Books in the Family

By Gwen Vanderhage, MLIS

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“Art is something that makes you breathe with a different kind of happiness.” ~ Anni Albers

In some families, there runs a thread of common traits, common interests, or particular talent. We see it with athletes like the Manning family, political dynasties, or some of the legendary acting families like the Barrymores. There are also family partnerships and dynasties in the world of children’s picture books. Three of the most successful picture book families happen to be African American and mixed. These are families who contribute mightily to the diversity shelves with their personal and universal stories.

Walter Dean Myers and Christopher Myers

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Walter Dean Myers is best known for his gripping teen novels exploring African American identity and urban life, as well as his powerful historical novels and biographies. He also authored many picture books. Christopher Myers, his son, was immersed in the craft of publishing from an early age and always dreamed of illustrating his father’s books. Before he was a teenager, Christopher began winning art contests and even had his art published in a children’s magazine. The two became collaborators when Christopher Myers was in college; he received a 1998 Caldecott Honor for their first picture book together, “Harlem.” Ultimately, the two would collaborate on five picture books, all of them featuring poetry written by Walter Dean Myers. Christopher Myers illustrated several of his father’s novels, as well.

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Both illustrators brought exceptional talent and detail to their books. What’s more, they took immense pride in each other’s work and had real affection for each other, which is immediately obvious in reading interviews of them, or seeing them in person at book events — as I was lucky enough to do. In his chapter about their family in “Pass It Down,” Leonard Marcus writes about how both of them were worried about letting the other down in their collaborations. Christopher held his father’s writing in high regard, while Walter had great respect for his son’s art and never wanted him to feel judged when they worked together.

Since Walter Dean Myers’ death in 2014, Christopher Myers has been an outspoken advocate for the need to see diverse people and viewpoints in publishing. He is the creative director of the Make Me a World imprint at Random House, which published its first books this fall, to great acclaim. He has also been an ambassador of his father’s legacy. In his acceptance speech for his father’s Children’s Literature Legacy Award (American Library Association, 2019), he said:

You told us about young people like you were, ambitious and fearful, guarded and loving, intimidated and brave. Mixed-up and beautiful. You told me that the reward of a story was in the growth of a character, that no one cared about superheroes unless they had a weakness, a vulnerability that was a strength. That is what every child, in classrooms and prisons, riding subways or walking through cornfields, recognizes in these books you’d written and themselves. Kids who have been painted with masks, like thug or good-for-nothing, threat or fear; first you saw in them, yourself, and then articulated all that vulnerability, lightness, sweetness, and love.

This family that speaks to the importance of seeking out stories and voices, and telling your own, has made the Myers legacy one for all readers.

Donald Crews, Ann Jonas, and Nina Crews

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Donald Crews and Ann Jonas met at art school in the 1950s and shared careers and family from then on. In the 1960s, the two found most of their work in jacket design for books, before Donald published his first picture book, “We Read: A to Z.” It wasn’t until after Crews received a Caldecott Honor for his now-classic “Freight Train” that Ann began publishing ground-breaking picture books of her own. She was inspired by her two daughters, Nina and Amy, and included them as characters or models in most of her books. Nina Crews, now an adult and celebrated picture book maker in her own right, remembers being around her parents’ art and supplies all her life. In their family, creativity was celebrated in everything they did. They visited museums often, Ann made her daughters’ clothes, and the parents built their children toys like a play kitchen and dollhouse. This environment allowed for freedom of experimentation, and while Nina has followed in her parents’ footsteps, her artistic style is entirely her own. Nina Crews’ work mixes photography and collage, and features her father and her sister’s children as models.

The Pinkney Family

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Jerry Pinkney is one of the most celebrated American children’s illustrators working today. He won the 2010 Caldecott Medal for his interpretation of Aesop’s “The Lion and the Mouse” and has won numerous Caldecott honors, Coretta Scott King awards, and lifetime achievement awards from those same bodies, in addition to awards and honors outside of the American Library Association. Working from his home studio, Jerry Pinkney has spent a lifetime sharing his art with his family. His wife, Gloria Pinkney, was a milliner, silversmith, and storyteller before becoming an author. Together, they strove to fill their home with inspiration — common areas full of art supplies, dance and drama classes, and no television. The children made toys out of balsa wood or pipe cleaners; they dressed up in costumes and modeled for their father’s paintings. Eventually, all of the Pinkneys’ four children became artists in different disciplines.

Brian Pinkney was the most interested in his father’s artistic process and wanted to do whatever his father was doing. Brian published his first picture book in 1983, just after graduating college. While he was finding work as an illustrator, Brian was dissatisfied with painting and started working with scratchboard drawing. Over the years, his own style has become more recognizable and different from his father’s. He has written picture books of his own, while mainly illustrating the words of others. He has his own shelf of medals, Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awards and two Caldecott honors.

