Religion and Libraries: Why Do It?

Religion is commonly grouped with politics as a topic libraries avoid programming with, bypass in reference interviews, and circumlocute in collection development.’  Treating religion this way is a disservice to our teens as well as other library patrons. ‘ Religion is intrinsic to our patrons’ lives; every individual — even those who do not opt in to religious observance — has a religious life.’  Religion informs our news, culture, education, and community life.’  No library is exempt from this; every library has religious patrons.’  A Facebook graph search is a simple way to test this assertion. Continue reading

ALA Council at Midwinter 2013 and Youth Issues

8430121091_c719b48483ALA Council is the governing body of ALA. Council meets during Midwinter and Annual, with significant electronic communication in between.

I’m an ‘at-large’ Councilor, which means I’m not representing a particular state, ALA division, or roundtable like some other Councilors do. For example, all divisions (like the youth ones, ALSC, AASL, and YALSA) have an ALA Council representative. There’s also an Executive Board and Council Officers as well. While the structure of Council might sound complicated and can be at times, every Councilor there has an important role.

Though not every issue Council discussed at Midwinter had to do with our service population, I have briefly summarized those issues which did apply below:

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Looking for Your Intellectual Freedom stories and ideas!

Are you passionate about defending intellectual freedom for teens?

We are editing Intellectual Freedom for Teens: A Practical Guide for YA and School Librarians to be published in 2012 by YALSA and ALA editions. Our hope is that it will help librarians prepare before a challenge has been received and appropriately respond to a complaint once it has been filed. Do you have an experience or idea that would inspire and inform your colleagues? Continue reading

Support of Intellectual Freedom in Tucson Resolution passed

ALA Council passed a resolution this morning in Support of Intellectual Freedom in Tucson Unified School District Mexican American Studies Program.
The full text of the WHEREAS clauses can be found on the Office of Intellectual Freedom site here.

The resolve clause reads:
1. Condemns the suppression of open inquiry and free expression caused by closure of ethnic and cultural studies programs on the basis of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.
2. Condemns the restriction of access to educational materials associated with ethnic and cultural studies programs.
3. Urges the Arizona legislature to pass HB 2654, “An Act Repealing Sections 15-111 and 15-112, Arizona Revised Statutes: Relating to School Curriculum.

This resolution was moved by the Intellectual Freedom Committee and supported in principle by YALSA, among other divisions, committees and round tables.

The IFC also recommended that the resolution be sent to the Tucson Unified School District, the State of Arizona Department of Education Superintendent of Public Instruction, each member of the State of Arizona Legislature, the Governor of Arizona, United States Congressman Grijalva, and the United States Secretary of Education.

Freedom to Read Foundation Banned Author Event: John Green

The Dallas Public Library was definitely the place to be last night. Starting with the reception that preceded his presentation, YA author/rock star John Green was swarmed by loyal readers who were anything but quiet!

In his introduction to John Green, Freedom to Read Foundation, (FTRF) President Kent Oliver shared a general overview of the kinds of cases the organization has been recently involved in; a harmful to minors statute to be applied to the Internet in Ohio, the removal of Vamos a Cuba in Florida, and video game bans in Illinois and Minnesota. FTRF is a legal arm of the American Library Association that John Green thanked several times throughout his presentation for their support to First Amendment Issues. Continue reading

In Memoriam: Dororthy Broderick

“There’s something in my library to offend everyone.”

So read a favorite t-shirt of Dorothy Broderick, a legend in YA librarianship, a great defender of intellectual freedom, and an unforgettable personality. Dorothy died Saturday, Dec. 17, at 8:45 p.m.

Dorothy ‘ was an active member of ALA, including YALSA. Her work was recognized repeatedly in the library field, from the prestigious Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award in 1987 to the Grolier Award from ALA in 1991 and the Freedom to Read Foundation’s Roll of Honor Award in 1998.

Dorothy’s greatest contribution to YA librarianship, however, is the mentoring and personal guidance she gave to hundreds of librarians throughout her career, as a librarian in the field, a professor at five major library schools, an author, and through her work as editor of VOYA (co-founded with her partner, Mary K. Chelton, in their home in 1978).

YALSA and YA librarianship wouldn’t be what it is today without Dorothy. The YALSA Board of Directors offered a resolution in her honor in 2007, calling her “the glue that that bound many of us together in earlier YALSA years,” and noting her “wicked wit,” which belied a “a heart of gold, a brilliant mind, a love of librarianship, [and] a strong sense of right and wrong.”

In my early days in YALSA, in the 1990s, Dorothy was still attending conferences. It was always a delight to see her, and to hear her asides about whatever was going on at the time. Dorothy was also one of the first editors to publish my writing—articles and reviews in VOYA–so I am personally grateful to her. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to know her and work with her.

She will be missed, but never forgotten. ‘ The Board of Directors, and all of YALSA, are grateful to Dorothy for everything she gave to YA librarianship. Our thoughts are with Mary K. and their family.

Sarah Flowers, YALSA President

Behind the Filter: Ensuring Your Teens Have Access

A few weeks ago, my husband, a security consultant, met with a city about finding vulnerabilities in their network. When he met with the city’s library director, one of the questions he asked was, “You don’t filter your public computers, do you?” My husband texted me immediately after his meeting to say, “You should be proud of me. I told them to keep their public computers unfiltered.”

There is some irony to this. He is, after all, the same man who used to be responsible for blocking access to Web sites at his former company, but his stance on filtering makes complete sense. His company had an Internet policy for its employees, for one, and he kept constant vigilance to make sure nothing got past the filters that shouldn’t and that innocuous sites were still accessible. His stance is that filters should not be used in a public setting, especially when constant modifications cannot be made, because it infringes on First Amendment rights.

