Tag: news

Miscellany: more library history, women ruining everything (again), and encouraging successes

Library history
A few months ago, the Library History Buff Blog did a piece on early children’s rooms in public libraries. While the piece was short, I thought it was especially interesting to see the motivations behind offering library services and facilities for young people:

Although various libraries including the Boston Public Library lay claim to having the first public library children’s room, the Brookline Public Library in Massachusetts seems to have the strongest claim. Their children’s room was established in June of 1890 primarily to get noisy children out of the adult reading room. It was initially supervised by the library’s janitor.

John Cotton Dana of the Denver Public Library–the first to offer dedicated children’s services in 1894–did say, “If public libraries are of value, this form of a children’s department must be, if not the ideal thing, certainly an ideal thing.” But in 1896, Mary Wright Plummer found only 15 public libraries nationwide that provided services from a children’s room.

We’ve certainly come a long way in providing library services to young people since then, but how many libraries don’t have a dedicated teen space or even a dedicated YA librarian? (This seems like a good point to plug YALSA’s Teen Services Evaluation Tool, a rubric based on YALSA’s Core Competencies that you can use to assess your library’s success in having the resources and desire to provide great service to teens.) There’s always progress to be made!

Sarah of Glass Cases recently wrote an essay called “YA: Then vs. Now” with an interesting mix of history of YA lit as well as personal reflections on growing up with the YA lit of the ’90s and musings on some historically significant titles. In the essay, she’s trying to pinpoint when YA lit turned the corner from “writing about teens” to “writing for teens.” Especially since I’m about the same age, it was a pretty interesting read.

And man, if you want some vintage YA lit, check out the Mod-Mod Read-In Paperback Book List featured on Sara Ryan’s blog. It’s pretty groovy (click through for more scans and some analysis of the chosen titles):

You know what we need? More recognition of awesome women who rock out in their fields. While librarianship has historically been a women’s profession, anything to do with computers or programming has generally been branded as being for men (although one of the first computer programmers was a women!). But what about the people who exist at the intersection of libraries and computers? The Geek Feminism Blog recently featured Henriette Avram, who was a programmer who worked for the Library of Congress and who is responsible for the creation of MARC in the 1960s. Awesome.

Women ruining everything (again)
Of course, not everyone wants to recognize women’s accomplishments. Some would rather distance themselves from women in the workplace because apparently women defile everything they touch and even just being associated with women or what they do will ruin you and your career. At least, that seems to be the gist of Penelope Trunk’s blog post “What To Get Ahead? Stay Away From Women.” (It is possible that she doesn’t mean what she says, that she is writing these things ironically or sarcastically or in some other way where I can believe she’s not for real, but I don’t think that’s the case.)

Trunk’s starts with the idea of a “competition gap” wherein women self-select themselves into lower-paying, less prestigious fields, and that even within their chosen field, they go for “support roles” rather than competitive management positions, or–in her case–even if they are in a “man’s field,” they choose to focus on womanly things, like writing about women and their lives. This is true! We do value competition and men over nurturing and women. (And I’ve written about this before in the context of libraries.)

But rather than having a problem with privileging things that are labeled male over things that are labeled female, rather than trying to elevate the prestige of “women’s work,” she wants women to just stop complaining about this gap:

The thing is that Kimberly concludes in her post that women are getting ripped off. It kills me. I don’t want to be writing next to women who believe that women are getting a raw deal and then complain about it. I don’t buy it.

Women are getting a raw deal if they’re constantly being told that choosing things that interest them and that they value, that being a woman are bad things and that if they were just more manly, they’d succeed. So what’s Trunk’s advice?

Women: It is very bad to write stuff about dinner with family if you are trying to get ahead. Do not do this. People assume that if you have kids you will do less work. This may or may not be true – I mean, doing less work. But what is true is that you should not talk about family at work if you want to be in the all-boys departments.

But here’s the thing: I don’t want to be in the all-boys departments. I want to do work that is meaningful to me, and I want society to value that work. Every day, I work in a public library with teens–I think the only way it could be more women’s work is if I were working with children–and that work has an impact on those teens and on my community. I am proud of what I do. I’d like for other people to value that as much as they value technology, competition, and dudeliness.

Some encouraging successes
Wow, after that downer, let’s talk about some good things that have happened recently!

