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

Bunny Suicides Returned to Library

Taffey Anderson, the Oregon woman who had been refusing to return The Book of Bunny Suicides to her 13 year old son’s school library, has returned the book and softened her stance after the story provoked several negative editorials and blog posts. Anderson spoke to the American Libraries, telling them that the book was returned on October 24th. She was quoted as saying “I was talking completely out of anger,” and “I did apologize in the newspaper and should never have said that, but I don’t think it’s a book for school-age children.”

This is a great reminder that how we deal with an initial challenge can make a difference in the outcome. It can be tempting to dismiss challenges without really listening to the person’s real concern. Staying calm and courteous and practicing active listening can sometimes prevent a concern from becoming a public challenge. ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom offers a helpful guide to dealing with challenges.We all hope we never find ourselves in that situation but in case we do, it is important to be prepared.

Banned Books Week: Practical Applications

It’s not too late to celebrate Banned Books Week with teens at your library!’ ‘ ‘ Here are some ideas to get teens thinking and talking about banned books:

  1. Create your own banned books booklist, or’ order the ALA Banned Books List 07-08.’  Display these booklists near your reference desk and encourage discussion.’  One classic exchange I had with a teen went like this:’ a teen approached the desk and’ casually glanced over’ at’ our Banned Books Week list.’  She asked, “What’s a banned book?”‘  I explained.’  The teen’s face crinkled up and she asked, incredulously, “If people don’t like the books, why don’t they just not read them?”‘  Great question!’  Off-the-cuff discussions at our reference desk, with both teens and their parents, have’ been the most rewarding way for me to inform patrons about banned books. ‘ You might also tuck these booklists into the challenged books that are sitting on your shelves, to create awareness among those teens who are hesitant to approach staff.
  2. Continue reading

Privacy Discussion at ALA

For the past two months in the mail I have been receiving a catalog from the Republic of Tea along with a free sample of tea. I thought, lucky little ole me to receive something for free in the mail that I actually like. After the ALA presentation on privacy (I swear, it didn’t occur to me before then) I’m receiving the ‘free’ tea in the mail because I purchase it at the grocery store during lunch breaks next door to my library. Freedom at the cost of selling my information perhaps. What are we willing to give our information for? Sometimes we might not feel we have a choice or know that we do. Continue reading

Your Brain on DOPA

Yesterday morning the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom sponsored a session titled Your Brain on DOPA.’  The program was designed to give attendees an opportunity to find out:

  • What is happening with federal and state legislation related to social networking (and with technology in general).’  John Morris, General Counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology presented this part of the program.
  • What current research says about child and teen use of online tools in the areas of cyberbullying and predation. Dr. Michele Ybarra, President of Internet Solutions for Kids presented on this topic.
  • How libraries can educate their communities about the positive impact of social networking. This was the portion of the session that I presented.

Continue reading