June 21, 2018

Stories, Songs, and Stretches! Online Certification Launching Spring 2019

Press Release from Connected Communities and Library Juice Academy

Stories, Songs, and Stretches! Online Certification Launching Spring 2019

June 21, 2018
Lexington KY
Media contact: Katie Scherrer, www.katiescherreryoga.com

Katie Scherrer of Connected Communities and Library Juice Academy are teaming up to release Stories, Songs, and Stretches! This online version of Katie’s certification of the same name trains participants to enhance preschool early learning with yoga-inspired movement and embodied play. Whether you’ve spent a career in the classroom or are brand new to working with kids 3-6, are an experienced yoga teacher or have never taken a yoga class in your life, Stories, Songs, and Stretches! will meet you where you are. This training is designed to respond to the unique needs—and share the diverse perspectives of—library staff, early childhood educators, and yoga teachers. It provides professional continuing education credits recognized by Yoga Alliance, most state libraries, and several state governing bodies of early childhood education.

Online training entails the completion of three, asynchronous, four-week classes:

Part One: Science and Standards
Take a deep dive into the science of yoga, national preschool standards in three distinct areas of early learning (physical literacy, early literacy, and social-emotional learning), and how they work together.

Part Two: Stretches and Stillness
Learn specific yoga-inspired mindful movement poses, sequences, and activities appropriate for preschool age children.

Part Three: Stories and Songs
Learn how to combine movement and play to create engaging, intentional, and fun programs and classes for preschool children and their adult caregivers.

Upon completion of all three modules, participants can complete a three-hour distance learning component and become certified Stories, Songs, and Stretches! program facilitators. Certified facilitators gain access to a private library of video demonstrations; branded, customizable marketing materials; and an online community of practice.

Workshops cost $175 each; all three training modules can be bundled together for $450. A diversity scholarship open to any interested person of color is available for every training session, which includes full tuition and a package of starter materials valued over $100. More information and application are available at www.katiescherreryoga.com. The first scheduled session of training will run March-May, 2019.

Katie Scherrer, MLIS, RYT is a library consultant and writer who worked for many years serving predominantly Latino communities as a bilingual children’s librarian. She has been teaching yoga to children and providing training to librarians and early childhood educators since 2012. The combination of these skills and passions led to the creation of Stories, Songs, and Stretches!, first as a book published by the American Library Association in 2017 and then as a certification program in 2018. Katie is also the coauthor of Once Upon a Cuento: Bilingual Storytimes in English and Spanish and one of the cofounders of the Be Project, a trauma-informed mindfulness education curriculum. More information about her work is available at www.connectedcommunitiesconsulting.com and www.katiescherreryoga.com.

Library Juice Academy offers a range of online professional development workshops for librarians and other library staff, focusing on practical topics to build new skills. Emphasis is on student interaction with instructors and with each other, supported by a variety of class assignments and reading materials. The instructors are librarians and LIS faculty who have developed specialized knowledge in the subjects they teach. Students come from all types of libraries and library positions. Bringing online continuing education to a new level since 2012. http://libraryjuiceacademy.com/

May 14, 2018

Betsy Diamant-Cohen Awarded the Vattemare Award for Creativity in Libraries

Thurs., May 10, 2018

Contact: Rory Litwin
Phone: 916-905-0291
Email: rory@libraryjuicepress.com

Betsy Diamant-Cohen Awarded the Vattemare Award for Creativity in Libraries

SACRAMENTO – Betsy Diamant-Cohen has been selected as the winner of the 2018 Alexandre Vattermare Award for Creativity in Libraries, in recognition of her work as the creator and Executive Director of the early literacy program, Mother Goose on the Loose.

The award jury was impressed by the success and growth of Mother Goose on the Loose as Diamant-Cohen has expanded it to reach families from all walks of life. A member of the award jury said of the awardee’s nomination, “Storytime is no longer bound to the confines of the library. Diamant-Cohen has taken the traditional storytime to an elevated level by using technology to reach and connect with educators, caregivers, parents, professionals, and children beyond the walls of the library.”

Given annually by Library Juice Press, the Vattemare Award recognizes contributions in the LIS field that are marked by originality, creative energy, and novel combinations of ideas. The primary consideration in selecting the awardee is their creation of new possibilities for libraries and library workers.

