Jerry Bergman on Jehovah's Witnesses Removing His Library books

Vita: WT attacks me 7/7/08 CL

           

The Number of my Books in Academic Libraries

            I have authored several scholarly books and monographs about the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  My books and articles on the Watchtower and related topics are found in hundreds of university, college and other libraries, and have also been translated into 12 languages.  Several of my publications about the Watchtower were based on my masters thesis in social psychology completed at Bowling Green State University. 

            The internet library system is an incredible tool for research. While looking for books related to my research, I decided to run an analysis of the books that I have written about Jehovah’s Witnesses. Under the subject heading "Jehovah’s Witnesses" I located a total of 1,321 different books on WorldCat, a catalog of all books in the world’s academic libraries. Of these books on the Witnesses, I found my book titled “Jehovah’s Witness and Kindred Groups” in 454 libraries, which places it in the top 13 out of 1,321 books. In other words, my book ranks in the top 1 percent of all books about the Witnesses in libraries listed in worldcat.

            The most commonly found book was Hush, a fiction work for elementary and junior high school students that briefly discusses the Witnesses. The book is about Toswiah Green’s life, which changed drastically after her policeman father witnessed two white police officers murder a young African American boy and decided to testify against a fellow officer. Due to threats as a result of their decision, the Greens had to change their identities and move to a different city. Toswiah's mom (now Evie Thomas) became a Jehovah's Witness while her father stared out the window much of the day. Since her mother can no longer work as a teacher, she now puts her energy into the Witnesses, studying the Bible and attending the local Kingdom Hall. Evie, struggling to find her way, wonders who she is now and how she can make her future as bright as her past once was.       

            If this book and Watchtower publications (which make up over 36 percent of the 1,321 books) are removed from the list, the most common book in academic libraries becomes Visions of Glory by the late Barbara Grizzuti Harrison (1,007 copies). The next most popular book is Judging Jehovah’s Witnesses by Shawn Peters (811 copies), the forth is Apocalypse Delayed by Jim Penton (807 copies). The fifth, Render Onto Caesar by David Manwaring is in 760 libraries. If both editions of my book were combined, it would place 6th (685 total copies) out of the 1,321 books.

            An author sort reveals that the Watchtower is the most listed author of books about Witnesses, Jim Penton is second, and Jerry Bergman is third (tied with several other authors including Marley Cole). One assumes that people write books to make money, yet I doubt if any of these authors made much money on their books.  The only possible exceptions were Marley Cole and Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, both which sold well to the public. Even though I rank 3rd in terms of total academic library sales, I lost several thousand dollars on my book. Diane Wilson’s book, which I did the introduction and the appendix for, is number 22 and has 245 copies in academic libraries. Most academic books have printings of around 1,000 copies and, if the author made 2 dollars per book, this income would not even cover her research, word processing, mailing, and other costs.

            Academic books are written to contribute to the scholarly community, not to make money (although to make some money would be nice). I have been collecting books about the Watchtower since the late 1950s and have been to hundreds of book stores looking for material about them. Occasionally I located a book that I needed. I have also been checking Books in Print for almost as long as it has been published. Whenever a new book would come out, I rushed an order to the publisher. Every time I would visit a new city, I would check out the book stores and the libraries looking for books on Witnesses. I own most all of the 1321 books listed in Worldcat (and quite a few more). I also have over 100 Ph.D. dissertations on the Watchtower or related. I estimate that I have invested well over $50,000 in my Watchtower collection.

            I published my book in the hope that my work will save others much time, money, and leg work. I concluded that someone has to begin a modern scholarly evaluation of the Watchtower movement, and the best place to start is a list of source material. A number of us, including Professor Jim Penton and Richard Rawe (who has one of the largest libraries about the Watchtower in the world), are endeavoring to assemble a comprehensive library that we can donate to Princeton University for the benefit of future scholars. Future workers will be able to draw on this library for research purposes for generations to come.

