Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Celebrating Banned Books Week

Reading banned books is one of the best ways to prevent them from being challenged or banned. The more you read controversial books and understand their concepts, themes, and what it is about it that makes it controversial, the more you grow to realize that there is no need to censor it. Most challenges come from people who haven't actually read the book in question. They don't know that Harry Potter is actually fighting evil and just happens to be a wizard. They forget that Atticus Finch is the one standing up for the African Americans or that when Madeleine L'Engle wrote A Wrinkle in Time, it really was just a fantasy story. So pick up a banned book today, read it, and try to see why it would be challenged. Now that you know the story, would you want to ban the book?

In celebration of banned books, I thought I would list all the banned books I've read. I picked from the titles listed on the ALA website. Find the lists here and here.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
, by Mark Twain
Of Mice and Men
, by John Steinbeck
, by Judy Blume
Bridge to Terabithia
, by Katherine Paterson
The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
The Giver, by Lois Lowry
Alice (Series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak
The Witches, by Roald Dahl
A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle
Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George
The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss
The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein
Harry Potter (Series), by J.K. Rowling
James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl
A Light in the Attic, by Shel Silverstein
Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline Cooney
Summer of My German Soldier, by Bette Greene
Little House on the Prairie, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Terrorist, by Caroline Cooney
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak
The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad
Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
The Call of the Wild, by Jack London

I'm sure you're surprised to see some of these books on this list. Brings up a lot of questions about why books are banned doesn't it? So read banned books and think about all the silly things people do. Remember that the only person who has the right to judge what is acceptable for you or your children to read is you. Banning books prevents other people from reading amazing stories and learning valuable things. Celebrate the freedom to read by reading one of these amazing books that someone tried to stop you from reading. Revel in the idea that you live in a country where the courts, libraries, and members of the community view censorship, especially of books, as harmful to the public. Rejoice in your freedom to read.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What Is Intellectual Freedom?

"Wherever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings." ~Heinrich Heine, Almansor, 1823

I've spoken of intellectual freedom several times over the course of writing this blog, but I don't think I've explained it properly. Intellectual freedom is a core value for librarians. As defined by the American Library Association, intellectual freedom advocates "the rights of library users to read, seek information, and speak freely as guaranteed by the First Amendment". Intellectual freedom encompasses things like censorship, internet rights, and privacy in the library. ALA asserts that any publicly funded library, including public, academic, special, and school libraries, should uphold the values of intellectual freedom.

But exactly does that mean? It means that when you walk into a library you can expect to find materials collected without regard to race, gender, sexuality, age, etc. You can expect to able to use the internet for your own purposes (as long as it isn't hurting or violating anyone as per the Children's Internet Protection Act). You can expect the library staff not to reveal any information about you or the materials you checked out without a signed search warrant. Intellectual freedom means that when you step into a library, there are no judgments. No one is going to stop you from reading, watching, listening, or checking out materials. Your privacy will be protected to the best the librarian's ability.

Librarians are on your side; they are on the front lines protecting your rights every day. So celebrate banned books week by reading banned books. Share how distasteful you find censorship with everyone around you. Advocate for the library, librarians, and for banned books. But most of all, don't ban books!!

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books in 2008

In celebration of Banned Books Week, I want to share with you then 10 most challenged books of 2008 and why they were challenged. Note: There is a difference between a challenged book and a banned book. For more info on that, check back tomorrow!
  1. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
    Reasons: anti-ethnic, anti-family, homosexuality, religious viewpoint, and unsuited to age group
  2. His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman
    Reasons: political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, and violence
  3. TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series), by Lauren Myracle
    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
  4. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
    Reasons: occult/satanism, religious viewpoint, and violence
  5. Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
    Reasons: occult/satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, and violence
  6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
    Reasons: drugs, homosexuality, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, suicide, and unsuited to age group
  7. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
  8. Uncle Bobby's Wedding, by Sarah S. Brannen
    Reasons: homosexuality and unsuited to age group
  9. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
  10. Flashcards of My Life, by Charise Mericle Harper
    Reasons: sexually explicit and unsuited to age group
Now just for fun, let's compare this list to the 10 most challenged books from 1990-1999. If I can find it, I've included the reasons for the challenges.
  1. Scary Stories (Series), by Alvin Schwartz Reasons: scary, violent, occult
  2. Daddy’s Roommate, by Michael Willhoite Reasons: promotes homosexuality, age inappropriate
  3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou Reasons: sexually explicit, specifically graphic depictions of molestation and rape
  4. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit
  5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain Reasons: vulgar language; offensive to African Americans
  6. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck Reasons: "profanity and using God's name in vain"; vulgar and offensive; contains terminology offensive to blacks
  7. Forever, by Judy Blume Reasons: sexually explicit, profanity, morality (pre-marital sex)
  8. Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson Reasons: offensive language, fantasy (references to witchcraft)
  9. Heather Has Two Mommies, by Leslea Newman Reasons: promotes homosexuality, age inappropriate
  10. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger Reasons: anti white" and "obscene"; language and content of the book
Looking at these two lists, the thing that stands out to me most is that most books are challenged for being "inappropriate to age group". However, the difference in the two lists is that 8 out of the 10 books in 2008 were challenged for having something to do with sexuality where only 5 books from 1990-1999 were cited for being "sexually explicit" or "promoting homosexuality".

