Posted by Linda W. Braun

At every midwinter on Monday night one of the youth divisions sponsors a reception for members of all three youth divisions (AASL, ALSC, and YALSA) Last night was YALSA’s turn to host. There was a good turnout of YALSA members at the event.

The reception is always a great place to catch up with people you didn’t get to see any other time at conference and start to relax after having spent several days in meetings. When I got to the reception Pam Spencer Holley was greeting people at the door which I thought was a really nice thing to do. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a division president do that before.

About Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President, the YALSA CE Consultant, and a learning consultant/project management coordinator at LEO: Librarians & Educators Online.

17 Thoughts on “Joint Youth Division Reception

  1. Ms. Braun states, “Pam Spencer Holley was greeting people at the door which I thought was a really nice thing to do.” Yes, I agree, that is very nice.

    But Ms. Holley says poor quality books about children being sexualized are good to read so that children will recognize good books when they see them. Besides, she argues, “nobody complains about the adult women who read Harlequin romances.”

    Ms. Holley also says books about subjects such as group teenage oral sex orgies are good for children because then the children can experience such things from a “safe distance.” I’m sure that no parents want children never previously exposed to teenage oral sex orgies to experience such things from a safe distance, especially if it is only because Ms. Holley is in a position at the ALA to recommend such books for children to read. Now why is a librarian recommending sexually inappropriate books for children in the first place?

    Her statements alone are dangerous enough given her position within the ALA and her authorship of books recommending books for children. But when her actions are emulated in school districts nationwide, that is a serious danger.

    School administrators in local schools are now recommending “authentic literature” to children containing topics such as rape, incest, and bestiality because, just as Ms. Holley said, the books allow them to experience things from a safe distance. After all, these are “contemporary social issues.”

    Now I ask Ms. Braun, is THAT a really nice thing for Ms. Holley to do? I when prefer Ms. Holley be relegated to opening doors, not opening minds to sexualization.

    Ms. Holley’s statements in context in the original article appear here:
    Racy Reading

  2. Karen Perry [Visitor] on January 24, 2006 at 7:34 pm said:

    Sad that the blog draws nasty anti-freedom-to-read-ers as well as library lovers. To each his own!

  3. Karen Perry,

    I am not “anti-freedom-to-read.” I am pointing out that Ms. Holley has recommended poor quality books and highly sexualized books for children, and that she is in a position to recommended such inappropriate reading material for children.

    Even the US Supreme Court case of US v. ALA, with the ALA being the losing party along with the ACLU, said, “The interest in protecting young library users from material inappropriate for minors is legitimate, and even compelling, as all Members of the Court appear to agree.”

    Is the US Supreme Court an “anti-freedom-to-read” organization as you frame it?

    Do you agree with the US Supreme Court or do you follow instead the ALA policy that says, “Despite the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), which permits the government to require libraries that receive certain kinds of federal funding to install filters, ALA policy is unchanged: ALA does not recommend the use in libraries of filtering technology that blocks constitutionally protected information.” And the ALA has not, in the light of US v. ALA, changed its “age” discrimination policy that essentially ensures the mainstreaming of p**nography for children into public schools and public libraries.

    Who is the real problem here? The “anti-freedom-to-read” people exposing the ALA’s refusal to be directed by the US Supreme Court to stop pushing p**n on children, or the ALA for having this agenda in the first place, then maintaining it against the weight of the US Supreme Court, other law, and poll after poll showing adults do not want children to access p**nography?

    It is sad that your only response has been personal attack and propaganda. I am a library lover — but I love librarians that 1) don’t push p**nography into the minds of children or 2) claim that they have abdicated the responsibility toward children that they used to have before they were ACLUified and that every other public employee has.

    So you caught me. I admit I am guilty of being “anti-freedom-to-read” when it comes to following the mainstream and the US Supreme Court in wishing to keep children from reading p**nography. You and the ALA apparently disagree with that. Besides, whether or not children have a freedom to read p**nography, librarians do not have a right to push p**nography into the minds of children. Librarians do not have a “freedom-to-indoctrinate-and-sexualize-children,” especially in light of US v. ALA.

