can you pull up a record of books I’ve checked out?” And I say, “no, cuz they automatically disappear [00:18:00] when you’ve checked ’em back in.” So you can’t, like, there is no record to pull up in the first place. So even if the cops wanted to, we, you know, who’s been checking out all the Antifa books or whatever, we couldn’t

Raquel: Hell yeah.

Eric Sandwich: we could, we could say that. “I don’t know.” We’ve got what books you’ve put on hold. We’ve got a record of what books we’ve canceled, but, like the holds that you’ve canceled, and that way, that’s just a practicality thing, pulling up, like in case you want to re put that one on hold.

But yeah, it’s, it’s great. No, we, we take our mission incredibly seriously. Why we do it? Because it’s good, it’s the right thing to do. I will say that there is– again, I’m, gonna go back into the private public thing all over again, but because we’re a public service and because we’re a public service, that takes our role very seriously, we do that.

But, the E libraries, I have noticed this– are, uh, are you, or I guess the listeners familiar with E-Library?

Raquel: I mean somewhat. Yeah.

Eric Sandwich: So, most branches will… They’re good. Let me foreground this by saying [00:19:00] E libraries and digital audiobooks and downloading your digital books and downloading digital audiobooks are very good and I am for it. And eBooks are great and audio books are great. And if you read those and listen to those, they’re good.

And you should borrow them and do them, all of that. So what it is, is most library systems are getting into the ebook game or the audiobook game by subscribing to– there’s a private company, there’s either Overdrive or, like Libby is another one. Or there’s just any number of private e-libraries.

And the idea is we have a budget and we give them some money, and then we have access to their e-library. And from there you can download a file onto your device, your laptop or your iPhone or whatever. And that is an audiobook or an e-book that you have three weeks and then it deletes automatically.

And, uh, that way you can do, and I’m, I’m pro it generally I’m pro an e-library. I’m not a, I’m not a luddite. I, I don’t disbelieve in technology. I’m also just realistic about technology. Like what way this will disenfranchise some people. In what way? It won’t. But in general, like you can [00:20:00] bring out

eBooks and audiobooks to like a great, a very large number of people. In fact, they’re very crucial for this Books Unbanned project. I think the two of us are gonna get into that a little bit later. But, um, I will say one bad thing about, one thing that I think is a very, uh, little not as good about, uh, many e-library systems is that because they’re a third party, because they’re like a contractor and a third party, like a private contractor, that, they are not as bound to ALA regulations or, the librarian’s code as it were, as we are.

So a lot of them do track what you read and like, the statistics of what you read. I’m not casting aspersions on Libby and Overdrive. I’m just saying hypothetically they could do this because they are not bound by the same, I mean, they’re private companies, so they’re bound by making profits for their shareholders and not bound by the ALA code of conduct.

They hypothetically could give away your information or they could, sell marketing or, marketing statistics and so forth.[00:21:00] And I bring that up just as a general caution against any, any, any, if you ever, anytime you hear some politicians say like, “well, we’re gonna, put this service out to a third party contractor because it’s actually more efficient to, uh, do it like this.”

Make sure your eyebrow is raised considerably because it’s just not true.

Raquel: Yeah. They’re, they’re iffy

Eric Sandwich: they’re iffy and it’s usually, uh, and again, I’m not specifically referring to Overdrive or Libby, which as far as last I checked, is perfectly fine and lovely. I’m just saying in general, it’s a concern that I personally have.

Raquel: Right, right.

Eric Sandwich: As a privacy paranoid person,

Raquel: oh yeah. Of course. Understandably. I mean, that’s, that’s the other side of libraries are one place where you can get information where you’re not being spied on all the time, which is pretty cool.

Eric Sandwich: constantly tracked and monitored. I was just at a grocery store and there were like cameras everywhere and that, Ugh. Anyway.

Raquel: Yeah. Or the uncomfortable thing where you have a conversation and suddenly you [00:22:00] start seeing ads for the thing you were talking about, and it’s like, oh, I didn’t even Google

Eric Sandwich: Yeah. Well, let’s see if it works on our computers right now. Over, uh, Zencaster. Wait a minute. Uh, Frangelico.

Raquel: Yeah.

Eric Sandwich: Okay. I’m gonna see where the ads happen and I,

Raquel: We’ll see if we get any Frangelico ads

Eric Sandwich: I dunno why I thought of that, of all things, but

Raquel: It’s a specific thing, I guess. Okay. So let’s talk a little bit about this war on libraries. Maybe I’m being a little exaggerated, but it looks like there’s this increasing pressure or increasing attacks on libraries, on librarians.

From the far right, from, well, mostly from the far right, but also maybe a little bit from corporations too. There’s been an increased demand for censorship and trying to ban books from libraries. I looked up the American Library Association’s report on the state of America’s libraries for 2022.

And here’s a quote, “ALA’s, office for intellectual freedom tracked 729 [00:23:00] challenges to library, school and university materials and services in 2021, resulting in more than 1,597 individual book challenges or removals. Most targeted books were by or about black or L G B T Q I A plus persons.” And that’s an increase. That’s more than usual according to an NPR report.

That means 2022 is on track to see the highest number of book challenges in decades.

Eric Sandwich: it’s, uh, it’s not great

Raquel: Have you experienced this at your library? Can you talk about it a little bit?

Eric Sandwich: So thankfully here in New York, I, it’s a little bit rarer. I think that a, my personal pet theory is that a city dwelling environment is, uh, you’re less inclined to, have that kind of thing than maybe a suburban environment. Cuz in a city dwelling environment, you’re surrounded by thousands of people and you’re just gonna see stuff that you personally find very weird and you gain a very high tolerance for that.


Raquel: Yeah.

Eric Sandwich: You know? Yeah. But, uh, in a suburban environment, you are [00:24:00] very deliberately sort of sequestered away into little boxes. And, that makes you, anytime there’s something that seems the slightest bit, threatening to your preconceived notions of the world, that’s a personal attack on you, and it must be defeated at all costs.