This makes me wonder, are more books being published for young adults today that are more sexually explicit? Looking at the Gossip Girl series and Lauren Myracle's series that are both on the list and marketed for teenage girls, an argument can be made that yes, more sexually explicit books are being published. It's also obvious that parents have an objection to these books.

Every day books are challenged. Concerned citizens protest classrooms, school districts, and libraries to have books removed from shelves and reading lists. The American Library Association maintains that everyone, no matter age, race, religion, economic background, or sexual orientation, can be barred from reading whatever they want. This Freedom to Read is fundamental to librarians. However, maintaining this freedom isn't easy. Sometimes books do appear to be inappropriate; games too violent; movies too sexual. Sometimes our own morals and ideals get in the way of intellectual freedom. But as librarians, it is our job to make sure that everyone has equal access to information. That includes everything from the latest Gossip Girl book to nude photography books to rated "R" movies.

While it may be hard to stay strong against overwhelming opposition, think of it this way: if you allow one book to be removed from your shelves today, who's going to stand up for the freedom to read when all are the books are banned tomorrow?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Next Week is Banned Books Week!

September 26-October 3 is the annual Banned Books Week. Banned Books Week (BBW) is a week-long celebration of the fact that we have the freedom to read whatever we want! It also puts an emphasis on the importance of the First Amendment. "Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States." (ALA)

Next week I will be spotlighting what librarians and library students can do to celebrate banned books and intellectual freedom. Banned Books Week is on the biggest events a librarian (especially public and school librarians) take part in every year. Get excited for Banned Books Week and don't forget, READ BANNED BOOKS!!

For more information on Banned Books Week, check out and

Monday, September 21, 2009

Academic Library = Student Center?

Not a day goes by where I don't read (or hear) about how the academic library is outdated. No matter how many coffee shops, group study rooms, and laptop computers you put in, it's still a library, and apparently that's outdated. That's certainly how the president of Goucher College in Baltimore, MD saw it. When the old library was due for renovation, he scratched that and set up plans to build a multi-million dollar student center, with a library in it. The Athenaeum, named for the ancient Greek central gathering point where people came for a variety of purposes—serious, frivolous, cultural, artistic, and social, houses a restaurant, workout room, bathroom complete with shower, commuter lounge with a full kitchen, an art gallery, classrooms, a forum, and a library. All classic library features including circulation and reference desks, open stacks, and quiet study areas are included; however, the president felt that students needed a student center more than they needed a serious separate library.

On one level, I find that this makes a lot of sense. From what I can gather, Goucher College is a small school with a large chunk of commuting students. Commuting students often have trouble fitting in to a campus community and creating a more student-friendly space where they can hang out as well as study does make sense. Goucher College is also very small and it is doubtful that much major research takes place there. However, I feel like lumping a library in with a student center lessens the library's importance. Academic libraries have been undergoing major transformations over the last decade from traditional book warehouses to more technology-friendly "information centers", but this is the first time I've ever heard of adding work-out equipment and a restaurant to a library. It appears to me that the president of Goucher College does not appreciate nor understand what truly happens in an academic library. Yes, the library should be a central gathering place on campus for students, so it should have amenities to make spending large quantities of time there better, but it's main focus should be academic not social.

Is Goucher College taking the concept of a comfortable library a little too far? Should the academic library and the student center be merged? And when does the library cease being a library and just become a mere room in the student center?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Internship: Weeks 3 and 4

I didn't blog about my internship last week, because it's been pretty slow. I've spending a lot of time working on the LibGuides project that I posted about a few weeks ago. It's going well; today I presented my research to the other librarians and we talked about what we liked about the various institutions that use LibGuides. Over the next few weeks, we will probably begin to piece together what we want in our version.

