Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Article by Susan Patron

The AASL blog posted an addendum to their ALA post linking to a Los Angeles Times article by Susan Patron, author of The Higher Power of Lucky. The article, 'Scrotum' as a children's literary tool, is a response to the ongoing controversy.

"Books that offer hope to tender and impressionable readers (by which I mean all children) armor them against the confusing, frightening, numbing realities of life. My protagonist, Lucky, terrified that she'll be abandoned by her guardian, makes a desperate plan to run away with her beloved dog. I wanted to write an honest story that would fill readers with hope and let them see that even in a gravely flawed world, there are adults who will nurture them, adults — no matter how scruffy and unlikely — who have compassion and integrity. I wanted to give readers a book in which they, like Lucky, would find courage, love and empowerment.

And parents who worry about having to explain the meaning of "scrotum" can relax. Children who read the entire book will discover exactly what it means, in a context that is straightforward, reassuring and truthful. " (Patron, LA Times, 2/28/07)

Please note, when following the article link you will be required to create an account with LA to read the article.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

ALA Press Release

With all of the discussion concerning the Higher Power of Lucky, I almost forgot to include this statement from ALA released on February 22, 2007.

"Statement regarding the true value of "Higher Power of Lucky.

CHICAGO - The following is a joint statement released by Kathleen T. Horning, president, Association for Library Service to Children, and Cyndi Phillip, president, American Association of School Librarians, regarding the "Higher Power of Lucky."

"Recent media coverage failed to discuss the true value of the 'Higher Power of Lucky,' by Susan Patron. The author’s use of one word should not prevent children from having free access to this remarkable piece of children’s literature. Children and their families should be given the opportunity to read this book and develop their opinions.

"The 'Higher Power of Lucky' is a perfectly nuanced blend of adventure and survival, both emotional and physical. It is a gently humorous character study, as well as a blueprint for a self-examined life. The book serves as a reminder that children support one another just as adults do.

"Libraries are about inclusion rather than exclusion. The freedom to read, speak, think and express ourselves is core to our American values. Part of living in a democracy means respecting each other’s differences and the right of all people to choose for themselves what they and their families read." (ALA, 2/22/07)

"Fortunately, most libraries do offer a full spectrum of resources and ideas from which our patrons can choose. Librarians understand that children mature at different rates and have different interests, reading abilities and life experiences. Decisions about what materials are suitable for particular children should be made by the people who know them best - their parents or guardians.

"We believe that every family should have the opportunity to read the 'Higher Power of Lucky' and that every public and school library should consider adding the book to their collections."

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

The dogs are awake

More information from the story that just will not go away, today's Children's Bookshelf email newsletter contains a follow-up to last weeks story. Controversy Over Newbery Winner: A Followup, discusses several issues including the idea that authors "sneak controversial words into their work," implications pondered by the Newbery committee during the selection process, and the blasphemous idea that a librarian would ban a book.

Answering the concept of librarians banning books, Maughn interprets some of the same issues mentioned here last week as well:

"Librarians make determinations for their libraries every day about purchasing, replacing or even discarding materials. Such decisions are guided by a variety of factors, which include budget, need, space constraints and appropriateness for library users, and which are supported by the library's collection development policy, which also provides a mechanism for patrons to formally object to the library's selected materials. Communities, including schools, overwhelmingly believe that librarians have an obligation to provide access to information (and instruction on how to use it) and trust that librarians also have an expertise that qualifies them to select appropriate materials. These two missions are sometimes difficult to balance, as witnessed by librarians who are currently debating whether a Newbery winner also meets additional, individual selection criteria. Though not every librarian will make the same decision on a matter of "appropriateness," most librarians would argue that these decisions are never made lightly." (Maughn, Children's Bookshelf, 2/22/07)

Furthermore, Maughn quotes 2007 Newbery committee chair Jeri Kladder concerning the charge that the committee blithely chose the Higher Power of Lucky, disregarding any issue of age appropriate language:

"But Newbery decisions are not made lightly either, and are considered by "15 people extremely passionate about children's literature and highly regarded in the academic world, the world of education, and the world of library service to children and reviewing children's books," according to children's librarian and 2007 Newbery committee chair Jeri Kladder. "To tell the truth, I am astounded that using a correct anatomical term is causing such furor," she says. "Yes, the committee did acknowledge that not every 4th or 5th or 6th grader would know what the word meant, but they would certainly know by the end of the book. And the strength of the story would be such that the child reader would take it as a matter of course that a book about Lucky, the consummate naturalist, would use it as a matter of routine."(Maughn, Children's Bookshelf, 2/22/07)

The article also includes a comment from Lucky's author, a librarian herself Susan Patron.

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The New Library Professional

"What does the growing generation gap among their employees mean for academic research libraries and for the profession?" This question is posed by Stanley Wilder in his recent article for the Chronicle of Higher Education, The New Library Professional (2/23/07).

No longer under 35, like many this is my second (or is it third?) career, I do have the dubious distinction of being the youngest faculty librarian here at AU. I also find myself immersed more in the hands-on technology (scanners, software, cameras) and Web 2.0 technologies (web pages, blogs)than some of my co-workers; some because of my job itself, more often because I am interested in the technology. However, I do find myself to be one of the more mature members of the audience when attending sessions on technology at various conferences. Issues of age aside, Wilder makes several interesting points in his essay, among them:

"The generation gap in research libraries begins with the large proportion of young people who work at jobs that either did not exist for their older colleagues, or weren't associated years ago with librarianship." (Wilder, 2/23/07)

I definitely agree with the observation that the nontraditional jobs existing in any library are changing as libraries must adapt to new technologies. Information Commons are a prime example of merging technology and library information. Add to that the changes made to library information science curriculum's in recent years, new library professionals are graduating with a different set of skills as well.

Is the new library professional really all that different? The more things change ...

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

And it continues ....

The controversy regarding Newbery Award winner The Higher Power of Lucky continues. Today I read two more blog postings on the topic; one from Keir Graff at Booklist Online and another from Neil Gaiman's blog. Both are interesting and present a new point of view.

"I've decided that librarians who would decline to have a Newbery book in their libraries because they don't like the word scrotum are probably not real librarians (whom I still love unconditionally). I think they're rogue librarians who have gone over to the dark side." (Gaiman, 2/20/07)"

"This kind of stuff — censorship spurred by the use of a clinically appropriate word – just makes me want to crawl under my bed and stay there until our country grows up. It’s not surprising that other nations are confused by our behavior when we consider ourselves grown-up enough to wage war and yet are too terrified to discuss certain parts of our bodies just because they happen to normally be hidden by underwear." (Graff, 2/21/07)

Is continuing to discuss the issue only creating more furor? This is blog is not what anyone would call an "A-list" library blog, so I doubt I am causing much of a ripple in the blogosphere, but isn't it time to let sleeping dogs lie?

Clarification (2/26/07):

My question was placed a bit too close to the conclusion of the quotes and may have caused confusion (my bad). Both of the aforementioned blog posts present valid arguments and comments on the current controversy regarding the Newbery Award winner. And obviously I am not against adding my two cents into the fray because I have posted on this topic twice since asking if it was time to stop the discussion about the word and concentrate on the book and it's overall contribution as a Newbery winner.

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Blog layout changes

Rebecca and I are email discussing layout and format changes to Library Cloud (we really should do IM). There are currently some things we do not really care about any more, specifically the LibraryThing and Technorati search boxes, and other elements we would like to make better use of, like the new Blogger labels. According to Blogger, switching to the "new" Blogger template will afford us "drop and drag" options on the sidebar. Bear with us as we organize to our hearts content. After all, we are librarians!

Update: later that same afternoon ...