Michelle Luhtala, the librarian at the high school in the town that my library serves, is hands-down totally awesome. She’s really plugged into technology and the importance of tech in libraries and schools, she’s a webinar facilitator for edWeb.net, she’s been named Librarian of the Year by CLA, she was recently elected Director of Region 1 of AASL, she churns out instructional tools like crazy, and she has a great relationship with her students. Last year her library was one of two to be named AASL’s National School Library Program of the Year, and earlier this month Nancy Everhart, the president of AASL, made New Canaan High School her Connecticut stop on her nationwide tour.

And now she–and the teens at her library–have another feather to add to their cap: they won the 16-to-18 age category of the ALA’s Why I Need My Library contest! Michelle wrote last month on her blog about the creation of the video. Check it out:

More good news: at the beginning of this year, a controversy erupted when the director of the Enfield (CT) Public Library was told the library couldn’t show Michael Moore’s “Sicko” as part of their ongoing film program. The library was eventually allowed to show the movie, which was a victory in itself, but the director was also recently recognized by the Connecticut Library Association with an Intellectual Freedom Award.

There are lots of successes we have each day that are never officially recognized with awards but are just as meaningful. David Lubar recently wrote a LiveJournal post about an email he received from a parent about how his books had so captured her son’s imagination that he had gone from below grade-level reading to above grade-level–and that he’d begun writing his own stories. That’s really powerful stuff.

I’ve recently had a couple of those moments–maybe smaller, but no less encouraging–myself. I’m organizing a Minecraft competition at my library (I’m planning to talk about it in detail once it’s happened) and one of my TAB kids is helping spread the word to her friends on Facebook. Her post was attracting a few comments, and then one of her non-library-going friends wrote, “That’s actually like way too cool for a library to be doing,” and seeing that totally made my day. I am changing non-library users’ perceptions of what a library is and does!

And then last week, a former borderline troublemaker came over to me and out of nowhere said that I was doing a good job of standing up for teens and that I was making the library a better place for teens. He couldn’t have made me happier if I’d been feeding him lines to parrot back at me! And then he asked if he could join our Teen Advisory Board!

So you know, haters gonna hate–but I’m doing my job and it’s having an impact on my community and I feel good about that. And you should feel good about your work, too! What encouragement have you received recently?

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2 Comments May 26, 2011

Enfield (CT) Public Library will be showing “Sicko” after all–but what exactly is “balance”?

A photograph of the Enfield (CT) Public Library in the wintertime

The Enfield (CT) Public Library

You may have heard that the Enfield (CT) Public Library was ordered on the 19th by the mayor to cancel their screening of Michael Moore’s documentary “Sicko” planned for the 21st after residents complained about the subject matter. Other residents and representatives cried censorship, and the Connecticut Library Association responded that it “deplore[d] the cancellation of the showing of the film.”

As libraries and librarians around Connecticut suggested “solidarity screenings” of the film, gaining some supporters within a few days (which also brought up an interesting point on securing movie licensing rights), word also broke that the entire film series program had been halted and the director at Enfield commanded not to speak to the media.

But then yesterday, Enfield town officials backed down and will allow “Sicko” to be screened (although they want the library to wait for a while to let the controversy die down). The gag order on the director has also been lifted. Library Journal has more, and the CLA has been collecting links to news stories throughout.

The library had previously shown “Bowling for Columbine” and “Fahrenheit 9/11” without any trouble; it was apparently because the House of Representatives had recently voted to repeal President Obama’s health care plan that “Sicko” was considered somehow inappropriate or unbalanced. But I think that while requiring balance sounds good on the surface, that can be hard at times:

Finding balance is not always easy, [Enfield Library Director Henry Dutcher] said. Sometimes, there are no obvious counterpoints to offer. For example, he said the library once hosted a presentation about deep-sea fishing, and he said he didn’t know what would constitute balance in that case.

He said he has considered several films to provide balance to “Sicko.” One of the titles is called “Sick and Sicker” and is a documentary critical of the health care reform law promoted last year by Obama. Although both films focus on health care, Dutcher said it isn’t clear whether they represent a balanced look at the same issue. (source)

I know that lots of libraries have collection development policies stating that the library seeks to collect materials representing all viewpoints, but with what might as well be an infinite number of issues, topics, viewpoints, and sides to a discussion and only a limited number of dollars to spend on materials, how close to that vision for a balanced collection can we really get? And how do you balance topics like deep-sea fishing?