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Have a challenge? Need a policy?

With all of the talk about the banning of Angry Management by Chris Crutcher and the removal of the ban on The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie, it seems like it’s a good time to talk about policies. I hope that everyone has a Policy for the Reconsideration of Library Materials, or some other similarly titled policy. If not, the time to form one is yesterday.

Check out ALA’s resources at There you’ll find a sample form to give to patrons challenging materials, and tips for how to talk to the patron with the challenge. Everyone, not just those who would ultimately handle a challenge, needs to know what to do when a patron wants to ban a book. At my library, circulation staff are instructed to immediately refer the person to a manager or a reference librarian and to not say anything in defense of the material or the library. Because our circulation desk is right by the front door, circulation staff are most likely to have first contact with the patron, and they need to know what to do.

When a patron has a challenge, you should be ready with the form for them to fill out, as well as copies of your materials selection policy and selection procedures. If they still want to proceed, make sure your library has a process for reviewing the material and making a recommendation to administration, and if the patron is still not satisfied with the decision, make sure that the appeal hearing is made public. ALA also has tips for talking to the media during the challenge process.

Depending on your library’s procedures, you may be involved a lot or very little in the challenge process, but considering that YA novels make up most of the top ten of the most frequently challenged books each year, we as YA librarians need to be aware of how to handle these challenges effectively.

Teens and Tech: Fighting the Bad Rap

Teens and their use of technology, whether cell phones, social media, gaming, or even plain old tv is getting a bad rap in the media and in advertisements.’ ‘  Obesity has been associated with the amount of time a child spends in front of a screen.’  There are studies showing the’  association between technology and sleep deprivation.’  A recent anti-drug campaign’  offers parents help for teens who use their cell phone to access drugs’  (The image of the cellphone on the table is reminiscent of the classic anti-drug ad with the single blunt).’ ‘  Dateline has proved over’  and over again that the Internet is full of predators.’ ‘  I do not argue with any of these findings. ‘  I worry, though, that technology gets too much of the blame.’  Because of these negative associations, I think that teens’ use of technology becomes something that parents, teachers and librarians try to curb rather than try to encourage.’  When we are bombarded with these studies and advertisements, adults can forget how much reading a teen does with technology and the positive influence technology has. As librarians we are in a position to help bring awareness to how technology can be dangerous; however,’  we must remember that we have an equal if not more important role in helping teens use technology to get better information, to socialize, to play games and to read.
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Why Speak is Awesome and Book Banning is Not-some

Recently, a man named Wesley Scroggins wrote an opinion piece in the News-Leader (Springfield, MO) in which he condemns three books: Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, Sarah Ockler’s Twenty Boy Summer, and Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak. From the perspective of a teenager, a student, and a person, I have a lot to say about this, especially concerning Speak.

In his own words, Scroggins calls Speak “soft pornography”. This totally freaks me out. If he had chosen the word ‘disturbing’ or ‘terrifying’, I could maybe understand his reaction. His word choice seems to imply that the fact that Melinda (the protagonist) is raped is irrelevant. What’s more important to point out to the school board is that there is SEX in a book that CHILDREN are reading in SCHOOLS. This is one of my biggest issues with book banning. In so many instances a book will be challenged because it mentions something that scares people, whether it is sex or drugs or swear words. It only takes a few f bombs for a book to be placed on the “bad” list. What is pretty consistently overlooked in these cases it the impact of a novel as a whole, mostly because challenged books are so rarely read by their challengers.

Rape is a serious, scary issue that affects the people from whom Scroggins is trying to keep this book. What makes it more relevant, in my opinion, is the fact that Speak deals with date rape: something fuzzy, difficult to define, and largely unreported. In a time where “she was asking for it” and “I was drunk and it’s not his fault” are acceptable explanations, Speak is more important than ever.

When I first read Speak, I was close to Melinda’s age. Reading it, all I could think was: “Why isn’t she saying anything? How can she just let him get away with that?” But then I realized something important; Wesley Scroggins is not my parent. A librarian is. My mother is a librarian who never told me I couldn’t read a book, even if it contained something with which she was uncomfortable. It’s because of this encouragement and this freedom that I could read Melinda’s story and not understand her reluctance to say anything.

Scroggins can keep anything he wants from his children. If he thinks that something is immoral or pornographic, he can choose to prevent them from reading it. What he cannot and should not do is keep anyone else from reading it.

Melinda doesn’t say anything about her rape because she has been taught that sex is something you can’t talk about and rape, especially date rape, is almost worse than that. Speak is, at its core, a beautifully written novel about finding the strength to overcome a traumatic experience and, in doing so, discover what it means to speak your mind and think for yourself even in the face of people who don’t want to listen.

Teenager’s opinions are so often dismissed because of hormones or naivety. Speak teaches us that our beliefs are important and our feelings are honest and worthy of attention. It teaches us that what we have to say matters, that speaking up and speaking out can create positive change, that remaining silent means suffering for something we didn’t deserve in the first place . Speak teaches us that we need to make people listen if we want to be heard.

Banning books teaches us to keep things inside, unspoken, and well contained. It says that rape is pornographic, immoral, and filthy and that we shouldn’t talk about it. That’s why Melinda never said anything, because she was taught that rape was her fault, it was a dirty secret that she should just keep to herself.

On her blog, Laurie Halse Anderson asked her readers to post about what Speak means to them. For me, it has always been about using your voice when it matters and learning to speak up for yourself when it’s clear that no one else will. Speak is about everything, in my opinion, that book banning prevents.