Contact me

These days, I'm the director of the American Library Association' s Office for Intellectual Freedom. I'm also executive director and secretary of the Freedom to Read Foundation. See "About Me" for contact information.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Intellectual Freedom in Libraries and Museums

On Friday, March 17, I presented with Svetlana Mintcheva of the National Coalition Against Censorship on the topic of Intellectual freedom and museums. Bradley Taylor, a professor of museology for the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, has long believed that the value of intellectual freedom has never quite been articulated in the museum world, although it is needed. He held this workshop to start to change that.

Professor Taylor visited me last year to ask me to address what librarians have learned about how to embed this value in a profession. I did some thinking about that, and concluded that there were several steps along the way.

A sign of the times

For the first 60-odd years of American librarianship, our motto was "the best reading for the greatest number at the least cost:" a prescriptive stance that favored serious and canonical reading, mostly non-fiction. But in 1938, amidst a rising tide of anti-immigrant and anti-ethnic fervor, Forrest Spaulding of the Des Moines Public Library articulated a "Library's Bill of Rights" that spelled out for the first time an underlying principle of our work: to provide all points of view, regardless of background, view, or national origin; to resist censorship. The following year, the Intellectual Freedom Committee of ALA (the American Library Association) revised and adopted it. There is a parallel between then and now, a rising populist, nativist sentiment that sparks resistance. 2017 may be museums' 1938.

Professional committees

But note that the IFC was already in existence back then. So the formation of a specific (or several) values-centered committee(s) within a profession starts to coalesce some leadership. (ALA also has the Intellectual Freedom Roundtable, and a Committee on Professional Ethics, which articulates intellectual freedom as a professional responsibility.) If there's a committee, it's going to do some programs at professional conferences. People are going to start writing about it. And so the idea spreads simply by paying attention to it.


Another point to note about the IFC is that it began to step into the same role regarding interpretations of the Library Bill of Rights as is served by the United States Supreme Court regarding the First Amendment. The IFC didn't just talk about intellectual freedom, they discussed and made statements about various issues of the day through the lens of a foundational document, keeping it fresh and alive.

A dedicated office

In 1967 - 50 years ago! - another key step occurred. Judith Krug founded the Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), a department with ALA dedicated to the fight against censorship. While there are many library associations around the world, OIF remains the only dedicated office within librarianship, and other library associations respect it. Followed shortly afterward by her creation of the Freedom to Read Foundation, this created two interrelated organizations that began to establish normative documents and expectations within the profession, and weren't afraid to take intellectual freedom issues to court. The library world owes a huge debt to Krug and those who joined her.

Public events

Since 1987, the OIF has also sponsored (with publishers and other free speech advocate groups) an annual Banned Books Week. This event, with its many displays in libraries around the country, helps brand librarians as fierce defenders of the right to read, to receive knowledge. Every year, we reach literally millions of ordinary people about ongoing efforts to restrict those rights, and the importance of resisting censorship.

Policy and procedure infrastructure

Next came the essential infrastructure of policy and procedure. Among those policies (that might again track along with museums) were a collection development policy, and statements regarding patron access, exhibits, programs, and meetings. Intellectual freedom should be embedded in all of them: calling out the mission of the institution, and how these services support it. In each case it should be made clear that museums, like libraries, don't endorse the views expressed by collections, programs, or speakers at meetings; they present them to further greater understanding and knowledge. These policies - created by staff, reviewed and adopted by boards - are one of the most powerful tools libraries have found in the defense against censorship. They align staff and governing body, and create a public expectation. Policies make the rules clear.

The next most vital step is the adoption of a process through which complaints about collections or programs can be challenged, and thoughtfully considered. Complaints are inevitable. In the moment, particularly if one is worried about fundraising, it's easy to back down - to withdraw the offending exhibit, to cancel the controversial speaker. But if there a formal "reconsideration" process, decisions are more deliberate and focused. There is less public embarrassment through too-hasty reversals.

Request for Reconsideration Process

The steps of that process are as follows:

- the concern is made explicit (there is a written form asking for a precise description), 
- there is an independent review of the concern against the mission and policies of the institution, 
- the review committee makes a recommendation to the director, 
- the director makes a decision, and formally communicates it to the original complainant, again citing institutional mission and policy, and
- there is  the possibility of a appeal of the director's decision to the board, whose decision is final.