The award consists of $1000 and a framed certificate.

January 20, 2016

CFP: Many Worlds to Walk In: Exploring Diversity in Children’s Literature, Librarianship, and Education

Many Worlds to Walk In:
Exploring Diversity in Children’s Literature, Librarianship, and Education

Call for Paper Proposals
Deadline for submission: February 15, 2016

A peer-reviewed graduate student conference on children’s literature, media, and culture

University of British Columbia – Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Saturday, April 30, 2016

Many Worlds to Walk In: Exploring Diversity in Children’s Literature, Librarianship, and Education is a one-day conference on April 30, 2016 showcasing graduate student research in children’s literature. You are invited to submit an academic paper proposal that contributes to research in the area of children’s and young adult literature, librarianship, education, media, or cultural studies. Submissions of creative writing for children and young adults are also welcome. We are particularly interested in research and creative pieces that draw on the broadly interpreted theme of diversity–including research on narratives that depict diversity and the diverse formats we use to create and share narratives.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

– Diverse theoretical perspectives on children’s and young adult literature (e.g. postcolonial, feminist, queer, eco-critical approaches)
– Multiculturalism and stories of underrepresented, marginalized, or disabled populations
Underrepresented formats of stories for children and young adults (graphic novel, picture book app, etc.)
– Inclusive programming and services in children’s librarianship and education
– Indigenous and aboriginal narratives
– Oral storytelling and sign language storytelling
– Newcomer, refugee, and immigrant narratives
– Otherness and trans-national identities
– Problematic interpretations and definitions of diversity
– Diversity within genres: boundary-pushing books, films, etc.
– Cross-media adaptations of children’s and young adult texts
– Translated and multilingual texts for children and young adults
– Resources and services for multilingual readers and families
– Empathy-building through story
– Imagined identities: diversity in fantasy, created worlds
– Multiple perspectives on historical events (Holocaust narratives, etc.)

The topics above are a guideline for the proposals we would like to see, but we are eager to receive paper proposals on any facet of diversity in children’s and young adult texts.

Academic Paper Proposals

Please send a 250 word abstract that includes the title of your paper, a list of references in MLA format, a 50 word biography, your name, your university affiliation, email address, and phone number to the review committee at submit.ubc.conference@gmail.com. Please include “Conference Proposal Submission” in the subject line of your email.

Creative Writing Proposals

Submissions of creative writing for children and young adults in any genre are welcome, including novel chapters, poetry, picture books, graphic novels, scripts, etc. Please send a piece of work no longer than 12 pages double spaced. (Anything shorter is welcome– poetry, for example, might only be a page). The submission should include the title of your piece, a 150 word overview of your piece (describe age group, genre, and links to the conference theme), a list of references in MLA format (if you have any), a 50 word biography, your name, your university affiliation, email address, and phone number. Please send your submission to the review committee at submit.ubc.conference@gmail.com. Please put “Creative Conference Proposal Submission” in the subject line of your email.

For more info, please contact ubc.conference.2016@gmail.com. Thank you; we look forward to seeing you this spring!

May 2, 2013

The Stories I Read to the Children: The Life and Writing of Pura Belpré

I want to make people aware of an important new book:

The Stories I Read to the Children: The Life and Writing of Pura Belpré, the Legendary Storyteller, Children’s Author, and New York Public Librarian. Selected, Edited, and Biographical Introduction by Lisa Sánchez González.

This is not a Library Juice Press or Litwin Books publication, but I wish that it were. It’s a landmark book that is too long in coming. Please share this info with anyone interested in Pura Belpré.

March 2, 2013

New: Lenny and Nina are Buried in Books

Lenny and Nina are Buried in Books

Author: Linda Cooper
Illustrator: Jana Vukovic
Price: $10.00
Published: March 2013
ISBN: 978-1-936117-88-8

For children 5-7 years old.

Lenny and Nina have so many books that they cannot find what they are looking for and Grandma almost can’t find them! Beginning with this somewhat silly, exaggerated situation, this book proceeds to introduce concepts of library organization to young children in an engaging and humorous story using vocabulary they can understand and a situation to which they can relate. The children’s solution to their problem both empowers them in organizing their own environment and introduces them to how the larger culture organizes information for the community.

