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Connecting with librarians

I recently received my Fall 2009 issue of Young Adult Library Services (YALS) put out by YALSA. As I was reading it cover to cover (it’s my first issue in about 18 months) I was really interested in the YALSA Membership Engagement Survey Results by Candice A. Wing-Yee Mack and Melissa McBride.

As I was reading this I was commenting about the article to my husband, who is also a librarian at a public library. After two years in library school, I’m finding that it can be hard to connect with other youth services librarians outside of work.  I’m the only librarian at my library who works with the kids 6-18. Yes, there are blogs and Facebook but I know I  do better with face-to-face connections. Many times in recent months I would have loved to have had a mentor who I could turn to when I was feeling overwhelmed.

I’m going to my first regional conference for YA librarians this week so I hope to meet several people there to make some local connections. I’ve also been horrible at keeping up with my former library school classmates, so in a way I have no excuses.

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Last Thursday, I was greeted by the latest American Libraries Direct in my inbox and being that we were in the throes of Banned Books Week, I was understandably intrigued by the headline Even Banned Books Week has its detractors.  The link revealed a blog post by Kevin Melrose, who is “maddened” by a recent opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal–Finding Censorship Where There Is None by Mitchell Muncy.

I too was pretty maddened.

I’m one of those “awful librarians” who promoted Banned Books Week with a display–in fact, I even made it a contest.  Teens were given a “quiz” with clues about the plots of various challenged books.  They got a raffle ticket for every answer they got right with a chance to win an “I Read Banned Books” tote bag or button.

Banned Books Week

(For more photos of my display, see our Flickr account.)

Now, I can admit that  Muncy is right about one thing–“Banned Books Week” is a misnomer and it does make it difficult to explain it to a teen who will only listen long enough for the sound bite.  By the end of the week, I definitely had the 10-second schpeel memorized…”Banned Books Week is a week that we celebrate that each individual has the freedom to read what they want to.  Would you like to enter the contest?”

With that said, Muncy is also wrong about an awful lot, too.–most notably when he writes, “What inflames the ALA, in other words, are attempts by parents to guide their children’s education.”

Actually, Mr. Muncy, this is not what inflames the ALA or its member librarians.  What inflames us is when parents attempt to guide the education of other people’s children by asking that a book be removed from the shelves of classrooms, school or public libraries.  Parents are free to guide their own children’s education.  In fact, just last week, I encouraged a parent at a home school meeting at which I was presenting to continue to be involved in her daughter’s book choices.

And, while Muncy rightfully argues that most challenges occur in schools, he doesn’t acknowledge the fact that many schools offer alternate selections…and many recent high profile school challenges have been regarding books on summer reading lists, which, to my knowledge, students are never required to read exhaustively.

Of course Mr. Muncy has a right to his opinion…but, if he doesn’t mind, I think I’ll continue to encourage teens to read widely in the pages of whatever books interest them most.

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