While I don’t have firsthand knowledge of what happened in Enfield, I don’t think that actually wanting to see balance was at the heart of the original complaint. From the resident who originally objected to the screening of “Sicko”:

“If we do want to see differing points of view, I would suggest films like ‘The Passion of the Christ’ and other controversial movies would also be filmed or shown and advertised for viewing in a public venue like that on the tax dollar,” Fealy said.

It’s not that this resident has a problem with the library somehow trampling on his views on healthcare; he wants an ultraviolent Christian propaganda film to somehow “balance” a Michael Moore documentary on health care. Moore definitely has an agenda with his movies, but “balancing” it with “The Passion of the Christ” doesn’t seem like any kind of real balance to me.

No one ever sees these explosions of community discord and media coverage coming, and I wonder what the library administration and staff at Enfield will be doing differently from here on out to achieve “balance.” I’m just really glad that freedom of information and expression won out over censorship this time.

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3 Comments January 26, 2011

Miscellany: library news and trends, crafts, book art, and librarians playing croquet

This collection of links is going to be a real mix of things, but there’s so much interesting stuff I’ve seen lately!

YA lit and library news and trends
One of the things I’d like to see more of in librarianship in general and youth services especially is more rigor and research. YALSA is launching the Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults, an online, open-access, peer-reviewed journal, in November. They’ve put out a call for papers for the Winter 2011 and Spring 2011 issues.

Through 20 September you can also nominate librarians for the I Love My Librarian Award. The winners get a $5000 cash award, a plaque, and a $500 travel stipend to attend an awards reception in New York hosted by The New York Times, so this is a great opportunity for all of you library users to nominate a librarian who’s made a difference in your life or your community.

The Horn Book has available a poster called “A is for XBox: 26 Ways to Prevent Summer Reading.” While I think there’s some unnecessary hostility toward technology (you can read books and play video games), it’s still pretty cute.

Speaking of summer reading, one Bronx teen read 325 books during the New York Public Library’s summer reading program. That’s astounding, but I think my favorite part of the article was the bit about the boy designated “most improved” who began having to have his parents read to him but finished reading over 60 books on his own. Yeah summer reading!

In sadder/madder news, Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian was recently removed from a school library in Missouri. On Wednesday the school board voted unanimously to ban the book from the school curriculum and voted 7-2 to keep it out of the library.

Alexie’s book has won a number of awards, but that did not sway the board.

“We can take the book and wrap it in those 20 awards everyone else said it won and it still is wrong,” said board member Ken Spurgeon.

Supporters of the book said it was chosen to get high school boys, particularly, interested in reading. Spurgeon said that was a mistake because the book’s reading level is low for high school readers.

Over at Closed Stacks, The Librarienne rails against the ALA for continuing to promote the idea that librarianship is a greying profession and that there will soon be a mass exodus of retirees leaving positions for new librarians to fill, citing the unemployment and underemployment she and her fellow graduates are suffering.

But in non-sucky news, Bitch Magazine recently interviewed Lia Friedman, he head of public services at the UCSD Arts Library, the staff librarian for make/shift magazine, and an active member of Radical Reference. Lia talks about the values of librarianship, stereotypes of librarians, and what Radical Reference does.

Earlier this spring I reviewed Joanna Philbin’s debut YA novel The Daughters. For readers who want more, Philbin did interviews with School Library Journal and the Poppy website.

I finally finished catching up on all of the Mockingjay-related posts on blogs I follow! I think Leila’s overall analysis at Bookshelves of Doom and Jia’s take on its portrayal of the horrors of war at Dear Author are spot on.

Way earlier this summer, Shannon Hale asked other YA authors about books with morals and got a lot of interesting responses.

The team at Orbit had their summer intern do “a survey of cover art elements for the top fantasy novels published in the previous year,” and a few weeks ago they published their results. The summary in chart form:

ohdeedoh has a tutorial on creating custom hardbacks with cardboard, fabric, a gluestick, and an inkjet printer.

Check out these simple cut-paper bookmarks from We Wilsons and Wild Olive.

And celebrate back to school with Sew, Mama, Sew!‘s binder pouch tutorial.

Book art, storage, and design
There’s more amazing book art at style/SWOON.

design*sponge‘s collection of photographs of different book storage techniques is pretty cool.

