Category Archives: Libraries

Missouri’s Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act versus the Library Bill of Rights

The Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act being brought forward by Representative Ben Baker falls foul of most of the rights laid out in the American Library Association’s Bill of Rights

Particularly:

Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves.

Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

…resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.

and

A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.

The Library Bill of Rights is laid out below:

The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.

  1. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.
  2. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.
  3. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.
  4. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.
  5. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.
  6. Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.

The full Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act can be accessed here.

The personal or religious beliefs of a small group of individuals should have no place in dictating what can be accessed or done by a community as a whole. This move by Representative Baker further blurs the separation of church and state.

In a news post he is quoted as saying: The main thing is I want to be able to take my kids to a library and make sure they’re in a safe environment, and that they’re not gonna be exposed to something that is objectionable materialUnfortunately, there are some libraries in the state of Missouri that have done this. And that’s a problem.

Access to information does not make a person unsafe, limiting their access to accurate information does that!

Views on what constitutes appropriate materials may vary widely from library to library.

If parents are concerned what their children are reading (and many are) then they should be active participants in their lives and be willing to have discussions on puberty, sex & sexuality and more. If young people are unable to have those types of discussions with their parents or guardians then they will go looking to find the information on their own and their library will be one of the safer and more accurate places for them to find information.

If parents and care-givers would rather legislate that option away from children in their care then they will go looking for information in places where accurate and truthful information may not be available.

The Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act will force library staff to act in loco parentis, as gatekeepers (a role that we have been trying to get rid of for years), young readers going through puberty, questioning their sexuality, trying to find information for class assignments or those that are just curious will be unable to access the information they require if the group overseeing the library collection takes a narrow view on what is appropriate for young readers.

If this act is passed then Libraries that fall foul of it will lose access to federal funds and Library staff that provide access to proscribed materials will face a fine or jail time.

You can find out more information about this developing story and how to make your views heard at Bookriot, EveryLibrary, PEN and The Guardian.

Visit this page for a list of interpretations of the Library Bill of Rights: http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/librarybill/interpretations

Representative Ben Baker is “Thinking of the Children” with the Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act

I read a blog post last night (https://rturner229.blogspot.com/2020/01/ben-baker-files-parental-oversight-of.html)

It details the machinations of Ben Baker the GOP Representative for Newton County in the Missouri House of Representatives who is trying to get public libraries to age restrict materials that could be considered objectionable.

From the above-mentioned post:

Baker filed the Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act to keep impressionable young people from getting their hands on material that deals with sex or anything else that might be considered inappropriate by parents (or Baker).

No public library shall receive any state aid under this section if such library 53 allows minors to access age-inappropriate sexual materials in violation of section 182.821. HB 2044 3 182.821. 

As Library Workers, our job is to bring people and resources together. I can understand School Libraries being more prescriptive in their collection development; but to require Public Libraries to limit access to materials based on the age of readers is not only offensive but also dangerous. It places the decision on what is considered appropriate in the hands of a small group of people (& Representative Baker) who could, quite conceivably have a limited view on what “appropriate” is for readers of different ages.

The threat of losing funding is blatant strong-arming and needs condemnation in the strongest possible terms!

Libraries have made a concerted effort to move away from being gatekeepers and the story of Goodnight Moon at the New York Public Library is a great example of how a book can be kept out of the hands of readers: https://slate.com/culture/2020/01/goodnight-moon-nypl-10-most-checked-out-books.html

Sidelining the views of the majority of parents who will not be involved in the decision-making process sets a dangerous precedent, writing something into law that is best left up to families to decide is sheer overreach – I thought that Republicans were usually the part of small government and limited interference.

Chris Riddell: a Guardian of Magic

For as long as anyone can remember, children have looked up at billowing clouds in the sky and made a wish on a cloud horse. But no one has seen one.
Until now.

