Banned Books Week: All Controversy All The Time

Banned Books Week: All Controversy All The Time

First it was the poster debacle. Now come all of the complaints about the point of celebrating Banned Books Week. I just finished reading an article on Slate called Banned Books Week Is A Crock and I had some thoughts I wanted to share.

I do cringe a little bit as this week approaches. There are some things about librarianship that do that to me. The whole librarian superhero thing, wearing a cape and fighting for your freedom to read, etc. It looks good and it feels good. But now it seems like a bunch of patting-ourselves-on-the-back show. Absolutely, we play a role in all that and we are actually one of the last few institutions strictly about service to the public and not profit in any way. Coming from a background in fundraising, business, and politics, this never ceases to be refreshing to me.

Librarians tend to fall into two, possibly three I guess, camps about Banned Book Week. The first is the cape-wearing superhero camp. The second is the “doesn’t anyone know the definition of censorship?!” camp (see The Annoyed Librarian). The possible third one might be the I-don’t-really-care camp. I suppose I am mostly in the second camp, although this Slate article had me saying, “Ya, but wait a minute…”

The article by Ruth Graham is asking if we really need to publicize Banned Books Week anymore because the good guys won. She closes with the statement,

This Banned Books Week, instead of hand-wringing about a nonexistent wave of censorship, let’s celebrate the obvious: The books won.

I agree that it may not really be “necessary” anymore, but I don’t think there is anything wrong with calling attention to the reasons why it exists. Is anyone really claiming that BBW is doing anything other than reminding us that we don’t really have to worry about this anymore? I don’t know that anyone is really “hand-wringing”…

To be fair, Graham does point to the historical need:

Once upon a time, book bans were a serious issue in the United States. The Comstock Law, passed by Congress in 1873, made it illegal to circulate “obscene literature.” Even classics like The Canterbury Tales fell under that description in the eyes of Victorian moralists, and in the middle of the last century, publishers and booksellers of forbidden novels including Tropic of Cancer and Fanny Hill were actually prosecuted in court. But in the years since, social and legal tolerance for censorship plummeted. A 1982 Supreme Court decision, Island Trees School District v. Pico, ruled that local school boards can’t remove books from their libraries simply because they’re offended by them.

 Once upon a time, if your local library and bookstores didn’t carry a book, it would have been very difficult to procure it elsewhere. But of course we’re now living in an era of unprecedented access to reading material.

I completely understand that the terms “censorship” and “banned” are used inappropriately when talking about what is actually happening. There are, unfortunately, plenty of challenges today. For instance, over the summer at a high school in Charleston, South Carolina a parent challenged Courtney Summers’ book Some Girls Are which appeared only on a suggested summer reading list from the local school. Suggested, people! Instead of suggesting her child pick a different book on the list, the mother wanted it removed all together, calling it “smut”. A librarian blogger worked with the public library in Charleston and put out a call for donations of the book that they could distribute to the teens. They purchased or got donations of over 800 copies of the book!

Here is a picture of their efforts:

So thankfully a true book banning is extremely rare in the United States today. But these are disagreements with how BBW is publicized, not the need for it. To me this is almost like asking if we don’t need to talk about suffrage because so many oppressed people now have the right to vote.

Bottom line is this: Every year during BBW I try to pick up a title that has been controversial either that year or historically, read it, and become acquainted with the challenges it faced. Perhaps others will do the same. Anything that could provide reason for someone picking up a book is worthwhile, in my mind. And if along the way the reader spends some time thinking about the reasons behind the reason for the challenge (religion, “protecting” kids from something, oppression, racism, etc.), then so much the better?


Who Will Be Appointed as Next Librarian of Congress?

The President, in this case, Barack Obama, appoints the Librarian of Congress. Here’s the statute about that particular appointment.

Should it be a presidential appointment? Should the next office holder have a degree in Library Science (Mr. Billington did not).

Infodocket has more information on the period of transition, including this:

LC tells us that while no timeline is in place at the moment, President Obama has “roughly” six months to consider nominees for the vacancy. If a new Librarian of Congress is not confirmed by the time of Dr. Billington’s retirement, David Mao, Deputy Librarian, would serve as Acting Librarian of Congress until the time a new leader is confirmed by the Senate. Mao holds both legal and library degrees.

via Who Will Be Appointed as Next Librarian of Congress | LISNews:.