So that’s sort of my pet theory. That being said, I have had, I had one experience where somebody saw that there were, L G T Q books in the teen display, and they said, well, you’re pushing an agenda on my kid. And I said, have a nice day,

Raquel: Yeah,

Eric Sandwich: because what can you say to that? My agenda is to teach your kid that, that tolerance is good and that, other people exist in their…

people who may seem a little strange to you exist. It’s a pretty sinister agenda, I’m not gonna lie.

Raquel: Where is this coming from?

Eric Sandwich: Hmm, there are two things I want to talk about. The first is there is just a general, sub current of like, if it’s weird or different. Incidentally I did want to bring up, this is a little off topic, I apologize, but, uh,

you had mentioned, yeah, [00:25:00] tangents is wonderful.

This is like a discursive novel right now. It’s, we’re like, Tristan Shandy here and we’re flying off into a different direction. You had mentioned, oh, most of the books that are challenged had LGBTQ plus or, BLM or even just sort of, content in it, right? Racial, explicitly racial content in it.

And, my, a frustration that I often have is with sort of the lingo or the imagery behind a lot of, like a lot of banned books week or a lot of fighting banned books stuff tend to show, they tend to say like, well, band books are bad. We wanna celebrate banned books. And then the band books that they always present up are like 1984 or, some, usually it’s Mein Kampf because people ban Mein Kampf where even the, even the books we don’t like, like Mein Kampf will, those books need to be celebrated or, Huck Finn because it’s got the N word in it it and rarely do they show…

usually it’s one of these like, oh, well the dang oversensitive libs are censoring our books. That’s kind of what the implication behind it is. Not [00:26:00] a handful of years ago, right? Not like a year ago. The big thing was the libs were, are all trying to censor us. It’s we hard right wingers who are being the champions of truth and freedom.

Well, that went down the damn toilet real quickly, didn’t it? Because over and over and over and over again, the overwhelming majority of books that are censored, banned, challenged are, you know, explicitly queer affirming or explicitly racial books. Uh, and it, that’s just, that’s been the way it was for decades.

And these like, oh, the banned books week, banned books month. I feel like they could do more to say like– I mean, they’re doing it to depoliticize it, right? They’re, they’re putting like, oh, well, for every, Heather has two daddies that’s banned, or two mommies. I wonder if that was what it is.

Raquel: I think it’s two mommies.

Eric Sandwich: For every one of those that are banned, there’s also a, Huckleberry Finn that’s banned. And they’re doing that to depoliticize it so they can say, well, this is just a general, general fight against band banning books and of all, of all strips of freedom, of speech, of all stripes. But I, I mean, the push to ban the [00:27:00] books is a political one.

And I, you know, I do think that the response should be political. Like, no, this is explicitly coming from an anti queer and anti, maybe it’s reductive to say anti-black, but whatever. I’ll just say it.

Raquel: I think it’s perfectly fair to say anti-black

Eric Sandwich: uh,

Raquel: if someone’s deeply offended that there’s like a book about black characters in the library,

Eric Sandwich: a book that mentions that there is,

Raquel: because come the fuck on. Grow

Eric Sandwich: structural racism in society. Like if you even mentioned that, then that’s pushing some kind of ideology and you’re really mad at that. But I’m sorry, like what do you want? It’s the truth. So,

Raquel: Yeah.

Eric Sandwich: This is where the push is coming from. And I, I would prefer more of an explicit, like, no, I don’t know.

Maybe it makes it more palatable in, in conservative environments to depoliticize it, but, what do I know? I’m just a librarian. Uh,

Raquel: Yeah. And I’m guessing, I mean, a as annoying as censorious liberals can be, and I, I complain about censorious liberals over and over again, nothing’s gonna happen to Huckleberry Finn. Nothing’s gonna [00:28:00] happen to 1984. Those aren’t gonna get taken out.

Eric Sandwich: The teenager with the picrew avatar on Twitter, who got mad at you because, you mentioned Frida Kahlo and she thinks that Frida Kahlo, uh, appropriated

her own.

Raquel: ancestry or

Eric Sandwich: Yeah. Right. That person is like, the worst thing about that person is that they’re annoying.

They’re just kind of annoying. They’re completely powerless against you. And in fact, part of the reason why they’re so outspoken on social media is because they’re completely powerless and that there’s no other way to affect change other than to be, complaining on social media. Whereas the very well organized people who want to, kill teachers and ban everything that, uh, so much as mentioned anything out of biblically sanctioned sex, those guys are very well connected and very powerful.

But you had mentioned, so where is this coming from? There is an undercurrent, like if you do not live– in a [00:29:00] society, if you live in a society, I’m sorry. If, if you live in a culture, right? If your town or your locality or the people that you’re around are exactly like yourself, then you get threatened by things that seem a little bit different.

And a lot of it is, we have these very isolated atomized suburban environments where you can only exist in a little bubble. Cuz we don’t have those common places and we don’t have exposure to differences in, uh, different ways of being in different ways of acting or the ways in which society maybe fails a lot of people.

The very existence of mentioning that is threatening, but that’s not enough. I don’t think that that’s, like, that basic sort of bottom, like under the surface level of unease isn’t really enough to organize a bunch of people around this. And I’m going to put on my little tinfoil hat for a second if I can.

I think that some money, there is some not so hot money, some bad money, evil money is, astroturfing. [00:30:00] All of this. They’re putting in tons and tons of cash in order to well connect, connect, connect and well funded, organize, uh, cranks. , they’re gonna find cranks and give them a ton of cash to talk to each other and sic them on local school boards.

And I think that there is a very… what I do know is that there are like, what, maybe not a whole lot of like the, the organizations that are, hold on. I had an article and I pinned it up here. I can find it. You know what, I, I lost the article. A fast growing network of conservative groups is fueling a surge in book bans.

This was a New York Times article. I apologize, I know New York Times has its problems. But, uh, , that being said, uh, they do, uh, some good research and, they were able to sort of look down the different, suspiciously, well funded groups that are financing and organizing these, book bans, these book challenges and these protests that are sort of popping up.