And João Machado‘s video “The Effect of a Book, Extending Beyond The Form” examines how we handle books:

And finally…
Via YABOOKNERD, the Masters of Library Science Croquet Tournament:

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2 Comments September 10, 2010

Follow-up: the Humble, TX Teen Lit Fest; John Green’s personal library; YA Fantasy Showdown results

The Humble, TX Teen Lit Fest
The cover of Ellen Hopkins's YA book, FALLOUT

Leila of Bookshelves of Doom reports that after the controversy surrounding Ellen Hopkins’ disinvitation from the Humble, Texas Teen Lit Fest, the event has been canceled. There’s more at Chron.com, including this:

“The Teen Lit Fest is for middle and high school, so kids as young as 11 would be attending,” [Karen] Collier [the district’s public information director] said. “We could have limited access to Hopkins, but that’s not how we want to set up our event. We want the students to have access to all the authors.”


But the district doesn’t regret the decision to exclude Hopkins.

“It’s a disappointment when something like this happens,” Collier said. “But if parents are concerned that we overreacted, I suggest that they read some of her work. It’s very graphic.”

But Hopkins, who writes all her novels in free verse, maintains that she’s writing about real issues that affect real kids.

“I don’t understand the district’s fear,” Hopkins said. “Do they think I’m going to stand up there and tell the kids how to do drugs?”

I’m so sad for the teens and librarians and teachers who are going to miss out on this event, but I’m also really disappointed that the school district still thinks it did the right thing in uninviting Hopkins.

John Green’s personal library
I wrote about organizing my personal library last month, and in a recent Vlogbrothers video, John Green talks about the recent reorganization of his own personal library:

The categories into which his books are organized are:

What a great example of organizing your personal library how it works for you, even if that means hilariously hyper-specific categories.

YA Fantasy Showdown results

And finally, the YA Fantasy Showdown has concluded! All of the votes have been counted and the final victor, with 51% of the votes, is Eugenides. Huge huge huge thanks to Heather Zundel, Beth Revis, Charlotte Taylor, Danyelle Leafty, Chelsea Swigget, and Lois Moss, the team behind the Showdown. There’s been call for them to put together another Showdown; Heather’s promising some sort of new content soon, and she’ll address whether or not we’ll see another Showdown. Here’s hoping!

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3 Comments August 31, 2010

Censorship in Texas: Ellen Hopkins and the Humble, TX Teen Lit Fest

A photograph of Ellen Hopkins, author of free-verse novels for young adults.

I’m just now hearing about this, but last Tuesday, Ellen Hopkins wrote a blog post about being uninvited from the Teen Lit Fest in Humble, Texas. (I’m having trouble finding official information about the event; there seems to be a Facebook page and a Blogspot account, but neither have been updated recently.)

Hopkins had done high school visits in the area before and they’d gone well, but when a middle school librarian saw Hopkins would be at Teen Lit Fest, she went to some parents and then all of them went to the superintendent to ask that Hopkins be uninvited. The superintendent, Guy Sconzo, hadn’t read any of her books but agreed to remove her from the program. When other area librarians wrote to him in protest, he responded that he’d relied on the librarian’s judgement and that there were plenty of other authors they could invite–too many to ever have them all! Hopkins responded to this on her blog:

I am not just another author. I’m an author who is a voice for a generation that faces real problems every day. An author who tries to dissect those problems, look for reasons, suggest solutions, show outcomes to choices through characters who walk off the page. I’m an author who cares about her readership in a very real way. I am thoughtful, respectful of my readers, and not afraid to tell the truth.

That is what censors fear. The truth. Mr. Sconzo doesn’t “want to jeopardize any possible negative reaction [sic] with what has been to date completely positive for literally all concerned.” (I always wonder about school administrators who can’t write a sentence correctly.) The truth may not always be pretty, but it is positive. What’s negative is hiding truth in a dark closet, pretending it doesn’t exist. And worse, manipulating people with lies.

She then asks that people in the Houston area not attend the festival and that people everywhere who oppose this censorship email the superintendent.

