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.

This blog was brought to you by P.

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


Alright team, who’s got another idea for a blog post topic?

Normally when I am stuck for ideas I use the daily prompt to get my brain ticking for blog posts. Today the prompt is Infect. Yeah, infect. And how do I work that into a blog about libraries?

I try not to think about the whole infection thing when I am at work. Some of the books that come back to us are not always…errrr in the best state and certainly some of them have an ‘unusual’ smell which really doesn’t need thinking about (I should add that we will often weed material which is clearly not fit for humanity).

In fact I have a colleague who strongly dislikes touching the books at all which makes his job choice somewhat unexpected. Mind you, back in the day when I worked at the hospital (as a respiratory scientist) we had a respiratory resident who could not stand the sight of sputum. I get it, sputum is gross. Let’s face it even the word sounds gross. But in respiratory medicine it is kind of a significant part of the job. You kind of had to get over any heebejeebees you had but this resident would flee the room. Goodness knows what she would have done if I hadn’t saved her for the jam jar of collected sputum that a well-meaning patient had collected.

But moving away from that terrible mental image I have put in your minds (sorry, not sorry) and back to libraries.

I guess infection can be a potential issue with some of the things that come in with the books. Recently the Guardian newspaper posted an article about random stuff that patrons used as bookmarks (thanks to my favourite father-in-law for sending me the link :-)). And some of it is downright disturbing (used condom? Ughh). Bacon seemed to be pretty common, one library ended up with three books that had cheese as their bookmark and the circular saw one just made me laugh. There was a recent email chain that went around all 12 of our libraries discussing unexpected things that happen at the library and sandwiches in books and a chopping board being returned came up (and a number of drive-thrus as in a car drove into the front of the library). So maybe infect is not such a hard process to link to libraries.

And now I am embarrassed to say that this blog post is well and truly over due (got distracted by study, life and last night dessert with a friend) so I will quickly finish.

Remember team, bacon is not for book marks… And one final thing (honest). If I google image search unusual bookmarks and look for images labelled for reuse (as a would-be librarian I feel a moral as well as almost professional in a an amateur kind of way to follow copyright legislation) I get this image:

Image result for unusual bookmarks

Apparently a US airforce hospital is getting an advanced birthing simulator. And the mind boggles as to how that links to unusual bookmarks.

What about a robot book returner?

Singapore, the home of… errr a cool zoo, a cable car, rules about chewing gum and…shopping? Yeah, off the top of my addled head I don’t know almost anything about Singapore. But I now know that they have a new regional library.

It’s a five storey building with a culinary studio for cooking classes, a floor for early literacy (0-6 years), a floor for children and teens with a makerspace section, sawing machines, and a floor for senior readers with lounge seating and a quiet atmosphere. It sounds amazing! And the thing that astonishes me the most is… they have a robot as a mobile book return spot. Once it is full it heads off to the sorting spot for staff to wrangle the books for shelving. Mind you, they also have an auto sorting machine which sorts the books into the right spots for shelving. I mean my mind is blown by the whole schamozle.

And it all sounds rather fabulous but when you read the general library news at the moment it is all “shutting”, “job losses”, and “pay cuts”. And this library sounds expensive.

So here is where I got really excited. Education is the second biggest budget category for Singapore (defence is the biggest and considering the state of the world and where they are situated I guess i will cut them some slack for such a defence high spend). Yes, you heard that correctly according to the director for digital literacy Adrian Lim “We give priority to human development, which is key to the country’s success in innovation,”

Yip. Education is so important to them they want people to have access to a fantastic source of learning and literacy- libraries. Well who woulda thunk it. What a crazy revolutionary idea. Here’s hoping that the powers that be around the world catch wind of this turn of events and start having a good hard think about their budgetary priorities.

