I need an idiot’s guide to ALA

Not only do librarians have to have a master’s degree from an accredited university, we also subscribe to a Code of Ethics, a Freedom to Read Act, and almost every division of librarianship (from Youth Services to Young Adult to Reference Librarians) has competencies that they are expected to meet. Further, we have five laws* passed down to us from the beginning of Librarianship, which, if you had to chuck everything else for expediency and sanity’s sake, would still ensure you’d be a pretty damn fine librarian.

Yet. Even with all of this education, guidance and oversight, there are still many complacent, lazy, and–dare I say it?–BAD librarians out there. Librarians who are content to give out bad information, who don’t bother to keep current on new trends and new possibilities, who are too indifferent or too afraid to challenge outdated policies and procedures. There are librarians who censor books by not purchasing them, who put together tired power point after tired power point and call themselves educators, librarians who don’t bother to stay aware of and interested in what is going on in their own library much less what is going on in the profession as a whole.

I want to discuss all of these issues in more detail over the coming weeks, but I am going to begin by asking for help from the top: ALA.

ALA does a lot for librarians, and the ALA website is an imposing chunk of information. Perhaps too much information. I want to be a member of ALA, and ALSC and YALSA, but I find the dues too rich for my blood. Since it’s the American Library Association, why can’t the memberships of the librarians who work in those libraries be put forth by their institutions? Wouldn’t that be easier on everyone? Wouldn’t it save a lot of issues of American Libraries from being thrown away?

I cry ignorance on this topic. I beg to be told what’s what. Because, Lord help me, I can’t even begin to wade through ALA’s website without twitching. To be clear, I value what ALA provides–I did link to much of their information above–but I don’t understand why they need my money, and once they have it, where it goes.

*By the way, this page sucks; could someone more savvy fix it?

today in stupid.

Nah, kids don’t need to look up words. Especially in SCHOOL of all places. Their vocabularies are perfectly cromulent as they are. So shine on, you crazy school in LA, and keep those dictionaries away from kids. They should be using a more hands-on approach to learning about oral sex, anyway.


And for the record? Restricting access=CENSORSHIP.

Suck on that for awhile, fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms at Oak Meadows Elementary School.

i want to be the frank zappa of librarians.

This list is interesting, if flawed, but what I really enjoyed reading was Tony Buchsbaum’s hijacking of the thread to talk about rating books, censorship, and everyone’s favorite topic,  thinking of the children.

I’m going to shoot my mouth off here and say that I don’t believe that people use ratings. I think they either ignore them completely, or obey them without question. I don’t believe that anyone stops to consider the nuances of TV 14 LV, or R, or any of those well-meaning Tipper Gorey ratings labels. I can’t imagine the discussions of whether ’tis more damaging for a child to see a breast or to see an act of violence.

I have a theory that kids can more easily process sex, violence, and other heavy issues when they are reading. When you are reading, the sex is only as sexy as your imagination can make it; the gore is only as gory as your personal frame of reference. If you keep your ten year old from watching Saw XXVIIV and other films like it, and you lock down the soft-core on the cable, you have a fairly good chance of managing the scope of your child’s frame of reference for quite a while. Yes, your kid will still hear lots and lots of violent and sexy talk from the world at large, and perhaps even hear some sung, but if he doesn’t have a catalog of Tarantino images to draw from in his mind, the worst he can imagine is the worst he can imagine.

Words on a page and words set to a beat are just that–words. Until you give them power, they are powerless. Until you flesh them out, they are only as much or as little as your mind chooses to make of them.

If I were a parent, I’d let my kids read whatever they wanted, and imagine what they could. And what they couldn’t? Well, I can only hope they’d come talk to me about it.


Here in the ol’ intertubes, there’s been much hubub about racism and whitewashing in and on books for children and young adults. It’s probably been going on for ages, but I most keenly became aware of it when the controversy over Liar happened. That ended fairly well, with the cover ending up a bit more true-to-art than the initial image, but the fact that the issue arose at all is interesting and saddening.

I’ve made this issue personal. My nephew is bi-racial, and I think he deserves, just as much as any other child, to see himself in the literature he reads (or, at this point, has read to him). Also, as a(n unpublished) writer, I think it is disrespectful to utterly disregard what an author has put into the content of the book when creating the packaging for the outside of it.

There are a couple of new cases whitewashed covers cropping up at the moment, and I’m sure there are many, many more that are going unnoticed. I think that on this day, when we are supposedly honoring Dr. King and his work, we might want to consider why we’re allowing this to keep happening.

I don’t really have too much to say that is original, so I’ll offer a list of resrources to conversations that have already begun:

SLJ talks about mulitculuralism in children’s books.

The blog Reading in Color tackles the Magic Under Glass cover.

Color Online pokes fun at Bloomsbury’s next possible whitewashing.

This post at Chasing Ray has links to all sorts of conversations.

I will also highlight a few blogs that focus on multiculturalism in kid/yalit, in no particular order:

Black Threads in Kid’s Lit

Color Online

Reading in Color

American Indians in Children’s Literature

I’m Here, I’m Queer, What the Hell Do I Read?

Those are just a few. If you have any others, please mention them in the comments.

do you understand me now?

“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”

-Robert Browning, from “Andrea del Sarto”

That is one of the most famous lines in all of literature, but what does it mean? To me, it means that  you should always strive for more than you can accomplish at a given moment. You have to go too far before you know you’ve gone far enough. It is easier to edit too many words than it is to add more.

I believe in that line from Browning’s poem. I believe that men and women both should have a reach that exceeds their grasp. I also believe that organizations and institutions have the same obligation.

In graduate school, a phrase I heard assiduously was “change agent“, a six-sigma buzz-word that has permeated many professional cultures in recent years. In almost every class I took, my professors charged me and my classmates with the task of being change agents in our future or present libraries. In one class, Information Ethics, I was encouraged to have ethical courage*–the courage to speak out when I felt something was ethically wrong, whether in a personal or professional context. In almost every class I took, our heads were filled with images of ideal libraries– paragons of intellectual freedom, teamwork, innovation and exploration.

In reality, libraries are just like any other workplace. The confluence of myriad generations, backgrounds, cultural and social norms, work experiences, professional philosophies, and educations in an organization can either lead to tremendous conflict or amazing growth. I believe that this conflict or growth is a choice that the leaders of any given institution must make.

I believe that change agents can either be seen by their organizations as troublemakers and rebels dissatisfied with the status quo, who voice their opinions simply for the sake of being combative, or they can be seen as catalysts (in the figurative sense of the term) eager to spark change for the betterment of the organization and all the people that comprise it (in the case of libraries, both employees and patrons).

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