But the other authors involved with Teen Lit Fest are going a step further. Melissa de la Cruz wrote a blog post yesterday about growing up in a dictator-controlled country that banned, among other media, Japanese anime. She writes that “[w]hen I moved to America, I was happy to discover that you could watch ANYTHING here. Censorship was NOT a way of life. The freedom was dizzying.” And then she gets to the heart of censorship of material for young people:

But I want every kid to be able to decide whether they want to read Ellen’s books or my books, or anyone’s books. Kids should be able to choose. (Parents can choose not to let their kids read something, and that’s fine. They can also choose not to let their kids go hear someone speak, but you can’t ruin it for other people’s kids whose parents decided THEY can hear a speaker or read a book.)

I didn’t get to choose when I was nine years old, and I remember being INCREDIBLY UPSET. In fact, the absence of those Japanese cartoons is something I have been MOURNING for twenty-years now. I really missed it when they took it away, and I was HORRIFIED to find out that SOMEONE ELSE decided WHAT I could watch. (Someone who was not my parents.) It really disturbed me. It CONTINUES to disturb me.

So de la Cruz has withdrawn from Teen Lit Fest, and Pete Hautman has, too. In his blog post, he recounts how he’s twice been asked to speak at a library and then had that invitation rescinded after his writing was deemed “inappropriate.” At the time he didn’t make a big deal about it, but now he sees that as a mistake, so he’s withdrawing from Teen Lit Fest to stand against censorship. He also says that Tara Lynn Childs and Matt de la Peña have withdrawn as well.

I think what makes me angriest about this whole situation is that this censorship was begun by a librarian. I know that school librarians walk a narrower line, but all librarians everywhere are supposed to be the defenders of intellectual freedom and the champions of a young person’s right to read. Parents may decide what their own children read, but they shouldn’t be able to decide what everyone’s children read–and libraries should be providing more opportunities, not fewer.

I’m glad that other authors involved in this event are standing in solidarity with Ellen Hopkins and taking a stand against censorship. Even if one librarian in Texas is determined to “protect” teens from “inappropriate” material (material that’s won awards and propelled Hopkins’s books to the New York Times Bestseller list!), there are plenty of other people in Texas and online who value choice and–as Julie Halpern wrote when one of her books was challenged–respect young readers.

You can email the Superintendent Sconzo if you’d like to share your thoughts with him.

Update: I should be clear that while I’m thrilled to see other authors standing in solidarity with Ellen Hopkins, I’m also sad that if the superintendent doesn’t change his mind, Houston-area teens are going to be denied a chance to meet the creators of the books they love. It bites that they’re the ones who are caught in the middle.

Update 2: Ellen Hopkins has written a follow-up blog post in which she acknowledges that authors withdrawing from the Teen Lit Fest is unfair to teens and librarians in Humble, but emphasizes that this is about censorship and the freedom of ideas.

Update 3: Matt de la Pena has confirmed via Facebook that he won’t be going either. Tera Lynn Childs has written a blog post about withdrawing from the event (as well as her letter to Superintendent Sconzo), including this particularly spot-on thought:

I really feel bad for the students in this situation. All they wanted was the chance to meet some great writers (trust me, Ellen Hopkins, Melissa de la Cruz, Pete Hautman, and Matt de la Pena are great writers) and maybe get some signed books. Instead, they’re missing out because a few adults think they know better.

That’s the problem with censorship, especially the kind that goes along with books. It’s usually couched in a fog of protection. As if keeping you from certain content is for your own good, and it’s really better this way. I’m especially appalled when this is applied to teen readers. Not only are teens generally way smarter and more mature and more experienced than we think, teen readers in particular are among the smartest people I know. It’s just insulting for adults in power (or those seeking power) to try to carry out their agenda waving the Because-They’re-Children and Because-We-Know-Better banners.

I couldn’t just sit by and be a part of this, and neither should you.

She also wrote a follow-up post with a poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox.

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8 Comments August 17, 2010

Miscellany: preservation at the Library of Congress, YA book cover design process, and more library videos

A photograph depicts a young woman leaning over to place a large roughly gun-shaped device against a very old book cradled in a stand. She works for the Library of Congress doing preservation research.

Rob Beschizza toured the the Preservation Research and Testing Division and the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center of the Library of Congress recently and posted gorgeous high-res photos (and a couple videos) and descriptions of a lot of the preservation technology on BoingBoing. He talks about both the preservation of old print materials and digital items–everything from the Gettysburg Address and the 500-year-old Waldseemüller world map to nitrate film and RCA Selectavision and DVDs–touching on some of the issues involved (damaging an item to learn about it, DRM, digitizing vs maintaining old technology) and explaining some of the different tools and the science of preservation. Preservation nerds will love this, but everyone should click through just to check out the photos.

