This is the end….

Beautiful friend

This is the end

My only friend

The end

 

With a big thanks to Jim Morrison and The Doors from providing me with a song to bow out of the blog with.

I have handed in my last assignment for my children’s lit paper (due yesterday) and so the blog need no longer lurk in the back of my head and nudge me to write. I started this resentfully but am ending slightly sadly as I began to secretly quite enjoy having a space to cathart (pretty sure that is not a verb but I have made it one just cos I can) at.

So you will be safe from me blathering on about what madness is happening at the library, which latest YA book has made me miserable/uplifted/amazed. Enjoy the peace and thanks for following me along this journey.

And to end this I will leave us on a rant about censorship (because I do enjoy a good rant).

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Libraries are purveyors of open and free information. We say down with restrictions, boo to banning books, and a big old hiss to people who call us out for controversial material in our collections. That is clearly all we need to say about censorship in libraries.

Ah. You were hoping for something more insightful? Something potentially closer to the truth for those of us on the front lines, curating and presenting the public with the collection?

Well, that gets a bit more complicated. Back in the days, when I was young, when the dinosaurs roamed the plains according to my teenager, CYA books were filled with shenanigans, spiffing adventures, the occasional baddie, angry people shouting damn, and a lot of talking animals. Quite likely, everyone was white, heterosexual and married. The world was apparently simple.

And now? Well it has been argued by commentators and critics that literature has gone to hell in a handbasket. CYA books now have the audacity to espouse tolerance, diversity and a wide range of lifestyles and views. We just have to look at picture books such as A tale of two mummies, Daddy, Papa and me, and Tango makes three, and I am Jazz to discover that families and relationships are not necessarily married heterosexual couples. If we delve into YA novels such as Into the river, the Hate U give and two boys kissing, you read about the heart breaking systemic racism, bigotry and violence that some young people face daily. Thirteen reasons why and The playlist for the dead both tackle the devastation of teen suicide and its consequences. The novel George features a ten-year old protagonist who is struggling to tell the world that they are transgender. This is the complex world of CYA literature today.

The American Library Association compiles an annual list of challenged books including the rationale behind it and according to their infographic for 2017, the number one reason material was challenged was LGBT content, closely followed by violence, sexual explicitness, racism and profanity. I will confess that I am not that keen on the idea of young innocent children, unblemished by the world coming up against sex, violence, and bigotry. Sadly, our children are not living in this idealised utopia. They livie in a world where these things are part of the wider community. If your child is fortunate to not be directly faced with these challenges, then understanding the perspective of others less fortunate is surely an essential part of developing empathy. I am not suggesting that we should encourage our ten-year olds to read Thirteen reasons why but reading George could provide them with an insight about children in their peer group who may be struggling to fit in.

We need to tell our communities that they should trust their librarians to get the right books into the hands of the right people. It is that simple.

So, in conclusion, let’s chant “down with censorship”

But before we go off and give ourselves a clap for being so very objective and down with the cool anti-censorship kids, let’s pause.

It has been argued by blogger the Annoyed Librarian, and Daniel Kleinman, on his Safe libraries website, that the ALA’s indiscriminate fight against all censorship, ignores the fact that some material is not suitable for a collection. The Annoyed librarian challenged ALA supporters to subscribe to a pornographic magazine, place it somewhere within the CYA collection and fight for its inclusion. An unselective belief in open access to all information can be argued to support this approach.

Organisations such as the ALA’s Office of Freedom, the Freedom to Read Foundation, and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund provide support and resources to fight against any form of censorship. Clearly, librarians will fight for the right to read what they choose.

Except (and shhh…. let’s just keep this between us) when we don’t.  Because, and I am not sure if you know this, but librarians are people. Shocking huh?! We suffer from biases and prejudices just like everyone else. We could discuss librarians being professionals and thus objective curators, but there are a couple of problems with that.

  1. Libraries are increasingly hiring non-librarians and providing them with job descriptions that contain traditional ‘librarian’ tasks, including collection development. Back in 2011, the Canadian newspaper The Star reported that Toronto Public libraries were considering privatization. One of the key money saving methods that the private company was reported to use was hiring paraprofessionals and maintaining control over collection development.
  2. Passing a course does not necessarily mean that you will follow the ethics. I am pretty sure that Harold Shipman would have agreed to the Hippocratic oath of do no harm but he killed more than 200 patients.

