reasons I despise banned books week

  1. BBW is already widely used internet lingo, and it ain’t about books.
  2. Why are we promoting something we’re against (banning books) instead of promoting something we are FOR (the freedom to read)?
  3. It confuses library users. I’m sure nearly every library worker has a story about someone seeing a “banned books” display and saying something to the effect of, “Oh, are these all the books that the library’s banned?”
  4. Books are rarely actually banned. Sometimes they’re challenged, but most people don’t even go that far when they’re faced with paperwork to make the actual challenge. Shouldn’t we, as information professionals, care about accuracy of language?
  5. 50% of book challenges happen in schools and school libraries, so why doesn’t the OIF lay off “banned books week” and throw some support and effort towards helping schools keep books in the hands of kids?
  6. Oh, and also in prisons. That’s another place where books are actually being banned, not just challenged. Why don’t we focus on helping that situation? If what we really care about is making sure people can access the books they want to access, this should be a bigger concern for the profession.
  7. Look up images for Banned Books Week and groove on the cognitive dissonance of the imagery. If reading “banned” books is something to be proud of, why is so much of the imagery based in shame? And some of which is blatantly offensive, featuring images of shackles, and the ever popular “banned book mugshot”, which has to be one of the whitest and most offensive things I’ve ever seen. Mugshots aren’t a cutesy pinterest friendly promotional tool, y’all. Jesus. Do you have people of color in your community? Are you aware that “African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites” for shit that is just about as dumb as reading a banned book? Have you ever considered how these mugshots might impact people in your community who are affected by incarceration? COME ON NOW.

8. It’s divisive rather than inclusive, promoting an “us against them” mentality.

Consider this my perpetual treatise on banned books week. So long and thanks for all the misplaced effort.

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Hi, Miss Julie’s Loves of Librarianship

  1. Libraries are for everyone

  2. Everyone benefits from libraries, whether they use them or not

  3. Make every interaction delightful, wherever it happens

  4. A degree does not a librarian make

  5. Every library its community, and every community its library

Libraries are for everyone

Libraries are for everyone in your community, whether they are homeless, trans, on the spectrum, divorced, high school dropouts, PhD students, or whatever else.

Libraries are places where all lives really matter, and we prove that we believe that statement by holding  open discussions on race in America, creating Transgender Resource collections, having police officers interact with the public within our walls, and putting up Black Lives Matter displays.

We remove financial barriers such as fines and fees whenever possible, and make getting, having, and using a library card as frictionless as possible.

Our programs are inclusive and we strive to make accommodations whenever required.

Our collections reflect our communities both as they are and as they aspire to be. Everyone in our community, especially children, should see themselves reflected in our collections, and also have ample opportunity to experience stories from those who are unlike themselves.

Everyone benefits from libraries, whether they use them or not

Rich old white man who continually writes articles about how no one uses libraries anymore–please shut up. People who aren’t you use libraries all the time, and the information, education, and sense of belonging that they gain from those visits ultimately benefits our whole society, even you.

You’re welcome.

Make every interaction delightful, wherever it happens

We strive during each reference interaction, every readers’ advisory session, every storytime, every program, through every online social interaction or email, to delight and inspire our users. We waive fines for the single mother who doesn’t want to go back out to her car in the rain to get her credit card, and the smile of relief on her face is worth so much more than her small fine; we bring stacks of books to a reluctant reader and let them know that while these are some of our favorite books, our feelings won’t be hurt if they hate them all–because we really want them to find their next (or first) favorite book; and when first grade teachers tweet about how their students are learning to write letters, we tweet back and ask for one, and send one in return.

2015-10-05-11-06-04

A degree does not a librarian make

An MLIS can be a wonderful thing. It can also be an expensive piece of paper that never really ends up making you good librarian, or gets you a job that allows you to pay off its cost before you die.