And I suspect, so I, I wanna ask you something. If you took the idea of a library right? Like a free place where you get to [00:31:00] check out books and then return them. And they didn’t exist already. And you were to say, “we should have this.” And you were to bring it up to like a politician or a group of your neighbors.

Like the libraries don’t exist, but you’re trying to pitch the idea of the library to them. How do you think today, today people would react?

Raquel: they would call you a crazy person.

Eric Sandwich: Yeah. They would say, this is insane.

Raquel: Yeah, people would flip their shit.

Eric Sandwich: people have been trying to privatize the, the dang library for decades, decades, and decades and decades. Someone will pop up and say, we need to privatize these libraries. We need to not have public libraries. This can be done by a Barnes and Noble, or by Amazon or a venture tech thing like Bookly or something.

So much better. And they’re shouted down because libraries have become an institution. So what can, if this is a commons that hasn’t been enclosed on, and you stand to make a huge amount of money, and you can’t, voluntarily get a community to get rid of their library, uh, what can you do?

Well, you can gin up a bunch of fake news about libraries being,[00:32:00] centers of where they’re gonna harm your kids. You can do that pretty easy. You can start up a, a, a nasty moral panic. That’s a pretty easy way to get a town or locality to defund their library.

Raquel: Yeah. Yeah. There was a town, a small town in Michigan that voted to defund their only library because they had L G B T Q books and refused to take them away.

Eric Sandwich: Yeah. And, uh, by the way, the librarians, they’re are heroes and they stood up for their values

Raquel: Yeah. Good for them.

Eric Sandwich: and good for them. Where I am putting on my tinfoil hat is they’re getting funded by people who want to privatize the library, but I don’t get hard proof. I’m just, this is by the way, not, this is the kind of speculation that me as a human being is making, and me as a librarian is saying we, you know,

Raquel: because I don’t know, I don’t know if it’s coming from people who are just sincere cranks because, hey, a lot of rich people are sincerely fucking ridiculous cranks and hateful people and, and just hate queer people. But I, I, I have kind of wondered like, is this, is there an [00:33:00] ulterior motive? Are these people just useful idiots to something that’s got a, a moneyed interest

Eric Sandwich: There’s useful cranks about lots and lots and lots of topics. What makes or breaks any kind of given cause is organization. Like all the time it’s organize organize, organize. Can you coordinate with each other? Can you put pressure on a specific group or a specific, uh, politician or ordinance or can you not? Can you get people out in the first place?

I always use abortion rights as an example. Most of the country is like just for abortion rights. They do not want a blanket ban on abortion the way that the hard right does. And yet, abortion opponents keep getting victory after victory. They keep scoring W after W.

And why is that? And that is, there’s just. They’re just tightly, tightly organized. They are lockstep, organized, and it’s cuz there’s a lot of money there. Money equals you can do, you can do amazing things with cash. If you have the cash to get people, you can get people, lockstep and organized with that.

So anytime there is [00:34:00] a, anytime that there is a concerted effort to push for a certain cause, there’s usually some kind of money behind it. And I, this isn’t any different.

Raquel: and you can whip up, you can always find a handful of dangerous cranks who can be whipped up into committing some act of violence too, to help you to sort of do your dirty work for you.

Eric Sandwich: Right. And if you ask any one

Raquel: walk away with clean hands. Like, “well, I didn’t directly tell him to do that.

I, I didn’t pay him to do it. He just did the inevitable thing that a person would do if they sincerely believed that the library was going to rape their kids.”

Eric Sandwich: The most tragic part of it is a lot of these, I’m sorry, but delusional protestors is, they genuinely believe this. I mean, I forget who, I forget what article it was. It was about, I think, uh, oh gosh, I gonna have to find it and gonna have to link it, but, um, if I can’t, I’m sorry.

But, it was, uh, interviewing somebody who had written a, like a L G B T Q inclusive teen [00:35:00] book, and then got into the ire of the conservative press and someone called them up and was next to tears and was saying, “where is my son? You have my son. Where is he?”

Raquel: Whoa.

Eric Sandwich: Yeah, and it’s like, “I don’t know, how would I know this,” but like this person

Raquel: Holy shit.

Eric Sandwich: got into their heads that– and it’s not, it’s not rational.

It’s like some people are genuinely like struggling with, either their own problems or maybe their, maybe their kids are L G B T or trans or something and have chosen not to be around their horrible conservative parents and maybe their horrible conservative parents are genuinely upset about that and need a scapegoat.

I’m not saying that the individual anti gay, anti-black, book censors are, it’s not that they don’t believe what they say. It’s just the, there is money to be made in privatizing the library and at least one community completely disbanded theirs.

Raquel: There’s been a ton of controversies over drag queen story hours, drag [00:36:00] queen story hours. My question is, why are libraries holding a drag queen story hour? Like, I’m not, I’m, I’m obviously not gonna promote the stupid lie that it’s like, “oh, it’s corrupting them.” I mean, a drag queen performance, it’s basically a clown show.

It’s like a gender clown. It’s not any more harmful than like a clown doing a puppet show to me.

Eric Sandwich: that’s legit. A gender clown.

Raquel: question is, yeah, it’s just, it’s just a gender clown doing a silly performance. It’s totally fine. No one gives a shit. No, no one who’s actually seen them would be scared of them. Although perhaps, I mean, drag queens can say some really mean witty insults, so that, that is the one thing to be scared of.

If they’ll like drag your outfit or something, that’s pretty devastating. But

Eric Sandwich: I don’t think they’re gonna burn a child,

Raquel: no, they’re not gonna like sell a child into slavery or steal their adrenochrome or

Eric Sandwich: or even like,

sassily. drag their,

Raquel: “nice shoes, Billy.”

Eric Sandwich: ” Little Keisha here looks like an idiot. Who dressed you? Your mom?” Yeah. Oh right.

Raquel: Yeah.

Eric Sandwich: Your mom did [00:37:00] dress

Raquel: Drag queen. Just totally insulting some five year old for combining primary colors in the same outfit.