You see, it is not censorship if your library simply does not purchase an item.

The collection team for the library is at the pointy end of selecting material with the limited funds available. And maybe you feel uncomfortable with the sexual content and the seeming glorification of suicide in Thirteen reasons why. There are a lot of books being published, library budgets are getting tighter and who needs the hassle of dealing with irate parents, community groups and a media storm. So….just don’t buy the book. The School Library Journal reported that in the U.S., school librarians are increasingly self-censoring this way with 90% of primary and 75% of high school librarians choosing not to purchase material that is potentially controversial.

Say you already have the book on your shelves? Well, is there a way to legitimately ‘weed it’ from the collection. You could pop it somewhere and accidently forget to put it back on the shelf, then it would appear on a list of material not being borrowed and ‘poof’ we need to weed it. We need the space. Maybe it is super popular and constantly going out? Well, it might be getting tatty and so let’s remove it from the collection due to ‘condition’.

Unfortunately, I am going to leave you with questions rather than answers in the children and young adult collection debate. How should we respond to challenges to our collection? Should we save ourselves money and time by sidestepping potentially controversial material? Goodness only knows any of the answers. I am much better at questions and ranting than solutions sadly.

And with that I will bow out of the blogging game (until the next paper that drags me back in).

So long, and thanks for all the fish

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It’s another sunny….errr… winter’s day in Wellington

Much to my teenager’s joy (who is not a fan of warm weather- which in his terms is anything above 16 C/61 F) it has been a chilly week in Wellington. It is a little nippy, snow is on the mountain ranges off in the distance and most of my interactions with patrons at the library at least partially mention the weather. Maybe New Zealanders are a lot like the stereotypes we hear about the English because we too are obsessed by weather. This is likely to be because we are a bunch of islands in the middle of the ocean easily impacted by whatever blows over and we have traditionally been an economy built on agriculture.

And before we know it (or in NZ parlance, nek minnit) this blog has become a weather based blog where I share with you minutiae of Wellington’s climate.

Right, back to the task at hand. This is clearly assignment writing. Not inf act blog writing. So it is perhaps a little unexpected to find me sitting in a cafe in the suburbs staring out the window, half listening to the bits of conversations that are drifting around the room, contemplating blog topics rather than censorship.

Some of this is because I am a bit tired. With a good excuse- I stayed up last night reading a book. A book that I could potentially use for my assignment… well… okay. You’ve caught me out. Yes, I am thinking of referring to it in my assignment (it helps that is the only recent major dust up we have had in NZ about a book for a while) but I could easily have discussed it without having read it in it’s entirety. After all that is what the internet is for right? So you can spoil any movie, television show and book without leaving your chair.

No, let’s be honest, I read it until midnight (and then stayed awake for a while afterwards thinking about it) because I enjoyed the excuse to read a book. Admittedly I have spent the last few weeks really focused on ‘controversial’ books so I am getting pretty desperate for something cheerful.

Last night’s book was Into the river by Ted Dawes. It is a prequel to a book that I have never read (Thunder road) and half of me was tempted to go off and reserve it (yay for the public library :-)) so that I can figure out where it ends up. Fear not intrepid supporters of getting productive work done, instead I went off and made use of Mr/Mrs/He/She/Them/It Google to read up on the basic plot summary.

Image result for into the river book

Now, this book hit New Zealand and international headlines by getting banned and pulled from bookstore and library shelves for a wee while. And for the first time in 22 years everyone suddenly had an opinion about censorship, books and YA material (apart from my husband who is completely oblivious of the book or any of the drama around it). I can only imagine it was heady time to be a a librarian in public ans school libraries for a while.

The furore hit international markets and the author was blessed with more publicity than he could have hoped for and the book was picked up by an American publisher. It received a coveted perfect ten in the Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) magazine- the first NZ author to achieve this.

How did I find the book? Well, I read the whole thing into the wee small hours so that says something. It was an engaging story and a tough read because you kept hoping that somehow a positive outcome would be reached. I ended in the night with my heart unequivocally Broken.

