Category Archives: Blogging

The anatomy of an attack on a book & library

One of the things I do to keep track of what is happening in right-wing ecosystems with regard to libraries and books is peek at the Facebook pages of some of the right-wing reactionary folk that live in the same general geographic location as me from time to time.

During one of my check-ins I noticed that the person who runs the fb page had shared a post by a county commissioner for a large and populous county in Kansas. The post was a web cartoon by a local conservative cartoonist attacking the library for having a book called You Know, Sex by Cory Silverberg & Fiona Smith in its collection.

Truth Toons cartoon copyright Tim McCabe

I visited the commissioner’s fb page and noted that prior to posting the cartoon she attempted to do an end run around official library procedure by making a post encouraging followers to contact the county librarian as well as the board of county commissioners to complain about the book.

This particular library is incredibly well-resourced and has a comprehensive, publicly available collection development policy as well as a request for reconsideration procedure that is also available for any patrons that wish to have materials moved or withdrawn.

Like some other attempts to fan the flames of indignation online, these posts are light on factual information, using trigger words to cause a negative response in whoever reads them.

Does this book contain information about porn, rape, anal and all of it? Yes it does but it is not gratuitous, it is a guide to being safe and aware. Pornography this book is most definitely not!

Break for a quick book review:

Being an inquisitive sort, I put a request in for a copy of You Know, Sex and what I found may astound you. Yes it is a graphic (as in graphic novel) non-fiction guide to sex, sexuality and gender. It is thoughtfully written and illustrated, with nothing that can be considered prurient, titillating or pornographic. The illustrations of human bodies are presented in all their unique, imperfect glory.

In short this book is about as far from porn as you can get, it introduces concepts and ideas in a way that does not talk down to the reader – whatever their age may be. It is frank, open and honest and contains a LOT of information that can be digested at whatever speed the reader is happiest with. The author addresses the reader in the opening Letter to the Reader acknowledging that sex is a complex subject to learn about, and suggests ways in which to cope with using this book.

It also contains a glossary which is important for fostering better understanding of the subject and an index and resources and organizations that can further understanding of the subject. Another thing I found particularly useful are the tips on searching for information online and URLs for trusted web resources.

If you are a parent, or educator looking for a book about sex for readers of all ages then I highly recommend You Know, Sex for your family or/and library collection.

I will say that you as an adult should also read it – you will definitely learn something and will also be able to discuss it with the young people in your life, if they trust you enough (or, are not too embarrassed) to broach the subject.

This is not the first time that the commissioner in question has used her position to attack the library over books for young readers. In 2023 she weighed in on the YALSA Teens Top 10 program that the library was involved with that had upset a parent, from The Heartlander News: Library in suburban Kansas City offers free books to youths, perhaps unnoticed by parents, that portray whites as racists, colonizers

From Free State News comes a slightly reworded piece, similar to the one in The Heartlander News: Johnson County Library distributes pornographic gore to developing teen minds in their Summer Reading Program

Although the change from the Heartlander piece saying “Williams doesn’t accuse the Gardner library, or even the Johnson County library system, of propagating leftist propaganda, but adds, “I do believe 100% that it’s pushed intentionally from a larger agenda, maybe even outside of our state.

to: “I would like to know what staff created this list, and I would like those people arrested for distributing murder-fetish porn to my child. This should be a criminal offense, punishable by jail time.

In Luke 17:1-2 the Bible states, “Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.”

I’ll take millstones for 1,000, Alex. These people need to be punished to the full extent of the law for warping and destroying the minds of our youth with their selfish, morbid agendas.” in the Free State news piece is quite a change in tone.

and Could Public and School Libraries be Guilty of Felony Distribution of Obscene Materials to Children per KSA 21-6401?

We are in an election year and it remains to be seen if culture war topics, particularly an attack on a large and popular library over books will be a vote-getter in a county that has been consistently trending purple over the past few years.

Solidarity to Student Protesters!

As long-time teen services library person as well as being someone who has participated in a number social movements protesting injustice over the years, I am in awe of the students on college grounds across the US standing up to protest the cruelty being meted out against a captive population of predominantly women and children in Gaza.

Armored police officers being unleashed on students that are participating in their constitutionally protected right to protest is bringing up memories of the actions of the police set loose on protesting students by the apartheid government in my home country of South Africa.

The “youth of today” get a lot of grief from people my age and older about how they have no oomph or are unwilling to stand up for anything or get involved in making the world a better place. Well after this current time of protest is over then I think anyone who says shit like that should shut up!

