A few months ago, Scott DiMarco, library director at Mansfield University, asked if he could ban my novel One Woman’s Vengeance to show the effects of censorship.
He did it with a simple, formal letter and posted it on the library’s Facebook page. . Within minutes there was an uproar on campus and around the country. I wrote a Huffington Post blog about the experience with almost no response. I also wrote about it on this blog.
As I reread my post, I was struck with the gravity of Scott’s words at the time: “I hope we’re redeemed in the end. We have never banned a book in this library and we never will again.”
We all survived the experience, but it was intense, especially on Scott. In the library world, you fall on your sword or swallow the cyanide before you ban a book.
Scott wrote an article from his perspective. It was rejected by two library publications and finally published in the July edition of College & Research Libraries. From there it was like a volcano. Galley Cat picked it up. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund posted it. The Huffington Post made it their top story in the Books section. It rose to the first page on the Book section of Reddit.
From there, other bloggers grabbed it and it continued its viral path. Within a day, Scott’s article exploded into a national discussion about book banning and censorship with Mansfield University as the center of the discussion.
Scott instantly became the most celebrated librarian in America and the library expert on book banning and censorship.
The fascinating thing to me was that the project had disappeared, then, through an article published in a small, specialty professional magazine, it exploded and flashed through the internet world as a big topic with thoughtful, intelligent, passionate –and occasionally dumb –discussion.
After 37 years in the PR field, this one took me by surprise. And it reinforces the fact that in the cyber world if the message is meaningful, relevant to others, it assumes a life of its own, and the originators give up control of the message.
Why did it take off the way it did, and what are the implications to PR professionals?
I’ll explore that in the next post.