And Singapore are not alone in their support of libraries. Finland blows us all out of the water because their population of 5.5 million they borrow 68 million books a year which means each person borrowed roughly 12 books each. In terms of library funding, Finland spends roughly NZ$98 per person whereas (in the home of the ever dwindling number of staffed libraries) the U.K spends about NZ$28.

Finland is about to embark on a massive library build in Helsinki for tor roughly NZ$191 million. This is another country that embraces libraries and sees them as more than just a book repository- some loan out sports equipment, power tools and one library in Vantaa even offers karaoke.

Anyway, enough waxing lyrical about libraries from me.

One thing that linked those two libraries is some of my personal favourites from children’s literature






You see Singapore Library had a Moomin day last year and Moomin and his family and friend’s adventures were written by a Finnish author. And I love the fact that these books that I grew up loving are so very popular around the world. The family was one that you want to be part of- new characters join them and are invited into the fold with such love by Moominmamma. Exciting things happen. The family goes off on adventures and faces up to their fears and eventually in the final book in series disappears. I haven’t read them for years (although I own the whole set) because a piece of me fears that they won’t live up to my loving nostalgia of them. But looking at the pictures of all the happy faces in the Singapore library and admiring the beautiful things in the online (wonder if they deliver to New Zealand) Moomin shop has inspired me. It might be time to dust off the Moomin family and fall in love with them again.

Today’s blog is brought to you by L.

L is for Last ship which is not the name of a book that a patron was looking for. She was sure of the title, she was sure of the author (Kath Duggan) and she was sure that we had a copy of it because it’s been out for ages. The book was called The New Ships. It was not by Kate Duignan and it was released last week.

It is with Slight trepidation that I pushed submit

But it is done. The worst assignment that has ever been written by these tired fingers has been sent off into the internet ether to be marked. And I would like to spend the evening either a)castigating myself for complaining so much about study b) celebrating the fact that it is handed in with two whole hours to spare c) worrying about the fact that I am pretty confident that I will be scrapping the barrel for a pass in this paper.

Instead I am relieved that I never have to contemplate research paradigms again (I still have no real idea what the hell they are yet alone what the paradigm for my research proposal is) but slightly terrified that I have two weeks before the assignment for the other paper is due. Somehow I have managed to get just enough behind the module work to be frustrating. Not enough to panic but enough to feel like a fool whenever someone’s activity gets posted to the forum page and I am nowhere near that section.

The next topic is writing an oral presentation on a controversial topic in the CYA literary world so at least interpretivism and conceptual definitions will not be lurking at me. Thank heavens for small mercies.

Today for your viewing pleasure can I recommend you go off and watch the finalists for the prestigious International Museum Dance Off competition. You will find links to them on their website:

Much to my son’s bemusement I watched them all with a weird fascination. He pointed out several times that I should have been doing my assignment but…well… it is a museum dance off. How could I look away?

Anyhow, voting is open to everywhere in the world so go off and appreciate the amazing enthusiasm of the staff and volunteers at various museums.

And there are probably some books that I could recommend but… I have had about three hours sleep in the last 48 hours so I am not completely competent at…well anything really.

This blog was brought to you by the letter Z.

Z is for zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz




This is the cheerful post

I have been correctly accused…. hmmm, accused is too strong of a word, let’s go with I have been identified as writing ‘depressing’ blogs. Apparently I need to be more upbeat. And so with a fanfare, I present you with…….

A cheerful post.

Here are some things that make me happy:

  • Guinea pigs
  • Llamas
  • Alpacas
  • Kittens
  • Cake
  • Holidays
  • Disney World (honestly, I loved it)
  • Japanese food
  • Patting animals
  • My family
  • Libraries
  • A good book
  • Finding the perfect creative commons image to use on my blog (side stepped for this blog by using my own photos)

How’s that for cheerful?

Today’s daily prompt is Forest.