Eric Sandwich: “I look like a fire engine.” “Yeah. You sure do.” Oh right. Well, okay,

Raquel: Why did this whole thing of drag queen story hours start in first place?

Eric Sandwich: God. So, uh, if you Google why drag queen story hours, by the way, the first two links you’re gonna get are, this is, this was so depressing. Cuz I was just curious what would show up. But if you Google it, the first two things that show up are, first there was like a website called like, Feminists R Us, like Feminists current, I forget what it’s called.

And I was like, oh, cool. This is probably a progressive website and it’s the most TERF, like vitriol

Raquel: god damn.

Eric Sandwich: seen in my entire life. They were all

Raquel: Yeah, because quote unquote feminist TERF sites are– it has been widely demonstrated that they get a ton of funding from far right anti-feminist extremist causes. And, and somehow they don’t think like, “oh yeah, maybe I shouldn’t take money from these people. Maybe, maybe if these people are trying to get me to say this, then maybe this is the [00:38:00] bad guy.”

No. Nope.

Eric Sandwich: “Am I out of touch? No, it’s the trans people who are wrong.”

Raquel: I think it’s the Women’s Liberation Front, uh, WoLF for short. It has been widely proven that they get shitloads of money from far right. Like CHUD

religious maniac conservatives, and they’re still going. I, I, I don’t know. I, I truly don’t know whether they’re just grifters or whether they’re really fucking stupid.

I don’t know.

Eric Sandwich: Well, no, they’re hateful. Hate likes hate. And when you see someone else as hateful as you are, you, you cluster to them, even if it’s ostensibly against your, fig leaf of a belief. Oh. And then the second thing was some article about, for, by, uh, by I, I think Christopher Ruffo or one of these, well, I can’t keep these, I can’t keep these people in in place.

Raquel: Yeah.

Eric Sandwich: know that he’s some kind of Jordan Peterson guy or whatever. Was he the guy who started crying? Or the guy who can’t pleasure his wife? I, I, I forget who

Raquel: Uh, Ben [00:39:00] Shapiro is the one whose wife has a very dry vagina, and Jordan Peterson is the one who keeps crying.

Eric Sandwich: I can’t keep these idiots in line. The point is, there’s no set answer for why this. And to be honest, the, the close answer is it’s fun. It’s, it’s, it’s just a fun thing. It’s no different than a clown, but it’s like a gender clown. It really isn’t. It’s not a sex thing.

And it’s weird that you think it is. England has pantomime shows where this happens constantly and nobody

bats an eyelash at it.

Raquel: Yeah. Drag is this really traditional comedy staple, especially in English culture. I mean, Monty Python,

Eric Sandwich: And a lot of

cultures, come to think of it.

Raquel: Yeah. It’s just kind of normal. It, the Kids in the Hall, a lot of Saturday Night Live sketches are, are drag. It’s just a comedy staple throughout in tons of cultures, especially in English speaking cultures, especially in, in the UK it’s just normal.

So it’s super weird to see people freaking out about it when well, I, I remember kids telling Monty Python jokes when I was a kid. Nobody gave a shit. It wasn’t scary.

Eric Sandwich: What they’re [00:40:00] freaking out about is the idea that, it is equal to molesting the children to tell them, to tell them that gender fluidity can’t exist. People, I mean, by having a drag queen story hour. Yeah. I mean, a thing that it can do with a child is like, oh, people who look like this exist. Like, that’s just a thing.

People who kind of look and act a little bit different than you and me exist. It’s just like we were talking about when you live this very isolated atomized life and you don’t understand that sometimes there are, and that this is again, for a lack of a more delicate term, sometimes there are just weirdos.

Sometimes there are people who are just different than you, right? You know, when you live in a big city, you see, you see someone down the street and go, “you’re the weirdest guy I’ve ever seen in my entire life. What’s going on here?” And like you, so you just get inoculate, inoculated to that kind of thing.

Gender normativity is ingrained in us constantly. I love these right wingers who think that the dominant culture is now woke, is now L G B T Q friendly because a handful of companies put pink in their logo or whatever, right? Like [00:41:00] absolutely not.

The men are, men are doctors and have pants, and women are nurses and have skirts. That’s not just the 1950s thing, right? That we’ve now grown out of. It is ingrained in us in so many, so many, so many ways. There’s like a video that went viral of a guy at a gas station or a, I was about to say a bodega, but people outside of New York get really pissed off.

If I call them bodegas, they get very upset that we call our gas station something different here. So, they go, “you think you’re so special cuz you have a bodega?” And I say, no, I don’t. It’s just a, “you know, your bodega is just a gas station.” Yes, I know. I, I know. Thank you. Whatever. Anyway, he’s passing out after every purchase, he’s passing out a flower and all of the, the women start crying and saying, “thank you.

People don’t gimme flowers anymore. I’m a sixty year old lady and it makes me feel special that you gave me this flower.” And then it cuts to anytime a guy got the flower, he loses his shit and he start punching the glass partition and punching stuff going, “I ain’t your bitch. I ain’t your this. Like, don’t fucking give me this flower.

Don’t you dare.” [00:42:00] And it’s like, no, this is not a healthy gender dynamic. I’m sorry this is not healthy. Society has not gotten over its trickiness about this as much as you want to. And maybe it’ll help out if you can like see someone very conf. If you see a man very confidently wearing a dress, that’s probably a good thing that probably will turn you into an adult that isn’t going to lose their absolute shit if you randomly get a flower one day.

Raquel: Yeah.

Eric Sandwich: God forbid that that happens. But to these right wingers that, even approaching that is tantamount to harming the children. Their whole argument just falls like to the right wingers. I was just thinking about this the other day, to these well-funded mo movements, the, this very well-funded minority, the drag queens have to be harming the children because if they’re not, if they’re not harming the children, then our whole argument falls to pieces.

Raquel: right

Eric Sandwich: Yeah.

Raquel: then you sound like a complete baby.

Eric Sandwich: Then you sound

Raquel: Who’s freaking out over goddamn nothing.