A piece of strange, sad news: a public library in Dover, New Hampshire recently discovered 5,000 anti-public school bookmarks tucked into books in their collection; staff spent 30 hours removing all of them. The bookmarks espoused the ideals of the School Sucks Project and Freedomain Radio and were strategically placed in books in certain sections of the library. Other nearby libraries have also found the bookmarks in their own collections. And lest anyone think the library was trying to censor the School Sucks Project’s message,

Although Beaudoin said she didn’t want library patrons to think the library supported the messages on the bookmarks, she wouldn’t have denied a request to post a poster or literature on a public board or display.

But library policy prohibits the dissemination of information through bookmarks in books, she said.

“If I had found 5,000 bookmarks staying ‘Stop the oil spill in the Gulf,’ a message I think everyone can get behind, I still would have pulled them,” she said. “It’s not what it was about, but that the act was done.”

A long time ago I linked to a blog post by the designer of the cover of THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ISLAND describing the design process and showing some of the alternate cover designs. If you liked that, a post on Jacket Whys collects some more examples of designers’ blog posts about YA book covers they’ve done.

Brigham Young University recently took a page from Old Spice’s book and put together this fantastic video, “New Spice: Study Like a Scholar, Scholar,” in which BYU student and comedian Stephen Jones extolls the virtues of studying at BYU’s Harold B. Lee Library. So many elements of the Old Spice commercials are nailed so perfectly and it’s a great mix of silly and accurate and man I love this video.

And if you just can’t get enough library-related videos, the Huffington Post rounds up what they think are the nine funniest videos out there, including Librarians Do Gaga and Improv Everywhere’s recent video recreating the library scene from Ghostbusters.

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2 Comments July 20, 2010

On KP Bath and separating the author from the work

KP Bath (Multnomah County Sheriff's Office)

Last week children’s book author KP Bath was sentenced to six years in jail for possessing child pornography. This brings up questions of what librarians should do with his books if they’re held by the library. Should they be removed from the collection? Should they be booktalked and suggested? Should they be featured in displays? In South Carolina where the book won the 2007-2008 Junior Book Award, should the book be stricken from the award list?

Bath was originally arrested in April 2009. At the time I was taking both a seminar on intellectual freedom and Materials for Youth, and I brought up his arrest in both classes to gauge my fellow students’ reactions. While my seminar classmates were all vociferous in their defense of the book (but not the author), I was surprised by how many of my classmates in Materials for Youth would have removed the book from their libraries’ collections, even if they hadn’t read the books themselves. I think that were KP Bath an author for adults, even more cautious librarians would be less likely to pull his works; it’s providing his books to children, the very group he was exploiting, that concerns us.

At the time I hadn’t read any of KP Bath’s books, but by the end of the semester had read both THE SECRET OF CASTLE CANT and ESCAPE FROM CASTLE CANT, the first two books in a trilogy that will now probably never see completion. I thought they were mediocre fantasy novels that started with an interesting world but fell short in their narration style and details. But aside from a few notes about how insufferable adults are (which you’ll find in many books for older children and young adults), there was nothing in the books that seemed unusual or uncomfortable, much less exploitative. So, wearing my librarian hat and separating the author from his work, I concluded that it would violate the Freedom to Read Statement were we to remove the book from our library shelves.

But this also illustrated to me the occasional separation that occurs between my professional ethics and my personal ethics. While I’m not always great at it, it’s important to me to spend my consumer dollars wisely since it’s the only vote I get in the behavior of corporations and the business world in general. And I definitely don’t want to financially support someone who exploits children–especially someone so downright skeezy as Bath. He wrote in one of his chats, “I’m glad there are molesters out there,” and “I wish a 9 yr old was doing that to me. This from a man who’s writing books for 9-year-olds.” While he was enjoying (and trading) videos and images “depicting sadistic conduct, rape, sodomy and bestiality,” he was also volunteering at the Beverly Cleary Children’s Library in Portland. He was volunteering at the local children’s library. It chills my blood to read that sentence. Knowing what I know about Bath, there’s no way I could spend my money on his books, recommend (rather than suggest) his books to any children I know, or in any way not oppose him.

