Sad news from ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom

Judith Fingeret Krug, longtime director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom and the founder of Banned Books Week, died Saturday after a long illness.’  Advisor, author and public servant, she was a remarkable leader in the struggle to educate the public concerning the right to the free expression of ideas. Judy was an inspiration to all who knew her.

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Steve Martin Play Banned in La Grande

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.
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Introduction to YALSA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee

“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.

This Library Has Been Blocked Pending Further Review

As a school librarian in a district that uses WebSense, I’m all too familiar with the blocked page screen. For the mostpart, filtering seems to be limited to what someone recently referred to as “bandwidth hogs”–sites like YouTube, which could definitely tax district servers if too many students tried to browse all at once.’  Every now and then I’m frustrated by a block–like when a friend recommended a book to me, and for some reason the review she linked was blocked–but I generally understand the rationale behind most blocks, even if I don’t necessarily agree with it (*cough*Facebook*cough*).

But what happens when the blocker isn’t WebSense or internet filtering at all? What if you can’t access a resource because a colleague or an administrator or your community has decided you shouldn’t?

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Katie & Joseph’s YALSA Vlog Ep. 1: You Can’t Spell Intellectual Freedom without “Teen”

From time to time, YALSA teen blogger Katie and I will get together to have a heart-to-heart talk about issues affecting teen librarians from both a teen and librarian’s perspective. First up: what does intellectual freedom mean to the teens who use our library?

For more information about teens and what you can do to be an advocate of intellectual freedom, please visit the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom or YALSA’s own Intellectual Freedom Resources.

~Joseph Wilk
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Teen

Lauren Myracle and Intellectual Freedom at Midwinter

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

To Be, or Not To Be ‘Appropriate’: Why Do We Self-Censor?

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

Why Defend Freedom of Icky Speech?

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

Web 2.0 and Selecting Materials for YAs

Reading news items and YALSA-Bk listserv postings during this past month, I noticed two recurring intellectual freedom themes…determining the suitability/appropriateness of materials for teens and balancing that suitability/appropriateness within the current definition of YA literature. “Appropriateness” concerns have been raised recently about a whole gamut of materials from DVD TV movies (Freedom Song) to manga titles (Alice 19 and Treasure), popular fiction (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Succession), and L. Ron Hubbard audio books. Most of the postings asked for guidance in evaluating these titles for suitability for a YA audience.

It struck me that we librarians depend more and more on the opinions of blog and listserv posters and less on our own familiarity with the material in question. Are we in danger of basing our decisions on incomplete information then? Do we prefer postings because we don’t have enough time to read, view, and/or listen to new acquisitions or to become more familiar with our collections? Is it because we fear challenges and it’s simply easier, this way, to avoid them? Continue reading

2008 Book Challenges

Perhaps it’s hard to believe, but 2008 is almost over. The ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF) is seeking reports of book challenges that occurred during the year.’  As the OIF post on the topic states:

With the end of the year approaching, the Office for Intellectual Freedom will be compiling our yearly list of most frequently challenged books. We collect information for our challenge database from newspapers and reports submitted by individuals and, while we know that many challenges are never reported, we strive to be as comprehensive as possible in our records. We would greatly appreciate if you could send us any information on challenges in your library or school from 2008. Continue reading