The basic tale is an old one, a bright student from a poor rural family wins a scholarship to an elite city boarding school, struggles to fit in, has to face and overcome bullies, works hard to prove himself and learns that he needs to remember who he is and where he comes from. In between you have bullying from teachers, sex, drugs, fast cars, a bit of violence and strong language.

Personally, I didn’t think that any of the sexual content could be considered to be pornography. It was all pretty matter of fact. The racism was heart breaking but realistic. The language was appropriate to the characters. I felt that some of the events would fit better with slightly older characters (in my head the main protagonists were closer to 16 than 13) but then I am a 40-something year old woman so my insight it somewhat clouded.

In a fortnight’s time I really need to see if I can find some uplifting YA material. Surely it is not all this grim.

Anyways. I had better actually stop with the blog and get back to the rant assignment.

Today’s blog is brought to you by the letter D.

D is for the door that cafe patrons keep leaving half open despite the fact that it is clearly jolly cold today.

I tell ya what?! There will be a blimmin Ceremony once I finish this assignment

Actually, chances are there won’t be a ceremony because I have another assignment due exactly a week later and in truth I haven’t even read the question. For all I know it will be something that required four weeks of careful meticulous measurements of the something.

Alright team, I have given up over thinking and have got my assignment topic. Now I just need to fill it out with actual information. Problem is, it is a speech and my oral presentations are in fact very similar to this blog. Filled with asides and off tangent conversations so it is going fabulously and full steam ahead. Providing that is that we won’t to use up the word count with off-topic banter.

And really it is just a rant and funnily enough it is quite hard to back up rants with actual proper research papers. No-one seems to publish decent information that simply backs up my passion pieces. Double sigh. What a pain in the tuchus that I need to cite at least five reputable publications and five pieces of CYA literature. Clearly next time I put together a rant I need to focus on finding research to back it up. Obviously I can’t run for politics or leadership with that kind of crazy idea.

So, if you guys happen to have strong convictions about censorship and why it is that libraries are potentially subtly guilty of censorship regularly, be a darling and get yourself published in some peer reviewed journal for me. Ideally if that could happen in the next day or two I would be chuffed.

In other news I have read a whole bunch of YA literature in the hopes of being inspired for this assignment. I was looking for a terrible YA romance novel and which had terrible role models that I could use as a contrast for a disputed NZ novel (Into the river by Ted Dawes), as well as a bunch of challenged books to discuss. And my fabulous colleagues helped me find a few potential books.

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My pile of Monday night’s reading material.

 

Unfortunately, my best hope for a book that was surely going to meet all my requirements turned out to be surprisingly engrossing. Now, I will readily admit that I have never been a romance reader (apart from occasional boring rainy Sundays when I lived with my Nana and was driven to reading Mills and Boon) so I don’t know what I expected of Huntley Fitzpatrick’s The boy most likely to. But I guess I didn’t honestly expect to read the whole book. I kind of thought I would read enough of it to get a gist of it and then skip merrily to the end. And then I would be able to quote some dreadful dialogue, sound pious at the dreadful role model for relationships and job would be done. Sadly the book was actually pretty good. The general synopsis is bad boy tries to make good, moves into garage of very good girl, add in some chemistry and voila! Sounds terrible right? It was surprisingly entertaining. Our resident bad boy (Tim) was funny and relatively insightful, the good girl was sarcastic and knew what she wanted and both characters were fairly well fleshed out. They had ups and downs and neither of them did anything that seemed completely irredeemable.

Two boys kissing by David Leviathan had potential for being dreadful but sadly it also let me down. It tells the story of several gay teens who are in various stages along the coming out spectrum and centers around two boys who are trying to get the record for longest kiss. The story is told from the perspective of spirits of gay ancestors which took me a while to gel with, but the heart breaking and realistic narrative encouraged me to keep on reading.

So tomorrow’s lunch time entertainment will be burrowing away in the shelves hopefully having more success at finding material that can be challenged based on general rubbishness rather than just on the usual complaints of sex, drugs and obscenities.

Today’s blog post is brought to you by the letter H.

H is for hot water bottles, the only way I have managed to get any work done today is with the able assistance of a hot water bottle because it is super cold at my house.

 

Where has the day gone?

It is Sunday (in my head I am in fact saying “It is Sunday my dude” in my teenage son’s voice) and there are a couple of problems with this.

