YALSA Board at #alaac18: Book Awards and Lists in Light of #MeToo

The YALSA board will hold a discussion at #alaac18 about YALSA’s book awards and lists in light of #metoo. I have been a member of the Printz, Odyssey, and Alex Award committees and am bringing this topic to the YALSA board for discussion and possible action.

The #MeToo movement exploded in Fall 2017, when women and some men collectively began to speak out against abusers and harassers. The movement carried over to the young adult publishing world in February 2018 via an article in School Library Journal that led to hundreds of comments to the article indicating certain authors and publisher representatives as harassers or abusers.

YALSA and its board extend their compassion to those harmed by abusers and harassers and commends those for speaking up, while at the same time also extending support to those who were also harmed but remain silent.
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Chris Crutcher Inspired Me to be An Intellectual Freedom Activist for Teens

I had only been a school librarian for a few years when a school in a neighboring county had a high profile materials challenge involving Chris Crutcher’s Whale Talk. Area libraries and Crutcher responded by planning some related events coinciding with the 2005 Banned Books Week, and his stops included our local public library. When one of my teachers saw the promotional poster I’d created for Crutcher’s speech, she echoed my belief that limiting access to anything sets a dangerous precedent. We were both eager to capitalize on the opportunity for her students to hear the renowned author and re-imagined her twelfth grade research paper as case studies in censorship.

Chris Crutcher (2005)

The project was successful beyond our wildest expectations in engaging students intellectually and promoting conversation about fundamental rights. Though the event with Crutcher was remote from campus and held in the evening, the majority of the class attended the lecture. He was gracious enough to pose with our students afterwards (above). Crutcher’s talk that night made me understand the needs of young people to see their experiences reflected in literature. As he spoke about his background as a family therapist and the many ways in which his books reflect the lived experience of young people and offer support for those who needed it, it galvanized my belief in intellectual freedom as a fundamental aspect of youth services.
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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

Rethinking What We Do: Rated M for Mature

An Emotional Goodbye

I am writing this article as an open letter. We are censoring what video games we provide people, but we are not stopping their consumption. We are shooting ourselves in the foot to avoid an argument, and it will hurt. Plus we are compromising our own integrity to avoid an argument. It is time to supply our public with access to M rated games.

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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.

28 Days of Teens & Tech #28: Help Me YALSA! I’m Blocked

Welcome to the last day of Teens & Tech. I hope you enjoyed it. Sorry for the delay in getting this last post up. I was having, of all things, technology issues. Today’s topic was suggested by the Tech Integrator at my school, Allison Lundquist.

Dear YALSA:

Thank you for all of the great suggestions. Here’s my problem. I’m totally blocked. I want to share awesome YouTube videos with my teachers, but YouTube is blocked. I want to create a Facebook page for my library, but Facebook is banned, too. Skype-An-Author? I’d love to, but Skype is verboten. How do I get around these filtering issues?

All Blocked Up

Dear ABU:

I feel your pain, I really do. Nothing is worse than seeing that SonicWall come up to stop you in your tracks.

Really this is an issue of intellectual freedom, the same as a book challenge. If we feel that a site has merit, we need to fight for it. The ALA office of Intellectual Freedom has a very useful page about filters and filtering.

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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.

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

Teens, Intellectual Freedom, and You

Intellectual Freedom matters.’ ‘  As Young Adult librarians we are constantly facing down book and material challenges.’  If you take a look at any year’s list of ALA’s top ten challenged books, you’ll see that the majority of the books being challenged are YA books.’  ALA is a leader in the defense of the First Amendment, and has a large Intellectual Freedom community.’  From the Freedom to Read Foundation, which fights for reader rights in court cases, to the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, ALA works hard to combat censorship and protect reader’ privacy.’  For’ YALSA members’  interested in staying up to date on’ intellectual freedom issues, a great place to start is the’ YALSA’ Intellectual Freedom Discussion Group.’ 

Here’s what we’ve been doing:

  • Staying informed and sometimes blogging‘ about current issues surrounding intellectual freedom, teens,’ and libraries.’  For example, we’ve recently been discussing the Mississippi teen fighting for her right to take her girlfriend to prom.
  • Planning ‘ ALA’ Conference programs‘ in conjunction with AASL and ALSC Intellectual Freedom Groups.’  YALSA plans a program every third year.’  In 2009, we presented a panel discussion on the fine line between selection and censorship.’  Our next program will be in 2012.
  • Liaisoning with ALA’s’ Intellectual Freedom Committee‘ &’ the Freedom to Read Foundation.’  Liaisions attend meetings at conference, and sometimes attend the ALA-IFC Spring Meeting in Chicago.

You can join us by contacting the current convener (me).’  I’ll add your to our email distribution list, and then ask you to join our ALA Connect group.’  Speaking of conveners, it’s nearly time to vote for a new one (or two).’  If you think you’d’ like lead or co-lead this interesting interest group, submit your name to me’ by Monday, May 3rd.’  Convener elections will be held via ALA Connect on May 24th.

If you are interested in joining or convening, please email me at andertonh@carnegielibrary.org.’ 

Holly Anderton

Intellectual Freedom Interest Group: Sign up today!

Get in on the ground floor of something interesting!

As you may have heard, YALSA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee will be transitioning into an Interest Group.’ ‘  This means that anyone interested can sign up to participate, and conference attendance is not mandatory.’ ‘  All you need is a passion for intellectual freedom and the First Amendment!

‘ The transformation will be complete by 2010.’  We need’ at least 15′ interested YALSA members to send their information right away, so we may submit a formal petition in June.’  Continue reading