Response to Illinois Family Institute: Don’t Drag us into a Cesspool of Ignorance

Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute recently posted an indignant tirade because of this statement from the American Library Association:

Interested in bringing Drag Queen Storytime to your library? ALSC Committee Members received tips for optimizing success from library pioneers who have already done it.  We also had the chance to meet a Drag Queen who talked about the value of offering this program, including fostering empathy, tolerance, creativity, imagination and fun.

Their article goes on in an increasingly hysteric harangue, all the while accusing librarians and “so-called-progressives” of being the REAL hysterical ones as if they are letting us in on a secret conspiracy.

Here I will try my best to respond to some of the pearl clutching (quoted below).

This feckless ALA statement raises questions: Should we foster in children empathy for those who choose to engage in transvestism?

Yes. Foster empathy in children, period.

 Should we tolerate adults who expose children to transvestism?

Yes. Why wouldn’t you want to teach your child tolerance of people who are different? Drag Queen Storytime programs usually feature funny books, colourful expression, maybe some glitter and a song or two- nothing dangerous or indecent.

 Should we encourage children to view men who masquerade as women as “fun”?

Nobody is forcing anything on you. If you don’t like the Drag Queen storytime, it’s easy. Don’t go! Everybody wins. Those who do think it’s fun get to enjoy an empathy building, creative, imaginative, fun program. Those who don’t want to don’t have to. There.😊 It’s a lot like how rather than requesting a book be removed or moved so your child doesn’t see it, you can steer your child away from it and leave it accessible for others. It really IS that easy!

Every year, the ALA sponsors the laughably named “Banned Books Week” (this year, Sept. 23-29, 2018) during which self-righteous, dissembling librarians foment “book-banning” paranoia.

I fail to see how Banned Books Week is in any way paranoid (I like my books accessible, thanks very much)- I’d like to suggest that you brush up on what the word “paranoia” means. Your entire article about drag queen storytime REEKS of paranoia, so maybe start your research there?

The ALA pursues its hysteria-fomenting goal chiefly by ridiculing parents who, for example, don’t want their five-year-olds seeing books about children or anthropomorphized animals being raised by parents in homoerotic relationships.

When the ALA steps in to defend a book or program that has been challenged, they aren’t directing shame or ridicule at anyone- they are reacting to an action of censorship.

You, the parent, are in charge of what your kid reads. Removing or moving a title because of its contents may take that privilege away from other parents.

Libraries use Collection Development Policies (CDP’s) to determine which books they will purchase with their limited budgets. CDP’s maintain that librarians should purchase only books that have been positively reviewed by two “professionally recognized” review journals. Guess what folks, the “professionally recognized” review journals are dominated by ideological “progressives.” Publishing companies too are dominated by ideological “progressives,” so getting books published that espouse conservative ideas (particularly on the topics of homosexuality and gender dysphoria) is nigh unto impossible.

The vast majority of books published continue to focus on cisgendered, heterosexual characters and heteronormative points of view. Take a look in your public library-I bet there is no shortage of Christian fiction, conservative non-fiction, religious self-help, heteronormative relationship advice books, “traditional” family picture books, etc.

…when it comes to resources that espouse conservative views on homosexuality and gender dysphoria. Are the anti-book-banning soldiers fighting to fill the gaping lacuna in their picture books and Young Adult (YA) literature collections on these topics?

We don’t have to. Like I mentioned, the shelves are already full of conservative content. 

Books featuring inclusive and diverse content aren’t attempting an assault on conservative views; furthermore, freedom of gender identity and sexual expression are recognized by the United Nations as an important part of being free and equal in dignity and rights. 

Here are some children’s book ideas that librarians could request to fill gaps in their collections…

This entire hypothetical list provided is built on ridiculously biased ideas of what non-hetero non-cisgendered people are like- there is an ill-informed assumption that queer people are more promiscuous, prone to instability, confused, neglectful, and otherwise problematic than heterosexual, cisgendered people.

To publish something like that would be to nourish harmful notions that have no basis in reality. While conservative publications can be found in any bookstore or library, I doubt that the majority of people who consider themselves conservative would support publishing something so ignorant- it would be a hard sell.

However, if you are so passionate about these theoretical books, why don’t YOU write them and see how it goes?

The article ends with this inspiring little nugget:

The ALA is plunging deep into the “drag” cesspool, pulling children down with them.