I have worked as a youth services and teen librarian for over 20 years now and the level of engagement and involvement young adults have shown in standing up for what they believe in over the years has always inspired me! The student newspapers are covering the protests on their campuses better than many of their national press colleagues – have a read below.

Links to US Student run College Newspaper articles about the Protests:

https://www.thecrimson.com/article/2024/4/23/harvard-mit-palestine-march

https://www.columbiaspectator.com/news/2024/04/24/policy-and-planning-committee-of-the-faculty-of-arts-and-sciences-condemns-outside-media-coverage-of-campus-protests

https://www.tuftsdaily.com/article/2024/04/editorial-moving-forward-from-tupd-misconduct

NYU Student Protest

Emerson College Student Encampment

https://www.dailycal.org/news/campus/uc-berkeley-students-establish-free-palestine-encampment-outside-sproul-hall/article_d3868ea8-00f5-11ef-82c7-0f1ae80fd478.html

Minnesota Faculty, students protests occur on Northrop Mall, at Coffman Union

https://www.dailylobo.com/multimedia/7a130f75-020a-49b0-b5a5-214bf5e2c163

https://www.studlife.com/news/2024/04/24/police-disband-pro-palestine-protest-and-encampment-during-alumni-weekend

https://dbknews.com/2024/04/24/umd-ceasefire-sit-in/

https://www.dailyprincetonian.com/article/2024/04/princeton-news-adpol-gaza-solidarity-encampment-leaked-documents-national-review

https://www.dailyprincetonian.com/article/2024/04/princeton-opinion-opguest-faculty-staff-solidarity-palestine-protestors-columbia-barnard-encampment

https://www.theeagleonline.com/article/2024/04/guest-column-do-not-silence-our-students-peaceful-assembly-is-their-right

https://www.browndailyherald.com/article/2024/04/paxson-reaffirms-appropriate-codes-of-conduct-as-browns-response-to-encampment

https://dailynorthwestern.com/2024/04/15/campus/activist-groups-seek-to-show-admitted-students-real-nu-with-protests-across-campus-for-divestment-support-for-palestinians/

https://www.dailylobo.com/multimedia/7a130f75-020a-49b0-b5a5-214bf5e2c163

https://www.campustimes.org/2024/04/24/%f0%9f%94%b4-gaza-solidarity-encampment-live-updates/

https://berkeleybeacon.com/developing-story-the-latest-on-2-boylston-place-popular-university-encampment/

https://dailybruin.com/2024/04/23/panel-discusses-solidarity-activism-at-palestinian-film-screening

https://www.psucollegian.com/news/campus/do-not-turn-away-from-palestine-popular-university-for-gaza-event-held-on-campus/article_d4d88f9c-03f0-11ef-83e5-3f6725e4e8cc.html

https://www.browndailyherald.com/article/2024/04/live-updates-students-hold-encampment-for-divestment-on-main-green

https://www.kansan.com/news/pro-palestinian-protesters-gather-at-fraser-hall/article_a7f03418-07c8-11ef-ba0d-f32537b77dec.html

https://www.browndailyherald.com/article/2024/04/live-updates-students-hold-encampment-for-divestment-on-main-green

https://www.thedp.com/article/2024/05/penn-larry-krasner-jamie-gauthier-visit-encampment

https://udreview.com/palestine-solidarity-walk-out-die-in-attracts-hundreds-of-protesters

Student Radio

https://www.cc-seas.columbia.edu/wkcr/story/wkcr-news-coverage-cuad-students-occupying-columbia#

On December 7th a Librarian died in Gaza. 

Doaa al-Masri and her family were killed in an Israeli airstrike on December 7th 2023. 

Doaa receives a group of schoolgirls at the Edward Said Library in Gaza

Why have I focused on Doaa you may ask. Well, we shared a profession and belief in public service, and it is hard to get one’s head around the scale of the tragedy and loss of life that has been unfolding in the Middle East; from the 1,139 Israeli lives lost in the Hamas attacks on October 7th to the sheer brutality of their response across Gaza.

To paraphrase a statement allegedly made by Stalin: 20,000 deaths is a statistic, one death is a tragedy. 

It is not easier to acknowledge a single death that 20,000 but it is less numbing. Each of the thousands of lives lost to this violence will have a ripple effect on thousands more, but their faces blur and get lost in the scale of this tragedy and they become numbers, rather than individuals.

In their tribute to her memory, the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) captured in part her spirit and dedication to her community: 

…Doaa Al-Masri was killed with her family on Thursday night. Doaa was the librarian at the Edward Said Public Library in Gaza. She was a kind and energetic young woman who organized many activities for children and youth at the library including reading groups, classes, and field trips for schools. 

