"He was frightened. So we took the book out," says Lent.
How did this self-published book get into the library in the first place? Well, the author lobbied for it. "We decided there is a community for these kind of books. We put one copy in the Main Library and that is where that community tends to use the library," said Lent, evidently a master at diplomacy and subtle insinuation. "There are a number of people there interested in conspiracies and mind control. I think it was in the collection a year or two and it was checked out three or four times -- once via inter-library loan."
And so the author -- whom we will not name lest he be victimized by telepathic CIA-employed fiends -- felt the government was capable of invading his very thoughts, but somehow needed to find a book in the San Francisco Public Library before it did so?
"I'm not saying there aren't contradictions in his point of view," admits Lent. "He was a sincere individual."
So, in short, the SFPL isn't in the habit of yanking books or other materials off the shelves. But people do make requests. Some parents complained that a Vietnamese-language novel contained too much graphic sex. Other parents complained that the Korean movie called Woman Is The Future of Man contained -- wait for it --- too much graphic sex. An educational movie about abortion called If These Walls Could Talk contained -- Cher!
More often, library users will complain that the collection could use more literature on a certain subject. Oftentimes these subjects are not the sort of thing one would confidently place under the stylish tent known as "San Francisco Values." For example, the library was offered, free of charge, a trove of books by Intelligent Design boosters. And it took some.
In case you're wondering, yes, you can find books about Holocaust denial, blatant racism, and rampant conspiracy-mongering at the San Francisco Public Library. And, on a far lighter note, you can get anything penned by right-wing talking heads or vitriolic radio shock jocks.
You can also find falsified biographies (see Frey, James) and the works of Vivibear -- a Swedish-Chinese author whose shelf-ful of Chinese-language books have become the allegedly largest undertaking of plagiarism ever accomplished by a single person.
Lent isn't sure what to do about Vivibear -- whose books are popular among local young Chinese readers. If only the author would send a note requesting removal of her work from the library because its continued presence in circulation allows government agents to peer into her mind. That would tie everything up neatly.