That appeal might also have the possibility of a more public hearing. The idea isn't to hide the conflict. Rather, the purpose is to give everyone time to think it through, to make better decisions, not just react to angry outbursts and accusations.
Finally, values are embedded in a profession by ongoing professional resources: manuals (like the OIF's excellent Intellectual Freedom Handbook, 9th edition) which then become the basis for ongoing training. 

Parting thoughts
Museums and libraries are complementary institutions. We share many things: a passion for exploration, learning, and education. We are cultural "memory" institutions, and so contribute to the knowledge of both individuals and communities.
We are also different. I admire the artistry and science of museum exhibits, and think libraries could learn a lot from them. Too, Svetlana Mintcheva made a compelling case for the advance work some museums do before bringing in a controversial exhibit, incorporating a broader range of viewpoints in a way that also engages the community.
I concluded my remarks by saluting our museum colleagues, and urging them to continue their work to call out and institutionalize the value of intellectual freedom within their profession. For one thing, that organizational clarity of purpose means we are more likely to succeed, and less likely to be highjacked for more negative messages. For another, the intellectual freedom community, while large and vibrant, can always use another player.
My thanks to professor Taylor for the opportunity to discuss the topic. I hope it gains some traction.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

We wanna be like Russia? Really?

The older I get, the more I think there are basically two kinds of people: builders and destroyers. Between these two, maybe, are those who appreciate things, and those who mostly ignore things. But over the years I've come to group the former with builders, and the latter with destroyers.

"I'm a Leninist," said Steven Bannon in 2013. "Lenin wanted to destroy the state. And that's my goal, too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today's establishment."

I wish I could say that I thought this was hyperbole or posturing. I don't. I believe him. For Baby Boomers, destroying institutions is what we do. Is there conflict between personal and institutional values? Well, one of us must change! Guess who?

It doesn't take much work to trace Bannon's predilections at Breitbart, and in his still early days as chief strategist for Trump. And there's Trump himself, in a bizarre bro-mance with Putin.

The question we need to ask is this: after destruction of the state, then what? What do we replace it with?

Lenin did indeed bring Tsarist Russian Empire to an end. But then he ushered in an authoritarian regime, Stalin's, arguably far worse than what he'd destroyed. In much the same way, Mao Zedong, another follower of Lenin, succeeded in undoing one regime, and replacing it with a government that first led to widespread famine, then to the Cultural Revolution. Both were disastrous.

It's clear that Bannon's and Trump's perspective appeals to the worst in Americans: racism, sexism, nativism. Yet we know that as of 2014, over half of the youngest American children are non-white. Half have always been women. Immigrants have long been our strength, not our weakness.

In the current majority backlash the Trump regime may well succeed in re-instituting the exclusionary, punitive, and domineering rhetoric and governmental bias of our past. But here's the problem: it doesn't change the underlying demographics. It doesn't change the fact that America has already fundamentally shifted.

Trump, and his childishness, is easy to mock. But what follows him is likely to be dead serious. Bannon, and his Leninist nihilism, won't make America white again. It will, however, sow the seeds of resentment and hatred. Is there any scenario in which this plays out well for either the nation, or the world?

Thursday, January 26, 2017

A Day in Chicago

King of Chicago

Today I walked past a store that sparked a memory.

Almost a year ago, I had to buy a mop. I was trekking my way back from a Target, and stopped inside a storefront restaurant for some really wonderful and inexpensive middle eastern food. 

"What's with the stick?" asked the man serving me. "You mean my scepter?" I asked. "For I am the King of Chicago." He smiled, handing me my order. "Your majesty." I realize now that I should have knighted him. 


After the midwinter conference in Atlanta, I wrote a blog about the Trump administration's attempt to halt all "public facing communications" by federal agencies,particularly the Environmental Protection Agency. I posted it yesterday. To my surprise, the post has gone almost viral - some 20,000 reposts on Facebook and Twitter. My takeaway: librarians are feisty, and not to be trifled with. This administration may find that its arrogance breeds resistance.


