When Fairfax County residents want to read up on one of their neighbors, presidential candidate Edward M. Kennedy, who lives in McLean, the book they're most likely to find on the public library shelves is a biography called "Teddy Bare: The Last of the Kennedy Clan."
Published by Western Islands, an affiliate of the ultraconservative John Birch society, "Teddy Bare" calls Sen. Kennedy "one of the prominent operators chosen by the Hidden Forces that are hurling the countries of Western Civilization toward the Animal Farm world willed by Lenin and his successors."
Of the 88 copies acquired by the county library system, the Central Library in Fairfax City snapped by six -- five more than it selected of the biography by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian James MacGregor Burns, "Edward Kennedy and the Camelot Legacy." In fact, of the total of 16 copies of the six different Kennedy biographies the Central Library has in circulation, more than a third are "Teddy Bare," according to a library official.
Some Kennedy supporters think that's overkill, and one of them, Deena Sortland, coordinator for the Kennedy for President campaign in Fairfax's Centreville District, has filed a formal complaint with the library system saying the preponderance of the "Teddy Bare" book "does not indicate a fair balance."
Sortland said she's not objecting to the circulation of the book -- 'I do not believe in censorship" -- only the sheer numbers in which it is available compared to other volumes on the Massachusetts Democrat.
Diane Hardcastle, chairman of the library board of directors, said the system will look into the complaint. "This is a new twist," she said."Usually there are people who want a book banned. But this complaint says how much we should have -- it's a matter of quantity."
"There's no question it's a scurrilous book," said Kennedy spokesman Dick Drayne. "It's a political tract and as a biography it's rubbish. I'm surprised there are that many copies (88) in the library system. But it is not our place to try to suggest what books should or should not be in the Fairfax system."
Nancy C. Woodall, in charge of buying books in the adult collection, said "I understand why people get upset, but we can't select books on that basis . . . We really believe in intellectual freedom . . . We have had requests for 'Teddy Bare,' and that's why we put it there."
Woodall said "it's difficult to find a favorable book about Kennedy." Besides, she said, many books on Kennedy have not been published in softcover -- like the $2 "Teddy Bare" -- and the library system, because of limited acquisition funds, cannot buy many copies.
"I looked for other books just as cheap, and there was practically nothing, she said.
Woodall also said 88 copies was not an unusually large number to be purchased for circulation. "We will buy twice that number or more of a bestselling novel. We bought about 400 of Michener's 'Chesapeake'."