When I define librarian, I’m definitely more Urban Dictionary than Webster’s Dictionary (I  still love ya, Webster). If you must, I suppose you can make the distinction of degreed librarian or put MLIS at the end of your email signature…but in the end, I don’t care. Are you passionate about stories, regardless of medium or delivery method? Are you insatiably curious and demand answers, even for questions posed by others? Do you consistently post Snopes links on your friends’ facebook pages? Do you currently or have you ever worked in a library and brought joy to those who received service from you? Congratulations–if you want to refer to yourself as such, you have my permission to call yourself a librarian.

Every library its community, and every community its library

While everyone can use every library, libraries should begin and end with their immediate communities. Not only does this make practical sense–the community’s taxes are at work within your budget, after all–it makes everything else easier.

I attended a workshop recently about design thinking for libraries, and while I can’t encapsulate everything I learned here, I do want to share a bit about one of the steps–interviewing members of your community. When your library has a problem–crowded storytimes, lackluster program attendance, drug use in the bathrooms–it’s not your library that has a problem, it is your community, and the only way to begin solving this problem is to talk to your community. Interview members of the affected groups, and from that information work in small teams to create solutions.

Some communities love their libraries, and others seem able to take the library or leave it– and sometimes this has nothing to do with the actual quality of the library. If you’re a beloved member of your community, rejoice–and keep working hard to earn that love on a daily basis. As in any loving relationship, don’t take it for granted. And if you’re still trying to earn the love of your community? Don’t fret. Go back to love # 1, lather, rinse and repeat, and you’ll get there. I promise.

 

George Carlin, MLIS

Within the context of ALA policy and the professional practices of librarianship, critical examination of beliefs and viewpoints does not, by itself, constitute hostile conduct or harassment.  Similarly, use of sexual imagery or language in the context of a professional discussion might not constitute hostile conduct or harassment.
http://alamw14.ala.org/statement-of-appropriate-conduct

When Carlin rattled off the seven words you can’t say on television, they gained the musicality of a poem, an incantation that summoned to mind whatever images you wanted those words to stand for. Because that’s all words are–they are symbols for larger, messier thoughts that are imperfectly expressed. Carlin knew this, and pointedly commented on how some “dirty” words were situational. Ass, for instance, was okay when it brought to mind a donkey; but it was decidedly not okay when it brought to mind someone’s posterior. Bitch was fine for dog breeders, but not for a man referring to his cruel girlfriend. Carlin, with the ribald glee of a manic linguist, tore apart these words and put them back together like a master sculptor.

Note that when he performed this piece (and he performed pieces; Carlin was know for the careful writing, rewriting, and honing of his work), he was not directing these words at anyone in particular. He was not demeaning a gay man by calling him a cocksucker. He was not attempting to intimidate an outspoken woman by calling her a cunt. He was exploring the power and impact of these words in a raunchy yet cerebral exercise that poked fun at how much power we give to these sounds that inherently have no power of their own. The only power words have over us are the power we give to them, power that is given by the intent behind them and the way we say them.

It is precisely that distinction that means that Intellectual Freedom lovers everywhere have nothing to fear from the Statement of Appropriate Conduct at ALA Conferences. Because it is not meant to curtail lively, intense, thoughtful intellectual discourse. It is not meant for the George Carlins, Richard Pryors, and Margaret Chos of conference presenting. It is meant for furtive come-ons and anger filled insults that are designed to demean, intimidate, and take down other people. It is meant for the person who scrawls cocksucker on the picture of a homosexual keynote speaker. It is meant for the disgruntled male who calls a colleague a ball busting bitch after she adroitly points out errors in his proposed idea. It is meant for all the people who use words as weapons, which is often a prelude to physical violence as well.