  4. Another thing, besides what I said above. Regarding this:

    Comment from: Karen Perry [Visitor]
    Sad that the blog draws nasty anti-freedom-to-read-ers as well as library lovers. To each his own!

    Karen Perry claims it is “sad” that I posted on this blog. So she’s against my freedom of speech while at the same time being in favor of her freedom to make children read p**nography.

    Now that is sad.

  5. Posted by Teri S. Lesesne

    To paraphrase an elder statesman, I know Pam Spencer Holley and the blogger who prefers to remain anonymous, is not accurate in her or his assessment of Pam’s actions, words, or professionalism. Pam is not a defender of pornography or of sexualizing children. Pam is a defender of the books that have not received some of the highest awards and accolades in our profession.

    If the content of some of these books is problematic to someone, they have the freedom to elect NOT to read them. No one pushes these books into unwilling hands. Instead, as professionals, we listen to what our TEENS (and not children) request and try our best to match reader with book to create a lifeling reader and a lifelong learner.

    Pam Spencer Holley is one of the most intelligent and professional people I have had the pleasure to meet. She understands the needs and interests of young adults and teens and works hard to serve them.

    Finally, as a parent, I know that my teens have read most of the award winners. It has led us as a family to a discussion of some subjects that might never have otherwise been discussed as openly and honestly. I appreciate the power of the books honored by the various committees this year.

    And I hope that those who do not find these books as meritorious as I do would simply elect not to read them or to share them with their own children. However, I want access for my own children and deserve that right as well.

  6. Carrie Kienzle [Visitor] on January 25, 2006 at 12:43 pm said:

    Wow, this is such a hugh issue. I find it sad that the writer chose personal attack rather then measured discourse. Civilized people can disagree, as all who serve on ALA committees and work in libraries, know. We can have very heated discussions around books and other intellectual matters, but in order to participate in the conversation, one needs the raw material of ideas. Pam Holley knows this, and that is why she stands at the front door greeting YA readers as they enter into the bigger world of adult issues and ideas.

  7. Laurel Sandor [Visitor] on January 25, 2006 at 1:39 pm said:

    Dear Visitor representing Plan2Succeed Citizen’s Group,

    Thank you for showing interest in YALSA, the Young Adult [teen] Library Services Association, libraries and most of all, our youth. Everyone who is a member of YALSA or works as a youth librarian cares about the wellbeing of youth and works toward what they believe to be in youths’ best interest. That is why many of us chose this profession!

    I appreciate also that you care about youths’ best interest as well. One of the things that YA [teen] librarians advocate for is more adult attention paid to the special issues of teenagers and you are doing just that.

    Difficulty arises when opinions diverge on the interpretation of “youths’ best interest.” You are correct in stating that posting on this open blog is your right, as guaranteed by the United States Bill of Rights. Although your postings will probably be met by disagreement and anger by other readers of this blog—-because of the Freedom to Read ideal which is part of the librarians’ code, otherwise known as the Library Bill of Rights ( which many librarians believe in wholeheartedly—-I welcome your comments precisely because all of these exchanges are an example of what the Founding Fathers knew would need protection: the right to state diverse, shocking, against-the-status-quo, provocative opinions. It is incredibly difficult to read others’ opinions when they disagree so radically with our own, but every time we do so, we can be reminded of why protection was needed—so we do not succumb to the easiest solution when we hear what we do not want to hear: silencing the speaker.

    I can understand how certain actions librarians take can be construed as harmful to “children.” The whole spectrum of ideas and actions is represented in printed materials and on websites, and libraries aim to collect samples of much of that spectrum so that the community can choose what it prefers to read.

    Please note that librarians do not set out to harm children. The Library Bill of Rights is a general statement from which people could draw certain conclusions of all librarians’ intent, but the truth is that a thousand caring informed choices are made every day in this country by librarians and patrons. Librarians differ on the content they collect depending on the type of library in which they work and their community’s information needs and interests. Librarians choose specializations—Children’s work, Young Adult, Adult Reference—and choose books for their patrons based on that audience’s information needs and interests. Librarians recommend books to individual patrons based on knowledge of that patron’s information needs and interests. And patrons select books to read based on knowledge of their own information needs and interests.