New from Library Juice Press.

May 26, 2012

Allie and the Monster Who Said Blah Blah Blah

Allie and the Monster Who Said Blah Blah Blah

Author: Rory Litwin
Illustrator: Ginny Maki
Price: $18.00
ISBN: 978-1-936117-58-1
8.5″ by 8.5″
Published: May 2012
Printed on acid-free paper.

For children aged 3 through 6.

Allie has a monster problem. A monster is preventing her from sleeping, terrorizing her with his scary “Blah Blah Blahs” that sound like the incomprehensible things that adults say (often recognizable to parents). Her mom helps to solve her problem with a magic book that causes the monster to shrink and go away. But Allie’s problems are not over yet. No longer bothering her, the monster seems to be threatening her parents in their bedroom. Allie takes care of the monster herself this time, in a surprise ending. (Hint: it has to do with the TV.)

Entertaining for children and parents alike, this book features the warm and subtle illustrations of artist Ginny Maki.

September 13, 2011

Rory Litwin interviews SafeLibraries’ Dan Kleinman

Dan Kleinman is the man behind the SafeLibraries campaign, which opposes the American Library Association’s intellectual freedom efforts regarding challenged books in school libraries and classrooms. From Dan’s point of view, as many know, ALA is responsible for exposing children to sexually inappropriate materials. Dan agreed to an interview, which we conducted on Facebook chat. The interview follows, typos included:

RL: Hi, Dan, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed.

DK: Hi Rory, thanks.

RL: Also, I’d like to thank you for sending me the powerpoint to the talk you gave recently, which was sponsored by a local Tea Party group. In your talk, you shared a quotation from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War that I found very interesting, about how the key to winning a battle is knowing your enemy. This was the reason you gave for talking so much about ALA and the ACLU. There’s something I want to ask you about regarding that.

In talking about ALA, you accuse them of a lot of pretty bad things, including advising librarians to promote inappropriate materials, plagiarizing on a regular basis, whitewashing rape and blaming the victims, aiding and abetting pedophiles, wanting children to access pornography, and I could go on. In my experience in ALA, all of this is far from the truth. But even if it were, I think that in terms of “knowing the enemy” there is something missing, which is the motivation. So I wanted to ask you, what do you think ALA’s motivation is in all of this? Do you think we are all sex perverts or something?

DK: Setting aside the ALA’s OIF, the ALA is an outstanding organization and I included that in my talk. And I’ll be happy to talk anywhere–it’s just that a tea party was the first to invite me and follow through. I was previously invited to speak at a senior citizen’s center but it never happened.

As to the OIF, it is not so much that I accuse them of that. What I am really doing is reporting what they are actually doing and linking to the sources where people can see this for themselves.

As to the “sex perverts” issue, no, I do not think the OIF is motivating in that regard in any way.


RL: In your talk you do refer to the villain as the ALA, but we can talk about the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom if you prefer. Still, I wonder what you think their motivation is in doing what you say they have done?

DK: I was asked that very question by the media. I have no response for that. I simply do not know why the OIF wants children to access inappropriate material. As Will Manley puts it,

“the library profession is the only profession in the world that wants children to have access to pornography.” http://safelibraries.blogspot.com/2011/05/will-manley-outs-library-profession-as.html

Perhaps ask Will the same question.

RL: Okay… Staying on the same theme of motivation, I am interested in knowing more about you, and how you got into this campaign. Could you talk a bit about that?

DK: I detail how I got into this here: http://safelibraries.blogspot.com/2011/07/porn-and-sex-abuse-in-our-public.html

Basically, my kindergartner got an inappropriate book that was recommended by the ALA and given her by an ALA member librarian.

I began to investigate why and I haven’t stopped since.

RL: What was the book?

DK: Mangaboom, by Charlotte Pomerantz. It won a Caldecott Award.

RL: one sec, I’d like to look it up.

DK: Okay. In the meantime, I brought the book to the principal. SHE said the book was TWICE as bad as what I reported and SHE removed it from the library. I did not ask her to remove the book. She did that on her own.

