“YALSA has an Intellectual Freedom Committee?’  What do you do?” I have been surprised a few times by some YALSA and ALA members who were unaware that we exist.’  But considering that YALSA has many committees, it’ is possible’ to get lost in the shuffle sometimes.
So, without further ado – here’s what we do.’  According to our committee’s function statement, our purpose is:
  • To serve as a liaison between the YALSA and the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee and all other groups within the Association concerned with intellectual freedom.
  • To advise the YALSA on matters pertaining to the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution and the ALA Library Bill of Rights and their implications to library service to young adults and to make recommendations to the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee for changes in policy on issues involving library service to young adults.
  • To prepare and gather materials which will advise the young adult librarian of available services and support for resisting local pressure and community action designed to impair the rights of young adult users.
  • To assume responsibility for the continuing education of young adult librarians regarding intellectual freedom.

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. Read More →

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.

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

In a startling development in the battle for copyrights and royalties, top Democrats have introduced a bill requiring not only “technology-based deterrents” against peer-to-peer filesharing, but also preemptive subscriptions to fee-based alternatives.

The penalty for non-compliance? All students lose their federal aid.

Could this be a harbinger of what’s to come for libraries? It’s no secret that libraries are hotbeds of music piracy, and it’s not as though Congress hasn’t extorted libraries into draconian policies before. It reminds me of Stephen J. Dubner’s post “If Public Libraries Didn’t Exist, Could You Start One Today?” which squarely drove home how fragile our limited rights are under the pressures of industry lobbyists. What use will the first sale doctrine be, if it comes equipped with a hefty price tag–or else?

Teens deserve access to media and information in all its formats. Libraries, by providing CDs and Internet access, give teens just that. What can we do to fortify ourselves against very real threats to intellectual freedom? There’s always writing your representative, but what leverage do we have against corporate entertainment lobbies? What are we building?