  1. I have not decided on my assignment topic (you know the one that I said I would settle on my Friday 10 pm). Yeah…
  2. I never wrote that blog post in response to yesterday’s daily prompt. The prompt was Archaic and I had a good sense of where I was going with it. I had even mentally started flinging sentences and a theme together. It was going to be aweso… err… it was going to be a pithy rant about libraries being archaic (unexpected plot twist they’re not).
  3. I am locked in to church (next plot twist, I too am one of those crazy Christians) and work for the day. And the joy of a 5:30 a.m wake up time, is that by 5 pm tonight when I make it home I will be a bit over the day and ready for bed.
  4. The whole assignment thing is lingering large and loud in my head and yet…. I am no further on with a sense of where I need to be with it and realistically I am not likely to really look at it properly until tomorrow.

On a positive I am a little closer to being finished for the semester so maybe I will just focus my mental activity to that.

Today’s daily prompt is unfortunately Doppelgänger and that is a way harder topic to work into a blog so that will definitely teach me for slacking off last night (AKA going to watch my first roller derby game to support a friend who can rightly be proud of her hard work). So buckle in while I attempt to get something coherent together for this blog.

Maybe I will try and figure out if there is a doppelgänger that I can blame for any bad behaviour. If I think about it at the moment I feel like I am in a season of bad behaviour. I’ll be honest, because what is a blog but a chance to be honest, I have been struggling with life lately. Life feels a little like I am constantly walking through molasses or through quick sand. I feel a bit meh. Or I lurch to feeling a bit sensitive or cross and most certainly over it. Perhaps I will just say that it was all the other me’s fault.

Or maybe we can point to Google and say it is the doppelgänger for libraries. There are certainly a pile of blogs, opinion pieces and news articles that claim that libraries are no longer needed (archaic in fact Image result for winky emoji) and that Google can provide us with all we need. Of course we all know that this is bunk. Neil Gaiman will tell you that “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one”. I could start a decent rant about this topic but let’s face it, you probably all know what I am going to say and I need to go to work.

So maybe we might keep libraries (and librarians) and leave Google to keep being an awesome source of quick facts, easy to find quotes, and weird and wonderful things like the Google Arts and Culture app which lets you find your museum doppelgänger. You need to go and have a look at this article and admire the matches. By all accounts it is only available in the U.S. so sadly for most of us we cannot yet find our museum doppelgänger.

And now I had better focus on the job at hand. Here’s to good rest of your weekend to you guys.

The blog is brought to you by the letter B.

B is for bother I am running late. Off for a quick dash across town to work.

 

 

Ughh. Computer is still updating

My blog and assignment was looking grim because Windows 10 was…doing another update. And apparently this update needed several weeks to really bed in. Fortunately after several restarts and a considerable length of time spent at 19% my computer caught up and we are back on track.

Now I need another excuse for not being productive.

I have a couple of days of the late shift happening this week so I am slightly out of synch with the day which means that I get myself bamboozled as to when I should take my lunch break and when an afternoon tea break fits in to the day. And my poor long suffering and fabulous husband ends up starving while waiting for me to get home for dinner.

This morning I realised with a sense of vague doom that my assignments are due a week apart. In my messed up head I had made an Assumption that they were a fortnight apart. On a positive this means that it will all be over quicker so big excitement for that.

I am still dithering on the topic of choice for my last children’s lit assignment. I am torn between censorship (because I discovered I felt a bit passionate about that topic in my last blog) and bibliotherapy because well… I don’t know anything about it and it sounds potentially interesting/kooky/mad as bat shit/fantastic.

If you do a quick Google search for it you discover that it comes up with a bunch of links to dictionary meanings, a few articles in the Guardian and the New Yorker and a website that offers sessions for bibliotherapy (called The School of life). Interestingly enough the School of Life bibliotherapists are discussed in the Guardian article so I felt I had gone full circle by the time I reached there.

The idea behind bibliotherapy is that books can  be used as a treatment for psychological or mental disorders (according to the Google dictionary) and according to the lecture notes it uses books to understand and potentially assist in helping to solve a problem or social issue. The idea sounds a bit intriguing with the potential for being completely condescending and dire in the same breath.