Doaa was also a volunteer in many other projects. During each Israeli attack on Gaza, she joined her colleagues at MECA partner Youth Vision Society in procuring, packing, and delivering emergency aid to children and families. Just last week, in the midst of intense Israeli attacks, she joined two other  volunteers to provide warm clothes to children in northern Gaza. 

We mourn the loss of Doaa, a loss for MECA, for the many children whose lives she touched, and for Palestine. We will miss her smile and her radiant energy. Doaa is one of tens of thousands of people killed in Gaza over the last 64 days. Each one is a terrible loss to those who knew and loved them. 

Let’s be honest, when one thinks of Gaza and the West Bank, Libraries are not the first thing that pop into your mind. No matter who they are or where they live people enjoy reading and need to find information – and those are two of the core functions of public libraries. 

The Gaza Municipal Library and the Rashad al-Shawa Cultural Center that was the home of the Diana Tamari Sabbagh Library  that contained more than 100.000 books and was founded by Haseeb Sabbagh in the memory of his wife Diana Tamari, have both been razed by Israeli forces. There is currently no news on the current condition of the Edward Said Public Library in North Gaza. 

The remains of the Gaza Municipal Library

The Gaza Municipality has alleged that the destruction of libraries by Israeli forces during the conflict has been a deliberate act and has called on the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to intervene and protect cultural centers and condemn the occupation’s targeting of these humanitarian facilities protected under international humanitarian law.

Public Libraries form one of the cornerstones of a society that nurtures and cares for the people that comprise its individual parts. Apart from educating and entertaining their users, libraries function as repositories of history and cultural knowledge. To destroy a society first you wipe out the commonalities that bind them together, their shared history, their art, anything that ties them together and the fastest way to do that is to start with destroying their libraries and those that care for them.

When Libraries in Sarajevo were bombed people stood up and protested, when al Qaeda attacked the library in Timbuktu there was eventually a book celebrating those who stood up to save priceless, ancient manuscripts, when Russia invaded Ukraine there was a massive outpouring of support for Ukrainian Libraries and Library workers. In Gaza there is proof of libraries being destroyed and one confirmed report of a Librarian (& her family) being killed in an aerial attack and nothing – where is the outrage?

Understand me when I write that I unequivocally condemn Hamas for their bloodthirsty action on October 7th, but the heavy-handed response by the Israeli War Cabinet and the IDF is just as reprehensible!

Articles 6, 7 & 8 of The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court specifically outlaw Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity & War Crimes.

Article 33 of the fourth Geneva Convention specifically outlaws collective penalties, pillage & reprisals:

No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.

Pillage is prohibited.

Reprisals against protected persons* and their property are prohibited.

* The term “protected person” means any person entitled to protection under one or more of the Geneva Conventions, including civilians not taking an active part in hostilities, military personnel placed out of combat by sickness, wounds, or detention, and military medical or religious personnel.

Do the actions of Hamas and the IDF rise to these levels of criminal wrong-doing? I think they do, but untrained as I am in international jurisprudence I may be wrong; I do however know that the murder unarmed civilians is wrong, no matter who does it!

Links:

Founding the First English-Language Library in Gaza by Mosab Abu Toha

Libraries in Gaza: Between Despair and Hope by Mosab Abu Toha

Articles by Mosab Abu Toha

How girls built a library in the Gaza Strip by Mohammed Abu Sulaiman, with Chris Niles

Gaza’s main public library has been destroyed by Israeli bombing. by Dan Sheehan

Gazans mourn loss of their libraries: Cultural beacons and communal spaces by Mohamad El Chamaa

Middle East Children’s Alliance

Youth Vision Association

Youth Vision Association: Edward Said Public Library

Edward Said Public Libraries in Gaza

Librarians and Archivists with Palestine

The Foundations of the US Public Library Service are Cracking

The Missouri Legislature has voted to defund public libraries, I guess the Show Me State does not like people saying “Show me books with gay, trans and minority characters!” to Librarians. Apparently, Texas is trying to go down a similar route and Florida is an even hotter mess these days. A Michigan Library was also defunded and faces potential closure, even after thousands of dollars in donations were raised.

Moms for Liberty has also been incredibly active, as freedom of choice in reading material is not covered under their version of Liberty, they are now targeting a school in the district that my library serves, the librarian there resigned earlier this year and are active across the US.

Library boards are threatening closure when their attempts to remove books are declared unconstitutional rather than put them back on the shelves. Yesterday I saw a tweet from author Maggie Tokuda-Hall about being approached to license her book Love in the Library for their AANHPI narratives collection which would usually be a cause for celebration, except that they wanted to remove a word before the deal could go ahead.