The only other thing of interest I did was last week I had a crash course on working the circulation desk. I enjoyed that and I really need to work up the courage to ask if I can work the desk regularly. I'm sure it's not any different than working the desk in the Reading Room, but it would nice to practice using Voyager since the only circulation system I'm really comfortable with is Athena (which they don't update anymore, so no one uses it).

Because this was accreditation week, my schedule has been completely thrown off. I'm ready for things to get back to normal and so I can get some more hours, because I feel like I'm falling behind.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Day in the Life of a Library Student

This summer I blogged about the trend of blogging about your day. I even posted one of my mornings in the reading room. I'm not sure if it's still a trend, but I thought I would bring back the concept here and share with y'all what my Tuesdays are like. Note: Because this was accreditation week, my day was not as typical as some.

6:15 - wake up to the construction crews outside my building making way too much noise for 6:15 in the morning.
6:50 - actually get out of bed and get ready for the day.
8:00 - arrive at Rogers after a battle to find a decent parking spot. I won, at least for today.
8:05-9:00 - check email, facebook, twitter, TFLN, MLIA, and my blogs. Gchat with some friends.
9:00-9:40 - look at various schools' use of the LibGuides system and take notes. Contemplate the best way to present it and play around with a PowerPoint.
9:45 - walk to Gorgas for a meeting.
10:00-10:40 - meet with the accreditation team about being a student leader. Meeting goes well, but not as many student leaders showed up as I had hoped.
10:45 - quick stop for tea on my way back to Rogers.
11:00-12:30 - continue working on the LibGuides project and decide to scratch the PowerPoint idea; decide that a word document is fine. Make a decision to create my own template after looking at too many different features that I like.
12:30-12:50 - eat lunch at my desk while surfing the internet.
1:00-1:50 - French class, better known as the hour where I'm completely bored out of my mind.
2:00 - make an executive decision that getting a second masters/Ph.D. in history is not what I want to do right now, instead I really want to get a job and have a real life. This also results in me not going to the history class I was auditing.
2:15-3:15 - leave campus (yay!) and head to the drug store to pick up some things I desperately needed and run them home.
3:30-7:00 - work in the Reading Room. And by work I mean sit at my station and play on the internet, do homework, and occasionally refill the copier, or solve a technical problem. It was a very quiet evening.
7:30 - head to a friend's house for girls night!

Tuesday is my short day, which is kind of scary, but it is. And now that I'm not going to history anymore, I get a chance to leave campus and go home or go run some errands for an hour or so. Thursdays are even better because I have 3 hours of free time. I'm learning to value these little bits of time; they are my saving grace right now.

This is definitely been my busiest semester ever. Some days I get to campus at 8:00 and don't leave until after 9:00. I'm sure it will only get worse when I start having major assignments due. But this is also my last semester, so I'm just thrilled that I get to graduate and move on with life.

So how was your day? Was it as busy as mine? Please share!

Monday, September 14, 2009

It's Accreditation Week!!

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it before, but UA's MLIS program is undergoing continuing accreditation this week (I've been told this is the proper way to phrase the process). Accreditation is a huge deal mainly because it affects students' ability to get a job. 99.9% of the job postings I've read in the last few weeks (which is a lot) have required "a masters degree from an ALA accredited program". Thus, it's important that these three days go well. It also means that my life is officially crazy. I'm currently serving as the acting president of the Student Advisory Committee (SAC) because the old president graduated so I have to meet with the External Review Panel (ERP) today and tomorrow. Yesterday, we had a very nice reception to welcome the committee and I spend the time running around introducing myself to the panel and making sure they felt welcomed by the student body. Yesterday's reception went nicely as did the breakout sessions that followed. Members of the panel met with students, alumni, employers, and adjunct faculty and we talked about what did and didn't like about SLIS. I was pleased to hear that most people are very satisfied with the education they are getting. I know I've been very pleased.

I had the privilege of walking the panel over from the hotel this morning (all part of my duties as a GTA apparently) and I felt that they were satisfied with how things are going so far and they didn't have a lot of probing questions for me, which I took to mean they think our program is doing okay. Really hope I interpreted that correctly, fingers crossed. I certainly don't think that SLIS is in danger of losing its accreditation, but I think our program is on the rise, and I would like it to stay that way. Today, I'm meeting with several members about SAC's involvement which makes me nervous because I haven't prepared for this at all, so I'm hoping they don't ask me anything I don't know the answer too. Tomorrow all the student leaders, including the remaining SAC members, and the officers of the various student groups are meeting with the panel to discuss student leadership. After that, my duties are over.