Eric Sandwich: over, uh, ha getting handed a flower at a grocery store.

Raquel: [00:43:00] Yeah,

Eric Sandwich: I guess that’s why they turn to something as horrible, something as loathsome as child molestation, which is a horrible crime and a horrible problem because they, like, “what is the worst possible thing that I can think of?”

Well, they have

Raquel: It’s something like we, we are more forgiving and sympathetic of murderers even than of child molesters, cuz it’s just the grossest thing.

Eric Sandwich: And of course, keep in mind actual institutions that actually monitor and track and prevent abuse against minors. They’re getting inundated by all this fake calls and it’s getting, it’s hurting, it’s hurting their efforts to find real stuff. Because anytime you see, anytime a random Twitter account finds a man wearing two light a shade of purple and thinks it’s a little, you know, oh, it’s a little, it’s, you know, it’s a

Raquel: A kid might see that purple shirt,

Eric Sandwich: you know,

Raquel: my God.

Eric Sandwich: about it and then sics an online mob against some, some innocent guy wearing too light a shade of purple.

And then they get all these calls and then they have to sort sift out what is a weird [00:44:00] conservative cultural panic against an actual case of abuse. Nevermind that, these, very locked in these very isolated societies that don’t get taught sex ed and don’t get taught about these things.

That’s more, you’re more likely to be abused and groomed as it were in those societies

Raquel: right? I mean, right wing, conservative religious institutions are just rife with child abuse. Everybody knows about the child sex abuse scandal in the Catholic church, but evangelical churches are horrendous too. They’re, they’re really fucking bad.

Eric Sandwich: No. And any, any institution that, any way that you raise your child where you’re not completely frank about, you know, appropriate and scientific obviously, but Frank about sexuality is a goldmine, especially societies where it’s very, oh, sexuality has to be very, very secretive. Right. That’s, uh, if you’re a child abuser, that’s great for you, cuz

you can do your thing and no one is [00:45:00] going to go to an adult and say, “this horrible person did this.”

Raquel: It’s really ugly and it, and it’s depressing to see it because, I mean, the word grooming was a very useful word to survivors or victims, whichever you wanna call of, of sexual abuse. Cuz it was a very useful word for people who had been through that to use to explain the

manipulative psychological process that had been committed against them. And now the word is meaningless. You took this thing that was very useful to people who’d been truly harmed and truly abused and just fucking trashed it. Just out of spite, it’s incredibly shitty and callous.

Eric Sandwich: It’s disgusting. It’s completely disgusting. You know, it’s the same thing happened to woke. Woke was a useful term for a while, and now what does it mean? It means anything Ron DeSantis doesn’t like. Like they legit can’t define woke in the court. There’s some lawsuit and the court demanded, Florida attorneys to define what [00:46:00] woke is before you ban all woke materials.

And they, they, you know, they had a hard time with that.

Raquel: Yeah. No shit.

Eric Sandwich: Yeah. Cuz it’s just anything you don’t like. It’s, creepy and revolting. I mean, I know why politicians do it. It’s these like, people have been scapegoating for centuries, right. For millennia people have been scapegoating.

Right? This is an easy way you can not pay attention to how shitty a job I’m doing as your elected official. If I can say it’s all the, it’s all the queer’s fault. Right.

Raquel: Yeah,

Eric Sandwich: Well anyway, I’m get, I’m getting all riled up

Raquel: yeah,

Eric Sandwich: I’m getting all ticked off now.

Raquel: Now I have heard people say about book bannings, “oh, well, if they ban this book from the library, then more people will just buy copies of it. So it’s a net win for the author anyway.” What is your reaction to that?

Eric Sandwich: Well, not everyone can buy it. Not everyone has that kind of, uh, disposable income. The Streisand effect works on a handful of ca, like the Streisand effect refers to. I think that there was one point [00:47:00] where somebody criticized Barbara Streisand and she tried to have it banned, and then everybody knew about it and then bought the item or whatever.

I, I do, you know, the, what that’s all about or that

Raquel: Was it a South Park episode?

Eric Sandwich: maybe it was at South

Raquel: I feel like, because I know they made fun of her a lot and she got really mad. Or, or maybe it was just some website, but yeah. Barbara Streisand tried to have some, some kind of mean criticism of her removed, and as a result, the criticism or the parody, or the insult or joke or whatever it was just went wildly popular and it just got more exposure.

Eric Sandwich: I feel like this whole episode I’ve been talking about information clarity and information like accuracy, all that, and all the references I’m making are half remembered ephemera. Like what? Wasn’t there a…? I am being a real crummy librarian here. I’m sorry. Wasn’t there a guy who said a thing once about the…? I don’t know,

Raquel: Yeah.

Eric Sandwich: whatever.

It’s December, it’s, it’s dark all the time. I’m sleepy

Raquel: Yeah. No one’s thinking clearly right now. I’m not.

Eric Sandwich: So no, the, it only, this effect only works on the [00:48:00] top handful of cases, right? A lot of things that get quietly banned, fall under the radar. They just do. If you’re able to make a lot of noise about it, that’s great, and it’ll get you in an, and even if you do make a lot of noise, usually you’ll get the, in an initial rush of like profits or, uh, a rush. Cuz you know, attention equals money, right?

So you get an initial rush of attention, but then that ends, the next scandal happens, and you’re still stuck as part of the, uh, as a banned individual or a banned or somebody who’s, not getting the kind of residuals you deserve or not, or the information just isn’t getting out there.

So, I mean, it’ll only get you so far. Here at Brooklyn Library, we have hired a handful of librarians who got in trouble in their own home states because they shared, banned or, challenged materials, and they got in trouble and they got fired. And Brooklyn Library hired them.

Thank heavens. Those were situations where they could go to the, they could go online and say, Hey, look, my [00:49:00] community is censoring me. And they can get a little attention. Maybe they could start a GoFundMe. Maybe they can try to fight it a little bit. But most of the time, people’s attention will just wander away elsewhere.