Maggie has written about it on her blog – it is equal parts heart-breaking and infuriating, you can read it here: https://www.prettyokmaggie.com/blog/2023/4/11/scholastic-and-a-faustian-bargain
Scholastic is one of the big dogs in the publishing world, they run book fairs in schools, in the UK they are the official book supplier for the Yoto Carnegie Book Awards, they are everywhere and usually do good work; so, I find it hard to believe that this move is a one-off, how many authors and illustrators have already decided to swallow a bitter pill to accept what appears to be a fantastic deal?

As the clamor to ban books in schools and libraries (and also alarmingly now in bookstores) has started growing louder how many publishers have begun moving behind the scenes to head off criticism instead of supporting their authors and illustrators and the readers who deserve access to books?

Diverse voices in the publishing world (& in libraries) are an incredibly small percentage, of the workforce and also what tis available in print. Hearing about this brazen move by Scholastic I fear that the numbers may become even smaller if publishers are moving to placate the outsize voices of those that are complaining or taking offence at diverse offerings in libraries. Library workers not purchasing works to avoid complaints is a creeping problem in libraries but if publishers are pre-emptively censoring works that they have or wish to make available then the whole edifice made up of publishers, bookstores and libraries becomes unsafe and unwelcoming for everyone.

As a public service Public Libraries are non-partisan and open to all (or they should be), but this new hostile environment being created by a minority of people that use libraries risks skewing the services and materials that libraries offer.

The Canary in the Coalmine

Back before modern technology rendered such practices obsolete, miners used to take canaries down into coal mines with them. The reason they took them down was not so the miners could enjoy the singing of the birds while they worked, there was a darker reason…

Being considerably smaller and lighter than the average miner meant that the canary would be affected faster by the toxic gasses that built up in mine shafts. When the canary stopped singing and fell off its perch in the cage this would usually give miners enough warning to get out before they too, were overcome.

Libraries both Public & School are the canaries in the coalmine of society. Whenever the poisonous ideas of fascist thought bubble up, it is in libraries and schools that we see the early warning signs of what is to come. One of these signs is an uptick in challenges to books by and about people in certain communities usually (but not limited to) People of Color, LGBTQ+ and other minority groups.

Challenges to books in school & public libraries are nothing new, these have been going on for decades. The American Library Association runs annual lists of the most challenged books in US Libraries.

What is happening now goes beyond such standard challenges. I believe that Texas currently leads the nation in the sheer industrial scale of attempted and actual book bans. Matt Krause a Texas lawmaker compiled a list of over 800 books that he feels could make (white) readers feel uncomfortable. The majority of these books focus on sexuality, racism and US history.

To date the largest splash has been made by the banning of the teaching of the Pulitzer-Prize winning graphic novel Maus, created by Art Spiegelman the son of two Holocaust survivors, it details the experiences of his parents before and during WW2. According to the McMinn County School Board, who voted 7-0 to deny teachers the opportunity of teaching the book due to a single panel of nudity and some bad language that (allegedly) made them feel uncomfortable. This has made the 40-year-old graphic novel a cause célèbre in the current discourse around book banning and also the number one selling item on Amazon. While many commentators have celebrated the Streisand Effect that has made this book more well-known than ever before, the fact that students are being denied the opportunity to critically engage with the text while studying the Holocaust is nothing to be happy about.

Other books that have had banning attempts made against them across the US include Maia Kobabe’s memoir Gender Queer, This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson, Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison, Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez – all for celebrating LGBTQ+ & queer themes, making them in the eyes of the adults that wish to control what young people read, unsuitable in some way for a teen audience.

It is not just books about the Holocaust or explorations of young people’s sexuality that are targeted; Stamped by Ibram X. Kendi & Jason Reynolds, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and New Kid by Jerry Craft and other similar texts have all faced accusations of containing critical race theory, being anti-police or just books that upset white readers.

The right-wing coopting of school boards has allowed many boards to blatantly ignore or rewrite policies and procedures that were established to deal with challenges, and instead just pull books from their shelves; in some cases, this has been done to prevent complaints and accusations of criminality or worse. Often the censorship is preemptive, with school library workers just not purchasing materials they know will garner complaints, this is not a criticism, I know from first-hand experience how terrifying accusations of carrying pornography or being a criminal just for having certain books on your library shelves can be; but the effect is just as insidious – it is also harder to identify or push back against, or to even identify such practices when they occur.