Gloria Jean has gone on to author her own picture books, most of them illustrated by her husband or sons Brian and Myles.

Myles Pinkney is a photographer who has contributed to books by his mother and has collaborated on picture books with his wife, Sandra L. Pinkney. Their book “Shades of Black” won an NAACP Image Award.

Andrea Davis Pinkney is a best-selling and award-winning author who married into the Pinkney family. She has received Coretta Scott King Author Awards and authored the books for which her husband, Brian Pinkney, earned Caldecott honors. The two have collaborated on 20 children’s books, in addition to their own critically-acclaimed projects.

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The third generation of Pinkney artists is beginning to make their way in the publishing world this year. Granddaughter Charnelle Pinkney Barlow (daughter of Myles and Sandra) has her first book out in January 2020. In “Just Like a Mama,” Charnelle illustrates a text by Alice Faye Duncan. Charnelle’s art can be found on Instagram, where she has also been featuring her textile prints and designs @callmechartreuse.

Family talents and values really do make a lasting impact. My own family features several generations of teachers and readers. I know that my childhood experiences — from my mom reading aloud, to library trips when staying with my grandmother, and the crates of new books my reading specialist aunt would drive over to share — these all made a critical impact on the children’s librarian I am today. Do you have a family passion or talent passed on to you? Tell us about it in the comments.

Sources:

“2019 Children’s Literature Legacy Award Acceptance by Christopher Myers on Behalf of Walter Dean Myers” — Horn Book, June 24, 2019

Pass It Down: Five Picture-Book Families Make Their Mark — by Leonard S. Marcus

“The Pinkney Family: In the Tradition” — Horn Book, January 10, 1996

“The Pinkneys are a Picture Book Perfect, Author-Illustrator Couple” — NPR, August 11, 2019

Seeing Into Tomorrow: Haiku by Richard Wright — written by Richard Wright and illustrated by Nina Crews

“A Visit with Charnelle Pinkney Barlow” — Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, September 30, 2019

 

Gwen Vanderhage - 2.5 x 3

Gwen

After spending many years as a children’s librarian and collection development specialist at Denver Public Library, Gwen joined Brodart to share her passion for children’s literature with as many different libraries as possible. Click here for more.

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Holiday Displays

By Stephanie Campbell, MLIS

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Which holidays to observe and/or celebrate at your library is a local decision, sometimes to the chagrin and confusion of staff and patrons alike. Libraries are, at their core, inclusive: accepting and sensitive to all community members and their respective races, ethnicities, cultures, and religions. But it’s hard to please everyone.

When to be open and when to be closed?

Federal holidays are generally a safe bet in that closing the library is acceptable—but that doesn’t mean that you or your patrons have to like it or understand it. Controversy surrounds what is/isn’t or should/shouldn’t be a “holiday,” and observance can differ across the country. No matter what you do, you will probably always hear someone say “I’m surprised you’re open” or “I couldn’t believe you were closed.”

shutterstock_543130312Keep in mind that your library holiday schedule is negotiable. State library standards may limit how many days you are closed per year, but do not specify which ones. Perhaps your board would consider letting you close for a different purpose or trade one holiday closure for another.

Scheduling professional and personal development opportunities can also be a struggle for libraries. Rather than honoring Presidents Day and Columbus Day as holidays, perhaps you could close for staff training or community service? In other words, if you’re going to close for Columbus Day, devote it to staff development and make that known. It’s not because you care more about Cristoforo Colombo than indigenous peoples (as some might infer).

Some argue that purely religious holidays shouldn’t be observed at all by public institutions. This article from The New York Times provides historical insight into what constitutes federal holidays and also helps those who struggle with explaining why libraries observe some, but not others.

Opening the day after Thanksgiving was the bane of my existence as a library manager, as many staff like to travel then. And because we were always open the weekend after Thanksgiving, I argued that staff deserved two days off for Thanksgiving.

Conversely, while many municipalities close for Good Friday, I considered it superfluous for my library to be closed that day. Our community had a significant Jewish population; therefore the library was closed both Saturday and Sunday for Easter and Passover. Being closed on Good Friday would have meant a three-day shut down—something many libraries are loath to do. After surveying my staff, I proposed to our library board that we trade Good Friday off for Black Friday off.

I stressed that this wasn’t sanctioning one holiday over another, rather providing the opportunity for staff to spend extra time with their families. Patrons and boards who love their libraries generally love their library staff and are happy to see them rewarded in this way. And it worked! The board approved this change when they voted on the upcoming year’s calendar.

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Think about whether your decorations, displays, story times, and other programming should be holiday-focused. I’ve found that a lack of holiday-themed programming goes largely unnoticed, whereas you will definitely hear about it when patrons feel something is exclusionary or inappropriate. One person’s time-honored tradition is another person’s pagan ritual. Should libraries have Halloween parties and put up Christmas trees? Given that there are so many alternatives to choose from, is it worth the risk? “Reframing” seasonal themes is often all it takes to make your programs and décor more inclusive. See these opinion pieces from School Library Journal and American Libraries for more.