A quick hunt around the world of the internet (thanks Google) found lists of recommended books for various ‘issues’. Interestingly Rainbow Fish pops up on lists for books about social awareness and friendship and that book seems like a travesty to me. Give all your scales away so that everyone will be your friend?  Ughh.

On the more mature front is books about adoption, anxiety, bullying, depression, etc. And some of these seem pretty prescriptive, you know the sort: “look at the goat, he is worried but he talked to his mum and they decided he shouldn’t be worried. Now he is happy. The end”. And I can only wonder about the books about bullying because a) it is popular topic of conversation for society, b) books that are explicitly written for the purpose of helping young people cope with bullying have the real risk of being rubbish because c) bullying and responding to it is not simple and straight forward (and let’s face it, the old tell a teacher thing never ends well).

Maybe in the next 12 hours or so I will be inspired by a completely different topic (I am currently hiding from the idea of tackling inclusiveness- cultures, religions, races, disabilities…….. How to cover it all in a single oral presentation?????).

I am feeling seriously Guilty because I started this blog Thursday morning and am finally getting it done on Friday morning. Turns out that the late shift is not so productive in terms of study- the morning free time it taken up by boring housework and then the evening time is taken up by work and wham before you know it you’re off to bed, realising guiltily that you have let the whole blog/assignment writing side down.

Fingers crossed that today I will be way better organised and by 10 p.m. tonight I will be the proud owner of an assignment topic!

Yeah, I don’t really believe that either. But you never know.

Today and yesterday’s blog is brought to you by the letter…..errrr….T?

T is for The timewaster letters  by Robin Cooper, which I have just reserved from my local public library (honestly you should all head to yours and appreciate the marvel that is their collection and their fabulous hardworking staff, you will not be disappointed). After dealing with so many tough topics I feel the need to find something slightly more light to read as a palate cleanser, so thanks to the power of that search engine I found a list of humorous books recommended by some literary types (although the first book on the list was Catcher in the rye so potentially I have found a list slightly too upmarket for my current needs).

Image result for letters of a timewaster

Want to be all introspective for awhile? Me neither.

If you are keen for the opportunity to spend way too much time over thinking then, can I point you to the direction of YA fiction.

For the last module of the CYA literature paper we are looking at issues and controversies in fiction and to answer one of the acitvities I needed to discuss some fiction that was potentially controversdial (in a violence, sex rock’n’roll suicicde kind of way). I am not a reader of children’s fiction and haven’t read YA fiction since….err well probably ever (apologies to all those horrified by this confession). I don’t think there really was a YA section to any real extent when I was a teenager- I was a member of the crossover fiction brigade I guess (which is fantasy/sci-fi).

So armed with a vague idea of what I needed to read, I whisked down to my local library (AKA my job) and selected a random selection of material which I thought might meet the general criteria of potentially challenging works or material that might be relevant to bibliotherapy (which I think is going to be my assignment topic). Since 4 p.m. yesterday I have spent my waking hours reading (with an AGM and a two hour live performance of one of my favourite podcasts No such things as a fish breaking up the books).

I have now read:

Playlist for the dead by Michelle Falkoff

See ya Simon by David Hill

Thirteen reasons why by Jay Asher

Stanley will probably be fine by Sally Pla

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Stanley will probably be fine is a children’s fiction book, probably aimed at the 10 – 12 year old market, about Stanley a young socially awkward guy with increasing anxiety levels and suffering from sensory overload issues (ably ramped up by the principal’s constant emergency drills). He is faced with an absent father, a harried and busy mother, and a school full of children who don’t understand him. The author writes realistically about a boy who is easily overwhelmed by life who with the help of a comic book competition, a would-be super hero and a new neighbour he manages to break out of his self-imposed shell. The book would be a great read for kids who maybe feel a little overwhelmed themselves or for kids to get a bit of an insight into peers who may struggle with so-called ‘normal’ activities.

See ya Simon is a slender book, short on pages, long on feels. Simon has muscular Image result for see ya simondystrophy and the book is narrated by Nathan, his best friend who is watching his friend slowly shrink away. The story is written by New Zealand author, David Hill, and he clearly understands the dynamics of school children and how to successfully intermingle a heart breaking story with enough humour to keep you reading even if you know how it will end. This touching tale should be compulsory reading for anyone who wants to quietly sniffle in the car outside their teenagers guitar lesson.