It is not only school boards that are at risk of right-wing takeover, more recently it is being recognized that Library Boards are becoming enticing targets of conservative ideologues. The recent take-over of the Niles-Maine District Library Is a damning example of how destructive the influence of a board hostile the very nature of a public library can be!

In Mississippi, the mayor of Ridgeland, Gene McGee is withholding $110,000 of funding from the Madison County Library System, demanded that the system initiate a purge of LGBTQ+ books before his office releases the money. The mayor is alleged to have said that the library can serve whoever they wanted, but that he only serves the great Lord above. Which, if accurate seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding on his part of what the role of civil servants in society actually entails.

On a related note, the Furry subculture, having heard about Mayor McGee’s homophobia, has stepped up and has spent the past week rallying around the Madison County Library successfully helping raise funds for the Library .

Library workers in the Campbell County Public Library of Wyoming have faced legal charges for having books on sexuality, gender identity and LGBTQ+ issues in their teen section although the sheriff’s office declined to investigate them and the Library Board backed the Library and did not direct them to remove the items facing the challenge.

There are thousands of these reactionary fires burning across the US and it is easy to become dispirited as the task of pushing back against and extinguishing them may seem too vast to accomplish.

An effective way to fight against this is to research your local school and library boards to discover where they stand, if their actions align with your views then stand behind and support them when it comes time for local elections. If however they have started down the slippery slope of blatant and unconstitutional bans you can organize friends, family and neighbors and stand for school & library boards and local elections or find someone who is already running and support them! If you are unable to stand for local elections then where possible attend board meetings and make your support for uncensored access to reading materials known to the boards and where possible encourage others to do the same.

If you believe in the public library service and schools then it is important to make your voice heard, because if you don’t – who will?

Coda: I had finished working on this when I saw the news that Greg Locke a Pastor in Tennessee had held a book burning just outside Nashville. Included in the burning event were copies of Harry Potter and Twilight books. It brought to mind the words of the German poet Heinrich Heine: “Where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people.”

Related links:

How to Fight Book Bans and Censorship: https://bookriot.com/how-to-fight-book-bans-and-challenges/

How to Support Libraries in times of Increased Censorship: https://bookriot.com/support-libraries-against-censorship/

What’s It Like to Be the Target of A Book Banning Effort? School Librarian Martha Hickson Tells Her Story. https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=from-the-breaking-point-to-fighting-anew-school-librarian-martha-hickson-shares-her-story-of-battling-book-banning-censorship

Banned: Books on race and sexuality are disappearing from Texas schools in record numbers https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/texas-books-race-sexuality-schools-rcna13886

‘We’re Preparing For a Long Battle.’ Librarians Grapple With Conservatives’ Latest Efforts to Ban Books https://time.com/6117685/book-bans-school-libraries/

Save Niles Library https://www.nilescoalition.org/savenileslibrary/

Schools are banning my book. But queer kids need queer stories. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/10/29/schools-are-banning-my-book-queer-kids-need-queer-stories/

LGBTQ Books Are Being Banned. Their Authors Are Fighting Back. https://www.thedailybeast.com/lgbtq-books-are-being-banned-their-authors-are-fighting-back

Book bans in schools are catching fire. Black authors say uproar isn’t about students. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/book-bans-schools-are-catching-fire-black-authors-say-uproar-isnt-stud-rcna10228

NCAC Coalition Statement on the Attack on Books in Schools https://ncac.org/news/attack-on-books

The push to ban books in Texas schools spreads to public libraries https://www.wfaa.com/article/news/education/texas-schools-public-libraries/285-fdacc918-48a2-4c94-8ef7-8ae5f8d344b1

Kansas district orders 29 books removed from circulation https://www.kshb.com/news/local-news/kansas-district-orders-29-books-removed-from-circulation

How a Small School District Became a Focal Point in the Battle Over Texas Book Censorship https://www.snopes.com/news/2022/02/01/texas-school-district-book-bans/ GOP Legislators Target Librarians for Prosecution, Fines Under new Bill https://iowastartingline.com/2022/02/04/gop-legislators-target-librarians-for-prosecution-fines-under-new-bill/

Overlooking Problematic Content is a Feature, not a Bug

Kate Clanchy’s memoir Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me is an award-winning book that has received rave reviews, New Statesman called it refreshing, The Guardian thought that people like Clanchy are needed to keep liberal ideals alive, The Times called it inspiring and uplifting, The Sunday Times deemed it inspiring, moving and funny.