Macmillan Children’s
The Cloud Horse Chronicles

It is always a good day when a new Chris Riddell is published, and an even better day when it is the beginning of a new series! The Cloud Horse Chronicles: Guardians of Magic introduces us to three unsuspecting heroes as they receive magical gifts. The illustrations are perfectly placed and really bring the characters to life, but I particularly love the cross sections of where the children are living when we first meet them. PR for the book says it is reminiscent of Tolkein’s and Pullman’s worlds, but it mainly makes me want to re-read the Edge Chronicles (written by Paul Stewart and illustrated by Chris Riddell)! Readers will spot lots of nods to classic fairytales, tweaked in very pleasing ways.

I called this post “Guardian of Magic” because Chris Riddell really is one. Obviously, I am entirely biased in writing a Chris Riddell review, because we Librarians love him. He’s won the Kate Greenaway medal an unprecedented 3 times (not just because he’s Chris Riddell, honestly, he’s also not won it with lots of his books…) and he has long been an ardent supporter of libraries, often illustrating quotes (often from Neil Gaiman) about their importance. He’s been involved in talks with government in the Libraries All Party Parliamentary Group and as Children’s Laureate 2015-2017 he wrote an open letter to the then head of the Department for Education, Justine Greening, to make a plea on behalf of school libraries to ring-fence funding and set out standards for library provision that schools must follow. He’s been particularly vocal about their importance in schools and has been the President of the SLA (School Libraries Association) 2017-2020.

I could quite easily just copy and paste lots of his illustrations in this blog post, but I urge you to simply do an image search for “Chris Riddell library” to see the dozens of amazing and inspiring cartoons. This summer he tweeted a series of Owls he has created for the SLA and I couldn’t resist just sharing one here:

The Guardians of Magic is published on the 19th September 2019| Hardback, £12.99| Macmillan Children’s Books|ISBN 9781447277972

Huge thanks to Macmillan for sending a review copy!

Library Workers share Concerns with CILIP Employer Partnerships

A group of Library Workers have written an open letter to CILIP‘s Board of Trustees regarding concerns about CILIP’s Employer Partnership Scheme, particularly their recent announcements of partnerships with GLL and the Ministry of Defence.

You can read the letter here

If you wish to add your name to the letter you can send an e-mail to: openlettertoCILIP@protonmail.com

Melvil Dewey, “Father of Modern Librarianship” and racist creep

Melvil Dewey’s name is most often associated with Librarianship due to the Decimal Classification System that carries his name.

But did you know that he also championed spelling reform, and was an early promoter of winter sports.

As Melvil Dui (spelling reform) he was one of the founders of the American Library Association.

Less well-known was his persistant sexual harassment of women – his unwelcome hugging, unwelcome touching, certainly unwelcome kissing  were noted by biographer Wayne A. Wiegand.

When he opened the School of Library Economy at Columbia College he requested a photograph of each female applicant due to his belief that “you cannot polish a pumpkin”.

Then there were his racist and anti-semitic views, at the Lake Placid Club, a place where Dewey envisioned educators finding health, strength and inspiration at modest cost; he banned African-Americans, Jews and others from membership.

Many people at this point may think that his views were common and accepted at this time but they contributed to a petition demanding Dewey’s removal as State Librarian because of his personal involvement in the Lake Placid Club’s policies, this led to a rebuke by the New York State Board of Regents causing him to resign.

He was later forced out of active mebership of the American Library Association after he made physical advances on several members of the ALA during a cruise to Alaska.

In 1930 he was sued for sexual harrassment by a former secretary that cost him over $2000 to settle out of court.

At the 2019 ALA Annual Conference his name was stripped from the Melvil Dewey Medal – awarded for creative leadership of high order, particularly in those fields in which Melvil Dewey was actively interested: library management, library training, cataloging and classification, and the tools and techniques of librarianship.