I was walking on State Street and saw a boy, maybe 10 or 12, walking oddly. Quickly, I figured out why. He delighted many people on the street.

the snow falls so slow
smiling boy can catch
the flakes on his tongue

Shoe shop

Just before I moved here, I bought a pair of shoes on the Internet. They were a pair of black Oxford ankle boots from They looked pretty good. They weren't expensive - maybe $100. When they arrived, they felt a little cheaper than I expected, and were just a tad small. But hey, I thought they would be good walking shoes in the city I was about to move to (Chicago), so I kept them. They were warm enough (fabric lining), and kept my feet dry. They looked better than they felt. I worked some mink oil into them, and kept them clean and polished.

But pretty darn quick, the tip of the sole started to separate from the bottom of the shoe. Finally, a few months ago, I took them to a local shoe repair shop just a block away. It cost almost another $100 to get new soles put on them: Vibram. I'm used to paying for repairs. Usually, I keep my shoes for a long time. I try to buy good ones, and take care of them.

Then, a few weeks ago, one of the soles started to come loose again. So I took them back to the store, to find that the owner was packing up. After 17 years in that location, he was retiring. He was, in fact, 82 years old, although he really didn't look it. He was upright, keen of gaze, and gave me quite an oration. While he repaired my shoes for free, he talked about the sharply declining quality of most shoes, most of them made in China now. (There were also some heartfelt comments about work ethics, the difficulty of finding reliable help, and more.) Often, he said, he deconstructed a shoe to fix it to find that the sole was made of cardboard. The sole I was trying to hook onto was cheap rubber. I won't try to fix them again.

Although he made a point of saying that he thought the decline of quality was all about foreign made shoes, in fact, the quality shoes he admired came from Europe, mostly England. I didn't hear about any American-made shoe brands he liked.

When I came back to pick them up, he was in a more thoughtful mood. He was a remarkable man. He'd been in the dry cleaning business, the tailoring business, the shoe repair business. He showed me a couple pairs of shoes he'd built from scratch. They were gorgeous. He told me about the 1960s downtown businesses where if a man got caught in the rain, he could go to the bus station and get his suit pressed, his hat blocked, and his shoes shined. A more elegant age.

He was, in fact, a consummate craftsman - although his lifelong exposure to the chemicals of drycleaning and shoe repair glues in poorly ventilated work spaces was taking its toll on his body. He was looking forward to retirement, although his wife had a notion of starting a school for shoe repairs, because it was almost a lost art. According to the husband, that's because it was easier, more fun, to do your own designs, than have to salvage someone else's.

At any rate, I found him, and his wife, most impressive. I'm sorry to see the shop shutting down, and I have no idea where the next shoe repair station is. I can't imagine it will be as good. 

Monday, December 26, 2016

The fundamental dignity of human inquiry

Years ago, I came up with this phrase to describe why libraries matter: they are institutions dedicated to the recognition and support of the fundamental dignity of human inquiry.

Curiosity is responsible for all the real gains in the quality of human life. What causes disease, and how can we prevent it? How can we build comprehensive and sustainable systems to deliver clean water and energy, to move goods and services to markets, or to educate the young? Human beings ask questions, and in the fearless pursuit of answers, they can find their way to the things that make human life enduring and worthwhile.

That end - a life in which people are free to explore the universe around them, to stand unafraid, to build rather than blunder and destroy their way through their days, to live with dignity and purpose - requires at least three things.

First, we must have the freedom to express what we know or think we know. This is what we mean by “free speech” -- the right to think, say, and write what we will. We have to declare the hypothesis before we can test it. (And a hypothesis doesn’t have to be religious, scientific, or political; it can also be emotional.)

Second, we must have the ability to access the expressions of others. Whether we read fiction or non-fiction, we build the scaffolding of our understanding on the explorations of others.

Third, there must be systems of social interaction that ensure reasonable safety and fairness. The “rule of law” provides predictable rules that balance individual liberty and collective well-being.

But there are threats to this attempt to lead lives of greater wisdom and peace.

Some of those threats come from within. Who hasn’t awoken in the wee hours cringing at the memory of his or her arrogance or cruelty? Those nights mark the painful process of developing a conscience. Too often, we are heedless of the damage we do to others when we make statements we later realize are careless, willfully ignorant, bigoted, or actively malicious. We are free to speak, but speech has consequences. Learning isn’t always pretty, and not all of our desires are positive. Over time, I believe we should strive to be kinder.

