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Women Bisnow
January 3, 2008

Defender of
the Literary World


This issue of Washington Women is presented by
The Reznick Group:
"Building Business Value"


By Karin Tanabe for Bisnow on Business

What do Harry Potter, Captain Underpants, and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings all have in common? They are among the most banned books in schools today.  Maya Angelou may be endorsing Hillary Clinton in campaign videos and J.K Rowling busy writing best sellers, but many of America's children will not know why the caged bird sings and will view Harry Potter as another Holden Caulfield, if they can get their hands on Catcher in the Rye, that is.

Pat Schroeder, CEO of the Association of American Publishers, tells us that across America school libraries are disappearing. "In California, you're more likely to have a library in prison than in schools, and 60% of low-income homes don't have books," she says. "Educators tell you that if children don't start school literacy ready, they never catch up."


Schroeder, who represented Colorado's First Congressional District for 24 years, never imagined she was going to be a politician. "My husband was on the committee looking for someone to run in '72. Everyone said McGovern is going to be demolished, the Democrats don't have a chance. My husband came home and said, 'guess whose name came up?' He said 'Don't worry, you'll never win, we just need someone to carry the flag.' Next thing I knew I was the candidate."

What do you do when you unexpectedly become a congresswoman and the media is camped out on your lawn? You sneak out the back and go to Disneyland to get your bearings, says Schroeder, the first woman elected to Congress from Colorado.  "In 1973 there were 15 women in the House. I walked in with two toddlers and the speaker kept trying to swear in my husband, Jim. People would say, 'Voters must have thought Pat was a man, or you're a fluke,'" says Schroeder, whose average campaign contribution was $7.50. "The good part was that no one owned me. I had no big supporters. It allowed me to be very independent."

When Pat left the House in '96 there was a shift in power. "Tom DeLay, Newt Gingrich - I felt like I was in a big food fight in a junior high lunchroom. I said it's time to leave and I'm glad I did. They had 12 years like that. I think people stay too long in Congress. You should leave at the top of your game."


Schroeder at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal.  During her Congressional tenure she worked to have it cleaned up and converted into the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.


She briefly taught at Princeton before she came back to Washington to champion the 5000-year-old invention that even the Internet can't seem to topple. "The book industry is pronounced dead every year. I came in the middle of the boom. We're still here and the dot.commers are gone," says Schroeder, surrounded by books. "Piracy is a huge issue. It gets easier and easier to copy." The Association of American Publishers constantly protects copyright and is currently suing Google and China. "It's hard to yell at China for stealing intellectual property when our kids are doing the same things at home," says Schroeder, who hopes the association will have someone small to sue next.

Our school libraries may not be bursting into flames Fahrenheit 451 style, but Schroeder says censorship is still a major issue. "Publishers are doing very edgy Young Adult books about homosexuality and drug abuse. These books sell very well but you can't get them into libraries. Parents think that if their kids read these, they will become these things. This administration with its censorship has driven us crazy too."

We have come a long way from the days when Margaret Anderson was taken to court for publishing Joyce's Ulysses - the text she published not allowed to be read in front of her because she was a woman. But in the digital age, will there even be actual books to ban? "I don't think books will ever be obsolete," says Schroeder. "Maybe reference books, but for pleasure, they'll be around for a very long time."

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