And guess what? You’re still out of a job.

Raquel: Or you’re still getting threats from the crazy person who won’t let go

and thinks you’re gonna eat his baby or something.

Eric Sandwich: Guess what? The crazy person, crazy person is not gonna let go. The crazy person has a much longer memory. You still have people who are mad at Jane Fonda because she, I guess, I don’t know, said that Vietnamese people were humans or something. I don’t know what she did.

Raquel: Yeah.

Eric Sandwich: “Yeah. Maybe these Vietnamese people don’t deserve to be napalmed.”

“Ah, kill her!”

Raquel: Eh.

Eric Sandwich: Yeah. But, uh, what, it’s 40, 50 years later and you still have people pissed off about that because hate is lasting and hate is sticky. It’s hard. So that’s what I’d say is it’s not enough to just, ” oh, you have this counterbalance.” Like, I’m grateful that there is the initial rush of attention after something gets banned.

But, it’s not enough and it’s best that the banning doesn’t happen altogether.[00:50:00]

Raquel: Mm-hmm.

Eric Sandwich: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Raquel: Yeah. And I, I know slippery slope arguments aren’t great, but when it comes to, to banning something successfully that can set a precedent, like, okay, let’s ban something else.

Eric Sandwich: Yep. People are looking at, not nice entities are looking at what they did, what they’re doing, and what they were successfully doing, and they’re being hungry. They’re saying, what can we get away with now that this got away? Oh, this locality closed down their library. They kicked out all of their teachers.

They harassed these people to seclusion. What can we do on a statewide level? What can we do on a countrywide level?

Raquel: yeah, yeah. You gotta nip that shit in the

Eric Sandwich: bud

What can we export to other countries as a caveat to their getting any kind of American aid? Like this is the ways that, uh, the sick ideologies can spread themselves are really insidious,

Raquel: Yeah. Yeah. Alright. Yes, Harley. I’m sorry, I’m talking.

Eric Sandwich: Is Harley a clawin’ at you?

Raquel: now he, he’s been very [00:51:00] quiet this episode cuz he can’t find his ball right now. Maybe I tired him out cuz we played fetch for a couple hours today.

Eric Sandwich: Well, uh, tell Harley I said meow meow.

Raquel: yeah. Harley meow. Harley baby meow. Listeners are gonna be really disappointed that they haven’t heard my cat yelling through the entire episode.

We are going to get several subscribers dropping

Eric Sandwich: yep. Mm-hmm. , uh, the Rite gud, bingo or table is gonna be, incomplete.

Raquel: Yeah. We’re gonna lose a couple of Patreon subscribers this month because of, because of Harley’s quiet.

He’s, he’s giving me the silent treatment right now, cuz I didn’t find his ball before I started recording.

Eric Sandwich: Let’s see here. Harley meows. We complain about capitalism. Completely irrelevant tangent.


Raquel: So anyway, uh, why don’t we, we shift toward what [00:52:00] libraries are doing to fight this and, and what can any of us do? You mentioned you wanted to talk about Books Unbanned

Eric Sandwich: Yes. Let’s do that right away. So, uh, part of Brooklyn Public Library is they’ve set up an initiative called Books Unbanned. And, um, I have in the past bragged about, oh, I’m part of that committee. I’m not, I, I’m part of the glorified mailing list of that committee, but it still makes me feel very proud that, these, very cool people in Books Unbanned are even– I’m part of the same organization, Brooklyn Library, that is doing something like this.

So, what is Books Unbanned? In 2022, Brooklyn Public Library launched Books Unbanned to help teens combat an increasingly coordinated and political effort to ban books in school and public libraries across the nation. The American Library Association has reported a record number of challenges, targeting at least 1600 books, including classics like Toni Morrison’s Bluest Eye, which is a– Toni Morrison is perpetually challenged, for from

the many decades. Yeah. I was about to rhapsodize [00:53:00] about how great Toni Morrison is, but anyway,

Raquel: She’s great.

Eric Sandwich: about how her existence is a problem for these, these book banners. But, Books Unbanned opens BPLs entire electronic catalog. So I was referring to our, uh, e catalogue before, and I was expressing some tin foil hat esque concerns about third parties and privacy.

But, ignore all of that because the reality is, That’s just me being, uh, extrapolating me being a tinfoil hat guy. Whereas the reality is that, BPLs electronic catalog has about 500,000 items and we can lend them out to anyone in the United States ages 13 to 21. So the idea is they can send us an email… let’s see the email address send.

If you are between the ages of 13 to 21, even if your community is not banning your book, send an email to Books Unbanned. Let me find what it is to And, we will send you an application. You fill out that application and you get an e-card. And with your e-card, you can borrow any one of our [00:54:00] electronic books or audiobooks. And we have not banned any of ’em.

So you’re, you’re ready to go. You can download it

Raquel: that’s fucking cool.

Eric Sandwich: Yeah, it’s great. And it’s been, amazingly successful. I want to brag about some of our statistics. It’s been going off like hotcakes. The URLs generated. So we’ve sent out a, a little over, a little under 6,000, about 5,800, e-card application sent out.

And, uh, the completed ones is a little over 4,000, applications, uh, completed. So we’ve set, we’ve given out those, we’ve had about maybe 50 requests a week coming into our inbox. And our librarians responsible for that inbox have been tireless in sort of responding to those. This is really great. We get about, maybe, so far we’ve had about 51,000, maybe a little under 52,000 checkouts.

To, uh, 2,500 active Books Unbanned patrons. We’ve been trending at about 8,900 checkouts a month, which is pretty good. And the top five, so the different states that we’re getting these [00:55:00] out of are pretty interesting. There’s two different statistics I wanna share. The first is just the top states that, where we’re getting these applications completed.

It’s Texas, Florida, California, Pennsylvania, North Carolina. And you might see a lot of stuff there, like, oh, Texas and Florida. That’s had a lot of, uh, censorial stuff going on there. But I do wanna say that that’s a little tilted because those are also the most popular states,

Raquel: Yeah.

