Intellectual Freedom matters. As Young Adult librarians we are constantly facing down book and material challenges. If you take a look at any year’s list of ALA’s top ten challenged books, you’ll see that the majority of the books being challenged are YA books. ALA is a leader in the defense of the First Amendment, and has a large Intellectual Freedom community. From the Freedom to Read Foundation, which fights for reader rights in court cases, to the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, ALA works hard to combat censorship and protect reader privacy. For YALSA members interested in staying up to date on intellectual freedom issues, a great place to start is the YALSA Intellectual Freedom Discussion Group.
Here’s what we’ve been doing:
- Staying informed and sometimes blogging about current issues surrounding intellectual freedom, teens, and libraries. For example, we’ve recently been discussing the Mississippi teen fighting for her right to take her girlfriend to prom.
- Planning ALA Conference programs in conjunction with AASL and ALSC Intellectual Freedom Groups. YALSA plans a program every third year. In 2009, we presented a panel discussion on the fine line between selection and censorship. Our next program will be in 2012.
- Liaisoning with ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee & the Freedom to Read Foundation. Liaisions attend meetings at conference, and sometimes attend the ALA-IFC Spring Meeting in Chicago.
You can join us by contacting the current convener (me). I’ll add your to our email distribution list, and then ask you to join our ALA Connect group. Speaking of conveners, it’s nearly time to vote for a new one (or two). If you think you’d like lead or co-lead this interesting interest group, submit your name to me by Monday, May 3rd. Convener elections will be held via ALA Connect on May 24th.
If you are interested in joining or convening, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you haven’t heard yet, the Texas Board of Education has approved a social studies curriculum that demonstrates a clear bias toward politically conservative ideology. (Washington Post, NYT) In the words of one Board member: “I don’t care what the educational political lobby and their allies on the left say, evolution is hooey.” and, “The way I evaluate history textbooks is first I see how they cover Christianity and Israel. Then I see how they treat Ronald Reagan — he needs to get credit for saving the world from communism and for the good economy over the last twenty years because he lowered taxes.” (Interview on AlterNet)
According to CBS, YouTube has responded to parental complaints about violent and sexual content by introducing Safety Mode. The article quotes Marsali Hancock, parent and president of ikeepsafe.org.
After I stopped being ticked, the next thing that struck me was: Why is Hancock’s daughter on YouTube 2-to-5 hours a day?
From American Libraries: Milwaukee-area citizen Robert C. Braun of the Christian Civil Liberties Union (CCLU) distributed at the meeting copies of a claim for damages he and three other plaintiffs filed April 28 with the city; the complainants seek the right to publicly burn or destroy by another means the library’s copy of Baby Be-Bop. The claim also demands $120,000 in compensatory damages ($30,000 per plaintiff) for being exposed to the book in a library display, and the resignation of West Bend Mayor Kristine Deiss for “allow[ing] this book to be viewed by the public.”
While we watch the story unfold in Wisconsin, what can we do?
Get in on the ground floor of something interesting!
As you may have heard, YALSA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee will be transitioning into an Interest Group. This means that anyone interested can sign up to participate, and conference attendance is not mandatory. All you need is a passion for intellectual freedom and the First Amendment!
The transformation will be complete by 2010. We need at least 15 interested YALSA members to send their information right away, so we may submit a formal petition in June. Continue reading
Steve Martin’s play Picasso at the Lapin Agile, was recently banned from production in a La Grande, OR high school, because parents objected to it’s adult content. The play is about an imagined meeting between Picasso and Einstein in Paris. ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom reports that over 420 books were challenged in 2007 (this is the most recent data available). If only every book could have a celebrity in it’s corner, writing a letter to the editor in the community newspaper, as Steve Martin did.
“YALSA has an Intellectual Freedom Committee? What do you do?” I have been surprised a few times by some YALSA and ALA members who were unaware that we exist. But considering that YALSA has many committees, it is possible to get lost in the shuffle sometimes.
So, without further ado – here’s what we do. According to our committee’s function statement
, our purpose is:
- To serve as a liaison between the YALSA and the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee and all other groups within the Association concerned with intellectual freedom.
- To advise the YALSA on matters pertaining to the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution and the ALA Library Bill of Rights and their implications to library service to young adults and to make recommendations to the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee for changes in policy on issues involving library service to young adults.
- To prepare and gather materials which will advise the young adult librarian of available services and support for resisting local pressure and community action designed to impair the rights of young adult users.
- To assume responsibility for the continuing education of young adult librarians regarding intellectual freedom.
As a YALSA Intellectual Freedom Committee member, I have my choice of a smorgasbord of Intellectual Freedom meetings and activities to attend at Conference. However by far, the best part of my trip to Midwinter was attending the Freedom to Read Foundation’s Fourth Annual Author Event featuring Lauren Myracle.
Lauren specifically addressed the banning and challenging of her books. She spoke about how she could empathize with parents who find her books objectionable. Because the world is truly a scary place, protecting your children is a priority. Continue reading
One of my esteemed IF Committee colleagues touched on this point a couple of posts back, but I find a need to bring it up again. There have been a couple of intellectual freedom related issues that have cropped up in my library and community as of late; The debates were centered around two books: Elizabeth Scott’s ‘Living Dead Girl’ and Susanna Kaysen’s ‘Girl, Interrupted’ and their suitability for a teen audience. This has had me pondering the meaning of the word “appropriate” and the way it sometimes gets tossed about in our line of work. Continue reading
Neil Gaiman responding to a question on why defending free speech you don’t like is necessary made me realize how important it is to remind ourselves as young adult librarians to push our comfort levels when buying potentially controversial materials. In thinking about graphic novels, I wonder if larger systems with three different sections of GN might be more willing to start something in YA knowing they can always move to A if needed. 10 years ago when it was harder to find enough Children’s GN to fill up a shelf, there was more danger of having Tintin next to Watchman, but now it seems easier. Continue reading