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portal: Libraries and the Academy 4.2 (2004) 311-315

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Letters to the Editor

November 24, 2003

To the Editor,

Patti Clayton Becker's contemptuous and arrogant castigation of my work, Not Seeing Red (portal 3, 3 (July 2003): 538-9), does not meet even the minimal standards for a scholarly book review.

Unacquainted with the literature of the field, she declaims that the "ideological rifts of the Cold War should be safely behind us. Not so for Stephen Karetzky..."(p. 538) She seems unaware of the fact that this era is one of the liveliest areas of scholarly debate among contemporary American historians.

More egregious is her inaccurate rendering of the book's contents. Thus, she charges that "Karetzky is also exercized about the commitment of library leaders to intellectual freedom . . . during the McCarthy era." (p. 538) In actuality, I provide a great deal of evidence that shows they were not committed to genuine intellectual freedom, but merely to promoting their left-of-center views and opposing anti-Communism. Becker also alleges that I chide library historians because they do not share my views. To the contrary, I carefully prove that their purported scholarship is frequently shoddy.

Becker caricatures the book by conjoining elements from one part of the volume to quotations from another. For example, on page 539 she claims that I write that "Post-World War II American librarians who dreamed that international bibliographic cooperation might lead to international, intercultural understanding were guilty of aiming for 'the eventual demise of their country.'" (p. 296) Those who have not read the book could not know that its sole sentence about international bibliographic cooperation actually appears on page 281 in the previous chapter.

My scold faults me for criticizing American librarians who did not recognize the totalitarian nature of the Soviet Union. After all, she argues, neither did leading intellectuals in other fields, like John Dewey. She simply ignores those pages in which I describe the contemporaneous negative assessments of Winston Churchill, Will Durant, and others. [End Page 311]

One of Becker's typical gibes begins thusly: "Using strong conservative, anti-Communist rhetoric, Karetzky proclaims..." (p. 538) In reality, I do not merely "proclaim" anything. I make some strong statements, but they are substantiated by a mass of facts presented in a logical manner. The lengthy text is buttressed by 1350 notes, which comprise an additional 120 pages.

Portal readers are better served by the appraisals my book has received from prominent academics such as George Bobinski, Paul Hollander, Rael Jean Isaac, Carol Iannone, Sylva Simsova, and Russell Cope.

Stephen Karetzky
Director, Felician College Library

December 9, 2003

To the Editor,

My review of Stephen Karetzky's critique of American librarianship, Not Seeing Red, stressed what I perceived as his shrill tone, his indictment of librarians on largely ideological grounds, and intemperate charges. These characteristics make the work seem less objective and more polemical than I would expect in a scholarly treatise.

Karetzky advises portal readers that Russell Cope offers a better appraisal of his work than I do. Cope's encompassing, erudite review article describes Karetzky's book as "a formidable array of information and documentation that must command respect." But Cope concludes, "It is unlikely that anyone can properly review this book without entering into a disquisition as long as Not Seeing Red itself." I did not have that luxury. Cope also makes observations comparable to mine, including, "His work belongs by tone and style not to sober scholarship and analysis, but rather to the field of political expose', polemics and the clash of ideologies." (Australian Library Journal 51 (August 2002). Available:

Similarly, Irina L. Lynden writes, "Though presented as a scholarly publication, in some parts the language of the book is emotional with a good measure of political polemics." And, "The author makes too many judgments solely dependent on the political orientation of the authors." (Library Quarterly 73 (April 2003): 222-4.)

I do not disagree that many librarians of the 1920s and 1930s...


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