It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck
and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.
(Luke 17:2)

Cesspool. Hung around the neck. Really beautiful hatred-inspiring message you ended with there. :/

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An Open Letter to Joel Tucker

( I have also emailed this letter to Mr. Tucker through the Washington County Library System )

Hello Mr. Tucker,

I am a library worker and future librarian, and I am writing to ask you to please reconsider your censorship of LGBTQ+ displays and buttons in Washington County libraries.

I understand that Southern Utah is a place where LGBTQ+ materials cause controversy.
However, that is all the MORE reason why it is important to have these materials visibly available.

Having displays on a theme or topic facilitates learning and discussion. Having a display on something doesn’t mean you “promote” that sort of book- but even if it did, the only thing you’d be “promoting” in this case is the acceptance, inclusion, respect, and understanding of LGBTQ people and communities. It shouldn’t be a “point of view” that LGBTQ people should be respected and treated as people rather than as controversial topics that should be hidden away in the stacks away from public view.

The mission statement for Washington County Libraries explicitly states that censorship is not tolerated and that you provide open, non-judgmental access to materials, but asking staff to take down a display is a form of censorship as it is a conscious act that will reduce the number of patrons who come into contact with those materials.

I respectfully ask that you please reflect on your policies and procedures and consider reaching out to LGBTQ+ groups for information and support in building a more welcoming and inclusive library system.

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.

 

I made another thing…

I got lots of great responses on social media about the arguing motorcycle dudes meme I made yesterday, especially in the Library Think Tank FB group. This morning when I woke up I had the sudden idea to make it into a comic strip! I’m glad it resonates with people so much, I’m really passionate about comics and graphic novels!

New-Fangled Toys

Have you ever had a conversation with someone which stirred such a passionate response in you that you felt compelled to start that blog you’ve been putting off? That very scenario is just how this blog was born today!

Hello! 🙂 My name is Shauna and I work at a public library in Canada. I’ve been working there for 7 years; firstly part-time as I completed my Bachelor of Education and then full-time after I graduated. Prior to this I worked in bookstores for several years. I aspire to obtain my MLIS and become a Librarian in the future, and am currently waiting to hear back on a university application! (Any day now…)

Anyhoo, the following is an interaction I had today that has pushed me to write. I’ve had similar patron interactions from time to time in the past, but today I suddenly felt a flash of inspiration to begin a blog so I could share my thoughts. This isn’t a rant- I write this not from a place of anger, but because I want to share my thoughts on this subject.

This afternoon I approached a gentleman patron who was using his smartphone with the texting sound effects on- every tap he made on his screen produced that “tok, tok, tok” sound, which could be heard from farther away than you’d think. I knew it would bother our studying patrons nearby, so I discretely asked him to please set his phone to silent while he was on the quiet study floor.

He stiffened and went on the defensive, saying “Since you so obviously hate technology, why did you put those new-fangled toys (his exact words) downstairs that the kids are always playing with now? Now all they do is play on those, they aren’t learning anything, there’s nothing educational to it. Pretty soon there will be no books, just computers!

The man was referring to the kids Ipad stations (“Krayon Kiosks”)  we had recently installed.

I began to explain our stance on technology and access, but he waved his hand at me. I told him he could submit a comment to management about the Ipad stations if he liked, but he was dismissive and ended the conversation there.

Why do we provide access to Ipads in the library? Why any technology, for that matter? We’ve had many complaints, as well as compliments, about our Ipad stations. Some parents are upset that their kids are immediately drawn to the Ipads rather than the books, while other parents exclaim joy that their shy children are joining others and socializing over shared interests while using the Ipads.

I have a fondness for bullet points, so here we go:

  • INFORMATION- Libraries are not just about education; they are places which provide access to information, including entertainment for all ages.
  • EDUCATION- If educational material is what you want, there are awesome apps for learning, too!
  • ACCESS- The library is a place where all people can come to try out technologies and increase their skills with these technologies. Many of our patrons don’t have access to these technologies otherwise.
  • WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE BOOKS!?- While access to books is a huge part of why libraries are awesome, they are just one little piece of the big library puzzle. New technologies are being developed every day, and libraries are doing their best to keep pace with the changing informational needs of their patrons.

Technologies like Ipads are just one more vessel for information that libraries are adding to their offerings. Rather than feeling threatened by new technologies, I hope our patrons will come to see the value in our addition of these “new-fangled toys”.