Find out more about Melvil Dewey here:

https://www.stuffmomnevertoldyou.com/podcasts/librarians-part-1.htm

https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1905/02/15/101408654.pdf

https://www.latimes.com/books/la-et-jc-dewey-name-removed-library-association-20190626-story.html

Comic Scene

Tony from Comic Scene kindly sent me copies of the first six months of this new magazine to have a look at, and I asked if he’d like to do an introductory post for the blog. Not only has he written a blurb about the fascinating range of articles, as well as reviews and original comic strips, he has also very generously included a special offer and prize draw for librarians who would like to encourage wider reading of comics and graphic novels, see below!

ComicScene Magazine is a new magazine which guides librarians, adults and children to what classic and contemporary comics to try, and what graphic novels from U.K., US and European publishers people should be reading.  It also introduces you to the exciting and eclectic work of independent and small press comics.  For those who love superhero movies and TV shows they go back to the original comic source of the films and TV.  Many of the original comics inspiring films, such as the Avengers, are over 30 to 40 years old, so a rich source of material to explore.  Did you also know publishers like Rebellion are publishing new Roy of the Rovers comics and bringing back girls comics like Tammy, Jinty & Misty? Comic Fans love the magazine – but the main aim of the title is to help those parents/carers who casually read boys and girls comics when they were younger to revist old friends or recommend comics to their children and grandchildren.   From the current issue they have also introduced some of the best comic strips being produced today with plans for a dedicated pull out comic section for adults to give to their children to encourage reading and improve literacy.  It’s the only monthly magazine dedicated to comics and comic culture being published today in the U.K. and Ireland and we’d recommend it as your guide. The magazine is available to buy in selected WHSmiths, McColls and Easons in Ireland, and it can be ordered in any newsagent or comic shop.  Just pop your postcode into the shop finder to check what local stores stock the magazine. Libraries can also subscribe monthly to the magazine or subscribe in print or digital from £2.50 a copy digital or £5.50 in print (with free digital copy).

On the ComicScene shop they have just added the first six months of the magazine in a £30 pack and if a library purchases a pack and/or subscribes before the end of July they will be put in a draw to get their subscription back for the year PLUS £100 of free Graphic Novels (email comicsceneuk@gmail.com when you have made your order).

With sales of graphic novels for children on the rise and University courses now available to study producing comics and comic history who knows – you could be inspiring the next comic writer or artist by introducing the magazine to your library!

Library Island by Matt Finch

Library Island is an activity which simulates five years in the life of a nation’s library services. Participants become librarians, government officials, or community members on this island and face the challenges created by conflicting wants, needs, and limited resources. There is an Indigenous community and colonial history to be reckoned with, plus a range of political interests with their own agenda for the library.

It’s a simple game played with nothing more than office furniture, pens, and paper, but it swiftly leads to rich and complex scenarios. The fictional setting allows us to explore structural issues, political challenges, and even some of the disruptive behaviour that professionals may face from their users, within the relative safety of a “make-believe” context.

Source: What exactly is Library Island anyway? – matt finch / mechanical dolphin

Matt has provided a toolkit that can be downloaded with full instructions on how to run, adapt and play the game. It is available here:

https://booksadventures.files.wordpress.com/2019/01/library-island-toolkit.pdf

Libraries, Serendipity and Me

Judith Eagle, author of The Secret Starling, shares with us how libraries shaped her path in life.

It all started in Burnt Oak Library, in a building my sisters and I considered the height of ‘modern’ – a sort of concrete pagoda, with underfloor heating and enough books to keep us occupied for a life time. We’d go there every Saturday, after popping into the Co-op to inhale the smell of the lemony Bronnley soaps, and before visiting ABC bakers, for cream buns to be eaten on the way home. Libraries have always loomed large in my life, not surprising considering both parents were librarians: the hush; the endless shelves of books; the helpful staff; the borrowers from all walks of life. Stepping into a library always feels like coming home.
The library in Burnt Oak was housed in an upstairs gallery, with books on one side and a wraparound balcony on the other – perfect for observing the adult library below. Here we would lounge on the floor, browse the shelves and – because we were regulars – sit behind the desk and file tickets for Daphne, the children’s librarian, who had lovely shoulder length bouncy hair.
In the afternoon, back at home, I’d dive into Richmal Crompton, Alan Garner, anything by Frances Hodgson Burnett or E Nesbitt. Later, came Flambards, Watership Down, Fifteen by Beveley Cleary and The Outsiders by SE Hinton.
When I’d exhausted the teenage section, it was onto the adult library: Agatha Christie, Jean Plaidy, Jilly Cooper and (sigh) the tumultuous Angelique by Sergeanne Golon, Libraries have shaped me. They’ve soothed me. They’ve gently nudged me in the right direction in, dare I say it, the most serendipitous of ways.

