Response to “What’s in the children’s section of YOUR library?”

The Library Think Tank group on FB recently posted a link to a video from a woman (some sort of lifestyle vlogger, I think) who has some pretty strong views on library materials and programs.

I won’t post her video here, but it is called “What’s in the children’s section of YOUR library?”

vloggerlady

The woman lives in the US, but I saw some Canadians responding in her comment section too. As a Canadian who has a Bachelor of Education, who has been working in a public library for over 7 years, and who will beginning my Master of Library and Information Studies program in the fall, I’d like to respond with my thoughts on some of the comments made in this woman’s passionate rant video.

 

“For a long time I took my kids to the library every week. I want my kids to read. I want them to develop a love of reading”

That’s wonderful. I wish more families would visit the library regularly.

 

“I brought my kid here because I thought we were going to read something like Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel but that’s not what’s happening here. (They’re) trying to indoctrinate your kids”

“they read a story about a little boy who thought he was a girl…”

“the least you can do is tell parents hey, this story is pushing an agenda.”

It is unfortunate that you thought the story-time was not acceptable for your kids, but many other parents value diverse stories and want their kids to learn about families, children, and people who are different from them. Reading about people who are different than you is one of the best ways to develop empathy.

The only agenda being pushed here is a reflection of realitybased on the life experiences of many kids and people in this world. Whether you are comfortable with it or not, the library is for everyone, not just you. 

 

 “Drag queens are public libraries newest storytellers… when did it become the responsibility of the library to bring cross-dressers in to read stories to our children? I’d really love to know… this is not why we bring our kids to the library. We bring them… so they can improve their reading skills”

“Stop bringing drag queens into our library!”

As long as we live in a world where marginalized people are discriminated against, bullied, harassed, assaulted and denied equal rights in society, libraries have a responsibility to give these people voices and to make every effort to enlighten the general public that people who are different than you are not some faceless “other” to fear.

LGBTQ+ people face bullying, hate crimes, discrimination, and violence- even execution- just for being themselves.

We cannot hope to face discrimination, bullying and violence against LGBTQ+ people without making efforts to change the culture that promotes these actions in the first place. 

If you aren’t comfortable attending a Drag Queen Story Time, it’s simple- don’t go. Walk away. It’s your choice. Don’t try to take away the choice from others.

 

 “THIS IS NOT ABOUT CENSORSHIP. THIS IS ABOUT Y’ALL PUSHING STUFF ONTO OUR CHILDREN. COULD YOU JUST STOP ALREADY?”

“These are books with profanities, about sexual violence, suicide, transgenderism, homosexuality… suicide… hey, we love you library, but could you just not bring this stuff up to my kids?”

“I don’t care if you carry this stuff in your library, but the least you can do is make a section for it so that parents know what their children are reading”

“put it under gay and lesbian studies. Put it under transgenderism”

What you are advocating here IS a form of censorship.

Censorship doesn’t just mean outright banning of books, withdrawing them from the library system. Restricting certain titles and making an effort to hide them away or make them less accessible is an act of censorship. 

The library doesn’t push content on you. They provide a wide variety of materials- libraries have something for everyone. Our collections are ever-growing to reflect the diversity of our communities and our world, and to highlight a variety of perspectives on any given subject.

Libraries strive to give access to information. Again, if you want to censor what your child has access to, that’s on YOU as the parent. 

LGBTQ+ people are more than their chosen labels, or the labels we assign them. They are people with hopes, dreams, hobbies, and interests just like you. It is important that they have representation in stories because, as mentioned above, they face bullying, harassment and violence just because their identity isn’t understood. If the only people reading books with LGBTQ+ characters are those who are specifically seeking out LGBTQ+ reads, then the general public is missing out on a chance to read about someone different than themselves, and to develop empathy and acceptance. 

Furthermore, if we censored every title that someone didn’t like, there would be nothing left in the library! Censorship isn’t the answer.

Yes, some books contain content that is violent, profane, explicit, upsetting. Life also contains these things, unfortunately, no matter how safe we try to be. How can we learn about and discuss these topics if we can’t even read about them?

If you want to censor what your family sees, reads, and takes part in, that’s your choice as a parent, but that’s on YOU, not the library.

You want to bring your kids in to improve their reading skills, but that’s only one purpose of a library. Libraries are also places of programming, community, and tons more.

Please don’t boycott your library because it provides titles or programming that you do not appreciate. Talk to your library staff and librarians- I’m sure they can help you access many things that you WILL enjoy without restricting the access of others to content OTHERS might enjoy.

 

 

 

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Librarians, ghosts, mental-health & diverse characters: A Spoiler-Free Review of Archival Quality

Yesterday I was examining our library’s New Book display, as I am wont to do, and I noticed this book:

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Graphic novels are one of my passions, so poked through it and soon realized that this book was SO relevant to my interests that I had to read it immediately.

It’s a book featuring:

  • diverse characters
  • ghosts and creepiness
  • a librarian as the main character
  • reflections on mental health

So, I scarfed it down on my lunch break!