And I did what any sensible person would do and immediately wondered if we had forest libraries. Forests (and in the bush from a NZ perspective) would be a great place to put a library. And lo, in Alabama there is a fabulous library, Vestavia Hills, which is surrounded by forest. They used the timber from the site cleared for the library as building materials as well as making use of a whole bunch of recycled and energy saving materials. They have a fireplace! They even circulate hammocks as part of their collection!

Somehow the managed to get Elephant and Piggy to be part of their team!

Over in China, Liyuan library was designed to blend in with the beautiful surroundings and it looks amazing.

Liyuan Library - Interior


Liyuan Library - Exterior

And finally on the more esoteric front, Miguel Ángel Blanco creates books with things he collects from intentional walks. He collects ferns, lichens, moss, stones, sticks, earth, pine cones, etc. and mounts them on various papers and the binds them. It is a form of art, a catalogue of nature and an amazing journal of a man finding his place in his environment (at least as much as I can tell by looking through Bibliotecha del Bosque website with no translate option appearing on my screen).

Miguel Ángel Blanco .  Biblioteca del Bosque

Now all this cheerfulness has plain old tuckered me out so I am off to try and battle (no too negative), what about struggle through? (gosh almost as bad as battle), endure? (no still sounds like I am not enjoying spending all my spare hours trying to write a piss poor research proposal which will not be used and in fact provides me with a very limited idea of the actual process that real researchers go through, thus making it a complete waste of my time)…… errr….. (last chance here)…… I am off to go and spend some time attempting to further my education through the assessment process.

That sounded positive, right?

Fingers crossed.

Today’s blog was brought to you by? Ummm I?

I is for the ice-block which I ate while traversing my way round the internet locating appropriately beautiful foresty libraries.




Rebel, rebel, your face is a mess


 Come on now. When the daily prompt of Rebel came up the first thing I reckon 90% of us all immediately did was to sing David Bowie’s classic Rebel, Rebel (Hot damn I love you so!).

And this lead me to a little lunchtime internet rabbit hole of looking up misheard song lyrics and to my amusement there are whole bunch of options for David Bowie to have sung with a few of my favourites being:


You’ve torn your grave
Your face is a maze

(“You’re torn your dress, Your face is a mess“)


You like maids and I like them old
(“You like me and I like it all“)


You’re a tube of nine success

(“You’re a juvenile success“)


Still none of that moves me any closer to writing a blog post or to assignment writing which is where I should be focusing my attention. I now have four days to get the assignment done.

I have never been so far away from an assignment before in my years of mature student studying. I typically tell myself and everyone around me that the assignment is due the week before it is due and I normally get it down by my modified date. Or certainly sometime within that week between the pretend due date and the actual one. This time I have four days and when I look at my word document I can hear crickets chirping.  And I really no sense of how in the world I am going to get my shit together and get it done.

I have work all weekend and sure that gives me the evenings but I am in a coma by about 8 pm (it is 8:30 and I am sitting here yawning and desperately wishing for enthusiasm and motivation to tackle research but instead I am wishing to head to bed).

Adding to the layer of excitement is pain (not mental pain and general whinginess) but actual pain- a sore head is making me a less that exciting individual to hang out with. On a positive I am getting really good at monitoring the time as I am getting edgy as to when i can take my next dose of voltaren.

So, I am sitting in my peaceful lounge (husband and son off at the pub for a jazz show) and my head is aching, the guinea pigs are regularly clambering up my leg to check if I have a secret stash of food (I don’t but that doesn’t stop inquisitive noses from sniffing me), and I am contemplating how libraries can fit into the rebel daily prompt.

I mean libraries are full of rebellion really. People often seem to think of librarians as rules enforcers and people that want everyone to be quiet and reading dirgey literature but libraries are full of rebels and people pushing back against authority.

In the U.S., librarians fought for the right for patrons not to have their reading history given to the National Security Agency. Librarians in the U.K. are taking to the streets to fight against the closure of libraries. In Iraq, librarians protected a Baghdad library risking life and limb to move precious books and guarding the library against fighting in 2003 and continue to defend it in the face if I.S. threats in 2014.