Eric Sandwich: Like saying, oh, California has the most amount of, I don’t know, shoplifters.

Well, California also has most amount of people, so it’s, it’s kind of not

as accurate as it could be. What’s interesting are the top five states per capita, uh, it’s at a rate at a per capita rate per 100,000 people. We have Idaho, Vermont, Utah, Oklahoma, and Nevada. Vermont’s a little bit of an outlier.

I’m gonna say it’s just because there are so few people in Vermont that

Raquel: Yeah.

Eric Sandwich: there’s genuinely so few people in Vermont that any amount of activity there is a lot. But Idaho and Utah and Oklahoma, I mean, yeah. There are [00:56:00] states that these smaller states that, Utah has a strong religious, trend toward there Idaho and Oklahoma.

I mean, a lot of these states have kind of go under the radar while Texas and Florida, cuz they have large populations in a lot of money. They kind of get the big news. But most of these, most of the more strident censors stuff goes under the radar, comes from places that aren’t necessarily, hip or cool to talk about.

Don’t get a lot of noise about that. Books Unbanned though. I’m really proud that that happened. And it’s, there was news. So in Norman, Oklahoma, an English teacher quit after the first day of school because she came under fire by sharing the Books Unbanned, u r l. And she got, uh, she shared it with her 10th grade students and got… she was a target of vicious right wing attacks.

She was dubbed a pedophile. The good news is, is that, the Brooklyn Public Library has offered her a position there, as part of the library’s teen Intellectual Freedom Council. I’m very pleased that that is true. And, you know, you just, you fight wherever you can, right?

Yeah. And this is a good way, [00:57:00] I’m very proud of that. This happened. I recall, this is just a funny little anecdote. But it was about a year ago, a little bit before Books Unbanned, it got launched. And, I had sent out an article about, you know, sent, uh, book banning to, other YA librarians, saying like, “Hey, we should do something about this.”

And they’re like, “yeah, Eric, what’s your plan? What do you wanna do?” And I said, “oh, no, I have to think of something to do.” So I said, “well, what we should do is we should, make a list of the all the books that are being challenged and then posted somewhere and then have a big display and do statistics and analytics.”

And all of the cool people who are working on Books Unbanned already kind of responded to me and were like, “thank you for that idea.” And no, in in very nice terms, they indicated that that was a kind of a lame idea. And don’t worry, we’ve got something much cooler, in the works than, uh, just making a dinky list or like, and doing that.

This is really, really cool. And I, I’m, I’m happy to, uh, help out and support any way I can.

Raquel: Yeah. Yeah. That’s really cool. Is there anything else people can do? [00:58:00] Is there something like, say you’re, you’re living in a small town and the crazy hate mob decides to target your local libraries for some really stupid reason. What could this hypothetical person do?

Eric Sandwich: So, uh, on a, so I have a general answer and a specific answer. The general answer is, uh, before I had mentioned this, but organization beats everything and organization needs to be countered by organization. If a group of well organized hate mob people come to your school district or come to your library or come trying to protest your, drag queen story hour or anything like that, the headline that they’re looking for is the community

the people hate that this is happening and they went out to protest. But if you have an organization and you counter them at every turn, then the headline is, “this is divisive,” which is a much different headline. It’s just very, like, different. Then it suddenly becomes this one group doesn’t like this other group, and that is that above all else, these, this loud minority [00:59:00] doesn’t want that, doesn’t want the idea that they’re not the vox populi, they’re actually just a, well organized cranks.

That’s the one thing that they don’t want. And even the presence of supporters at any given, protest is enough to blunt it a little bit, and it’s a brave act. I remember when B L M protests were going out, you’d have these very, very small towns where even just one person on the street corner with a sign that says Black Lives Matter, getting spat at by their neighbors.

That’s a very, very powerful statement. So, organize, organize, organize, organize. Pay more attention to what your local school board is doing, because people who want to ban your books and, make your life hell for your gay kid, they’re certainly paying attention to what’s happening at your school board and what’s happening at your library.

Get together with your friends, form, your own organizations about, protecting local education and local educators. The A L A has a lot of different resources. And I’ll, I might want to share the link with everybody, maybe in the show notes if [01:00:00] that’s okay.


Raquel: Yeah.

Eric Sandwich: staying informed, attending a banned book week’s program, organize your own Banned Books Week program. They also have, the, A L A has, they have an office for Intellectual Freedom, and you can submit… they’re creating a, they’re creating a database of attempts to ban or challenge books. So anytime there is one, please put that in cuz the A L A is doing stuff with that, which is really important.

American Library Association is ALA, they’re great, they’re just terrific. They,

Raquel: Yeah, they’re very.

Eric Sandwich: they’ve helped out my job a lot cuz there are times where I’m like, I don’t know how to do this. And I go onto their, their newsletter and they’re like, yes. Here are things that have happened before.

This is terrific. Write a letter to your favorite banned or challenged author. Tell them to thank them for what they’re doing. Submit content that addresses censorship to their intellectual freedom blog. There’s like specific calls to action here on the ALA’s website, but just as a generality, uh, organize with your neighbors and if there is an attempt to, for them to protest something, having a counter [01:01:00] presence at all times.

It does wonders. Organization gets the goods.

Raquel: Yeah, definitely. Okay, so it’s been about an hour, so why don’t we wind down. Before we go, where can our listeners find and support you or, or shit you care about if you don’t have anything to promote?

Eric Sandwich: In my off time in my private life, I like to write. Raquel’s podcast and Raquel sort of, uh, the little community that you’ve set up that, uh, has a lot of writing advice has been completely invaluable for that. And, um, I’ve gotten a handful of things published.

My name is Eric Horowitz. Eric Sandwich is just an online… I’m not actually a talking sandwich, that in defiance of God’s will has been animated and can speak out to you using a tomato for a tongue. I’m actually a human being named Eric Horowitz. And if you went to E T Horowitz, it’s E T H O R W I T Z .com.

I have a little website. I have a Substack. And, uh, you can read my fiction. I’d appreciate some, [01:02:00] some eyeballs on that stuff because I’m vain and, uh,

Raquel: Yes.