    What is not as widely publicized as general statements as the Library Bill of Rights are these small but significant choices made every day. Young Adult librarians choose books based on their appeal and appropriateness for a teen audience and often agonize on listservs over their decisions. Then they are careful to label books for teens as distinct from books for children, which is a professional recommendation for age-appropriate content. [There is an important distinction in libraries between “children” and “young adult.” “Children” refers to the approximate age range of Birth through 11 or 12 years of age while “young adult” refers to the approximate age range of 12 through 18 or 19 years of age.] Within the young adult age range, librarians know which patrons prefer material with “racier” content and which do not. I do not know of any librarian who forces material onto a teen who does not want to read something. Librarians respect an individual’s choice and, in fact, encourage them to make their own reading choices in preparation for the more difficult choices awaiting them soon in adulthood. Knowing individual patron reading tastes is a characterization of the librarian profession that we are extremely proud of. (This is not a characterization of bookstore employees, nor often of teachers.)

    There is also a phenomenon of which the press does not mention when “freedom to read” issues are spoken of. That is the moment when an individual—for discussion purposes here a teen—has chosen a “racy” book either on purpose, by stumbling across it accidentally or by accepting a librarian’s recommendation and, in reading it, feels uncomfortable with the subject matter and makes the decision to put it down. Probably every young adult librarian knows of teenagers who have made this choice, and there are thousands more done in secret we will never know of. This is the pinnacle of our work and of a parent’s work as well. We both want what is right for each individual, and being able to make a wise decision that is right for you is a learned skill that requires practice and the freedom of non-involvement from adult authorities to choose.

    In compiling lists of recommended books for teenagers, librarians take quality and content into consideration. But the completed list is not the end of a librarian’s involvement. We then go forward to teens and recommend certain books or make it clear that we can give more information about each book if the teen desires. Then we do something that probably comes easier to us than to a parent: we practice sitting back and letting teenagers make the final choice, trusting in them and, by that trust, instilling in them confidence in their abilities that will serve them well throughout their life.

    Librarians also hope that there are involved parents in every home—though we know, sadly, that is not the case—who take an interest in a teen’s life and want to help them make right decisions as well. In the best cases we know of, a teen will talk about a book with the parent, thus giving the parent the opportunity to pass along his values and fostering communication between parent and child. When this happens we see strong, confident teenagers making informed choices in the library. When a teen is unable to talk with a parent, we see teenagers hungry for information but getting it from alternate sources (often a friend who is not as informed as a caring adult or as factual as books).

    As a final word, I am sure that if you wanted to directly correspond with Pam Spencer Holley or another YA librarian representing YALSA, they would answer your questions personally. Ms. Holley is a wonderful, highly committed young adult librarian who loves teenagers and wants what is best for them as much as you do. She has been given the incredibly difficult task of leading an organization and having to speak for thousands of librarians and a profession encompassing 50 years worth of values and ideals based on the U.S. Bill of Rights and the Librarian’s Bill of Rights. She is extremely passionate when it comes to helping out our youth, as is evident when you meet her.

    If you have read this far, I thank you for giving me the time to express my views. I do not speak for my organization or other librarians but only for myself.

    Laurel M. Sandor

    YALSA Member

  8. Well you all have left interesting comments and well thought out. I am sure Ms. Holley knows what’s better for children than I do, but at the same time most children, if not all children, should not be exposed to stories of rape; incest; bestiality; forced anal intercourse followed by smelly, bloody defecation, etc.

    You have said:

    The Library Bill of Rights is a general statement from which people could draw certain conclusions of all librarians’ intent….

    That’s the ALA Bible that says it is age discrimination for a librarian to keep a child from seeing any material an adult may see. That’s the idea that is dead set against he weight of the law, CIPA, US v. ALA, and the overwhelming majority of public opinion that says children should be protected and not treated equal to adults when it comes to p**nography or inappropriate material in general. So the conclusion people could draw of the librarians’ intent is that the ALA is in the extreme minority and against the weight of the law. Further, it should stop adding such books to its recommended lists for children.

    As to Ms. Holley, while I have no doubt she is a lovely person, I say she has made some embarrassing statements in that article Racy Reads or whatever I originally mentioned above. All of you, please read that article, particularly the section regarding Ms. Holley’s comments, and tell me if that does not make you at least a little bit squeamish.

