Thursday, July 29, 2010

Well, now I know it was a Thursday night that I did the vampire entry as I'm watching The Vampire Diaries as I type this. I am finally feeling a bit better. Steve thought it was something he ate at Bella Notte that made him so sick. I think it was the sliced ham we bought as I've spent the last couple of days dealing with the same symptoms. Yuck!! All that sounds good right now is Fresca. Stomach cramps woke me at 5 a.m. so I slept for quite awhile this afternoon. I was running a fever and exhausted - talk about weird dreams!!

Summer semester is just about over and I couldn't be happier. I am waiting for the books I added to children's lit for the Fall semester to come in so I can start working on updating course content. The one thing I love about teaching youth literature/materials courses is also what makes teaching them so time consuming - reading new titles as well as revisiting older titles so that I am up to date.

I don't know how many of you ever heard of Mutual of Omaha's AHA Moment website but I certainly had not before I was contacted by them. The rep. emailed me that she had read my blog and that she was sure I had an AHA moment to share. So, I agreed to be interviewed and filmed talking about an important point in my career.

I talked about how the challenge to Judy Blume's Forever resulted in the completion of my PhD in Library Science and focusing on young adult literature. Sometimes I still chuckle when I remember how the principal,who attempted to remove the book from a HS library, couldn't figure out why he was getting so many letters and phone calls about how wrong he was in trying to remove this well known and beloved young adult novel that had been in the library since it was initially published in hardback format in the mid 1970s. This was the early 90s and I had replaced the falling apart hardback with a bound paperback edition - the one that has a locket on the front.

What he didn't know is that I knew who to contact for support. Being able to handle a challenge to a book effectively is being prepared. It is all about being active in your professional associations. I had been a member of the American Library Association and the youth divisions - American Association of School Librarians , Association of Library Services to Children and the Young Adult Library Association since the 1980s so I knew to contact the Office of Intellectual Freedom Since Forever had been on the list of challenged books many times and Judy Blume is one of the most challenged authors of the 21st Century
they sent me a packet of articles and other materials addressing the book. Too bad the folks supportive of removing the book wouldn't read them. Many never read the book - they just knew about the selective excerpts the principal shared with them. That is a technique of censors - focusing on excerpts out of context.

I was also active in the Wisconsin Library Association and librarians from around the state were contacting the principal with their concerns. I was not alone in standing up against this censorship attempt. It wasn't just my colleagues around the state, it was also many of the teens themselves. Attempting to censor a book often has the opposite impact the censor intends - the very people who the censor doesn't want to read the book hear about it and wonder what the big deal is and read it. Almost every teen in the small high school had read the book by the time the school board decided to put it on a newly created reserve shelf for it - requiring a signature for teens younger than 18. The censors make a whole lot of money for the authors of books they want removed from libraries!

I don't wish a challenge on any librarian but it is important to remember that most people who challenge a particular title are concerned parents. And, when the librarian explains the selection policy and the reconsideration process, the potential challenge stops right there. Most parents just want confirmation that they do indeed have the right to control what their children/teens read. The true censors falsely believe that is also their right to control what other parents' children read.

Someday I'll write about that experience and how it impacted my life as I have all the letters to the editor, the newspaper articles and my journal from that very difficult time, but not yet. Off my soap box for today. :-)