or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

What to do with “Last Train From Hiroshima?”

   March 2nd, 2010 Brian Herzog

Last Train from Hiroshima book coverI'm sure libraries across the country are asking this same question.

My library purchased Last Train from Hiroshima, but haven't put it out yet because we're divided over how to handle it. Based on revelations in the New York Times and Washington Post, I'm opposed to just shelving this book in non-fiction. There are a lot of requests for it, so I do want to make it available for people to read, but I would like to include a note of some kind stating there are significant known inaccuracies in the book.

One argument is that it's not a library's place to censor books, and if people want to read it we should provide access. However, we do censor resources and information simply by the act of selection, and by choosing which websites to link to based on their factual accuracy and reliability.

Mainly I want to protect school kids and other unknowing people from taking portions of this book as fact - which is what the library is confirming by shelving it in non-fiction. But so far, neither the Charles Pellegrino (author) nor the Henry Holt (publisher) has issued an easy-to-print statement to include in the book. As of today, the book is still being promoted on the publisher's homepage, but the author has addressed the issue in a forum posting linked to from his website.

So, what are libraries doing with this book? Shelving it as usual? Not shelving it at all? Including a note inside or on the cover? Putting it in fiction? We still have Million Little Pieces in non-fiction, but I think there's a difference between a memoir and a book about World War II.

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