    Thanks again and I look forward to your responses — hopefully from several of you.

  9. So I went back and read the article referred to and now I am scratching my head that someone could have inferred from the quotes from Pam Spencer Holley that she is in favor of sexualizing children and of handing pornography to them as well. I read the entire article and can only conclude that Pam simply advised those concerned to sit and discuss books and reading with their teens (which I also suggested) and that, for some readers, books that are less than literary might be a way to connect some more reluctant readers to books. Nowhere in this piece do I see Pam defending pornography. Nowhere in this article are pornographic books either.

    I will reiterate that, as a parent, I help my teens select appropriate material. It does help that I am a reader and that I read the same books my teens do. I wish more parents would do the same. Adult role models are of the essence if we are to see a generation of teens become a generation of readers.

    I am not at all made “squeamish” by the comments in Racy Reads. Again, I would point this person to the benefits of books and reading in the lives of teens.

  10. Okay. I’ll respond soon. I’m helping someone know infected with spyware. After that I’ll explain things further.

  11. I am so happy to have this conversation with you and YALSA. I see your point. I can see how someone who adores Ms. Holley as you all do, and rightly so given your positions and affiliations, can read the article and think Ms. Holley is truly outstanding. For everyone’s sake, let me add relevant sections of that article here:

    The latest book to fan the flames is Paul Ruditis’ “Rainbow Party,” about an oral-sex party that never happens, in part because the teens who’ve been invited have major reservations. The book, published by Simon Pulse, the youth division of Simon & Schuster, highlights the dangers of oral sex and sexually transmitted diseases, but has been criticized by some parents and conservative commentators.

    “Rainbow Party” isn’t exactly flying off the shelves — because it isn’t on most bookstore shelves. Barnes & Noble and Borders are selling the book on their Web sites only. And many libraries are passing on the book — not for censorship reasons, but because it lacks literary merit, they say.


    But books can provoke discussions, says Pam Spencer Holley of the American Library Association. Although she wouldn’t hand a child a copy of “Rainbow Party” without comment, she thinks that book — and others — can provoke family discussions.

    “I think I’d say, ‘This is something we need to sit and talk about,’ ” says Holley. “It’s a way for kids to experience something at a safe distance — and a way for them to make up their minds about how they would respond in that kind of situation.”

    She’s happy to see teen girls reading. Eventually, girls who are reading Gossip Girls will move on to better books, she says.

    “Unless you read stuff that’s perhaps not the most literary, you’ll never understand what good works are,” says Holley. “But when you get them hooked on reading, then you can lead them so many other places, as far as books go.”

    Besides, she says, what’s the worst thing that can happen? “Nobody complains about the adult women who read Harlequin romances.”

    Now, separate yourselves from YALSA and Ms. Holley for a moment. Enter the world of a parent of a child in school. This is actually the majority situation since there are many more parents with kids in schools than there are presidents and members of YALSA.

    As I read this article, I read it very differently from you. I read about a book describing a teenage oral-sex party that lacks literary merit. So I see two reasons why I would not want my child to read it, 1) oral-sex parties are inappropriate for child to attend or read about, even from a “safe distance,” and 2) the book lacks literary merit. Yes, true, I have not yet read the book, and I may never, but we are talking now about the impression this parent got when reading this article, and the likelihood that other parents are thinking similarly.

    Now along comes an introduction to one Pam Spencer Holley who happens to be the president of YALSA. Remember now, imagine a parent reading this article with no previous knowledge of Ms. Holley. Ms. Holley says “Rainbow Party” can provoke family discussions. Of what, teenage oral-sex parties? Not in my family! Well that’s what’s in my head reading this article.

    But I read on.

    “Unless you read stuff that’s perhaps not the most literary, you’ll never understand what good works are….” What? Is this lady saying what I think she is? The “Gossip Girls” book previously described in the article as about girls who “drink, occasionally smoke pot and would sleep with a well-connected guy.” This is “not the most literary” but is still recommended by this lady from the ALA because then kids will know what good books are? Is that the excuse du jour? Well that’s how I read it. That’s likely how anyone giving her statements an unbiased, fair reading would read it. Why? Because that’s what she said! I really didn’t mind it up. It’s right there in black and white.