Other threats come from the powers in society around us. The school principal or board removes a book that tackles big and important issues (Beloved, by Toni Morrison, which explores the realities and legacy of slavery) using a small and irrelevant excuse (there’s too much sex). Often, probably most often, this attempt to prevent access to other’s expressions comes from a desire to shield and protect. But that effort also diminishes the dignity of inquiry, treating even 16 and 17 year olds as toddlers. At other times, the desire is more overt: government officials lie about the purposes of their programs, and corporate leaders deny access to the records of their deals. Why? Censorship, secrecy and deception are tools to better control the minds of others, to divert them from truth, lest they rebel against their keepers.

We are living at a moment in our history when these two factors - the exercise of human dignity and inquiry on the one hand, and the increasingly blatant and authoritarian efforts of entrenched power on the other - are coming into increasing conflict.

I do worry that the election of Donald Trump, and his rejection of decorum, of civil liberties, of fairness, of charity, of international thoughtfulness, may lead us to war. There are some key flashpoints for potential global conflagration. Among them are the ruthless pursuit of oil, political and religious conflict in the Middle East, racial and national tribalism, the status of Taiwan, the number and availability of nuclear weapons, the importunities of corporate financial speculation, or simple confidence in democratic processes. Trump has weighed in on all of them, in ways that are consistently destabilizing and corrosive.

Even more troubling to me is that such a person could gain, if not the majority of popular vote, the confidence of some 62 millions of Americans who actively chose a leader whose history and likely policies (even likelier seeing his cabinet picks) have been demonstrated repeatedly to injure and impoverish them.

I was raised with an idea of America in which we were heroes. In World War II, we stepped into a conflict against a megalomaniac who launched his power from a platform of bigotry. We turned the tide.

It breaks my heart even to imagine it, but what if, on the world stage, the United States of America is now poised to be, not a hero, but the villain, the initiator of war, and shameless exploiter of those least prepared to defend themselves both within our borders and without?

What next?

I believe, as citizens, we have both rights and responsibilities. At present, compromised though it is, we still have the right of intellectual freedom: free speech, and access to it. We still have, equally compromised, the right of privacy.  I believe it is my responsibility to advocate tirelessly for these rights.

But I also have the responsibility to exercise them. I must support the mechanisms of investigative reporting (by actively supporting free presses). I must speak up on behalf of people I believe to be threatened. I am obliged to support the political causes that maintain in my judgment the American dream I still subscribe to: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

That dream is obtained not by passive acquiescence to the culture around me, but by intentional action on behalf of peace, fairness, compassion, and the dignity of human inquiry.

Hate speech

My daughter lives in Berlin, with her German national husband. Germany has something called Volksverhetzung, which translates to “incitement of hatred.” Here, we would call it hate speech. In Germany, it’s illegal.

According to Wikipedia, “the law requires that said speech be ‘qualified for disturbing public peace’ either by inciting ‘hatred against parts of the populace’ or calling for ‘acts of violence or despotism against them,’ or by attacking ‘the human dignity of others by reviling, maliciously making contemptible or slandering parts of the populace.’”

Many Germans are wary of hate speech. Hate speech preceded Nazism. It’s not unreasonable to suppose that the more frequently people hear attacks on some group, the more likely eventual violence against them might be.

Such laws are not unique to Germany. In the aftermath of World War II, similar laws were adopted in many nations in Europe, Scandinavia, the United Kingdom, Africa, India, Asia, and Australia.

In the United States, the First Amendment has been held to offer broad protection for most kinds of speech. The few exceptions are libel, immediate threats to public safety (shouting “fire” in a crowded theater), and “fighting words” (an immediate incitement to violence where such violence might reasonably be construed as likely).

It’s clear to me that the political speech of Trump during his campaign gave a lot of cover for hate groups - encouraging David Duke to run for the Louisiana Senate, for instance, and explicitly endorsing Breitbart messages. But Trump may be part of a larger coarsening of public speech. It’s hard to see Milo Yiannopoulos’s crude and racist Twitter attacks on Leslie Jones as a celebration of political opinion.

Yet, hate speech has also been defined by some as merely questioning a system of religious beliefs. Is saying that one does not believe in Christ’s virgin birth an insult to Catholicism? Is wondering about the effects of a verse in the Koran hate speech against Islam? Should there be criminal consequences? In some parts of the world, there are.