RL: I just read the descriptions on the Amazon page for the book, and it doesn’t give any warning about inappropriate material. One of the books is from School Library Journal (not a part of ALA), and the other is from Booklist (which does come from ALA). Neither of these reviews indicates that there is anythign controversial in them. Two questions. First, what about the book is bad? And second, do you have an issue with Amazon for recommending the book to Kindergarten-age kids?

(By the way, Dan, just so that there is no question of unfairness, when I publish this interview I am going to leave in all the typos and mistakes.)

DK: She went skinny dipping on a blind date with three guys. Ooh la la, she said in a lusty voice. It had text like that.

As to book reviews, they are misleading. Again, that is not an accusation, rather, that is something I am reporting merely as the messenger. In this case, a school administrator said this:

“School Excoriates Book Reviews that Fail to Disclose ‘Graphic Sexual Details’ in Books for Children; Lush by Natasha Friend is ‘Wildly Inappropriate’ for Certain Children” http://safelibraries.blogspot.com/2010/12/school-excoriates-book-reviews-that.html

RL: Do you think there is honest disagreement about what is appropriate for kids of different ages?

And if Mangaboom is so inappropriate for kids, why do you think these major reviewers would be so irresponsible as to leave out any warning? Do you think they also are intentionally trying to expose children to sexually inappropriate materials?

DK: By the way, no book is “bad.” Bad books is not the issue. I support authors writing whatever they like, and my blog evidences that. The problem is the OIF’s actions vis-a-vis certain books.

As to whether there is honest disagreement, one merely needs look at the ALA to say yes. Regarding the book Push, by Sapphire, the ALA said the book was right for all ages on one ALA page (Teen Hoopla), and said the book was only for 11th graders and up on another ALA page. So the ALA disagrees with itself, and the ALA is in favor of “banning” the book from kids in 10th grade and below.

Would you like me to get the ala pages for you to prove this?

As to the Mangaboom issue you raise, it never even occurred to me what you are suggesting regarding publishers and/or major reviewers. Now that you are asking, no, they are not intentionally trying to expose children to sexually inappropriate materials.

RL: Okay, so then, why do you think they are so much less concerned about this issue than you are?

DK: Publishers? Reviewers? Why are they less concerned than me? I don’t know. They are not the problem.

RL: Okay, I’ll ask the same question regarding librarians (ALA member-librarians). Why do you think we are so much less concerned?

DK: Again, ALA member librarians are not the problem. The OIF is the problem. And the way the OIF enforces its diktat is the problem. See, for example, “3 Ways to Get Blackballed in the Library Profession,” by Will Manley, Will Unwound, #428, 26 April 2011. http://willmanley.com/2011/04/26/will-unwound-428-3-ways-to-get-blackballed-in-the-library-profession/

“Perhaps the most career limiting move that you could make in the library profession is to refuse to toe the line with the anything goes philosophy of the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom.”

Again, Rory, I’m not accusing. I’m merely the messenger pointing out what others are saying. Then I have the nerve to speak about it.

By the way, I used to be an ALA member and only dropped out simply because I could no longer afford to remain a member.

RL: I find it curious that you should say that the publishers and reviewers of these books are not the problem, when these books are published for kids.

Authors, too, of course.

And I will just add as a bit of information – in my experience in ALA, the vast majority of members support what the Office for Intellectual Freedom does. In fact, if they didn’t support it, they would change it, since it is a member-controlled organization.

But there is genuine disagreement about these books, including within ALA, certainly.

As for pointing out what others are saying, I have not heard anyone else say that ALA OIF is guilty of “advising librarians to promote inappropriate materials,” “plagiarizing on a regular basis,” “whitewashing rape and blaming the child victim,” “aiding and abetting pedophiles,” etc.

DK: As to authors? They can and should write whatever they like without any limitation at all.

Publishers and reviewers can do a better job in providing such information, true, but their job is to sell books, and they are selling books, and salesmen generally don’t announce the warts, so I see no problem with salesman selling books.

The problem is the OIF. It advises, correctly, that parents are responsible for book selection. At the same time, it makes recommendations for parents that do not provide accurate information. So when those parents actually do get involved, and when they trust the ALA for a list of reading material, they end up being misled, and, for example, their 12 year old ends up reading a graphic description of oral sex.