Mostly, I'm just hoping this visit goes well and that the panel leaves with a good vision of SLIS and its students. The weeks leading up to this visit have been incredibly stressful, so I'm definitely looking forward things calming down and life getting back to normal.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Future of Libraries: A Library Student's Response

I figure I better jump on the bandwagon and blog about this because the rest of the library world sure is buzzing about it. I've read multiple blogs on the subject, talked about it in class, and been bombarded by it in my inbox through the various list-serves I subscribe to. What is it? It's an article that CNN posted on September 4th. Find the article here. Now I usually like CNN; it's the only cable news I watch and when I want up-to-date, happening now information it's where I go on the web. But I never thought that CNN would be behind the times.

Their story is an old one. The old library is out; the new library, or information center, is in. So? We know that. In fact, I've blogged about it in a variety of ways before. It was a huge aspect of this year's ALA conference. We discuss it at school. It's on the minds of librarians everywhere. So why is CNN just now realizing this? I can only speculate that it's because of the press libraries have received over the past few months. Library business (although not budgets) are booming. More and more people are turning to libraries in this time of need for free information and entertainment. Go here and here to watch news stories about the subject. With all of this press, I can only assume that reporters are more interested in looking at what goes in libraries and how they are changing. Old news, right?

CNN talks about the introduction of gaming centers, the increased reliance on the internet as opposed to print sources for reference help, and librarians blogging and tweeting. None of this is new; in fact, I've blogged about all of this, and I'm certainly not at the forefront of major change. The article also talks about librarians referring to themselves as "information professionals" or "information specialists". Now I don't know about you, but in my intro to LIS as a graduate student we talked about this concept. How librarians are information professionals because we access and provide information; but not all information professionals are librarians. The term is not interchangeable and I think any librarian worth her salt knows that difference.

So CNN is not breaking any new ground by publishing this story. It's old news, something librarians have known for quite sometime. Change isn't particularly groundbreaking in the library; as librarians we face that change everyday and deal with it as it comes. We're moving the books out to make room for more computers, adding the coffee shops to help students study better, creating gaming centers to attract teens. But what we're not doing is changing our principals. The library will always be a place where information can be found for free and without bias. No new technology or "hipster" librarian, or "information scientist" is going to change that. Now that's news worth reporting.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Internship: Week 2

It's been a pretty interesting week at Rodgers. I'm still getting acquainted with the way everything works, but I'm hoping that next week I can really take off running. Probably the most exciting thing I did this week was sit in on an interview. We are currently in the process of hiring a temporary, full-time paraprofessional position, and a part-time (non-temporary) staff position. I had never been part of the group that actually does the interviewing, so I was thrilled when they allowed me to observe an interview for the full-time temporary position. I learned a great deal about the kinds of questions that are important to ask, and the qualities that make for a good paraprofessional. I was also really pleased when my opinion was taken seriously. I'm really enjoying working here because they treat me like an adult and a professional, not like a student.

Rodgers is exploring the idea of implementing LibGuides as a way for students to have better access to information needed for research. If you are unfamiliar with LibGuides, it's a content manager software system. Basically it allows you to create a web page with a series of tabs such as "databases", "books", "websites", etc so you can gain access to information on one subject easily. These are similar to subject guides in that they offer content releated to one subject, but the information is presented in a much better fashion. They also present the opportunity to provide library education and information literacy without looking messy or junking up a simple webpage. The university has just purchased access to them, and we've been working out the logistics of using the software. The best part of all of this, is that this is going to be my project! I will be heading up the attempt to create and upload these LibGuides to the Rodgers website and slowly begin filtering out the paper subject guides. I'm hoping I won't have too much trouble and that this will be a success.

Next week, I start meeting with various staff members to explore their job and duties. I'm excited about the prospect of learning more about the way Rodgers is run. I'm also hoping to spend more time on the reference desk. I would love the chance to "fly solo" by the end of the semester. Since reference is where I would like to eventually wind up, I would love to use this internship as an opportunity to gain some experience.

So far things are going really well. I'm excited about the opportunity to work with the LibGuides and I hope that they turn out to be successful. I think this is definitely turning out to be an excellent place for me to gain some valuable academic library experience.