The American Library Association contentiously is even willing to go to court and argue for people’s rights to free and open internet access (AKA they went to court to argue for the right for library users to watch Porn on library computers or while using library WiFi). For your own sake whatever you do, if you type  “ALA porn” into Google trying to find an interesting article that discusses this issue don’t hit images by accident and definitely check the web site address before you go there.

Libraries contain books filled with ‘forbidden ‘ knowledge (as fabulously described in The Scottish Book Trust’s blog by Thomas Welsh) and it is put there with the support of the rebellious librarians who want people to have a choice with what they read. We might not like some of the books but I will fight for everyone’s right to read what they want.

Now I am fired up, almost inspired and best of all I only have an hour until the next voltaren hit.

Today’s blog is brought to you by…….V

V is for voltaren, the only reason I made it through the day 😉


How can I link today’s daily prompt to the library?

The struggle is real, how do I link Laughter (today’s daily prompt) with my work or study? And people do not necessarily see libraries as a place of laughter. But, in the world of public libraries (well in my wee world of public libraries) there is a lot of laughter- certainly amongst the staff and frequently with the patrons.

I had started this blog post in the morning and there was a wee ….not quite rant but something slightly bigger than chat about having to laugh or else you might yell at rude patrons but I feared it was a bit too negative. Really libraries can be fun and filled with unexpected laughter. There is always friendly and funny patrons to have a laugh with. Most of the people that talk to during the day are pretty awesome. Some of them even save up their ‘dad jokes’ for me -one patron assured me he couldn’t be insane because then he’d be wet and in France (a little play on the river Seine for my entertainment).

And luckily we have considerably more positive interactions than negative ones. But as we all know the negative ones stick in your memory so fantastically. The patron who always complains about the weeding seems to unfortunately take up more room than the patron who thanked me for helping her find information about starting a small business. And that is frustrating because overall I enjoy the public interactions that I have. I don’t dread being out on the desk because usually I get the opportunity to enjoy the friendliness of our patrons. So maybe I will focus on flushing out the negative Nelllies (apologies if your name is Nelly, feel free to swap it to a name of your choice if this is you) and try and remember our positive patrons instead.

Although the grumpy or unreasonable patrons do make for better stories…..

Ah well. Today I have a recommendation for people to go off and join the LibraryThing early reviewers group. LibraryThing is this website that lets you catalogue your book (movie, music and media as well) collection and it pulls information from roughly 2000 libraries so you can get all the useful cataloguing info (dewey number, publishers etc).

You can out in reviews and there are forums for discussions and all sorts of good and wonderful things. But the thing that impresses me most is that you can join up with the early reviewers group and every month a whole list of books are offered up for free for review. The books that you can get vary depending on which country you are in (due to rights, publishers, postage etc) but a whole pile of authors gives away copies of their books for the cost of a free review. The reviews don’t have to be long and filled with highfalutin literary jargon just a couple of sentences about whether you like the book is aok.

New Zealand doesn’t get a huge number of physical books up for the taking but we get the opportunity to ask for most of the e-books. This last month I read and enjoyed Elle Simpson’s The paella that saved the world. This was a quirky tale of a teenage girl who faced down aliens who were trying to take over the world. The writing style was conversational and filled with humorous asides (which unsurprisingly I loved) and it kept me amused and entertained when my brain was too tired to do any constructive study. It reminded me a bit of early Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams (with less of the really clever sciency stuff).

And now I am off to stare at my assignment and see if I can get the word count up (or in fact if I can answer even just one question vaguely satisfactorily).

Today’s blog was brought to you by T.

T is for endless technical difficulties which just make everyone sigh. Fingers crossed that tomorrow will bring libraries that can successfully print, self-issue machines that will allow for eftpos payments and receipt printers that will cut off at the end of each slip.