But those are my personal values. My professional values demand that I treat his books as I would have before his arrest and conviction. Normally I feel like my own values and my profession’s values are a good match, but I really struggle with this case. I know that as much as we want it to be or might claim it is, our collection development isn’t objective. I want social justice to be a part of librarianship. But intellectual freedom is at the core of librarianship and is the defense for some controversial things that happen in youth librarianship. If we start making compromises, how can we continue to defend controversial books being on our shelves? If we make exceptions and remove KP Bath’s books from our collections, then how do we retain the works of other felons or of anyone–atheists, gay people–whom someone in our library’s community might think immoral?

But can I really set aside my personal values in favor of my professional ones and be okay with myself? I certainly expect it of any librarians who personally think that (for example) people in the queer community are on the path to hell–I’d still expect them to collect books by LGBTQIA authors. Is the reason I think this is different because the law and a majority of people in our society agree that pedophilia is wrong whereas (in most states at least) homosexuality isn’t a crime?

I struggled with this conflict of values last spring and now that Bath has been sentenced, I’m thinking about it again. Professionally the right thing to do is to treat his books no differently, but personally, I’m torn. Intellectual freedom is important to me, but so is supporting good in the world and opposing evil. I feel okay keeping Bath’s books in a collection and with giving them to patrons who ask for them directly. But can I, with a clean conscience, add Bath’s books to a booklist? Can I booktalk them? I think I’ll probably do so–and feel good about it at work but feel guilty about it at home.

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5 Comments July 12, 2010

@ your library (@ your shopping mall)

Once I started library school, my mom started noticing libraries in the news. Every month or so she’ll send me a clipping or a link to a story about a library in our area, a report on a new trend in librarianship, or a write-up on some controversy at a library. Today she showed me “Libraries branching out to malls”, an AP article that describes how some libraries are opening branches–some that look like your normal neighborhood library branch and some that are more like bookstores–in shopping malls. The article points out that library usage has been increasing steadily (citing the IMLS report that I recently mentioned) and notes that one library mentioned in the article had to increase their storytimes from 2-3 a week to 12 a week at their mall location. Overall the article paints libraries in malls as positive and notes that they’re part of a trend toward convenience and customer satisfaction.

And in general, I think that this form of mild library outreach is a good way to get the library to where the patrons are. Our private spaces are increasingly becoming commercialized and clearly there are a lot of people in shopping malls. Having a mall outlet is a good way for the library to be a part of patrons’ routines in a way they might not be able to as stand-alone buildings.

But I wonder what it means that libraries are stepping up and standing alongside commercial spaces. Will this commercialize the library? Part of the library’s greatness is that everyone is welcome and everyone has (or we strive for them to have) equal access to what we provide. That’s not what commercial enterprise does, and I wonder if people start associating the library with the mall if they’ll start to think of the library differently.

Don’t get me wrong: I think any chance to bring more people into the library or to bring library service to people is great, and having libraries in malls is a great way to capture a different segment of the library’s service population. As long as libraries don’t wind up exclusively in malls, I think it’s a great idea.

But it’s also not without its dangers. One library mentioned in the article rents their space for $1 a year and their programs are sponsored by a local energy company. But to offer another data point, the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library system is facing budget cuts, and one of the two branches that’s on the chopping block in all three plans that involve closing branches is the Glendale branch, which is located in a shopping mall. Even though the Glendale branch has some of the highest circulation and gate-count data, the powers that be are concerned that they’re renting the space rather than purchasing it and having that equity. The library board should be making a decision about how to cope with budget reductions this month.

If libraries can find a good deal in renting a space in a mall, it sounds like that’s a great way to make the library more available to certain people and to raise the library’s visibility in the community. I’m a little concerned about whether or not that might commercialize the library–an organization whose greatest strength lies in its public nature–but so long as libraries aren’t located solely in shopping malls, it sounds like a good opportunity.

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3 Comments July 6, 2010

Miscellany: iPhone + book = PhoneBook, stats from IMLS, and Hugo Cabret in production

My last few posts have been pretty long, so how about some short snippets?

I recently linked to Laura Miller’s New Yorker article on dystopian YA lit; Kaitlin Ward of YA Highway responded to that with a blog post on the difference between dystopian and post-apocalyptic lit (which I found via Melissa of Librarian by Day).