The last two books both deal with that dreaded and very Awkward and challenging subject, teenage suicide. And unsurprisingly neither book was an easy read.

I have not watched the TV series of Thirteen reasons why (I don’t have Netflix and in truth I am leery of feeling miserable watching tv or movies). The book? It was interesting, heart breaking, filled with credible situations and people, and a little frustrating. I was a teenager once and most of the situations that led to Hannah’s suicide felt like stuff that had happened either to me or around me. Being a teen is brutal. People are shits.

I didn’t personally enjoy the writing style but I always struggle with stories (books, movies, tv etc) that have narrate a tale with flashbacks. And I can understand why some people have complained that Hannah just blames everyone else for her choice to kill herself. But… who hasn’t been a teenager and looked at everything that is going wrong and blamed everyone else for it? Isn’t that the nature of being a teenager, everything is happening at once and often stuff is happening to you. It’s a giant mishamsh of school work, peer dramas, biology, adult’s expectations, stress, study, being told not to be childish, having decisions made for you, being sure that everyone is judging you, realising that some people are indeed judging you, and then lets throw in hormones into the mix. Did I cringe at the choices being made? Yip. Did I wish that there was a greater sense that something positive would come out of Hannah’s tapes? Yip. Do I think that it could be valuable for helping teens understand unforeseen consequences of their actions and a need for everyone to just not be shits. Maybe.

From the outside (keeping in mind that I am not the target reader for the book) I have a slight unease about whether the story does slightly glorify suicide. There wasn’t a sense of the hopelessness for Hannah, a sense of her feeling that it is all too overwhelming, an idea that Hannah had other options but she just wasn’t able to access them. It felt like revenge. And I am not 100% sure how comfortable I felt with that.

But, in saying all that, if the book does help one person feel less alone, offers them insight into other’s lives, provide them with a springboard for a needed conversation with someone who can help or who needs help, then the book is a winner. Every book is not for every person but I sure hope that this book reaches the people that need it.

Playlist for the dead has less clear cut answers for narrator Sam. Hayden, killed himself and left a playlist to give an explanation for why. Sam works through the songs and attempts to understand why it all unraveled for his best and only friend. Hayden’s life was challenging- his wealthy parents were disappointed in him, his brother bullied him at home and at school and his learning disabilities left him with a constant disadvantage. Sam was heartbroken at the loss of his friend and the sense of overwhelming shame and self-blame that he battles through leads him on a hunt to make sense of the playlist. He needs answers and the playlist just leads to more questions. The story is well-told and I was as entranced by the possibility that Hayden was talking to Sam through a computer game as Sam was. And the story provided a similar narrative that people’s actions had unexpected consequences as Thirteen reasons why. There was no perfect ending to this book either but it did feel a little more hopeful and I would even maybe consider… (shhh I’ll whisper this quietly) suggesting that my teenager read it.

After all of this slightly hard hitting reading I need a nap. Or some lunch.

This blog was brought to you by the letter G.

G is for guinea pigs, who are always there for me to pat and help me feel a little better about my day after reading too many books about death.

Sunday. A day to contemplate CYA literature controversy

Nothing says happy Sunday like reading module notes about controversies that surround some CYA literature and attempting to navigate not only the reading and module activities but also my feelings and opinions on the topics.

You see where are on the home stretch of the children’s literature paper so once i have managed to get the study bit done I can tackle my final assignment for this paper. And man alive I am looking forward to getting it done because then I have one more assignment due (for my other research paper) and I am done for the semester. And into the promised land of a good fortnight or so of no study! I will have a weekend like normal people. Well, sort of a weekend. I work weekends so it will really be a Monday and Tuesday with no obligations. Just need to get through the last month.

There is just this minor Complication of two assignments impeding the happy time that involves me reading books out of choice, maybe doing some baking, a bit of PlayStation time and hanging out with my friends and family.

Now back to controversies and issues in CYA literature. We have a couple of things to choose from- violence in books, humour in books (who knew that would be an issue), diversity (or lack of diversity), bibliotherapy, censorship, and crossover fiction. What I need to find is an aspect of one of these topics and write an assignment on it.