The template changeover is complete, but I still need to get our blog log back into the header where it belongs. This may be a good opportunity to clean up the logo a bit because I have since learned a bit more about working with Macromedia Fireworks. Now the sidebar orginization will commence. Wonder if we can make the cloud bigger and switch out the LibraryThing sidebar widget to display titles more attractively.

Cranky update: even later ....

All of the changes we envisioned have taken place with the single, and obvious, exception of the library cloud logo. I have cleaned the png and exported it as a jpeg. Unfortunately the same great template that affords ease of drop and drag also changes the look of the html and css template elements. I'm searching to see where to drop in the logo in the existing "new" html. Any tips and/or advice is welcome.

Update: 2/22/07

Not to be thwarted by the new blogger template, I determined the easiest way to put the logo back where it belonged would take two steps; inserting the newer jpeg logo into the blog so there would be a reference point and editing the css/xhtml within the template. Editing the template in Dreamweaver first and then editing the actual blooger template was relatively painless. Adjusting the logo jpeg was not as sizing issues caused it to become fuzzy. The current logo, properly placed and sized, is the old logo. Imperfect, but in place.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

I would be remiss not to mention

Though not a children's librarian, in addition to running the IRC, I am the education liaison and lucky enough to be charged with juvenile collection development. Selecting children's books, including YA titles, is definitely a job perk. Like many children's librarians, it was with some interest I awaited the announcement of this year's Newbery and Caldecott awards at ALA's Mid-Winter meetings in Seattle last month. Curiosity is a big part of the wait, as well as the intrinsic challenge presented by hoping the chosen title is already part of the existing collection. It is a hit or miss process and while my performance of late with Newbery books has been good; my Caldecott record has been less than stellar. That is until this year when for the first time in ages the Newbery book was not already part of the juvenile collection. We have a small library endowment for children's books and each year when awards are announced the librarian in charge of the funds orders what we need. Translated, we get two copies of the Newbery and Caldecott award winners; one copy goes into the regular juvenile collection and the second into the Newbery and Caldecott specific sections leading off the juvenile collection.

Last Thursday the latest edition of Children's Bookshelf; "a free weekly newsletter from Publishers Weekly about all aspects of children's and YA publishing," arrived via email. In it there was a link to an article by Shannon Maughan at the Children's Bookshelf titled Listservs Buzzing over Newbery Winner:

"What's in a word? Plenty of controversy, if it happens to be a word naming a part of the male anatomy, and if it appears in a Newbery Award-winning novel. In recent weeks the online blogosphere inhabited by children's book professionals has been abuzz with debate over author Susan Patron's use of the word "scrotum" in her freshly minted Newbery winner, The Higher Power of Lucky. Librarians, teachers, reviewers and others have used blogs and listservs as forums to object to or defend the book and the ALA's selection of the title for one of its highest honors. (Children's Bookshelf, 2/15/07)"

Without reading the book, I have obviously been hesitant to comment on the growing controversy. As luck would have it, our copies arrived Thursday and I took home one of them to read over the weekend. Last night, I finished reading The Higher Power of Lucky and am more curious than concerned regarding the uproar. The book features Lucky, a ten-year-old girl. Yes, children reading this book are going to be third, fourth and maybe fifth graders. More importantly, I realize the vocabulary in question, used in several instances, may be off-putting for book talks by librarians in school libraries. I do not want to sugar coat the very real issue possibly faced with having the title in school libraries. However, this book is about more than a single word; one that, I might add, is simply defined at the end of the book without unnecessary embellishment.

I find it interesting that several other topics dealt with in Lucky are not mentioned in the debate. For instance, there is discussion of Alcoholics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, parental death, and another character's mother in jail for selling drugs. Each of these topics is potentially troubling for in-school discussion as well, but what I keep reading about is the use of one word. Higher Power of Lucky is a well- written, meaningful book detailing life-changing events for a young girl. At the books end, Lucky finds a family in the town's small population both figuratively and literally. By focusing on a single vocabulary element, the overall meaning of the book is lost.