My first Saturday job was at a school outfitters, run by a dictator-type who sent me home for wearing trousers. My second Saturday job was in the library, where everyone was nice and no one batted an eyelid, whatever you wore.
At 16, I was not considered University material. My mum wanted me to be a secretary at the BBC and work my way up, ‘like Mrs Jones’ daughter’; my heart was not in it. Then one day I found a box of prospectus’s tucked under the library desk, and bingo! In an elegantly bound book I found the perfect course: a degree in Fashion Communications at Saint Martins. The future took on a rosy glow. I was fashion mad. I went back to school, took an Art O level, got into Saint Martins and then several years later, won my dream job, as Fashion Assistant on Honey Magazine.
For some years I worked happily in fashion and then for many more years wrote magazine articles on pregnancy and parenting. But one day, after filing a piece on why babies dribble, I decided I’d had enough. I needed a change.

Then, two things happened.

  1. I read American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld, where the Laura Bush character just happens to be a children’s librarian.
  2. I visited a new library in my neighbourhood and was particularly taken with the sense of peace that stole over me as I stepped inside.
    On a whim, I applied for an assistant’s position in a secondary school library. I got the job and quickly found out it wasn’t the oasis of peace I’d imagined. It was noisy, sometimes chaotic, packed with young people before, during and after school. But it didn’t matter! I was rediscovering the joys of children’s fiction; speaking to the students about what they loved to read; recommending books, and getting a buzz when they came back, asking for more. At the same time, I embarked on an MA in Children’s Literature. And I started to think
    about what makes a book tick.

There are libraries aplenty in The Secret Starling. In Leeds, Clara visits a library for the first time and ‘it was as if she had been catapulted into a treasure trove.’ She and Peter explore ‘three whole shelves groaning with ballet-related books’ and on the way out, spot an exciting clue on the library noticeboard. In Colindale Newspaper Library where there is ‘a velvet hush, the kind of all-enveloping quiet where you can hear every creak and sniff,’ Clara and Peter make the biggest discovery of all, unearthing information that will change their lives forever.

Libraries changed my life too.

If I hadn’t had my Saturday job, I wouldn’t have found that prospectus; if I hadn’t read the Sittenfeld book, or visited that neighbourhood library, I doubt I would have found my way back into the library fold. But mostly, if I hadn’t read all those books from Burnt Oak Library, the ones that seeped stories deep into my bones, I’m pretty sure I could not written The Secret Starling.

So thank you libraries. I owe you big time.

The Secret Starling is out now, from Faber and Faber

To all the Libraries I’ve Loaned from Before part 1

Kalk Bay Public Library, you were my first Library – the one that set the template of expectations of what a Library should be and offer. Although small, to my young eyes you were a Cathedral of books, with windows set high up on all sides. You gave me my first library cards – three little folded pieces of cardboard with my name and address on them that were taken by the Librarian and kept behind the desk whenever I borrowed books. The books that stay in my mind are the Little Tim picture books by Edward Ardizzone, after all these years – they are the books that solidified my fate as a reader, they are the first books I can remember reading on my own (my parents read them with me but I picked them up again at bedtime and read them on my own), there was also that shark book, I cannot remember the cover, but I coveted it regularly and borrowed it several times to read about sharks from around the world, I was most fascinated by the Wobbegong (or carpet shark) of Australia – it is funny what facts stick with you. I still remember the particular smell that the Library had, furniture polish and the smell of books and the feeling of coolness that enveloped me whenever I walked in to the Library with my Mom and younger brother, after the heat of the day outside it was a welcome feeling. I can also hear the Library windows slamming shut as Librarian used a long pole with a hook to pull them shut – to let us know that it was nearly closing time and we had better choose our books quickly but she never chased us out. That Library is long gone, the building now hosts a community centre but I have not been past it for years.