            This is an especially important project because many books about the Watchtower are very rare.  Only about 100 copies of the critically important book by Timothy White were sold, the rest were destroyed.  Today those books bring many thousands of dollars and old Watchtower books are among the most sought after of all books published in the last century.  A complete collection of all official Watchtower publications once went for one million dollars. In my collection alone are over 5,000 books and booklets and many, if not most, of the Watchtower books in my library are not found in a single academic library in the world.  Unfortunately, I have sold most of my rarer Watchtower published books, but I still have all the books written about them by others, the so-called apostate literature.

 

Vandals Destroy My Books on Jehovah’s Witnesses

                       

            In the past decade I have reveived several reports indicating my books on the Witnesses movement were in many libraries destroyed or stolen, and soon noted articles in various news papers confirming this (Cebula, 1997; Hodges, 1997; Jackson, 1997; and Turner, 1997). 

            Scores of libraries that have reported the problem include the University of Toledo, Anderson University, Christian Theological Seminary, Marian College in Indianapolis, Concordia College, and other colleges in at least three states.  One report noted that “Books on the Jehovah’s Witnesses religion have been destroyed or stolen from area theological libraries across the state” (Hodges, 1997, p. 1).  I have researched the situation at several college libraries and what I found was very disturbing. 

            At Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Indiana 30 books on the Watchtower were “torn in half, slashed with a knife or razor blade, or had pages ripped out” (Hodges, 1997, p. 1).  At Anderson University 24 books were mutilated, lost or destroyed (Cebula, 1997).  In 2002 at the University of Toledo I discovered the pages from my reference bibliography on the Watchtower were ripped from cover to cover and the book was then put back on the shelf.  At Concordia college—a library that owned three of my books—one was in the reference collection, another was checked out at the time, and a third was severely damaged.

            After calling several libraries, I found out that the people involved are evidently only destroying books that are about, but were not published by, the Watchtower Society.  Even reprints of older Watchtower publications were destroyed!  The culprits also at times left Watchtower magazines in the library, and sometimes they called the library asking to purchase the offending books before they were destroyed (Smith, 1997).  All libraries that contain books about Jehovah’s Witnesses should be aware of this problem.

              The vandals (actually censors) are likely active Witnesses.  Although I am sure this is not done at the specific direction of the Watchtower Society, they do teach that Witnesses should burn all literature critical of them.  No doubt this teaching encouraged Witnesses to destroy all books about the Watchtower that were not published by the Watchtower.  Also, why have no books published by the Watchtower been affected?  Furthermore, the Watchtower has so far refused to condemn this activity, and from my knowledge they passively approve of it.

            I would encourage all libraries with this problem to utilize security cameras or place books that are targets of vandals behind the reference desk with a marker on the stacks to let patrons know they are available. Destruction of public property is a criminal offense, and I hope that libraries will actively prosecute anyone caught destroying public or Library property in this way.  If anyone knows of other cases, please contact the author.

 

 

 

References

 

Bergman, Jerry.  1997.  Letter to Rev. Robert E. Smith.  May 31, 1997.

 

______.  1997.  “Author protests book thefts.”  The Bryan Times, June 4, 1997. 

 

______.  1998.  Letter to Rev. Robert E. Smith.  Nov. 10, 1998.

 

Cebula, Judith.  1997.  “Religious books stolen, mutilated at three libraries.”  May 1, 1997, pp. 1-2.

 

Hodges, Lydia.  1997.  “Local theft of books on Jehovah’s Witnesses part of statewide pattern.”  South Bend Tribune, May 16, 1997, pp. 1-2.

 

Jackson, Omari.  1997.  “Books on JWs Stolen from Libraries.”  New Light Ministries, p. 2.

 

Krug, Judith F. and Henry F. Reichman.  1988.  “ALA council condemns FBI “library awareness” program.”  Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom, 37(5):1, 146-147, Sept.

 

Smith, Rev. Robert E.  1997.  Letter to author, and interview.

 

Turner, Darrell.  1997.  “Jehovah’s Witness book vandals strike at Concordia Seminary.”  The Journal Gazette, May 14, 1997, pp. IC,2C.

 

The Bryan Times.  1997.  “Vandals hit Jehovah’s Witnesses books.”  May 15, 1997, pp. 11.