Eric Sandwich: And, uh, also tell me how handsome I am, I guess.

Raquel: Yes. You are very

Eric Sandwich: You, you’re very handsome. And you know what? I’m going to, gonna take a step further. Your cats are gorgeous.

Your two

cats are,

just like so regal looking and it’s weird that they’re little derps because they’re gorgeous cats.

Raquel: They know they can get away with being little shits because of how cute they are.

Eric Sandwich: Mm-hmm. It’s kind of the pet mantra. And, uh, yeah, support your local library. They do great stuff. Oh, and there’s another thing too. I just wanted to mention this also. So challenges to the library don’t come, just come from, hard right wing creeps. They come from even your local progressive, liberal, nice guy politician because, libraries get their budget cut, uh, as society

goes more and more toward privatizing everything. Part of that is carceral, everything that means cutting stuff away from public goods and services and putting [01:03:00] them toward the police. And the idea is if it’s a problem like homelessness or I don’t know, this loosely defined concept of crime that is never really specified what that actually means, just throw cops and throw prisons at it.

So as, police budgets, increase school and library and shelter budgets decrease, in here in New York, Eric Adams, who’s just a charming guy, he’s just great. In addition to locking up everybody who, you know, everybody who seems to act kind of weird on the streets and involuntarily hospitalizing them, he’s also, facing some of the harshest budget cuts to the libraries that we’ve seen in decades, millions and millions of dollars.

What’s super ironic is N Y P L, BPL, Brooklyn Library and Queens Library and New York Public Library For some reason, the different boroughs all have different systems. It’s a weird, complicated mess, but, and we love it that way. But, referring to N Y P L, they’re having a proposed budget cut of 36 million, like $36 million, and it’s as bad a budget cut as they’ve had for a while.

It’s gonna result [01:04:00] in lower ti– also, a single Manhattan condo could be sold to pay for that. Just to get you, give you an idea of how horrible the, uh, income disparity, the wealth disparity is. This essential public service could be funded by a single house in Manhattan, but that’s neither here nor there.

The point is, is that there will be millions of fewer visits to the library, millions of fewer items circulated, shorter, hours for the library to be open for all of the people who need it because they’re not well connected, comfortable people, like we had mentioned before. So check out to see where your money is going and where all of these very nice, very liberal politicians who talk a big game about how they love, you know, how they’re one with you.

I remember, I think it was Andrew Cuomo who had come out and said, oh, “I am black. I am Latino. I am a

Raquel: “I’m a woman. I’m gay.” Shut the fuck up

Eric Sandwich: “I am a person who gropes his female staff. “Oh, wait, I can’t say that

last part. Well, I mean, even those guys who [01:05:00] say talk a big game about that, they’re also cutting your library budget and putting it toward the police.

Keep an eye out on your local community to see if, cuz that is just as harmful, if not more harmful than any group of organized weirdos

who are yelling at you.

Raquel: Can’t fight the organized weirdos if you have no budget

Eric Sandwich: budget. Yeah. So

Raquel: no personnel and you’re open like three hours a week.

Eric Sandwich: It’s true. And like we’ve had people come in and go, “you know, you guys are great, you should be open all night. Oh, but you probably wouldn’t like that because Eric, you wouldn’t like that cuz you’d be here at 2:00 AM” and I’d be like, “ha ha ha. Pay me.” If you wanted to hire more librarians, I would love for that to happen.

But you need to tell, the city or the state or the county or whoever the buck passes to, to, to do that, to invest in that.

Raquel: Yeah. Yeah. All right. So thanks for coming on the show and sharing with us your, your knowledge of the library [01:06:00] system,

Eric Sandwich: Thanks for having me on. Thanks for putting up with me yakking up a storm at you.

Raquel: No, no

Eric Sandwich: I feel very passionately about this.

Raquel: Well, of course, I mean, libraries are really important and they’ve always.. God peop, ever since libraries have existed, fucking crazy people have been trying to burn them down.

Eric Sandwich: Mm-hmm. Yeah. The, uh, the Romans got to that in Alexandria, unfortunately. Was it the

Raquel: Yeah. I think it was the, I think it was the early Christians, wasn’t it?

Eric Sandwich: It’s, you know what, a better librarian than me would’ve had this fact. But go to your local library and

Raquel: Yeah. And, and look up books about Hypatia if you want to be fascinated and also sad because she deserves better than what she got.

Eric Sandwich: Go on Wikipedia. You know, here’s the thing, a lot of times your educator will be down on Wikipedia, but if the thing about Wikipedia is you can find the sources at the bottom. So as long as it’s well cited, you know, it’s fine.

Raquel: Yeah,

Eric Sandwich: Yeah. I’m not, I’m not, again, I’m not a Luddite. I’m just, trust but verify is my whole thing.

Raquel: yeah, yeah. But you should go to the library anyway cuz cuz they’re pretty good.

Eric Sandwich: Yeah. We can get [01:07:00] you on, you can get you all the stuff anyway.

Raquel: Yeah. I, I, I use my local library a whole lot for my book club books. Sometimes I buy them, but sometimes I’m like, “you know what, this book’s been around for 50 years and the author is dead. I see no reason to pay for this.”

Eric Sandwich: No, and it’s you, , our system doesn’t do this, but a lot of other systems do. They like, oh, that’s a noise.

Raquel: That is the sound of my cat. Yes. He found a box and he’s playing in it. Good boy Harley.

Eric Sandwich: good boy. Uh,

Raquel: Good kitty.

Eric Sandwich: A lot of libraries will on the receipt after you’ve done checking out the books, be like, “you just saved this much money. You could have bought this book but you just saved this much money.” I think we should do that. That’s kind of funny.

Raquel: Yeah, that’d be cool.

Eric Sandwich: Well, thanks for having me on.

Raquel: Yeah. And thanks for coming on. And thank you all for listening. That’s all for this episode. If you’d like to support us, visit and subscribe. Until next time, keep writing good.