Philip Pullman said that it is: The best book on teachers and children and writing that I’ve ever read. No-one has said better so much of what so badly needs saying. I want to see this book become a bestseller, I want to see it in every staffroom, I want to see it read by every student teacher. This is a wonderful achievement.

In 2020 Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me won the 2020 Orwell Prize for Political Writing

Then in 2021 on twitter Kate Clanchy alleged that Goodreads reviewer Ceridwen had made-up quotes from her book in their review.

Things went downhill rapidly from there!

Unfortunately, whenever people have received near universal acclaim & praise for their work they can react poorly when they encounter someone who says “whoa there is a problem here” and this is exactly what happened!

Instead of giving a blow by blow account what occurred, I will recommend that you read Beth Bhargava’s comprehensive write-up of what happened over at Bad Form Review here. I will just say that I was bitterly disappointed by a number of authors whose work I have previously enjoyed.

Like Public Libraries, Publishing is a majority white profession, both of which can be difficult to break in to, as many opening positions are notoriously low-paid. I could not help but compare what is happening with Kate Clanchy’s book with what happened with the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals in 2017 where it took people of colour to start asking why no-one who was not white had won either of the awards in over 80 years and a big push from them and allies to start the process to effect change.

Kate Clanchy issued a statement on August 6th which caused more consternation and upset. Picador, KC’s publisher released three statements on the 6th, 9th and 11th, The Orwell Foundation issued a brief statement denying responsibility of what their external judges did, and Philip Pullman released an ‘apology’ on the 10th.

No mention was made by anyone at the centre about the vile language and threats directed against Professor Sunny Singh, Chimene Suleyman & Monisha Rajesh three of the highest profile people that stepped up to offer honest critiques of Clanchy’s work and challenge the racist rhetoric that was springing up in the discussion.

The end result of the storm of protest is that Kate Clanchy will rewrite portions of her work to remove the racist and ableist stereotypes contained in the original.

Systemic racism does not require that those working within the system to be racist; in publishing like libraries, is made up mostly of good, well-intentioned (white) people who do their best but miss many signs that what they are working on may be harmful to minority groups. Unfortunately, most white people lack the insights and cultural knowledge to identify problematic work and content. Even after an outcry those who ‘have learned’ from the criticism are often rewarded, while still excluding those that were harmed.

It should not fall to People of Colour to fight for systemic change on their own, no matter where it happens – in libraries, in publishing, or elsewhere if someone says that something is harming them and their community we need to stand with them and fight to make a meaningful change.

We (white people) have benefitted from systemic racism for hundreds of years, we are complicit even when we fight against it, and we should fight against it – we lose nothing if those that are disadvantaged gain the privileges that we currently enjoy.

It is often said that When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression, but this is something we need to stamp out of our psyches and instead embrace the need for true equality.

Games Workshop swings the Ban(War)hammer

Over the past weekend I was dismayed to read that GW is once again running roughshod over fans, followers and just about everyone that is invested in their creation.

It is no secret that they have always been very trigger-happy when it comes to litigating against those perceived to have overstepped the exceedingly narrow boundaries of their intellectual property; even when it came to terms that existed long before Games Workshop was even an idea (I am of course referring to the infamous Space Marines lawsuit saga).

The updates to their terms & conditions now forbid any and all fan created animations:

individuals must not create fan films or animations based on our settings and characters. These are only to be created under licence from Games Workshop.

Fan-made games, fan art, fiction and websites are permitted so long as they’re not-for-profit and make it clear they’re not official works.

The incredibly popular Oculus Imperia will be staying online for as long as possible:

Sadly the If the Emperor had Text to Speech Device by Bruva Alfabusa has officially thrown in the towel:

Other amateur animator fans (apart from those hired by GW) will no doubt start falling over the coming days and weeks.

Culture blog BoingBoing has been covering the GW shenanigans here, as has PCGamer and Vice.

The Reddit  Warhammer 40k meme subreddit /r/Grimdank has been flooded by people furious about Games Workshop’s new policy.

I have been a long-time fan of Warhammer 40K although I have not played since I left my job as a school librarian a few years ago, I still borrow and read the novelizations.

GWs moves while legal still leave a bad taste in the mouth, for decades it has been fans that have created a richer tapestry of the universe created by GW, and now on the eve of the release of Warhammer+ they are trying to stamp out any potential threats to their being able to wring out as much money from fans as possible.

It is very poor form!

Online Story Times, Copyright and Fair Use/Fair Dealing

Story-times are one of the greatest selling points of libraries all over the world. When the coronavirus quarantine started in 2020 story-times were among the first programs shifted to an online format.