RL: Did your 12 year old read a graphic description of oral sex?

Sorry, that is was an unfair question.

Of course not – you are very careful about what your child is exposed to. That is very clear.

DK: If others are not reporting on the ALA’s misdeeds, that is not my fault. I admit I am on the leading edge in this regard.

Sometimes, however, people do finally say what I have been noting. I have been noting, for example, that Banned Books Week is propaganda. Recently, you yourself made the same observation, likely for a different reason, but the same observation nevertheless. http://libraryjuicepress.com/blog/?p=3019

RL: I do have a problem with Banned Books Week, but you’re right, it’s for a different kind of reason.

I don’t have quite the same problem with children and teens being exposed to books that have sexual subject matter, when it is presented at a level that is appropriate.

I’m really interested in the fact that people have such different ideas about what is appropriate for kids.

DK: “[W]hen it is presented at a level that is appropriate.” Bingo!

RL: People clearly disagree about what is appropriate. Right?

So I’m interested in why you are so concerned about this, why you have made this issue the focus of your life, where others are less concerned or have much more liberal ideas about what is appropriate.

DK: The issue is NOT what is appropriate. The issue is how and why the OIF misleads local communities on a number of issues, and as a result people are being harmed in a manner that would not have occurred but for the OIF’s intervention.

RL: The fact that your child was exposed to Mangaboom doesn’t seem like a complete explanation, because many parents saw that book and didn’t worry about the way you did. For you it was an outrage that your child would be exposed to it at school. Right?

DK: No. At first it was surprise. I brought it to the principal. She said it was twice what I reported. She removed it. Not me. I did not ask her to do that. That is what started me on this issue. Similar incidents is what starts other people similarly.

Was I outraged later, after learning it was a book recommended by the ALA? Perhaps, depending on the meaning of outrage.

RL: What I’m trying to get at is the fact that you are especially sensitive to the problem of children being exposed to sexually oriented materials. I doubt that Mangaboom has been removed from most school libraries, because most parents don’t have a problem with it. You may have an insight into the effects of exposure to sex-related material on children that most people lack. I don’t know. But I can’t let it go without remarking on it that you are very sensitive to this issue, and that your campaign, your life’s work, is based on this concern you have. At the same time, developmental psychologists are hardly at the forefront of your campaign; on the contrary, they are often authors or advisors to authors of books for young people that address sexual subjects.

So I wonder, how do you define what is appropriate?

DK: What I define as appropriate is irrelevant, except as it pertains to my own local issues. As I said before regarding Push, even the ALA has divergent views on what is appropriate.

Now If I seem unusually sensitive to the issue, that is simply because it became clear to me that children hurt by the ALA cannot fight back themselves and are not even aware of the problem. As a result, the negative effects of the OIF spread without so much as a whimper. So I am standing up for the most innocent in our society. I don’t see a problem in that. I am asking why it has to be this way that the OIF acts the way it does. It doesn’t. And I’m doing something about it. And I am showing others what they can do about it. But the first step is to become aware that it is even an issue in the first place.

RL: It is an issue to you, that is clear. But to take the case of Mangaboom, which is the book that you say got you started, I think most parents would not see an issue. So do you think most parents don’t understand something about kids that you understand?

Sorry, I can see that that is an unfair question.

Clearly, as you see it, ALA is out-of-step with most parents. Is that right?

DK: No. Again that is not the issue. I am not the issue. I have no special “insight into the effects of exposure to sex-related material on children that most people lack.”

I simply saw something wrong in some out of state organization pushing material on my child that the principal removed from the library for being inappropriate. Then I simply acted on that. Had the OIF not acted in a manner that put that book in my child’s hands, we would not even be having this conversation. I am not the issue. The OIF is.

Ah! After I answered that I see you added a few sentences. So yes, it is the ALA, really the OIF, that is out of step, and I can link to a number of librarians saying exactly that.

Dean Marney, for example, talks about ALA “dogma.” http://tinyurl.com/ALADogma

RL: So, that would prove that they are out of step with a number of librarians. It can be really hard to know what the majority of Americans think, even with well-designed polls. But let’s say that ALA had not been involved and these books had ended up in the library, what then? It seems likely enough, given that publishers, reviewers, authors, and parents who buy the book support them in the marketplace.

