Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Impartiality Clause

Last night, I had a discussion with my professor during the GLTBQ lecture of my Young Adult Sources & Services class. She had one perspective on an issue, and I took another side. All through the conversation, however, I had the feeling that, while I felt justified in my point, it was missing something. It wasn't until early this morning that I woke up, knowing exactly what it was.

In discussing the picture book "And Tango Makes Three," I informed the professor that my library kept the book on the Parenting shelf in the children's room. Clearly on the side of homosexuality as acceptable--a viewpoint which I myself hold, having several friends who are among that community--she believed that placing the book there instead of on the shelf was a form of censorship, of keeping the book away from the community. I disagreed, stating that it was a good choice in case some parents didn't want their kid to read it.

But why should it be harmful? It's a book about penguins, it's a (mostly) true story, and it has beautiful illustrations. It also promotes the view that there is nothing wrong with homosexuality, and waits until midway through the book to do so. If you think about it, it's a very clever way to get parents to read the book to their children...until perhaps the child realizes that there is something different about two boy penguins who are in love with each other.

And here is where we run into a dilemma: I don't think there is a problem with that. Neither does my professor. Nor, I think, do many parents in my local community. However, some parents do. And by ignoring their wishes, that their children either not be exposed to that viewpoint or not be exposed to it at that age, we ignore an important dictate of the library science profession: The Librarian Is Not Allowed To Push Their Own Agenda Using Collection Policy.

Let me explain. In a small midwestern community in Kansas, per se (although no insult to Kansas in particular is meant), there might be a very small percentage of the population who is gay. Nevertheless, it is the responsibility of the librarian, however much they may disagree with that lifestyle choice, to include materials in the collection relevant to that subject. It has been argued before, and in nearly every case the law has fallen on the side of the librarian who chooses to include such materials, and against the community who opposes them.

By that rule, so must the opposite be true: no matter how much a librarian thinks it is negative and harmful to raise children with anti-gay morals, it is not their choice to make. Leaving a book like "And Tango Makes Three," which not only is innocuously-titled and therefore of ambiguous content to uninformed readers, but which has also been the leader on the ALA's Banned Book list for three years running, on the main shelves presents the problem of disrespect for the anti-homosexuality viewpoint.

Books like "King and King" or "Heather has Two Mommies" make their intent clear; they are aiming for a certain audience, which has a certain point of view. If a child picks up a book about politics, they will be presented with a certain point of view. A parent may say that they don't want their child to read books about certain subjects at a certain age. And that is their right.

"And Tango Makes Three" contains such potentially objectionable material, but makes no mention of this either in the book jacket nor upon the cover nor within the first few pages of the book. And that makes it dangerous territory for librarians, because a parent may well pick up the book and find themselves having that conversation they wanted to avoid with their children, and wondering why the librarian didn't warn them, didn't keep the book somewhere that they and their children--both uninformed as to the book's content and message--would be able to recognize that it has potentially controversial material.

If a parent walked into my library and requested that book, knowing what it was about, and then asked me why it was kept in the Parenting section, and not on the regular shelves, I would respond that, at this time, the book is still being questioned and that we have a responsibility to this parent to keep the book in the library, but a responsibility to other parents not to force them into an uncomfortable situation by leaving it within the main collection.

I respect their view, I agree with them that I personally think that the book should be read by all children. It's a great book. But in this day and age, it is just not feasible to blithely neglect the point of view of some part of the community, no matter what we think of them, when it comes to objectionable material. One day, I hope that homosexuality, like slavery and racism before it, is a topic about which many people are of the same opinion. I hope that opinion is one of tolerance and respect. But that day is not today, and I have no right as a librarian to use the shelves of my library to push that agenda. The library is a place where all opinions should be equal, and whatever my fellow librarians think, I will continue to stand up for that belief.

NOTE: image taken from Wikipedia. Information about all books mentioned can be found there, on Amazon.com, or in your own local libraries.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

PhotoStory Project

As an aside, here is the first PhotoStory project I created. It's a walking tour of C.W. Post and of course, of my favorite part of campus: the stables.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Final Project Reflections

Technology Effectiveness: We selected a multitude of components for use on our wiki, but of these I worked primarily with Community Walk, LibraryThing, and PhotoStory. I found that Community Walk was helpful in putting things into a global perspective, something all educators need to do in today's connected world. LibraryThing was useful in finding and cataloging relevant materials for the project, and later for organizing them on the website proper. PhotoStory, in conjunction with YouTube, was the method I chose for creating an original fable of my own. Although at times it was exasperating working with the program, I ultimately found the experience challenging and fun.