It is a long-held view that live readings of story-time books in libraries are legal, thanks largely to the Fair Use doctrine in US copyright law, and Fair Dealing in UK law.

Fair Use (USA)

Fair Use describes uses of copywritten works by entities other than the copyright holder in quantities, means or purposes that do not infringe on the rights of the copyright holder.

Under section 107 0f the Copyright Act (Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use) in order to perform, utilize, or reproduce a copyrighted work and be covered by the “Fair Use” exemption, the use must meet four (4) criteria:

The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

~Public Library story-times are always non-profit & educational,

The nature of the copyrighted work

~The work used is (generally) a picture story book – which is meant to be used by or for certain age groups, and (generally) are meant to be read aloud

The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole

~The nature and purpose of the work is meant to be read from start to finish. In most cases the entirety of the work is used in a story-time.

The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

~Story-time does not have a detrimental effect on the marketability of the work. In most cases, story-time books highlight those works and increase marketability.

Fair Dealing (UK)

A statutory definition for fair dealing does not exist; it will always be a matter of fact, degree and interpretation in every fair use case. The Intellectual Property Office lists the key factors used to determine the validity of whether a particular dealing with a work is fair as follows:

Has the use of the work impacted negatively on the market for the original work? If the creator or owner has lost potential revenue through the re-use of their work, it is not likely to be fair.

~Story-time does not have a detrimental effect on the marketability of the work. In most cases, story-time books highlight those works and increase marketability.

In the UK authors & illustrators are compensated through the Public Lending Right scheme. Each time a book is borrowed by a library worker for story-time it contributes towards the amount that registered authors & illustrators receive each year through PLR.

Was it reasonable and necessary to use the amount of work that was taken?

~The nature and purpose of the work is meant to be read from start to finish. In most cases the entirety of the work is used in a story-time.

The rights to making a video or audio recording of a story are set out explicitly in law as belonging to the copyright holder.

The current theory is that like in-person story-times, live (unrecorded) online story-times are ephemeral and also covered by fair use.

To date there has been no official legal precedent that supports this theory.

At present most publishers in the US, UK and elsewhere have temporarily relaxed copyright restrictions (with a number of caveats) to allow libraries and educational institutions to offer pre-recorded and live online story-times.

Once the threat of Covid has receded, many libraries may look at keeping a reduced virtual story-time offer in conjunction with their in-person ones for patrons who are unable to visit a physical branch; when this starts happening a wide-ranging discussion about this and copyright will begin in earnest.

Resources:

Section 107 of the Copyright Act (USA): https://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#107

Fair Use Copyright Explained: https://www.bl.uk/business-and-ip-centre/articles/fair-use-copyright-explained

Public Lending Right: https://www.bl.uk/plr/about-us

15 Years of TeenLibrarian

The release of the latest issue of the TeenLibrarian Newsletter marks the 15th anniversary of both newsletter and blog.

You can read the newsletter here: https://mailchi.mp/b0566afe1947/teenlibrarian-newsletter-may-2021

I launched this blog 15 years ago (I feel old) to try and provide the library workers in the UK that had a focus on working with teens in libraries a dedicated site to share information, experience and ideas. It turned into a personal blog where I shared ideas, resources, reviews and other things I was working on as well as posts and articles from friends and colleagues I coaxed into writing up things that they had designed, created or worked on with regard to teens in libraries.

I would like to thank everyone that has read the newsletter, browsed through the blog, made use of the resources and provided feedback on improving them THANK YOU!

Also a massive thank you goes out to my co-editor (UK) Caroline Fielding for helping keep the good ship TeenLibrarian afloat over the years; as well as my other friends, colleagues, authors and illustrators who have contributed articles, interviews and ideas. In no particular order they are:

