Monday, October 13, 2008

Plucked from the Stacks

Even though banned books week has come to a close, the issue of ethics in the library atmosphere is a continuing argument. I recently started posing situations in my mind as if I were the librarian. I chated with my high school's librarian about issues she has had dealing with controversial material in books. She said she could only inform me about minor details to protect the privacy of the students.
A family from another country which she didn't want to name moved to the area years ago. They did not allow their children to watch any type of television, so their children constantly read for entertainment. She said she admired how they could come after school and read from 3:00 until 5:00 without a peep. (Sounds great doesn't it! I wish more of my 10th graders read like this!). They would stay in the after school library program together and read their books and discuss them at least 2 times a week. The librarian would check in on them once in awhile, but believed their time together was valuable to each other and let them be.
It turns out that their conversations were at times about teen pregnancy. They were attempting to find any books in the school library that had to do with this subject. The parent caught on and, in short, blamed the school district and the librarian for not stopping this behavior and inappropriate conversation. She said she didn't want to disclose to me all of the details, but she said she had no idea that this is what their conversations were "always" about. The district told her to go through and pull any and all books that they had been reading and take them off the shelves. She said the parent was satisfied with this action.

The librarian was obviously upset by this action. She believed their conversations were not merely about these subjects and felt horrible about picking all of the books off of the shelves.

What would you do in this situation? Is the issue of "teen pregnancy" not allowed to be read in a high school library? Could this situation have been handled in a different way?

It is very difficult to assume the role of a teacher, information specialist, facilitator, parent, etc. in this profession and we may be faced with these decisions at one point or another. I found this website helpful in what to do if a book is challenged at your school:


LibraryGirl said...

I tnhink there is a fine line to walk when you are trying to keep everyone happy (which obviously can't be done). However, the school district needs to have a selection policy in place that can be referred back to when material is challenged as to why you have it in your library. Also, the school needs to have a plan of action that they will follow when a book/material is challenged.

J. Urick said...

You are right; there should have been a plan! I gave the website thought to help with people planning this. That fine line always gets everyone! However, I don't think the selection of the books was the questions; I think they were legitimate books and the librarian and the school once approved them. Also, parents have a say in the books we choose in our high school library as well. But this situation involved one parent and they just pulled the books because of it. Again...that fine line...

Cloudscome said...

I think that is sad; that the kids weren't allowed to talk about pregnancy! For heaven sake one of them might have been pregnant or a potential father. I think it's foolish not to let the kids be informed. I also don't think parents are realistic if they insist that school keep their teens from reading or talking about subjects like this. If they want to restrict the kids at home that's their business but schools are about education and learning to communicate! Maybe this parent's teens were informing others of their high values and counseling other kids who would have been getting into trouble otherwise! Did the parent think her child was learning to get pregnant by reading bad books?

Sorry but this gets my goat.

J. Urick said...

Haha, it gets to me too, but at times, things like this happen! I live in a very conservative school district; they teach abstinence only and we weren't even allowed to mention banned books week to kids. There is a high religious overtone too in the district. It's tough at times to keep quiet.