Concepts and Ideas of Library 2.0 and Participatory Library Service: School libraries in the 21th century will benefit from online collaboration and the social use of information, but educators will have to be even more careful than before to shield children from false or harmful information and individuals. They will have to be vigilant in creating an atmosphere where children are allowed to expand their minds without concern for the psychological or even physical harm that could result from unguarded contact with the networks of an increasingly virtual world.

Technology Issues: At first, I was concerned because I could not find a way to get my PhotoStory to upload properly to my wiki. I searched in vain for some way in the wiki's tool list to fix the problem, then decided it would probably be easier to use an intermediary source that specialized in just such a thing--aka YouTube. As I expected, once the file was uploaded, I had no trouble embedding the video in the site. It's enjoyable to watch technology solve your problems for you!

Collaboration Issues: Working with Sheila was, I admit, at first a bit frustrating because I'm not the world's most patient teacher when it comes to technology. However, she picked up on things very quickly and I eventually remembered to remind myself that I, too, have times when I'm in a situation where I'm not as comfortable with the expected requirements. I think, in the end, we both benefited greatly from the collaboration and I had a lot of fun working with my partner.

Overall, I think I gained a lot from this class and look forward to using the knowledge I gained as I continue on in library school. I may not be a twitter tweeter, but I know that I'll be taking full advantage of my blog, my YouTube account, and many other useful avenues of technology in the future. I look forward to it!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Kitty Says No

Uh-oh. I think I'm getting addicted to making these. That can't be healthy.

No Animals Were Harmed in the Production of this Poster

Seriously, I mean it. This image came from an old AOL news article. The horse decided to go after an apple. The apple did not want to be caught and eaten. The score remains apple, 1, horse, 0. But according to the news, once freed, the silly filly was just fine.

Image Generator Using De.li.ci.ous Bookmarks

Wordle: Pyrakanthe's Keys

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Of Frogs and Fire Thorns

Okay, so why Pyrakanthe, inquiring minds want to know. Well, to break the word down, it is the original Greek word for a certain species of plant: "pyra" (fire) and "kantha" (thorn). The pyracantha plant is a known as the firethorn for its thorny shrubbery and the bright red berries that grow on it. I discovered the name because of an abiding love for both the Greek language and strage names. All credit goes to www.kaeori.net, an unfortunately now-defunct list of rare and unusual names whose content has since disappeared into the vortex of lost websites.

So now you know the deep, dark secret of how Pyrakanthe came to be. Be glad I didn't go with something like Sammako instead; if I remember correctly, I'm pretty sure it means "frog"!

Book Questionnaire

GoogleDocs in the Library Media Center

The varied programs included in GoogleDocs offer hundreds of options in terms of teaching in the school library media center. Instead of the old-fashioned pairing off into groups to put together a poster with markers, kids are putting their thoughts into a shared document. Instead of distributing handouts with lists of class addresses and phone numbers that are easily lost, the school can e-mail you a document which can be quickly modified in case of error or change, and accessed from any computer. And this is just the beginning! Within the classroom, students can hand in assignments online, revise them at home or at school, and share them with peers. Teachers can help students outside of the classroom and connect with parents to give each child the best opportunities to succeed. Although I myself am not necessarily fond of Google's set-up (I prefer a slightly different interface), I am certain that time will allow for modification and a more interactively alterable set of programs.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Blogging in the School Media Center

I wish I could say definitively that I knew what to do with a blog in a school media center, but as I'm new to the idea, I'm sure there are several avenues I wouldn't even think of treading down. I see possibilities in the idea of online book groups, or blogs through which students collaborate on homework assignments to compare and contrast their collective knowledge and help each other figure things out. I also see potential for blogs to serve as personal journals for students during certain assignments, the same personal journals which were once printed out as separate assignments or simply handwritten from day to day. Blogs could also serve to aid teachers in imparting extra information to students, in helping students with their work, and in making the teacher available to the student beyond the basic four walls of the school environment.

In the future, I'm sure the Internet will afford plenty more opportunities for interactive learning for teachers, parents, and students. I look forward to seeing how blogs will be a part of the changes that are metamorphosing the field of library science even as we speak.

So It Begins...

Well, I've finally succumbed. I have a blog. So much for being a print-only author. I suppose it truly was inevitable--even Barbara Hambly has a blog and plays World of Warcraft now. We have become characters within our own universes, living the science fiction and fantasy we once created, allowing ourselves to be absorbed into the world of tomorrow without being sure of rules or roadways. I wonder--in whose universe am I the bewildered protagonist bumbling through the digital world? Listen to Chuang-tzu: in whose dream am I the butterfly that yearns to be a human?