@UTiSchool helping flood victims salvage documents & heirlooms following Central Texas severe weather

@UTiSchool helping flood victims salvage documents & heirlooms following Central Texas severe weather

AUSTIN, Texas — Conservators and students at The University of Texas at Austin’s School of Information are available to provide advice and limited disaster recovery assistance to help this weekend’s flood victims salvage damaged family treasures.

Wet papers and photographs, textiles, scrapbooks, books and other sentimental objects should be frozen, if possible, and not thrown out, the conservators say.

Losing such items can be devastating after disasters such as floods. Luckily, many things can be salvaged with proper guidance.

Flood victims are urged to contact the iSchool for advice on conservation at 512-903-9564

Faculty members and students also plan to host salvage workshops in areas most affected by flooding during the next few weeks and will schedule those sessions soon. Please if you are interested in hosting or attending a salvage session.

Faculty members are also available for media interviews to discuss document conservation.

via UT Austin iSchool Can Help Flood Victims Salvage Documents and Heirlooms | UT News | The University of Texas at Austin.

2015 Symposium on LIS Education ~ April 10-11

2015 Symposium on LIS Education ~ April 10-11


The 2015 Symposium on LIS Education is a two day student-led event, facilitated by LIS students, for LIS students. The Symposium will bring together students, LIS educators, and practitioners to critically examine current practices in LIS education programs. As a group, participants will identify and brainstorm solutions to current challenges facing LIS education.

The Symposium program will feature invited presentations by Emily Weak (of Hiring Librarians), Micah Vandegrift, Annie Pho, and Brianna Marshall (of Hack Library School), refereed presentations, and unconference-style facilitated discussions.

When & Where?

April 10–11, 2015 in Champaign, IL and virtually.

For more information about coming to Champaign, see the Housing & Travel page.

Join the conversation!

Take part in the conversation! Here’s how –

  • Register to attend the 2015 Symposium on LIS Education, in person or virtually. Registration is free!
  • Connect with us on Twitter @LIS_Symposium and using #LISed15
  • Have student-led discussions about LIS programs at your institutions. (And tell us about them!)
  • Contact the planning committee with ideas, suggestions, comments, skepticism, and questions
  • If you are able to and would like to support our efforts, consider donating orvolunteering during the event


Email us at

via 2015 Symposium on LIS Education.


The Political Librarian, a new open access journal from EveryLibrary

EveryLibrary has announced a new journal called The Political Librarian that will be all about local funding and political issues for libraries. This differs from other disucssions because it is focused on what they call the “hyper-local” level dealing with city tax codes, library boards, and voters instead of federal and national level. The journal will be open access and under non-commercial Creative Commons.

They are currently seeking submissions in three categories:

  • Polemics – Editorial in nature; the first draft of an idea or argument
  •      White Papers – Longer form discussions that may include research
  •      Peer Reviewed – Long form articles that include original research and arguments, and are submitted for review by our Editorial Board

We seek contributions that:

  • Further a discussion of tax policy and public policy at the local level
  • Explore and review ordinances, regulations and legislation, or propose new model language that actuate policy or revenue at a local level
  • Specifically engage disparities in community outcomes based on current funding and authority models for libraries
  • Provide and encourage experiential input about the way that current policy models impact library service delivery and community outcomes
  • Provide and encourage explorations of new, underutilized, or experimental models to address local library funding or authority
  • Provide resources and tactics that libraries can use to educate stakeholders on the essential role of libraries and librarians in their local community.

via Announcing “The Political Librarian”, a New Journal from EveryLibrary | EveryLibrary.


The Journal of Radical Librarianship

From Flickr user, library_mistress, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

A scholarly journal just for me? Perhaps someday… No, a group of librarians in the UK got together and formed the Radical Librarians Collective to offer a radical approach to library and information issues, particularly to challenge the marketization of libraries. They are against neoliberalism in libraries, not liberalism in the political sense but in the economical. In The Library With The Lead Pipe borrows a definition from Lowes’ The Anti-Capitalist Dictionary for neoliberalism:

Neoliberalism can be defined as the belief “that markets are inherently efficient and that the state and public sector have no essential role to play in economic development apart from facilitating the expansion, intensification and primacy of market relations.”

They recently decided to create an academic journal with the hopes that these theories could be shared more widely.