What would be the focus of your campaign then?

DK: “It can be really hard to know what the majority of Americans think, even with well-designed polls.”

Well, the OIF says anything goes in public schools.

In contrast, a recent Harris Poll says the exact opposite: “Most Oppose Explicit Books in Public Schools Says Harris Poll” http://tinyurl.com/MostOpposeExplicitBooks

That’s pretty clear evidence the OIF is out of step with the public.

If the OIF were not involved, and this were happening merely as a matter of market forces, then I would not have the concerns I do now. SafeLibraries addresses the OIF, not market forces.

RL: Again, at issue is the definition of what is explicit, what is appropriate or not. The Harris Poll might not apply to many of the books you object to, like Mangaboom for example. And unfortunately it does seem to be very difficult to discuss where the lines should be drawn, and for what developmental reasons.

Ok, thanks for your explanation regarding market forces.

This interview has gotten to be long, and I’m not sure there is more ground that we are going to be successful in covering.

DK: That may be your issue, namely the definition of appropriate reading material, but it is not mine. You see, that decision gets to be made by local communities, not by me.

I address the OIF and the harm it may be doing in local communities. Like the library employees being harassed in Birmingham, AL. Like the toddler raped in a public library bathroom in Des Moines, IA, as a result of ALA policy, something that did not come to light until I got directly involved. Please consider asking me questions along those lines.

Okay, then thank you for this opportunity to speak with you on these important issues. I will be happy to speak with you again in the future. And hello to Library Juice readers!

RL: Thanks very much, Dan! I think this was an enlightening interview.

DK: Yes, thank you.

January 15, 2011

2011 Amelia Bloomer Project List

From Diedre Conklin:

The Amelia Bloomer Project, a product of the ALA Social Responsibilities Round Table’s (SRRT) Feminist Taskforce, announced the 2011 Amelia Bloomer List at ALA’s Midwinter Meeting in San Diego.

The bibliography consists of well-written and illustrated books with significant feminist content, intended for young readers from birth to 18 years old. This year’s list includes 68 titles published between July 1, 2009 and December 31, 2010.

Named for Amelia Bloomer, a pioneering 19th century newspaper editor, feminist thinker, public speaker, and suffragist, the list notes books about girls and women that spur the imagination while confronting traditional female stereotypes.

The bibliography is intended to aid children and teens in selecting high-quality books released over the past 18 months and may be used for a recommended reading list for youth and those who interact with them and as a collection development or reader’s advisory tool for interested librarians.

The Amelia Bloomer Project list for 2011 is now available in several places, It can be found at http://libr.org/ftf/bloomer.html, http://ftfinfo.wikispaces.com/Amelia+Bloomer+List+2011 and http://ameliabloomer.wordpress.com/.

February 2, 2010

2010 Amelia Bloomer List

The Amelia Bloomer List is for the “best feminist books for young readers” published each year. This year’s list has just been announced.

April 30, 2009

Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards – 2009 Winners

The Jane Addams Peace Association has announced the winners of its Children’s Book Awards for this year. This award tends to get lost in the shuffle, I think.

From the site:

The Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards are given annually to the children’s books published the preceding year that effectively promote the cause of peace, social justice, world community, and the equality of the sexes and all races as well as meeting conventional standards for excellence.

The Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards have been presented annually since 1953 by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and the Jane Addams Peace Association. Beginning in 1993, a Picture Book category was created. Honor books may be chosen in each category.

Authors and artists of award-winning and honor books each receive a certificate and a cash award. Seals designating each recognition are available for purchase by publishers, libraries, schools and others wanting them from the Jane Addams Peace Association.

Between 1963 and 2002, announcement of the awards was made each fall on the September anniversary of Jane Addams’ birth date. Beginning in 2003, the award winners are announced on April 28, the anniversary of the founding of WILPF. An awards presentation, open to all, is held each year on the third Friday of October.