Censorship feels like an easy hit I figure. Let’s face it, librarians are anti-censorship. That’s our job right? But the more you dig around both the internet and real life, you discover that libraries are often homes of censorship but in quiet and subtle ways. Sometimes it is through weeding (easily justified, we always need to make space for new books), sometimes it may be through not purchasing a type of book (anyone know why our library doesn’t own any erotica when by all accounts other NZ public libraries have them in their collection), how about just quietly issuing a book you don’t like and accidentally never returning it to the shelf (this has been discussed in a number of would-be anonymous forums and even list-servs that I subscribe to).

In theory of course librarians are anti-censorship but in reality how many libraries are in fact staffed by librarians who have spent time reading and developing a wide understanding of the issue.

How many librarians know the right thing to do and say, but like the rest of us non-professionals, are swayed by their ‘gut’ feelings? I have had conversations with staff who are happy to go through and cull the 200s (religions and beliefs) in the non-fiction because it is all rubbish anyway. And yes, in theory there is a policy and guidelines about how material is selected for weeding but it is designed with a necessary flexibility so that you can make decisions based on your community. If all religion is bunk why do you need a copy of Love wins by Rob Bell? Who needs another Koran when it is rarely issued?

Censorship in the children and young adult section is even more complex. Everyone wants the best material for them but we all have vastly different opinions about what that looks like. Books that irk me don’t fazed others. I personally strongly dislike the popular picture book series by Stephanie Blake including the first one “Poobum”. I think the rabbit is rude and I don’t really think that our early childhood friends need extra encouragement saying poo and bum. Would I remove it from the collection? No. People and kids love it. But I never put it on the face out shelves when I am tidying them. Is this censorship? No, but let’s be honest, I need to be careful that I am not a little enthusiastic about checking the book for ‘condition’ whenever it passes me by.

Other people have antipathy to Captain Underpants (the book series encourages disobedience, vandalism of school property, making fun of authorities figures). Me, I just see it as a series which gets whole bunch of kids reading. The book makes full use of scatological humour to entice kids to read it and I was unbothered when my son was a fan (by this stage he knew enough to know that running around and saying poo etc was not going to go down well with his mother).

And let’s not even start on YA material with it’s drug taking, drinking, violence, abuse, neglect, sexuality, poverty, and (shock horror) bad language (as if the darlings have not heard it all before in their classrooms/homes/streets/youtube videos).

The world that our kids are living in is not the world of Famous Five, spiffing lemonade and Timmy the dog. Having books in the CYA collection that deal with some of the nitty gritty that life throws at us is not going to make rewind the clock to when George, Anne, Julian and Dick (tee hee, the inner child in me is sniggering at Dick as a name) could continue undergoing their life of clear middle-class neglect (they went off to islands by themselves, chased after criminals, George was clearly desperate for some parental affection from her emotionally absent and angry father, honestly lets just call CYFS now and get the ball rolling).

Do I personally like kids getting enamoured in books that make me depressed just reading the back cover? Meh. But I do like the part where hopefully they learn something about themselves and others. I am encouraged by reports that say that kids develop empathy for others from reading.

So, as much as I would like to wrap our wee precious children in cotton wool and allow them access to only uplifting or funny books (Terry Pratchet and Douglas Adams books would be on the top of my list), I can see the value and real need for books like Stars beneath our feet by David Barclay Moore, The hate u give by Angie Thomas and Thirteen reasons why by Jay Asher.

Image result for douglas adams books Technically, this was inspired by “Oh not not again” (a BBC radio show written well after Douglas Adams premature death) as well as the other Hitchikers Guide books but I am a fan of Lego and I do enjoy a pretty picture for the blog so it ended up here. And yay for Flickr and artists such as Iain Heath allowing for the reuse of their works.

 

As you can tell I don’t probably have enough to say about censorship so maybe I’ll take on something else. Clearly I have a hang up about toilet-based humour so that could be a starting point. But bibliotherapy sounds interesting….. And this team, is how my assignment research gets out of control. I start on one subject and am easily distracted by the something else and before you know it, it’s 10 pm on a Sunday and you haven’t got anything done.

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P is for procrastination because..well it is obvious isn’t it?