Banned Website Awareness Day

BWAD-2013_banner_website

It’s our sister division AASL’s Banned Website Awareness Day, reminding us that books aren’t the only information sources whose access can be challenged.

For the past ten years, by law, libraries must be CIPA-compliant. The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) stipulates that public and school libraries receiving federal e-rate funding must implement technology that prohibits Internet access to visual images of child pornography, obscenity, and material that is “harmful to minors.” As a recent YALSA blog post pointed out, this does not translate into blocking social media.

Over the past two years, I’ve worked in two different systems with radically different approaches to filtering, so I’ve seen first-hand how those policies affect students. Continue reading

Censorship: A Personal Tale

As librarians, we hate censorship. It goes against everything we stand for. It’s part of the reason I felt such a strong sense of hatred for Dolores Umbridge. ‘ Her rules for learning the proper way and controlling to students filled me with horror. ‘ In some ways, she’s more evil than Voldermort. ‘ I want everyone to have equal opportunity in learning and above all in the library. ‘ The library is a place that should level the playing field for everyone – it’s not based on gender, race, sexuality, or economic status; you have the same access as everyone else.

Different Kinds of Censorship:

Blatant: I’m not going to buy that book because….
Situational: The library needs this book, but not in my section. (There’s a post on this coming soon)
Inadvertent: That book won’t work here because… Continue reading

My (Lack of) Teen Read Week Experience

Sadly enough, I did not celebrate Teen Read Week this year.

I just started a new job as a youth services librarian a few weeks ago. Before I started, I was making all of these plans about things that I wanted to do and what teen services needed a lot of work. My friend, who is also a youth librarian, tried to convince me to not make any plans for at least six months because chances are, I’ wouldn’t’ be able to accomplish any of them. Of course, I’ didn’t’ listen. I was going to hit the ground running. That’s what I did. Tried to do. And now I’m running through molasses.

She was completely right. Almost a month after starting,’ I’ve’ done more work for toddlers than I have for teens. It turns out that the job that I thought was going to be teen-centric is more birth-through-teen-centric. Okay, no big deal. I can work with that. Little kids are adorable, and I love storytime. Plus, I have a middle school anime group that the high school anime group organizes. It’s not a whole lot of work for me, but at least I’m getting face-time. Continue reading

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.

30 Days of Back to School: The Challenge of Intellectual Freedom

“They say there is strangeness too dangerous in our theaters and bookstore shelves…Those who know what’s best for us must rise and save us from ourselves…” – from “Witch Hunt” by Rush

Yes folks, it’s September, and that means two things are certain:’  students are back in school, and potential censors and book challengers are coming out of the woodwork.’  Recent challenges to Sherman Alexie’s “Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” and Laurie Halse Anderson’s “Speak”‘  were just the first to greet the new school year.’  Interestingly enough, this last week of September is Banned Books Week, and therefore the perfect time think about the potential for censorship, and whether you’re ready for that challenge if it comes your way. Continue reading

Banned Books Week: All About Risky Business

Celebrating Banned Books Week is all about risk-taking. By celebrating titles that have been, or might be, banned in a library, those working with teens are saying to the world, “Look, we have controversial books in the library and we are proud of it.” That’s quite a risk and it’s a risk that many teen librarians accept and value.

In this video, Connie Urquhart and Lisa Lindsay (Fresno County Public Library) talk about the risks they’ve taken in collection development and in teen services – Including risks that went really well and risks that weren’t as successful as was hoped.

Continue reading

Gearing up for Banned Books Week

I am fortunate to serve as chair of the STANDING COMMITTEE AGAINST CENSORSHIP of the National Council of Teachers of English. That means I often receive information about incidents of censorship. This has been a busy week thus far. One of our own members had her web site blocked from a school district due to political content. Laurie Halse Anderson, author of SPEAK and TWISTED, wrote about threee separate incidents of censorship on her blog. And Ellen Hopkins was un-invited to a school presentation when a parent complained about her books.

The one word that keeps resonating for me through all of this (and more) is ACCESS. When censors challenge materials and want them removed, they are in essence denying someone access to the thoughts and ideas contained at the web site or in the book or movie. Denying access creates limits for our students. One more venue of ideas shut down because someone deems the ideas somehow “wrong.”

How can we ensure access for our patrons? What can we do to erase limits? How about some of these approaches?

1. read one or more of the books counted among the most challenged this year or this past decade. AND TANGO MAKES THREE, THE CHOCOLATE WAR, SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK are among those listed at the OIF web site.
2. create a Banned Books Week display for your library.
3. make certain that you are familiar with your reconsideration policy.
4. volunteer to speak about censorship at a community event.
5. blog, tweet, post information about dealing with censorship.

Take a stand against censorship not just during Banned Books Week but all year long.

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

Popular Paperbacks, Books About Sex, and Banned Books Week

We’d done “Books That Don’t Make You Blush.” We’d done “Religion: Relationship with the Divine” and “Read ’em and Weep. It was time for Popular Paperbacks to take a walk on the wild side. In 2007, the committee decided it was time to put together a list about teens’ decisions to have sex, or not. It’s no secret that teens are fascinated by sex, and that they receive mixed messages about it on a daily basis. We wanted to put together a list of books that would show how complicated the decision to have sex, or not having sex, can be. After much debate and a few raunchy jokes, the seven members of Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults given the charge of constructing and giving focus to this list, including myself, got down to business. Continue reading

Banned Books Week

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usShare your celebrations for the freedom to read! On Eye4You Alliance Island in Teen Second Life, we have a pirate ship and are going to have a ‘Dress (your avatar) as Your Favorite Banned Book Character’ (thanks to librarian Jami Schwarzwalder for the idea). Librarians, teens, and educators will be on the ship throughout the week and we are working on creating book covers and information about bbw. See the press release from ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom. Please share your celebrations and add them to the ilovelibraries interactive map: http://ilovelibraries.org/news/bbw/findevents.cfm!

Posted by Kelly Czarnecki