This Japanese YouTube video demonstrates how a book and an iPhone (iPhone + book = PhoneBook) can combine to create something clever, cute, and fun:

During my last semester of my MLS I worked on an independent study group project with a number of other students and a professor to help create a community digital repository with a library in northeastern Indiana. That library, the Eckhart Public Library, recently celebrated its 100th anniversary and got a write-up in one of the Fort Wayne papers that includes some neat photos. (More on our project)

The Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) issued a press release today announcing–among other things–that public library visits and circulations per capita had increased 20% from 1999 to 2008 but that the number of librarians per capita had remained the same (about 4 librarians per 25,000 people), so the same number of librarians are handling more patron visits and more circulations. The press release also mentions the availability of computers (doubled in the last ten years), attendance at children’s programming (up 13.9%) and overall programming (up 17.6%), and “the distribution of library outlets by state and geography type” (in 16 states more than 50% of library outlets are in rural areas).

Brian Selznick’s Caldecott Award-winning THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET is being movie-fied by Martin Scorsese; the cast includes Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Asa Butterfield, Chloë Moretz, Jude Law, Ray Winstone, Christopher Lee, Helen McCrory, Frances de la Tour, and Richard Griffiths. The film is going to be in 3D and production recently began in London. As always I’m nervous about movie adaptations, but I’m really excited about who’s involved with this one so I’m letting myself get my hopes up.

And finally, more book art! This time it’s by Su Blackwell and it’s amazing. These are just a few examples; you’ll have to check out the artist’s gallery for more.

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1 Comment July 1, 2010

Miscellany: InfoLadies, what makes a library, MCCSC librarians saved, and videos

Whew! Life is finally starting to settle down again after the move. I have so much to talk about! Let’s start with some miscellaneous things that have happened recently.

Near the end of May, Cory Doctorow made a post on BoingBoing about the InfoLadies of Bangladesh. Women ride from village to village on bicycles bringing medical supplies and a netbook to help people with their information needs.

“Ask me about the pest that’s infecting your crop, common skin diseases, how to seek help if your husband beats you or even how to stop having children, and I may have a solution,” says a confident Akhter.

This kind of transformative access to information is awesome on its own, but it’s especially great in a country like Bangladesh where 36% of people live on less than $1 a day and 90% of women give birth at home with no medical assistance. Read more at the original Guardian article.

The Westbury Book Exchange in Somerset, England is billed as the “smallest library in the world” at Offbeat Earth. An old red telephone booth was purchased for £1 and stocked with books, CDs, and DVDs. People bring books they’ve read to swap with what’s in the booth. I love this community-driven love for literacy, but it’s not really a library, is it? The books aren’t in any particular order, much less being cataloged or classified, and there’s no professional staff available to help you find what you want. But it’s gotten me thinking about what makes a library a library–and it’s cute!

I wrote earlier about disappearing school libraries across the country and wanted to follow up with some good news: all fifteen media specialist positions in the Monroe County (IN) school district have been restored for the 2010-2011 school year. All funding for extracurriculars and the stipends for coaches were cut, but some classroom teachers will also have their jobs back.

There’s still time to apply for YALSA’s mentoring program if you haven’t yet. Experienced public and school librarians working with teens will be paired up with newcomers to the field for mutual learning, encouragement, and awesomeness. Applications are due by the end of this month, so if you’re interested but haven’t finished your application, be sure to do so soon.

And finally, a couple videos. As part of the promotion for GUYS READ: FUNNY BUSINESS, which comes out this September, HarperCollins put together “The Joke,” in which Jon Scieszka, Mac Barnett, Adam Rex, David Yoo, Paul Feig, Kate DiCamillo, Christopher Paul Curtis, Eoin Colfer, Jack Gantos, David Lubar, and Jeff Kinney–all contributors to the collection–tell a joke about a new kid in school.

I like that the Internet makes authors so much more accessible than they ever have been. There’s exciting stuff like being able to read their blogs, follow them on Twitter, or watch their video blogs, but even just things like this where you get to see what they look like personalizes them in a way that I didn’t really have growing up.

Some students and faculty members at the University of Washington’s Information School show off the braininess and sexiness of library and information science work in “Librarians do Gaga.”

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3 Comments June 8, 2010

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