Weir and Steenz have created a compelling mystery buoyed along by a wonderfully morbid setting and interesting characters. The style of the graphic art is lovely, and for that alone I’d be glad to have this book on my shelf.

Capture33^A poignant observation from the beginning of the book: If I had to visualize it, I’d say it makes me think about the walls that protect beach towns from flooding. The water rises and then retracts, and the wall holds, but it leaves line marks. You can tell it’s been there. You know it’s coming back.

There were a few places that the story fell a bit flat (some plot points needed further explanation or illustration, and the ending felt a tad rushed to me) but overall I enjoyed this story.

I give it 4 glaring skulls out of 5!

Simulation: Poverty

Today I had the opportunity to partake in a simulated role-play workshop intended to raise awareness of the barriers and challenges of being homeless and/or living underneath the poverty line. The workshop, called the Community Action Poverty Simulation (CAPS) comes from the Missouri Community Action Network, and was offered by my local Poverty Reduction Network. As someone who works at a public library in Canada and spends a lot of time interacting with low-income and homeless patrons, I am glad that I had the chance to experience the workshop.

Each participant was randomly sorted into a group and directed to a cluster of chairs that would be their “home”, complete with a detailed synopsis of each family member and the overall situation of the household, including incomes, debts, medical considerations, assets, and expenses. Those without a home were directed to the homeless shelter space. I took on the role of Albert Aber, a father of 3 who was just laid off from his job.

Each person or group had a limited amount of time (broken into 4 weeks of 12 minutes each) to visit simulated local services run by volunteer actors. We dashed from place to place with our fake money and paperwork, facing a variety of setbacks, surprises, frustrations, and injustices along the way.

Of course, no simulation, no matter how immersive or detailed, can offer a true experience of poverty. The closest I have been to poverty was when my family lived in Saint John New Brunswick and experienced the 2 year Irving strike in the 90’s. I remember coming home from school one day and finding weird film equipment in the living room. My Dad was interviewed about the brutal slog of walking the union picket line day in and day out. The film crew followed us to the grocery store to document how we had changed our shopping habits to try to make ends meet and bring enough food home. Mom says we also borrowed food from my aunt during that time.

I was very young back then, so I don’t recall those years as vividly as my parents, but I do remember their frustration. Still, for as long as I’ve lived I’ve had enough food, water and shelter to live a comfortable life, even during the times that my family encountered struggles like the strike. I am thankful for the full and peaceful life I live, and aware that I am lucky to have many privileges and supports that beneficially contribute to my life.

While a simulation could not give anyone a full perspective of what it is like to live in poverty, this is a very worthwhile workshop, because it gets participants thinking about all of the compounding barriers that can make it so hard to get out from under the poverty line. CAPS sensitizes participants to the realities of poverty and homelessness. After the role-play was done, we sat in a large circle and shared our insights and experiences.

Here are a few take-aways from the workshop:

  • When something gives, something else takes. While I was able to secure a job in the simulation and start bringing in some income again, by the time I finished work many of the community services had already closed, so I was unable to access them.
  • It became harder and harder to support my family when my wife and I were at work for so much of the simulation, and family matters kept slipping through the cracks. Our pregnant high-school aged daughter was being targeted by a corrupt policewoman, and our two young sons were taken by social services as a result of her being taken into custody.
  • Every family or person in the simulation had a different background with unique considerations and struggles- those living with mental or physical disabilities, trauma, or addiction faced additional isolation and barriers.
  • Situations became even more dire when participants missed payments, turned to pawn shops, or were coerced into taking or selling drugs.
  • Making ends meet sometimes came at the cost of dignity. Despite my character’s more advanced work experience, out of necessity I ended up taking an entry-level cashier job as soon as it was offered.

Most of the people participating in the workshop worked in public and social services and outreach, but I think this kind of simulation would be especially enlightening and enriching for those who do not as regularly encounter people who are homeless and living in poverty. Many prejudices and stereotypes persist regarding these populations, and so it is important that people have the opportunity to be sensitized to the truths that exist behind the unfortunate stigma.

Graphic Novels for Pride Month!

June is Pride Month!

Graphic novels are a huge interest of mine, so i’d like to share some awesome LGBTQ+ graphic novels to check out if you haven’t already! 🙂

 

Heathen by Natasha Alterici, Charles Martin, Rebecca Rutledge and Kristen Grace

heathen

Love is Love by Marc Andreyko, Phil Jimenez, et al.  (anthology, tribute to victims of Orlando nightclub shooting)

LoveIsLove-Cv1

Are You My Mother? By Alison Bechdel

aremother

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

fun home

Wet Moon by Sophie Campbell

wetmoon

The Bride was a Boy by Chii

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Anything That Loves edited by Charles “Zan” Christensen

anythingloves

Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse

stuckrubber

Transposes by Dylan Edwards

Transposes-1

Moonstruck (Series) by Grace Ellis, Shae Beagle and Kate Leth

moonstruck

Husbands by Jane Espenson et al.