Lucky was ordered immediately after the ALA announcement and it fulfills a specific purpose for my academic library children's collection. There was not any discussion of "should we" or "shouldn't we" when making the purchase. Why? We have a large, thriving, teacher education program with a full compliment of children's and young adult literature classes. Award winning books are expected. Even if their school library does not purchase the book, pre-service teachers need to have the opportunity to read the book and make their own determinations for classroom use. But each library and librarian has to make their own choice when adding it to their collection.

There are many different factors to consider, as well as issues of fiscal responsibility and library collection development mission and purpose. I do not foresee public librarians having undue trouble with this title. The "word" and book topic aside, public library patrons will expect to have Newbery and Caldecott titles on the shelves. Not that there will not be questions, concerns, or statements made by parents and patrons (after all, tax money funds the library), but generally speaking the issue is a bit less dicey. School libraries may have a catch 22 situation when making their purchasing decision as they have more stringent policies in place for collection development. School librarians also have parents, administrators, and boards (not to mention the general public) watching over purchases. What to do? The library should have a full Newbery and Caldecott collection, after all these titles have been judged the best in literature for 2206. But hesitancy to make the purchase because of possible outcry is real. Though it is not that simple, I would hate to think of librarians banning books from their library.

Here are a few links that may be of interest:

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

ALA event in Second Life

AASL Blog (American Association of School Librarians) has an interesting post today concerning an ALA event taking place in Second Life. According to the post, "On February 15, 2006 at 6 p.m. SL (9 EST) the ALA Washington Office will hold it's first event in Second Life, a 3-D virtual world."

I'm hoping they meant 2007 ...

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Unique author collaboration

I read two interesting articles, actually an SLJ news blurb and an article, in the February issue of School Library Journal this morning. Both illustrate how "web 2.0" technology in general, and blogs specifically, are being used in conjunction with children's and YA literature.

Class of 2K7 is a group of first time children's and YA authors, all with publication dates in 2007, using a novel approach to get their books out to the public. Taking full advantage of the importance of web presence, their extensive website includes a full listing of class members, interviews with each author, chat forums, an Ezine, and media information. The 2K7 authors take full advantage of web 2.0 technology utilizing a Class of 2K7 Blog, a MySpace account, have a YouTube Class Video, and in January hosted a Virtual Book Launch: Story of a Girl. From their web site:

The Class of 2K7 offers Booksellers, Librarians and Teachers:
  • A single spot to find 39 of the freshest voices in children's literature
  • Authors willing to do school or library visits and in-store book signings
  • Regional coordinators able to help plan and facilitate multi-author events
  • Presentations for conferences and book festivals
Information provided by each author is extensive and after perusing the site, I'm wondering if I have any of these titles on order. Since the authors are willing to do school visits, I have just given a graduate student (she's a classroom teacher for gifted) the web address. It is an interesting resource.

Curl Up with a Cup of Tea and a Good Blog, by Elizabeth Burns, discusses the growing trend of blog reviews for children's and young adult literature. As mentioned in the article, I too follow several children's literature blogs including Horn Book's Read Roger. Burns highlights her "must reads," here are a few of them (that I've also read):
Tags: School Library Journal, 2k& Authors, Children's Literature blogs

Friday, February 09, 2007

Conference Bloggers

ACRLog is looking for ACRL Conference Bloggers; check it out if you are interested. There are specific topics to be covered (tech services, new librarians, new technology in libraries, and community college libraries) and a deadline for volunteering of February 16th.

I would be willing, even happy, to volunteer if I can find a hotel with a vacant room (as opposed to pitching a tent in the convention center). All of the conference hotels are booked and I have not had the best of luck with various online travel sites, Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia, and Hotwire to name a few. The same thing happened with ALA midwinter last year in San Antonio. My hotel, though nice, was quite a distance from the Convention Center and there were no conference shuttles until the last day. I realize conference planners have to err on the side of caution when reserving blocks of hotel rooms because if the rooms are not used, they often take a financial hit. But there has to be a better way. I am still hopeful about attending ACRL, but if I find nothing today I may just turn my attention to ALA annual and register early.