Kalk Bay Primary School had a tiny Library – it was more a box room stuffed with books than an actual Library – but it counts! The books I remember borrowing were The Adventures of Professor Branestawm, and a science fiction short story collection – the title escapes me but I can still remember parts of some of the stories, one was set on a colony on an alien world that was slowly being eaten by a huge slime monster that was being kept at bay by a laser shield, there was only one ship available and the people had to decide who would survive and who would remain behind to face the monster when the shields failed… gripping stuff!

My second Public Library was in Muizenberg, I remember attending story times on a Thursday when the Librarian (the same one from Kalk Bay) would light a candle and we would sit in silence as she read stories, the extinguishing of the candle was the sign that we could start talking and move around again. Muizenberg Library became ‘my’ Library for years, it introduced me to Douglas Hill’s ColSec books and his fantasy duology Blade of the Poisoner and Master of Fiends. This was also the Library where I discovered Terry Pratchett, I started with Equal Rites and never looked back! I visited Muizenberg Public Library weekly, and spent hours choosing books then sitting in the magazine room reading back issues of Punch Magazine (mostly to find the Agent Orange cartoons by David Haldane).

I spent one year at the Fish Hoek Middle School and spent most of my break and lunch times hiding out in the School Library, I became a part time student librarian but hung out in one of the corners with other kids reading comic books – it was my first introduction to Raymond Briggs, I read his Father Christmas comics which were fun then Gentleman Jim and its sort of sequel When the Wind Blows – it is thanks to that book that I learned how to start worrying and hate the Bomb.

I joined Fish Hoek Public Library in my mid-teens so that I could have a greater range of materials to access for my school work – the joys of growing up in a preWorld Wide Web world! My parents paid for this membership as, at the time, Fish Hoek had its own municipality and if you did not live there you had to pay to access the service. This was the beginning of a Library relationship that lasted many years, it was here that I first started weekend work as, first a shelf packer, then after I started my Library degree they decided that I was trustworthy enough to work on the desk (oh the power!) Once I graduated it was also my first professional Library post, it later transpired that I was an affirmative action employee – the first ever male librarian hired by Fish Hoek municipality (I was the only applicant that all the unions could agree on, which at that time in South Africa was no small thing). It was at Fish Hoek Library that I first read the Duncan & Mallory graphic novels by Robert Asprin, I discovered the Dragonlance books by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis and Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.

At the time I was also studying at the Cape Technikon (now the Cape Peninsula University of Technology) they had a magnificent Library, apart from the books I needed for my coursework I also borrowed Maus by Art Spiegelman which opened my eyes to the potential comic books have in education and as an art-form.

Special mentions must go to the Grassy Park Public Library that I worked at briefly to cover staff absence – it was here that I discovered (& borrowed) Deathstalker by Simon R Green and became a lifelong fan of his writing and the Hout Bay Public Library where I participated in a temporary staff exchange for a week and discovered ‘zines.

From This American Life: The Room of Requirement

Noooo! Not the one from Harry Potter (although it is named for that) rather this is a podcast from the awesome people at This American Life about Libraries.

Libraries aren’t just for books. They’re often spaces that transform into what you need them to be: a classroom, a cyber café, a place to find answers, a quiet spot to be alone. It’s actually kind of magical. This week, we have stories of people who roam the stacks and find unexpected things that just happen to be exactly what they required. 

You can take a listen here:
https://www.thisamericanlife.org/664/the-room-of-requirement