Further, you need to consider that if you’re going to listen to a speaker, especially a keynote speaker, you should have some idea about their style and approach. I’m happily looking forward to David Sedaris at PLA this year, and being familiar with his work I fully expect some profanity and tales of disturbingly hilarious subject matter. For people who aren’t into that, you have the choice of not going. Most street harassers don’t afford people that sort of courtesy. “Pardon me, ma’am, but I’d like to subject you to a tirade about how much I enjoy your tits in that blouse and what I would like to do to them. All right?” Having your choice taken away is another important factor when it comes to deciding if something is frowned upon, whether it’s part of a statement of conduct or not.

So for anyone who is planning on saying “fuck ebook borrowing restrictions!” in their next conference presentation, keep that f-bomb in there. Even if someone does complain, the statement is not meant for you. Fuck in this instance is an intensifier, a rallying cry, a sharp blast designed to grab attention and incite action.

But I and many others are damn comforted that if someone tells me to shut the fuck up because they don’t like what I have to say, I have that statement as a starting point to push back and find some recourse.

And just for fun, here’s a video I found of Louis CK honoring George Carlin at the NYPL.

Baby, do you understand me now
Sometimes I feel a little mad
But don’t you know that no one alive
Can always be an angel
When things go wrong I seem to be bad
But I’m just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood

-The Animals, Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood

ain’t no cure for the summertime blues.

OR: Love is the higher law.

I’m in a summer funk, y’all.

The heat, humidity, and summer reading program account for a lot of this funk. Now that the program is winding down, there is much fretting about the NUMBERS! I am paranoid that my new program for pre-readers has negatively impacted the number of people finishing the program. I stand by my early literacy skills promoting book log, however, and think that there must be another reason for low finishing numbers.

This summer I’ve also been plagued by the New Jersey/Gail Sweet/Revolutionary Voices debacle.

SIGH.

How do I even begin? Since I am lazy, if you’re unaware of what this issue is, please see the links below.

In a nutshell: Gail Sweet, worst library director ever, removed an anthology of queer writings from the library based on the complaint of a grandmother who was systematically seeking to remove books with gay themes from every library in her immediate area of influence. Gail removed the title Revolutionary Voices without following proper procedure, and without making the grandmother fill out the standard reconsideration form.

Oh, and this grandmother? Beverly Marinelli is her name. She belongs to a group that wants to “to bring us all back to the place we were on September 12, 2001[.]” Let me think….as far as I recall, everybody was SCARED on 9/12. Crying, trembling, awfully scared. You know what, Beverly? I don’t want to feel like that, and I think you’re a pretty terrible person for wanting to take us all back there. We remember 9/11 plenty well, thank you very much. Even the gays! David Levithan, editor and YA author who is also one of those homosexuals that are ruining the world (according to you), was so moved by 9/11 that he WROTE A BOOK ABOUT IT.

Did you write a book, Beverly? Did you create something in the aftermath of all that evil and terror? Did you GIVE something in an attempt to make the world better? NO? You only took something away? You X’d it? You uncreated? Wow, well, good for you. It’s easy to take something away, to remove a book just like the twin towers were removed. Oh, yeah, I went there– I am comparing the removal and destruction of a book to 9/11, y’all! Look at me go! Straight to hell! Or maybe I should say queer to hell. Book banning and terrorism have the same root: the impulse to destroy that which you do not like and do not understand.

Yet, this book banning spree really has nothing to do with the mission of 9/12: “But she said the common association between the complainants is a coincidence and the protests against the book are not part of that project.”

Uh. Okay. If it has nothing to do with 9.12, then why are you wasting your time with it? Why not focus on your task at hand?

Here’s the whole quote:

Ms. Marinelli, the woman who originally contacted Ms. Sweet about the book, was one of a group of people who first brought it to the attention of the RVRHS Board of Education. She acknowledged she and the others are all members of The 912 Project, a group started by conservative pundit Glenn Beck whose purpose is “to bring us all back to the place we were on September 12, 2001,” according to its website. But she said the common association between the complainants is a coincidence and the protests against the book are not part of that project.

