Monday, July 12, 2010

133.33 and the Librarian Occultist

I am vexed, dear reader. It will come as no shock to you that I'm a librarian. I'm upfront about it right here in the "About Me" blurb on my blog: "I'm a librarian, a Hellenic Polytheist, a Traditional Wiccan, and an occultist." I first started working a library when I was in high school and I am now seeking my Master's degree in Library Science.

The overlap between my passion for libraries and my passion for occultism doesn't come up very often. True, I do see my work as a librarian as an abstract way of honoring the power of Athena, but I am "in the broom closet" at work. I am happy to serve quietly in my own way.

My frustration comes from a kind of open secret among the librarians I have known concerning occult literature. The secret is that books on occultism walk. What I mean by this is that these books (133.33 in the Dewey Decimal classification system) once checked out from the library never find their way back to the library. Often these books are not even checked out, but are blatantly stolen from the library. Go to any public library and examine the 133.33 section (it is an old habit of mine that I always go there first whenever I am in a new library). You will find it to be sadly lacking.

I've witnessed several responses to this dilemma. Some libraries choose to keep occult materials in a special "restricted" section, usually behind the circulation desk where they cannot be stolen outright. Other libraries keep the books as reference materials only so that they cannot be checked out. Still other libraries, and this breaks my heart, have elected to not carry occult materials at all. This is, of course, censorship, even if the library feels that it has no other course of action.

I have wondered for many years just who these occult book bandits are. The public library systems I have worked in have all been in very conservative rural communities. Is it rebellious teenagers looking for the small thrill of lifting a Wicca 101 book, or is it the rabid Christian fiction reading matrons attempting to save their community from "Satan"?

Who benefits from this form of censorship? Certainly not sincere seekers like the one I assisted earlier this week. Our online catalog showed twenty books on astrology, all of them listed as "long overdue" or "lost processing". The poor man simply wanted to know the stories behind the zodiac signs. I wanted very much to share with him the information orally, but, again, I am closeted at work and feared drawing attention to myself.

I am at a loss for a solution to this problem. Here at home I've enchanted my own personal library (which would make anyone with even a passing interest in witchcraft green with envy) so that any book loaned out (which, granted, only ever happens with those I trust implicitly) will find its way back home to me. The task of enchanting a public library collection seems daunting at best, and brings up some gray ethical issues for me.

I dream of someday directing a library filled with controversial books. Dangerous books. Books that open the reader's mind. For now I work quietly and wonder where have all the occult books gone?


  1. Speaking of which, one of your books is still sitting safely on *my* shelf. I suppose I could mail it home to you, or perhaps hold it hostage as incentive for our seeing each other in person again one day... ;)

  2. What a shame that anyone would want to take away the opening of heart and mind that a wonderful book can offer. You've inspired me to comb through my personal library and make a donation to thee local.

    I'm afraid you've also left me with 133.33 compulsion of my own that I might not ever shake.

  3. I don't mind the teens stealing the books because usually the teens that steal them really love the book and can't afford to get their own copy so that's why they are stealing them, not that I approve of theft mind you ;~)

    But the fundies who steal to censor are another matter altogether.

  4. Surprisingly, the local branch of the county library years ago used to keep a copy of a work of LaVey. Needless to say, it vanished about three or four times before they decided to stop replacing it.

    Given that it was the 80s, possible it was a fundie klepto, but I imagine it was more along the lines of the teens liberality outlined. It's dark and different, thus, alluring.