Political criticism of a regime has also been cast as hate speech. That’s a handy tool for tyranny, too.

As is always the case with censorship, it comes down to “who decides?”

I do not endorse speech whose aim is to harass or frighten people. Jesus wasn’t the only smart soul to state the Golden Rule: do unto others as ye would be done by.

It’s possible to express even difficult political or religious opinions without being a bully. Even when we can't be kind, we should be polite.

Nonetheless, though I condemn hate speech for the ignorant malice it represents, I oppose even more strongly the idea that the government should punish what people think and say, rather than what they do. Government policy, like library policy, should concern itself with behavior, not with opinions.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Huck Finn and the intelligence of minors

When my daughter was 14 years old, she wrote a paper for school about an old controversy: complaints about the novel "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." It was so good, I persuaded her to submit it to the Colorado Libraries magazine -- and they accepted it. It came out in Fall, 2002, v28 no3.

Huck Finn is in the news again, most recently in Accomac VA, where, along with To Kill a Mockingbird, a parent is seeking to have the books entirely removed from a school. The incident reminded me of my daughter's essay - and I reprint it below because I think she nailed the issues. Maddy's essay, to me, is proof that of course minors should be allowed to read anything they can understand - and they understand plenty. They are certainly up to the challenge of reading American classics.


River Banks

by Madeleine LaRue

If you squint your eyes, and look real close, you might see that shape out there on the river. See it? It's just on the horizon, and from here it looks like it don't have a care in the world. Just a-driftin' down the river, real quiet and peaceful-like, and now, as it's gettin' closer, you can tell it's a raft, and you can see two blurry figures. One is a young boy, and he don't think much of sivilization. No sir, he's happy on the river with his best friend, a runaway slave. But he don't look like a slave, you say. He's happy; they's both happy, and they's both free. And what better place to be free than on the river? But, wait... who's that there on the banks? Yeah, they's the ones. They's shoutin' at the boy, callin' him a racist; and at his friend, callin' him submissive; and callin' them both a bad example. And do you hear that snort of laughter? Well, sir, that's a Mister Mark Twain, and like the boy on the raft, he ain't one to care what other people think abouthim.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (whose title character is, of course, our hero on the raft, and which was written by our friend Mr. Mark Twain) was published in 1885 and instantly became a controversy. Most of the modem complaints (at least the ones you hear about) are of racism. Huck, Jim, Twain, and dem near everyone else in the book has been accused of being a racist at one point or another.

But before the racism dilemma, there were other obstacles. On March 5th, 1885, when Huck was still fresh off the presses, the Concord Public Library Committee decided "to exclude Mark Twain's latest book from the library. One member of the committee says that, while he does not wish to call it immoral, he thinks it contains but little humor, and that of a very coarse type. He regards it as the veriest trash. The librarian and the other members of this committee entertain similar views, characterizing it as rough, coarse and inelegant."

No mention of racism was made at all. In fact, for quite some time, the major objections to Huck were his "immorality" and his grammar. The book, the CPL Committee said, was "more suited to the slums than to intelligent respectable people."

Why all the fuss about grammar and not a peep about the "n-word"?

Yes, the "n-word," which (as defenders are endlessly reminded) appears 215 times in Huckleberry Finn. Michelle Malkin points out in her essay 'Hey, Hey! Ho, Ho! Huckleberry Finn Has Got to Go!" that "Censors ... are too busy counting Twain's words to understand them."

So what did he mean? That question can be answered a few ways. First, it was simply the way people talked in the nineteenth century. Twain's novels, like any other writer's, reflected the speech of his time. In Nat Hentoff's essay "Huck Finn Better Get Out of Town by Sundown," he quotes a schoolman who remained unnamed: "Good Lord, Twain spends three quarters of his book trying to make clear what a damnable word 'nigger' is, because it shows the whites who used it didn't see, didn't begin to understand the people they were talking about."

The people, or more specifically, one person, they were dealing with (to paraphrase Russell Baker) was the only gentlemen in the river of society's worst. The people Huck and Jim encounter on the raft are dishonorable, crude, arrogant, and ignorant... andhold the one kind soul-"Nigger Jim"-"beneath contempt" and in scorn.