    Here comes the coup de gras proving, to me at least, this is not my misunderstanding of this ALA lady. The article goes on to say, “Besides, she says, what’s the worst thing that can happen? ‘Nobody complains about the adult women who read Harlequin romances.'” Really, can anyone blame someone for thinking this is outrageous? Adults read Harlequin novels and no one complains so children show read inappropriate novels and no one is expected to complain? Is this what she thinks? Apparently. And it certainly fits in with the ALA’s modus operandi.

    So, for your benefit and YALSA’s benefit, if you can see past the cloud of all of you agreeing to the same thing, you just got a glimpse into the mind of a typical parent reading the story. Indeed, the words Ms. Holley used were so, well, glaringly outrageous that the news reporter reported them in the news article. So now it’s not just my opinion, now I can see the reporter is even shocked by what this ALA lady is saying, though she did not come out and say so.

    Given this insight into the mind of a typical parent, given the statements made by Ms. Holley, given the reporter’s finding the statements to be newsworthy, given YALSA members are likely to be biased, given the ALA’s general policy that it is age discrimination for a librarian to keep a child from any material an adult could access, can you now see how one could think Ms. Holley makes excuses for children accessing poor quality, inappropriate, sexualized material?

    Let me add this. I know of at least one case where my views of YALSA are clearly well founded. You cannot avoid agreeing with me on this without being dishonest. A certain book, Push, by Sapphire, contains material such as the issue of a man repeatedly raping his daughter and his own three year old child/grandchild still in Pampers, and when caught by the mother, the daughter is forced into oral sex with the mother. The book goes on and on like this. The ALA says the book is only for grades 11, 12, ( ) and the “college bound.” ( ) So far, so good. Well not great but at least the ALA imposes some limits on its usual platitude that anything goes.

    BUT WAIT! The ALA then contradicts its own findings about Push and posts this: “This book by sapphire is an excellent book for anyone not just teens.” ( ) Clearly the ALA has contradicted itself. Clearly it is recommending a book it itself finds inappropriate for 10th graders and below to “anyone not just teens.” The ALA chose to publish this statement, in its teen section no less, even if the ALA itself did not first pen the statement.

    So here is a case where my interpretations are not at issue at all – the ALA has just hoist itself on its own petard. Will you at least admit that?

  12. Jessica [Visitor] on January 26, 2006 at 9:22 am said:

    I agree Linda, it was a nice reception, and Pam’s welcome presence made the entire event feel warm.

  13. erindowney [Member] on January 26, 2006 at 9:50 pm said:

    Agreed with Linda and Jessica! It’s always a great way to meet lots of new faces and enjoy each other’s company. Kudos to the event planners and to Pam!

  14. Pam Spencer Holley please respond.r />
    Pam Spencer Holley. Everyone at the ALA has the highest regard for you. Why don’t you respond here directly to my previous post. Certainly your views are strong enough to withstand a healthy debate, aren’t they?

    Please, tell us why reading poor quality but sexualized books are good so children will recognize good books, as you stated. Tell us why children should learn about teenage oral sex orgies from a safe distance, as you stated, or from any distance, for that matter. Tell us how your statements like in “Racy Reading” and your sexualized book selections in your published works and in your recommendations as the ALA’s YALSA president do not in any way have the effect of getting children to read sexualized material they would not otherwise have read without your recommendation, particularly given your position that gives your recommendations possibly the greatest weight in the country when it comes to recommendations for childrens’ books.

    I look forward to your responses, as do many others. You are being called out to explain your statements. Please address your comments to the issues raised without using logical fallacies such as ad hominem arguments.

    Thank you very much.

  15. Why no response from Pam Spencer Holley yet?

    Sadly, here is evidence of the results of the ALA’s successful efforts to flood American schools with sexualized books; now that they have experienced sex at a safe distance, children are now using those lessons:  The Cuddle Puddle of Stuyvesant High School, by Alex Morris, New York Magazine, 6 Feb 2006.

  16. It’s over a month. Any response yet?

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