anonymous
Steve Gravener
Paul Fisher
Gail Wright
E.E. Richardson
Lisa Clark
Garth Nix
Emma Vieceli
Sonia Leong
Janet Atkinson
Jerry Hurst
Tabitha Suzuma
Sue Prior
Eileen Brock
Sherry Ashworth
Lucy Kitchener
Peter Hautman
Cathy Hopkins
Ferelith Hordon
Cathy Myers
Elaine Simpson
Mary Byrne
Donna Taylor
Jane McCarthy
Joe Craig
Gabrielle Koenig
Sarah McNicol
J.M. Warwick
Clare Argar
Anthony McGowan
Emma Sherriff
Angela Robinson
John Vincent
Cherry Whytock
Nancy Lockett
Matthew Bernstein
Tim Lott
Liz Rose
Jen Trevisan
Derek Lawrence
Mel Gibson
Amanda Lees
Gemma Malley
Maria Snyder
Jon Hayward
Greg Neri
Cathy Forde
Jonathan Zemsky
Rachel Wright
Phil Bradley
Amanda Deaville
Karen Wenbourn
Celia Rees
Margot Lanagan
Susie Cornfield
Archie Black
Carl Cross
Emily Barwell
James Swallow
Alina Pete
Julie Musslewhite
Craig Simpson
Nicola Cameron
Dawn Stanley Donaghy
Pamela McKee
Sam Enthoven
Pauline Fisk
Gemma Panayi
Graham Marks
Jen Bakewell
Lili Wilkinson
Judy Ottaway
M.G. Harris
Clover Anyon
Rachel Ward
Liz de Jager
N.M. Browne
Ana Grilo
Thea James
Tim Bowler
Josh Lacey
Damian Kelleher
Luisa Plaja
Becca Fitzpatrick
Judith Way
Emily Milroy
Mary Naylus
Bev Humphrey
Marcus Chown
Tamsyn Murray
Darren Hartwell
Alyxandra Harvey
Clare Thompson
Keris Stainton
Jill Keeling
Jim Carrington
Angela Shoosmith
Fiona Hukins
Liz Rose
Jandy Nelson
Nina Simon
Emily Dezurick Badran
P.C. Cast
Nicola Cameron
Rebecca Lee
Jon Mayhew
Paul Stringer
Shaun Kennedy
Karen Horsfield
Colette Townend
Caroline Fielding
Miriam Halahmy
Mal Peet
Sara Grant
Nicky Adkins
Jane Prowse
Savita Kalhan
Paula Rawsthorne
Dave Cousins
Bryony Pearce
Keren David
Katie Dale
Matt Whyman
Zac Harding
Barry Hutchison
Anne Harding
S.A. Partridge
James Kearney
Chris Ould
Dr Matthew Finch
Jeff Norton
Lesley Hurworth
Anna James
Edyth Bulbring
Joanne Macgregor
Ian Johnstone
Andy Robb
Sophie Castle
Sandra Greaves
Andrew Givan
Gill Ward
Marcus Alexander
Helen Robinson
Lucy Powrie
Natasha Desborough
Tracey Hager
Non Pratt
Jenny Hawke
Melanie Chadwick
Amy McKay
Neena Shukla
Valerie Dewhurst
A.J. Steiger
Jaime Dowling
Peter Kalu
Anne Booth
Sam Usher
Lucas Maxwell
Dr Dominic Walliman
Ben Newman
Paul Register
Helen Swinyard
Sarah Alexander
Laura Bennett
Barbara Band

Sisyphus had it Easy: the Soul-destroying thing about being a Public Library Campaigner

The soul-destroying thing about being a Public Library campaigner is that you have to fight the same battle every few years and usually on multiple fronts against a multitude foes.

Each time you get a new Libraries Minister in the UK you have to fight to get them to abide by the terms of the Public Libraries Act. Full details here basically the Libraries Minister (and the DCMS) is responsible for making sure that local governments are fulfilling their obligations by providing a full, statutory Public Library service, and if they are not the Minister has a duty to intervene (a duty they always seem eager to avoid)

Each time after local government elections if you get a new local council (and even if you still have the one you had before) there is a constant battle to get them to not try and hand off libraries to volunteer organizations, mutuals (a public service mutual (PSM is “an organisation which was in the public sector, continues to deliver public services, and has a significant degree of employee control.”) or other social enterprises.

Each time you come up against non-statutory groups (see above) claiming they are running a public library and doing it better than the professionals (librarians who needs them) we have to fight to educate local communities about their statutory rights, they are so often being denied a fully-funded library service that they have already paid for through taxes.

Each time local groups stuff a phone box/decorated boxes and so on with books and call them community libraries. The danger with these is that people get upset when library campaigners are seen to criticize ‘nice’ things and people trying to ‘help’ their communities.

The latest “scandal” about adult books being left in a Hampshire Telephone Box Library show that when it comes to Public Libraries staff are a necessity!

Each time a local council tries to run age restricted staffless Libraries, this not only puts patrons at risk but library users under a a certain age would be unable to access the service!

Every year there are fewer and fewer campaigners, we lose so many due to retirement, libraries being closed, burnout and there are an ever increasing amount of confrontations that pop up with tiresome regularity.

Sisyphus had it easy! He had one boulder and a hill! We have boulders of different shapes & weights and often there are people pushing them down as we struggle to push them up.

But the thing about Public Library campaigners is that we believe in what we are doing and will keep fighting to preserve public libraries for as long as we are able!