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

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

Job Well Done

A great deal of thanks and praise needs to go to YALSA and to the folks who ran the YA Lit Symposium. I have never seen so much food in my life. There was always something to munch on as we went from session to session. There were tons of free materials including books. And then there were the sessions.

My colleague and friend Rosemary Chance and I presented a session on censorship this morning that was packed to the rafters. Julie Anne Peters, Barry Lyga, and Coe Booth wowed those assembled with funny, touching, and sometimes frightening stories about books not being made available to those who need them the most. 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.

Sandpiper Challenge resolved!

What started out as a teen girl refusing to return a school library copy of Ellen Wittlinger’s Sandpiper has been resolved through a mixed reaction school board meeting. Check out the link for a more detailed account. While I am encouraged that the school board decided to keep the book on the shelf–for the 1st amendment rights of the students, I worry about the effects this challenge will have on future purchases and policies at the school system.

Censorship against teen materials is becoming more of an everyday occurrence that teen librarians really need to prepare themselves for. Whether it is impromptu conversations with parents about why there are adult titles in your teen collection, or a formal challenge against a title due to content, please take the time to learn your policies and be able to discuss them intellectually.

I hope that none of us have to go through a public challenge like Sandpiper, but if you do contact YALSA and ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom. They can really help!

Kristin Fletcher-Spear
Chair of YALSA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee

Censoring music creation

Many libraries use ACID or GarageBand to create music. Music usually tells someone’s story and creating songs is probably only going to grow in popularity at libraries. How do we decide what can or can’t be part of someone’s story?

There are controversial topics and swearing in books, CDs, and DVDs purchased for a collection. Should song creation be treated differently? If libraries have rules in regards to music creation, does the library support these rules by not playing certain songs during library events or not using certain songs to promote something at the library because of the lyrics-or just hope that most people won’t notice? Is a certain type of music being targeted? Should content creation be reviewed before it’s deemed okay to leave the library?

Most teens are probably familiar with censorship because of the radio. Music is a great way to connect with teens and their stories. Many libraries have the tools and the space to engage teens to create their own music. Share your thoughts and don’t forget about YALSA’s newest discussion list, YA-MUSIC.