Recently in YA Literature Category

Don't Censor Me

I've become a little obsessed with the American Library Association's Code of Ethics and Freedom to Read statement.  The idea that anyone can access any kind of information at a public library is so egalitarian and so truly democratic, and really appeals to me.  I've been thinking about it a lot, and was a little taken aback the other day by an exchange at my local branch library.

Some relevant information:

  • the librarian working that day was not one of the regular librarians, all of whom know my family very well, so this was someone with no information about me or my kids.
  • my older daughter reads and comprehends well above her grade level (3rd grade), and looks younger than her actual age (8).
  • she selects her own books, and independently chooses to stop reading if the text or subject matter is too much for her.

Back to the story.

One of the books we were checking out was Wonder by R.J. Palacio (which turned out to be fabulous -- I highly recommend it).  I had actually selected this for me, not my kids.  It's geared toward older elementary school students, and a friend thought I might like it.  At the time I thought it was probably a little old for my 3rd grader, but now, having read it, I do think she could have handled it.  Anyway, while she scanned our pile of books, the librarian looked at the book, looked over my kids, and said, with a disapproving face, "watch out for this book."  I was totally taken aback, and said, "oh, that's for me to read."  But I really wish I'd said something like "Actually, she'll be just fine" or "I know she'll come to me with questions" or "I let her make her own book choices."  All afternoon, I couldn't stop thinking about the interaction -- was the librarian out of line?

What do you think?  Has a librarian ever commented negatively on your choice of reading material?  Do librarians actually consider the Code of Ethics or other statements from the ALA, or is that something that only LIS students think about?  How much influence can an offhand comment have?  

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Summer Reading

summerreading1.jpgIt's June, which means Summer Reading time at public libraries across the country.  Last summer I was temporarily working as a young adult librarian, juggling my first ever summer reading program, and I can tell you that Summer Reading is both the most exhausting and rewarding part of being a youth librarian.  It is seriously two months of stress and terror (did I bring enough snacks for this program?  Did I bring enough prizes?  What about the kids who didn't sign up but want to come anyway - did I bring extra supplies?) but it's what the bulk of the programming budget is spent on, too, so it's an interesting time with lots of fun things happening.  As the YA librarian I had my hands full enough, so I didn't help out much with the children's Summer Reading program, which is about 300% busier.  (If anyone is thinking about becoming a children's librarian at a public library, I would advise them to spend a summer helping out with Summer Reading first, so they know what they are getting into, because holy crap, it is ridiculously busy. Rewarding, but busy.) 

My situation last summer was a little special because I started the job in May and had about a week to plan all of the programs and get the brochure printed off and distributed to the schools, so... don't do that.  The programs all revolved around the "Beneath the Surface" theme (this year it's "Spark a Reaction") and mostly went really well, despite the lack of real planning time.  The only one that didn't was the movie night picture Tremors, which I loved when I was a teen.  Unfortunately, I don't think I've seen it at all in the last decade, and a rewatch before choosing it for Summer Reading would have been a good idea.  Do you know how much profanity is in that movie?  Yeah, a lot.  My 12-13 year old audience loved it, but I heard from parents for the next month.  Oops. 

summerreading2.pngThis summer I am both sad and relieved to not be working at a public library so I can be part of all the craziness (the thing they don't tell you is that you will never stop having great programming ideas, even long after you stop putting together programs) and the ultimate goal of getting books into the hands of kids.

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