April 22, 2012

Give Bunnies a Chance

Recently in our local paper it was reported that a mom wouldn't return a book to her son's elementary school library. The book was The Book of Bunny Suicides, a comic book that depicts bunnies killing themselves in a variety of ways. I know...sounds hilarious. She is adamantly opposed to the book, and feels it should actually be burned. Well since I have am having an issue with the banning of my comic books in my library (by a mom who feels they are inappropriate for anyone), my anger flared so I did what any angry person would do and wrote a letter to the editor..."words are mightier than the sword" my friends. Here is my letter:

It's amazing to me that in this time of great progress and vast availability of information that we still have people who want to burn books! In regard to the mom who stole The Book of Bunny Suicides from the school...I wonder what other parents in her school district think. Does this mom realize she now is speaking for her entire community? That she now is parenting every child by censoring that books? She is saying no one else has the right to read this story or laugh at its comics.

What gives her the right to take everyone else's away? She says she doesn't care "if your kid is 16, 17, 18" reading this book is "wrong."

Yet this book could be the right way to discuss why kids take that desperate step. It could start an open discussion with your child about the third highest cause of death among teenagers. Not to mention, it's bunnies?! If it gets kids reading instead of playing video games, I'll take two for my kids.

This was written  a year ago but never posted.  Book banning is something every librarian has to deal with  during their career.  I feel school libraries see the brunt of it.  Parents are worried that their babies will be influenced in a way they don't approve of.  My daughter's class is going through this with Tin Tin, and my library is going through this with The Hunger Games.

I understand we want to keep our children young and innocent for as long as possible, but once they start school the influences they receive will not (and should not) be 100% controlled by us the parents anymore. 
Most often two things actually happen:
1) The kids don't get the references we are so worried about.  During the Golden Compass scandal I kept telling the parents that the students who read this book 99% of the time did not get the atheist undertone of this wondrous fantasy series.  It went over their heads.  They focused on the awesome idea of the deamon - the animal equivalent of our soul.  And if they did get it, they are old enough to have a discussion.

2)  Your student already knows about sex, violence, and cuss words.  The one thing parents complain about is sex...NOT violence...sex.  So if the student is reading the book they will either not get the implications (see #1) or they already have heard about it, henceforth THEY ALREADY HEARD ABOUT IT.

In either instance these books bring about opportunities for open, safe discussion with their care giver. How is this bad?
Enough of the book banning people!  Trust your professionals, and more importantly trust your kids!

April 16, 2012

A study of the Teacher-Librarian creature

The teacher-librarian is an interesting creature.  We are teachers, yes, but we are upholders of all things media.  Our job is not evaluated by a high-stakes test, or by a final.  It is instead evaluated by the students themselves.  Have I helped to create an efficient and successful consumer and user of media? Have I helped prepare this student for their next step in education?     Have I helped connect that student with a good book that will carry them on to be a life-long lover of literature?   These are my teaching objectives every day.  An enormous job, but one so rewarding I can’t imagine doing anything else.

The key is to be approachable.  The librarian is the librarian’s worst enemy.  Too often we have come across librarians that act like the books and the library itself is their baby.  Too precious for anyone to intrude or handle.  Librarians are still depicted in movies and TV shows as old, bun wearing, shushing ladies.
Instead we should be rockstars of information!   I always try to create a space of neutrality, a sanctuary, where everyone feels welcome, and knows I can help them – better yet, that I want to help them.  Another essential skill is flexibility.  I never know what is going to walk through that door, or what the teacher/ student will need at that moment.  Every request is important to the requestor, so I have to adapt, think quickly and smartly, and genuinely want to help.  

So let's change librarians!  Let's become the most essential part of that school.  That when budget cuts come the staff and students will bar the door to the library with their bodies!  Let's make them ask, how could we possibly run this school without this bunless woman!?  We can do it!