The Journal of Radical Librarianship is a new open-access journal publishing a combination of peer-reviewed scholarly writing and non-peer-reviewed commentary and reviews. We’re looking for work on the subject of radical librarianship and related areas. Broadly speaking, anything that investigates the political aspects of librarianship or takes a critical theory-based approach to LIS.

via In the Library with the Lead Pipe » A radical publishing collective: the Journal of Radical Librarianship.

They are looking for submissions on radical librarianship which they suggest is “anything that investigates the political aspects of librarianship or takes critical theory-based approach to LIS.” Contact them with questions about submission ideas.

We have a similar group here in the us called the Radical Reference Collective. I met up with some of them at ALA one year for drinks and learned more about their organization. Their mission, slightly more broad, I think, than the Radical Librarian Collective is:

Mission Statement: Radical Reference is a collective of volunteer library workers who believe in social justice and equality. We support activist communities, progressive organizations, and independent journalists by providing professional research support, education and access to information. We work in a collaborative virtual setting and are dedicated to information activism to foster a more egalitarian society.

An upcoming post I am working on will go more into this, but it is difficult to do what we do and not become political. Whether we are talking about why libraries are so important or the campaigning for funds to keep the doors open, politics is a big part of librarianship. I look forward to seeing what this journal has to add to libraryland and following the efforts of radical librarians everywhere!


MOOC on Public Library User Experience

The School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis is hosting a MOOC on Public Library User Experience that sounds pretty interesting.

The objectives of the course are:

Students completing the Customer Service Module will be able to:

  • Identify overarching principles that guide high quality public library service.
  • Describe trending options for experiences and spaces in your library that engage patrons and create a third place or refuge for the public.
  • Recognize the need for ongoing staff training that can build relationships and keep a safe environment for learning.
  • Demonstrate awareness of the diversity in audiences and the techniques available to reach out and provide great service.
  • Recognize the importance of programming as a commitment to library customer service that will create experiences beyond patron expectations.

Students completing the Youth Programming module will be able to:

  • To become aware of the past, present and potential future of library services for children and young adults.
  • To develop skills in assessing needs and utilizing goals and objectives to plan services and programs, and in evaluating services and programs.
  • To build specific programs appropriate for various age groups and to observe and conduct model programs in real settings.
  • To become aware of the potential of technology as well as other media in providing information services, in meeting educational needs, and in promoting total literacy.
  • To develop a philosophy of service for youth.

Students completing the Technology module will be able to:

  • Describe the basic library system components (OPAC, Circulation, Cataloging, Acquisitions, Serials) and how they serve us.
  • Identify current Discovery Systems and evaluate their impact on the traditional catalog for library users.
  • Show familiarity with technology standards (from MARC to OAI-PMH) that make a library work.
  • Understand how inventory control works with barcode/RFID technologies to ensure that both staff and library users can find what they want — and keep it safe.
  • Recognize basic networking strategies for cabled and for wireless access along with management and security concerns for all users.
  • Demonstrate awareness of current and upcoming library technologies and place these technologies in context for the public library community.

Students completing the Community Engagement module will be able to:

  • Identify community issues and challenges, including illustrating an area where community engagement is lacking and would be beneficial.
  • Describe the role their public library can play in identifying and addressing the issue.
  • Recognize the types of relevant community partners that can help support and enhance a community engagement project.
  • Describe and assess potential community engagement methods based on an analysis of community need and available resources.
  • Create a plan of action for their public library to take when implementing a community engagement project.
  • Evaluate the steps, resources, and knowledge needed to set the community engagement plan into action.

I had to learn more about how they combined subjects in the School of Informatics and Computing. Apparently it is the first program like this in the US and it combines computing, social science, and information systems. Fascinating! With the Rutgers School of Communication and Information recently dropping “Science” and calling the degree a Master of Information, we are probably going to see many changes like this in the way we define an education in information.

Anyway, this MOOC sounds interesting. You can enroll for the course here.

Project Information Literacy

Project Information Literacy

Project Information Literacy is a national study housed out of The University of Washington’s iSchool on today’s young adults research habits. According to this short video, they are information scientists who believe information literacy is essential to critical thinking, lifelong learning, succeeding in the workplace, and contributing to community.

They will be releasing a report of their findings since 2008 in the fall of 2015. This information could be valuable to libraries and librarians of all backgrounds. I look forward to seeing what they have found!