Just my little gripe for today.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A Blogumentary?

Educause Connect posted about Blogumentary: A Documentary about Blogs, an online film by Chuck Olsen. Here is the synopsis posted on Blogumentary's web site:

"BLOGUMENTARY playfully explores the many ways blogs are influencing our media, our politics, and our relationships. Personal political writing is the foundation of our democracy, but mass media has reduced us to passive consumers instead of active citizens. Blogs return us to our roots and reengage us in democracy.

Shot in candid first-person style by director Chuck Olsen, himself an avid blogger, the film features interviews with influential bloggers including Joe Trippi, Jeff Jarvis, Dan Gillmor, John Hinderaker, Rebecca Blood, Jason Kottke and Meg Hourihan. From the rise of Howard Dean to the fall of Dan Rather, from love at first blog to a friend's suicidal blog post, "Blogumentary" is a fresh and compelling journey into our hyperconnected existence." (Blogumentery Synopsis)

This one hour film is available from Google Video. A word of caution; students working in the IRC this morning were somewhat taken aback when after selecting the video to watch on my computer the first words in the documentary are "damn it!" I am interested in seeing the video, but will obviously find a less crowded place to do so.

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Pew Internet & Tagging

It was with some interest I read a recent Pew Internet Online Activities and Pursuits report (1/31/07) focused on Tagging.

“Just as the internet allows users to create and share their own media, it is also enabling them to organize digital material their own way, rather than relying on pre-existing formats of classifying information. A December 2006 survey has found that 28% of internet users have tagged or categorized content online such as photos, news stories or blog posts. On a typical day online, 7% of internet users say they tag or categorize online content.” (Pew Internet, 1/31/07)

The report itself is not lengthy; a total number of 1623 were interviewed and basic information regarding how tagging works and traffic data from popular tagging sites Flickr (photos) and (social book marking) is presented. It concludes with an interview with author, researcher, and blogger David Weinberger with reference to his research and forthcoming book Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder. But their profile conclusions regarding “Who the taggers are” were interesting: “Taggers look like classic early adopters of technology. They are more likely to be under age 40, and have higher levels of education and income.”

Since moving Library Cloud to the “new” Blogger, we have been taking advantage of the internal tag, or label, system for our posts in addition to the existing Technorati labels. As mentioned when we began using the labels, they would not replace Technorati tags since each had its own specific use, labels internal post links and tags external post links. Though our blog template has not been switched to the custom design template, the labels are helping us to organize by topic. Over the last few weeks, I have learned using these labels is not something to be done lightly.

In my zest to be concise with labels on each and every IRC blog post, I noticed a disturbing trend; there were too many labels with only one post attached. My categories were too broad. For example, with juvenile book posts I was using three different labels to identify picture books and two for non-fiction. I had taken catalog subject headings from books and used them to label posts; this is great for catalogs, but not so much for blogs. I pared back, chose three different categories for juvenile books (picture books, juvenile literature, and juvenile fiction) and viola; the labels not only made more sense but were also user friendly. At least in my own estimation they are more user friendly, which brings to light an interesting concept mentioned in the interview with Weinberger, “tagging lets us organize the vastness of the web” and taggers are “using the categories that matter to us as individuals.”

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Useless Clippy quirk

This weekend I had a chance to see Hollywood Squares (sans Paul Lynde) on The Game Show Network. At the end of the show, contestants answer a series of quick true or false statements about participating celebrities. Gilbert Gottfried was one of the squares and his question had to do with .... Microsoft Office's Clippy. Did you know that he was the voice of Clippy? Quite honestly, I did not recall Clippy having a voice, but found this on the Internet Movie Database:
"When Microsoft came out with XP and decided to discontinue Clippy, the paperclip office assistant, they did a series of online clips about Clippy's reaction to this. Gilbert provided Clippy's voice." (IMB, Biography for Gilbert Gottfried)
The things you learn.

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