So, not only is grandma a hateful bigot, she can’t even stay on task. You’re never gonna get us back to 9.12 that way, Beverly, at this rate. I’m not sure what offends me more, your obvious hatred of queer people or your utter LAZINESS.

Okay. So Beverly got a bee in her bonnet, wrote to Gail Sweet, Gail Sweet was all, “SURE!” Bang, there goes the book. When she was asked why the book was being removed, Gail Sweet replied simply, “Child pornography.” Yeah, she’s lazy, too. At least when I am lazy, I don’t try and pretend I was “being funny.” I’m just lazy.

“‘I was really being funny, even if it doesn’t sound it,’ she said. ‘Maybe they were ill-advised words, but I’ve learned something: Be careful what you put in e-mail. They were not meant in any way other than being facetious.'” – Gail Sweet

Do you really want a library director who thinks following policies and procedures is funny ha ha laugh time? Oh, yeah, wait, she didn’t follow the procedures fully. She just made an irrational, emotional judgment and got rid of the book.

The worst part was that not only did she remove all copies from the library, she didn’t even want to allow them to be sent to the book sale:

“How can we grab the books so that they never, ever get back into ccirculation (sic). Copies need to totally disappear (as in not a good idea to send copies to the book sale)[.]”

I’m surprised she didn’t have a bonfire and just burn them, and maybe, while she’s at it, the effigy of a gay teenager. Heck, why not just burn a real teenager? I hear they cast a lovely light.

This story has actually been reported on by a variety of publications. I, myself, actually emailed Dan Savage to see if I could get him to rant about it, seeing as his decrying of the Constance McMillan prom issue actually provoked some real change to her school’s attitudes and policies.

(It’s pretty hard to write this, as blinded as I am by rage. It’s also hard to keep out all of the profanity I would like to use.)

Some argue that libraries have this kind of “child pornography” on their shelves, but not the converse–books about reforming gays, or the like. And you know, I don’t agree with that, either. If there’s a reviewed item that speaks to that ideology, add it to your collection for balance. If there is a patron request, and you have the budget, add something even if it is a poorly written, blearily printed chap book. I don’t care if you agree with their views or not, if they pay taxes, it is their library, too, and you’re obligated to provide materials they want to read, however distasteful you find them personally.

So, Gail, what you should have done was keep that well-reviewed, important book on the shelves, and added materials that provided a counterpoint. But that might have involved, oh, I don’t know, SOME WORK. You might have had to look at some REVIEWS. Or asked Beverly for SUGGESTIONS. Instead, like Banning Beverly, you took the easy, lazy way out, and got rid of something.

Doing the hard work of researching in order to add more materials would have made you a good librarian. Instead, you’re a slothful censor who makes terrible jokes, and I hope that someday soon a young person in your family, a nephew or niece or grandchild, comes out to you, and changes your mind about what materials like Revolutionary Voices mean to people like him or her.

Beverly, Gail, I leave you with the eloquent words of Frank Zappa: “May your sh*t come to life and kiss you on the mouth.”

Actual emails exchanged between Gail Sweet and various parties

Safe Libraries

School Library Journal

Fire Gail Sweet!

Tea Cozy‘s Account

Central Jersey.com

The Frisky

Bitch Magazine

TPM Muckraker

Jezebel

Guardian UK

Banned Librarian

The Advocate

American Libraries

Shakesville

Box Turtle Bulletin

Philly.com

we don’t need you.

This post breaks my heart. It also makes me want to yell at the librarians that Brent mentioned. Not only are they bad people, they are bad librarians, unethical, piece of sh*t librarians who need to find a different profession immediately, preferably nowhere near books or children.

