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?

I rely on the opinions of my flesh & bone, print, and virtual colleagues to help me make selection decisions. I readily admit that I often don’t remember every detail when I read, so I am occasionally surprised when I hear about a possible objection… Alice 19 being to “graphic” for 8th & 9th graders or Diary of a Wimpy Kid having a sex scene…prompting me to re-visit those titles.

What do others do? What can we do to better utilize the wealth of information and opinion available to us now? It’s nice to have a heads-up in advance about possible difficulties, especially in a school setting, but how does this ubiquitous access change how we select materials for our libraries? YALSA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee is putting the finishing touches on our proposed program, Walking the Line: The Fine Line Between Selection & Censorship, for ALA 2009 this summer in Chicago. We invite your input.

About Intellectual Freedom Committee

The intellectual freedom committee serves as a liaison between the YALSA and the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee and all other groups within the Association concerned with intellectual freedom.

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