Censorship proposal from a library trustee


Sneezylibrarian writes "Times Union.

This is the second of two articles in the Albany Times Union on this episode. You have to pay to see the first one. The story, in a nutshell, is that a public library trustee who had read an article in the NYTimes about sexually explicit material in YA books, proposed that the librarians should read every YA book before it is shelved and mark those with such passages with a sticker. When the library committee reviewing the materials selection policy rejected his proposal, he went straight to the media, and also briefly picketed the library. The library board meets tonight and will vote on a modified proposal to review 5% of the YA books."


A library job where you get paid to read books!

There were about 100 people at the board meeting on Thursday night, which lasted over three hours, and the proposal went down 7-1. The trustee, John Daly, had revised his original proposal, reducing the percentage of new YA books to be reviewed and labelled to 5% of the 1,600 added each year, and exempting the existing collection of 7,400 titles. The majority of those attending were against the proposal, although even some of the other trustees commended Daly for "sticking his neck out to take a stand".

Just curious....what size library did you work in? I can't imagine being able to do that where I work. Maybe children's, but YA? We've got one YA librarian and way more than four new titles each month. I think it's a terrific idea to know your collection that well and it sounds like you're a great reader's advisor. I like how you said you ask the reader how they feel about certain genres, themes, etc. That's the hardest part of RA for a lot of folks--it's not about you. (Thank you, Nancy Pearl for making that clear to me!)

To know is to label. You can't know a book without seeing it through your own personal viewpoint and labeling it in a variety of ways.

librarygal said:"Why is knowing the collection censorship? I thought this was good librarianship."Knowing the collection is not censorship. Labeling the collection is.

So if a parent complains about a book and you ask them if they've read it and they say they read a review of it you'll accept that?

On the flip side of all this, maybe they SHOULD label books as having explicit content. Imagine how fast the circ would go up...

That the proposal was voted down 7 to 1 with the public overwhelmingly coming down on the side of no labeling. And, apparently the board president lifted the rule of no applause so that those at the meeting could applaud a comment of what an asset the YA librarian is to the community.

Ummmm we read almost all the fiction for kids where I work, and the last place I worked, and the place before that. It makes for better reference and better readers advisory. We read about four books a month each, and either write a review or cite one of the published reviews. Based on our reading we recommend placement in kids or teen fiction, genre labels, addition to book lists, etc. We are expected to read on our own time as part of our professional development, but write reviews on work time. I am much more comfortable with the collection, because in addition to what I read I get to hear from others on what they read.

I disagree with labeling based on sex, violence, ideas, etc. We know how the books we have fall on these lines and if asked by parents, kids, or teachers we can discuss the books with insight. I can ask a reader how they feel about sad books, scary books, or books about difficult issues and recommend based on their needs, not on some arbitrary label.

Why is knowing the collection censorship? I thought this was good librarianship.

Well, I have a question about how they are going to administer this program. Most of us take home books from our collection and read them on our own time. It is, of course, one of the unspoken benefits the public gets from their librarians that never seems to be advertised when they bitch and moan about where their tax money is going. If this is going to become official policy, are they either going to set aside enough time during the work day to do the reading, or are they going to pay overtime for staff to take them home and read them? I don't mind reading them on my own time when it is my idea. If they make it official policy, however, either I would request that I either get enough time during the day or I get paid overtime to take them home and read them.

Or, here is a better one, Daly can take them home and start reading them himself. He can even type up a report about each book that details the sexy parts and what page they are on. And, of course, those parts ripped from the context of the plot will make them even all the more raunchy, so I'm guessing they would have to adopt an "X" sticker to put on the reports.

Aren't all books read before we get them? Isn't that what review are for?

Isn't this the answer to what everyone was complaining about? Making sure the books have been read before some kind of decision is made about appropriatness?

The trick is that everyone reads - children's librarians, YA, adult, para-professionals, interns, everyone. We get guildelines and training on writing a review and what to look for in reading, and we write a review for our collegues. We have the published reviews too, so we can see that the journals say. But in a system ranging from three librarians to 26, we all read and we all review. It's part of the job.

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