February 17, 2009

Left Children’s Lit

I missed this when it came out a month ago in the New York Times Book Review: Caleb Crain has a review of Tales for Little Rebels: A Collection of Radical Children’s Literature. I have often wondered about Left Children’s Lit, so I find this book interesting. Crain finds too much amusement in the topic and mocks it a little (part of that publication’s attitude of light, breezy superiority), but the review is informative. Even though the book includes the full text and illustration of each of the 44 children’s books that it anthologizes, I think that it would only spark the interest of books collectors to seek out copies of the originals…

February 3, 2009

Age Appropriateness and IF

Intellectual Freedom is a right that has a range of threats to it. Most obviously, governments have banned books and censored the internet. But there are other dimensions to the threats to intellectual freedom. Publishers have refused to publish books for fear of controversy. Criticism of corporations is squelched by pulling out of advertising contracts; through baseless attacks on the reputations of the critics or journalists, placed in high-profile media venues; by filing SLAPP suits and product defamation suits; and by requiring non-disclosure agreements as a condition of employment or contract. Criticism of government is squelched by arresting protesters or by threatening to revoke an organization’s 501(c)(3) tax status. Entertainment media, both the content and the advertising, play a large role in shaping the thoughts of most people. Power relations in general affect what people will read read, say, and think.

That is the breadth of intellectual freedom issues that we as librarians should think about.

This is why I have always found it odd that the only type of news story that consistently gets the “intellectual freedom” label attached to it is the story about the children’s book that someone objects to having in a school library or the children’s collection of a public library.

It’s not that these stories aren’t about intellectual freedom, or that they aren’t important. They certainly are, and in a library-specific context. But they are also about what the challengers claim they are about: age appropriateness. I find it dismaying that librarians almost always defend these books solely on intellectual freedom grounds, as though no book could be age-inappropriate. The grounds for keeping a book in a children’s collection once it has been challenged as not appropriate for the students who use the collection (or in the class where the book has been assigned) should always be that the book is in fact age-appropriate, or that it is reasonable for more than a few parents to consider it age-appropriate. The way the debate usually runs, however, at least in public fora, makes it seem as though librarians want to avoid the question of age appropriateness, as if according to intellectual freedom principles all books are appropriate for all ages. I don’t think that intellectual freedom principles say that, and I think that avoiding the question of age appropriateness, which is generally the question actually being raised by the challengers, harms the image of intellectual freedom advocates.

If the disagreement is over whether children should have different intellectual freedom rights than adults or not, then let’s discuss this question. I think few people would say that children’s reading should not be limited in some way, or that library collection development for children’s collections shouldn’t consider these limitations. If the disagreement is about what is appropriate for the kids using the library, then that is the question that should be discussed. It doesn’t make sense to appeal to a binary principle when the question is age-appropriateness.

Personally, I think most people would consider my views relatively liberal regarding what is appropriate for children. I think the science probably supports my outlook on it, too. Scientific studies on the effects on children of exposure to subject matter concerning sex or other adult topics, and of their appropriateness for the education of young people into adulthood, should logically be a part of this debate, but I seldom see them referred to in it. Instead, just a lot of knee jerk stuff that suggests a rather narrow conception of intellectual freedom.

Sorry to gripe, but I don’t often do it here.

September 26, 2008

Some good listening

Wisconsin Public Radio’s To the Best of Our Knowledge has an hour-long program this week on libraries, books and reading. Interviewed are Maryanne Wolfe, author of “Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain” (which has some pessimistic things to say about the internet); Geraldine Brooks, who talks about the rare Sarajevo Haggadah; Alberto Manguel, who talks about his personal library and his relationship with libraries; and Susan Hirschmann, who talks about children’s books and children’s book authors. The show is available online.

September 18, 2008

Nancy Kranich on Sarah Palin, would-be censor

Former ALA President Nancy Kranich has an editorial in the current issue of The Nation magazine, titled, “What’s Daddy’s Roommate Doing in Wasilla?” Kranich is writing about Sarah Palin’s attempt to censor books from the library in Wasilla when she was governor, and her subsequent attempt to have the library director, Mary Ellen Emmons, fired, for refusing to do it.

Kranich notes that Banned Books Week is coming up, the week before the Presidential election. I hope librarians, columnists, and TV types use the opportunity to make hay out of Palin’s censorship story. She can’t be allowed near the Presidency.

May 30, 2008

One Laptop Per Child Bullcakes

Via Kevin Arthur’s Questioning Technology blog, a tidbit on the fiasco known as One Laptop Per Child