While the king and duke rob, and the Grangerfords dispute, and Pap abuses, Jim cares for Huck, guards him all night, calls him honey, loves him as no one else would.

Jim is clearly the most honorable and most admirable character in the novel. He shows humanity where others show brutality, delivers kindness though he receives cruelty. And through all his suffering, he gently guides Huck to all his crucial decisions. When Huck realizes the nastiness of his trick on Jim on Jackson's Island, it's because Jim tells him so-"Dat truck is trash; en trash is what people is dat puts dirt on de head er dey fren's en makes 'em ashamed." And Huck is ashamed, so ashamed he apologizes to a slave-something otherwise unheard of. Jim forgives him.

And Huck's ultimate decision-to tear up his note to Miss Watson and declare "All right, then, I'll go to hell!"-is because of Jim's love. His epiphany is the realization that Jim's friendship is more important than society's ideals.

At least, that's how I see it. But black administrator John Wallace (who has been trying to get rid of Huck Finn in his school district) said, "You want to know why it's so important to get rid of this book? We are always lamenting that black students don't learn or progress as well as whites. Well, if you give them this crap about themselves, how are they going to feel good about themselves?" He also recalls studying Huck Finn when he was in school, and flinching every time the word "nigger" was mentioned.

The simple fact that "nigger" appears in the novel at all is often the only complaint. There have been cases when a new version of Huck was requested, nigger being replaced with "black" or "slave." Michelle Malkin offers the best answer to this request: "Whitewashing the word 'nigger' out of the book's dialogue would have played into the hands of those who prefer to sanitize history than [to] confront it."

Isn't it better to learn from history than to ignore it? Or will whitewashing it, like Tom Sawyer and his fence, make all the problems go away? Out of sight, out of mind.

Or not. For even as educators and parents demand the removal of the word "nigger" from Huckleberry Finn, the students (who, since they're the ones who will be reading the book, should have a say in the whole matter) have proven they're not as thick as some people think. "Do you think we're so dumb that we don't know the difference between a racist book and an anti-racist book?" That quote came from a Brooklyn eighth-grader interviewed by Nat Hentoff. An African American eighth-grader.

Obviously, though, many people feel they shouldn't have to read, hear, or see Huck Finn-or anything else that offends them.

Do people have a right not to be offended? Well, according to the Constitution... no. You have the right of free speech. . . but that means listening to what everyone else has to say, too, even if you disagree with it.

However, just for the sake of argument, let's say we do have that right not to hear. On that principle, since I can't run as fast as other people in my P.E. class, I shouldn't have to go to P.E. Seeing other people beating me in races offends me and is damaging to my self-esteem. And I couldn't draw to save my life, so I shouldn't be subjected to the humiliation of art class. Come to think of it, the probability of my being offended in school is so high, that I probably shouldn't go at all. See what kind of world that would be? A boring one, that's what. "If we try to banish works that some people feel are painful," says Jill Janows, "we'll be left with nothing to teach. The question is how to teach, and how to teach successfully-with respect for all students as well as for the works being taught."

Nat Hentoff agrees with her. He feels that, if there are ill feelings to the novel, the teacher's job is to channel those feelings to the issues Twain himself was against namely, slavery. J. Whyatt Mondesire makes a valid point when he says, "You're not going to learn anything by closing your eyes and not reading."

So there they go again, a boy and a slave, back down the river. It was a different river then, you know, 'cuz a river, well, it's like history, and history don't always flow the same way. And it sure don't always flow smooth. Yessir, you got lots of rapids in that river. But to that boy and that man down there, a few rapids don't matter. They've been there before.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Max's first storyboard: a Halloween Story

My son is now wrapping up his undergraduate degree in digital design. These days, his work is very sophisticated. But even when he was still in elementary school, he had that eye for telling image.

For instance, here's a little storyboard he did on index cards, in pencil. It's a funny narrative. But what amazes me is that he was able to capture real emotion and intent in just a few lines. He clearly delineated panic, dismay, determination, bravery, utter deflation (when his hair goes from up to down), fear, and more. I wish I could tell you what year it was. I want to say that he was in fourth grade. I love it, and particularly that he described noticing something by saying that he "heard it with my o[w]n eyes." He was visually oriented even for sound.

Oh, and what was the problem, really? A little colony of mice got into the kitchen. It took us several months to catch them all.