A brief summary: Brent is a gay teen who loves reading about kids like himself. Shocking, I know. When he ran out of books to read, he turned to his libraries–first his school library, then his public library. This is how his school librarian treated him:

When I set out to find more LGBT titles, I turned to my school’s library. Honestly? It was pathetic. There was not one single LGBT novel. But oh, of course the librarian went out of her way to buy books about gangs, drugs, and teen pregnancy. […] When I asked her about it, she replied, “This is a school library. If you are looking to read inappropriate titles, go to a book store.” Uhm, how in the hell is LGBT YA lit “inappropriate”?

His public librarian didn’t fare much better.

In case you were wondering, Brent, as a gay male, is not inappropriate, nor are his tastes in reading. That school librarian is inappropriate and needs to find another profession. Her response  indicates a blatant ignorance of and disregard for the ALA Code of Ethics*, the Freedom to Read Statement and YALSA’s Competencies for Librarians Serving Youth. Granted, these are not iron-clad, binding documents, but they are the standard guides for ethical behavior and good service for the profession.

We librarians love to talk about how important we are, how the work we do is so valuable, and how our roles in the current culture are vital; yet how often do we talk about the trash that exists in the library world? The incompetent, the vile, the lazy, the downright dangerous?

We need to stop being nice. We need to stop making excuses. We need to start having some ethical courage when it comes to the crap that some of our colleagues pull. It is hard. You will be branded a troublemaker. You will be told not to make waves. You will be told that censorship is an awfully strong word. But, you know, sometimes it is an accurate word, and we need to use it.

Please don’t let people get away with doing this to kids, especially the most vulnerable kids. The catchphrase of “If you see something, say something” doesn’t just have to apply to unattended luggage, packages, and odd behavior; call out your coworkers who are being unprofessional, reputation damaging jerks.

No one deserves to be treated the way this kid was treated. Don’t be an accessory to this kind of thing. If you are, and I find out, I’ll yell at you, too.

*We distinguish between our personal convictions and professional duties and do not allow our personal beliefs to interfere with fair representation of the aims of our institutions or the provision of access to their information resources. (ALA Code of Ethics).

ETA: Here’s another post on the same topic by the Ya Ya Yas.

free willys.

I just finished reading a coworker’s arc of Will Grayson, Will Grayson. It is extremely hard to not accidentally type Willy when I try to type that repetitive title. Then I am reminded of my co-worker who is eagerly awaiting the release of Free Willy: Willy vs. The Gorton’s Fisherman. Or whatever it is called.

Anyway. Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a lovely book. I enjoyed reading about a fat character who wasn’t ashamed to be fat (even though he recognized that society thought he should be) and who was, in fact, a sex object. Yes, sometimes people become more physically attractive when we’re ensnared by the sheer force of their personality. I don’t think I’ve seen a strong example of this since The Phantom of the Opera.*

I also liked the platonic love story, which, according to the authors’ notes, was a major theme. I didn’t learn how to acknowledge this love until I was well into my twenties, so having all of these recent examples aimed at teenagers is a good thing, I think. Maybe if we all realized that love can occur without romance, we’d all feel a bit happier with ourselves and our lives.

Along with How to Say Goodbye In Robot, Dramarama, and Sweethearts, this book is a welcome addition to the platonic romance genre, which I have JUST NOW ushered into being.**

*I’m sure there are others, but I can’t think of them right now.

**Please don’t burst my inflated sense of power and self-importance, it is all I have right now.

divulging.

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.

boy with pink purse, meet the boy in the dress

I saw a little boy the other day carrying a pink purse over his shoulder. I wanted to go over and high five his mother, but I restrained myself. Having been a weird kid myself–I often wore the most hideous outfits culled from thrift stores and discount stores, including hoodies from Farm & Fleet and slips I wore as skirts–I appreciated that this child’s mother allowed him to leave the house with his pink purse.

The part of my personality that appreciate that little boy’s style is also eager to read a book that’s coming out in December, The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams (I discovered it via Worth the Trip). It’s about a soccer playing boy who likes to wear dresses, and it’s illustrated by Quentin Blake; really, what’s not to love?