hsbands1p00

Bingo Love by Tee Franklin, Jenn St. Onge, Joy San and Genevieve FT

bingo love

Calling Dr. Laura: A Graphic Memoir by Nicole J. Georges

calldr

As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gillman

asthecrow.jpg

Kim Reaper by Sarah Graley

kimreaper

No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics edited by Justin Hall

nostraightlines

Adrian and the Tree of Secrets by Hubert and Marie Caillou

adrian

Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele

queer a graphic

My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Nagata Kabi

lesblonl

QU33R edited by Rob Kirby

qu33r

100 Crushes by Elisha Lim

100crush

Beyond: The Queer Sci-fi & Fantasy Comic Anthology edited by Sfe R. Monster

beyond

Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh

BlueIsTheWarmestColor

Dar: A Super Girly Top Secret Comic Diary, Volume One by Erika Moen

dar

On Loving Women by Diane Obomsawin and Helge Dascher

onloving

Princess Princess Ever After by Katie o’Neill

princess-princess-ever-after-9781620103401_hr

Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir by Liz Prince

tomboy

Sunstone series by Stjepan Sejik

sunstone

Snapshots of a Girl by Beldan Sezen

snapshots

Wandering Son by Takako Shimura

wandering

Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag by A.K. Summers

pregnantbutch

Go for it, Nakamura! By Syundei

goforit

My Brother’s Husband series by Gengoroh Tagame

mybrother

Skim by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki

Layout 1

Honor Girl: A Graphic Memoir by Maggie Thrash

honor girl

The Backstagers by James Tynion IV and Rian Sygh

backstagers

Kim & Kim by Magdalene Visaggio, Eva Cabrera, and Claudia Aguirre

kimkim

Spinning by Tillie Walden

spinning

The Less than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal by E.K. Weaver

lessthan

Taproot by Keezy Young

 

taproot

Spoiler-free review: The Tea Dragon Society

This charming story was even better than I imagined! When I saw the cover I knew I would love this book. I got what I was hoping for. The art is gorgeous, the characters are diverse, and the tea dragons are ADORABLE.

Like Princess Princess Ever After, The Tea Dragon Society is short, sweet, and full of moments that make you feel all warm and fuzzy.

It only took me half an hour to read, and yet I felt like the characters were very well represented.

Yup, I adore this book and I am going to recommend it to everyone, of every age, at the library where I work.

Can I just say that I really want a Rooibos dragon of my own?

Freedom to Read: A Poem

I wrote this poem for Freedom to Read week, which happens at the end of February each year.

 

Freedom to Read

 

The Freedom to Read is truly precious;

vital, essential.

Take grave care that you do not lose

the freedom to learn, explore, peruse,

and pick up or put down whatever you choose.

This freedom, in fact, is the right to get wise;

to consider all sides, agree, criticize,

approve or disprove, with unlimited sources,

to scour all evidence with your own two eyes.

Having access to something doesn’t mean you promote it.

How do you seek truth in what you consume?

Pull it apart and consider who wrote it,

discuss every view, question, thought, and idea,

regardless of whether or not you support it.

Upsetting words upon a page,

voices in your ear, scenes on a screen,

may be deemed problematic, or fill you with rage,

but ignorance is not a solution.

How do we praise or denounce ideas

when they are locked tight in a far-away cage?

Who is to say what shouldn’t be

available to you, or them, or me?

Censorship, despite claiming noble intentions,

fixes nothing, suppresses all.

If you don’t like it, you need not look;

simply close the book.

 

Conferences, public speaking, oh my…

Last year I submitted a proposal for a session to the Alberta Library Conference organizers. I had a flash of inspiration and submitted it on a bit of a whim, not really thinking it would be accepted.

I got a pleasant surprise- my conference session proposal was accepted! So I will be traveling to Jasper at the end of this month with my lovely manager to attend my first library conference (and to present there!)

I’ve been around Alberta a bit, and I’ve been to gorgeous Jasper and Banff a couple of times on road trips, but I, as well as my manager, naively assumed that we could fly to Jasper for this trip instead. (Wrong-o!). So, we’re going to do the whole trip in our library vehicle. This will be the first time I am traveling so far for work. It’s cool!

My conference session is called There’s a Graphic Novel For Everyone (Yes, Even You!). It covers topics such as

  • What is meant by “graphic novel” and how that name relates to additional terms like comic, web-comic, manga, etc.
  • The importance of realizing that graphic novels are a format, not a genre, and can be on any topic or theme!
  • Graphic novel readers advisory for specific topics and genres, like non-fiction, biography, reluctant readers, award winners, focus on diversity, LGBTQ+, Indigenous and more
  • In-depth exploration of some Graphic Novel excerpts
  • Reflections for library staff and teachers
  • Resource links and title lists

My session is 1 hour long so I am going to have to keep an eye on time, as I have tons to share on this topic.

I am extremely excited for this conference, even though public speaking is not in my comfort zone. I have been preparing for this conference for several months and this is the first time in my life that I am actually EXCITED to stand in front of a group of strangers and talk. Passion is am excellent motivator!

Here is a sneak peek of the mascot (?) I made for the session. This picture is from the session called “Get To Know Graphic Novels!”

gettoknowme