Ditch Holiday Programming – SLJ

Thinking critically about holiday programing – American Libraries

Holiday Theme Alternatives

What I’m suggesting is libraries need to “spin” things appropriately in order to be respectful of everyone.

shutterstock_396139090For children’s programs and story times, replace holidays with secular, seasonal themes. Instead of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, think autumn (falling leaves and harvest), winter (cold, snow, and hibernation), and spring (growth and renewal.) If you can, create a holiday book section and leave it up to children and their caregivers to choose what they want to read and learn about, whenever they want.

We can, and want to, cover many cultural and historic topics for both children and adults, but reframing is crucial. Day of the Dead (El Día de los Muertos) is not Mexican Halloween. Present it as a cultural program, part of Hispanic Heritage Month.

By adhering to heritage and history months, you have greater freedom to present informational and recreational programming that is of a religious/cultural nature. Just make sure you call in an expert to cover the material. See the Library of Congress guide to Commemorative Observances. For program planning in general, it’s also important to consult a comprehensive calendar to choose dates/times for events so that you don’t exclude members of your community based on their culture, religion, or ethnicity.

Ultimately, you need to do what’s in the best interest of your community.

We would love to hear your ideas and experiences!

 

stephaniecampbell

Stephanie

Stephanie Campbell has worked for more than 20 years in public, academic, and special libraries in roles ranging from children’s and older adult services, outreach, administration, and technical services. Click here for more.

Dewey or Dewey Not? Peering into the Zen of Political Correctness in Libraries

By Paul Duckworth, MLS

Editor’s Note: Following is an honest attempt at examining the hot-button issues of censorship in the literary world, the renaming of several literary awards, and the role the library plays with regard to political correctness. Emotions run high on these topics, and our intent is simply to examine them dispassionately from all sides. At the risk of being politically correct, we mean no offense…

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“That is unacceptable behavior!” “Mind your language!” How many of us remember someone reproachfully barking these words at us when we were children? My hand is raised. Language can hurt, can’t it? Words matter, as do actions. Clearly, some behaviors are hurtful and unacceptably wrong. So, why is it that we use words and do things that cause offense? Perhaps it is because we are human and fallible and locked in our own cultural framework. A few of us may ignore cultural expectations, refusing to be bound by them.

Consider when the use of language or behavior that some find offensive appears in a novel. In some cases, authors intentionally make their characters use “red flag” words and actions in an attempt to illustrate more fully who they are. This may be because words and deeds are powerful and sometimes humans grasp for more power through the use of hot button words and offensive behaviors. It is also sometimes the case that words and behaviors that were widely tolerated in the past are regarded as offensive by current standards.

shutterstock_1033250923Consider the often-used statement, “racial attitudes were typical of the time.” Is that a meaningless excuse, or is there merit in not judging yesterday’s attitudes by today’s standards? The same can be said regarding behaviors. Racist, sexist, harassing, and similar behaviors are unacceptable and have no place in our contemporary culture. However, they weren’t always considered to be taboo. “Boys will be boys,” “locker room talk,” racial epithets, and winking at some of the behaviors that men sometimes displayed with women was commonplace in past times. Not today. Our sensibilities as a culture have evolved and we have witnessed powerful movements such as #MeToo.

The American Library Association recently took bold steps in response to past words, attitudes, and behaviors. In its June 26, 2018 issue, Publishers Weekly reported:

The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association, voted on Saturday to strip the name of Laura Ingalls Wilder from a popular children’s book award, months after a task force set out to consider the long-running scholarly discussion around ‘anti-Native and anti-Black sentiments’ in the author’s work. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award honors an author or illustrator whose books have made ‘a significant and lasting contribution to children’s literature.’ It will now be called The Children’s Literature Legacy Award.

This year, in its June 24th issue, Publishers Weekly announced this ALA decision:

“Citing a history of racism, anti-Semitism, and sexual harassment, the council of the American Library Association on June 23, 2019 voted to strip Melvil Dewey’s name from the association’s top professional honor, the Melvil Dewey Medal. The ALA Council approved the measure after a resolution was successfully advanced at the ALA membership meeting during the 2019 ALA Annual Conference in Washington DC.” The Medal is “an annual award consisting of a bronzed medal and a 24k gold-framed citation of achievement for recent creative leadership of high order, particularly in those fields in which Melvil Dewey was actively interested: library management, library training, cataloging and classification, and the tools and techniques of librarianship.”

Most of the mainstream media have made supportive comments about the Wilder renaming. Here’s an example from Book Riot:

Yes, we are judging a person from a different time based on today’s moral and ethical standards—because they are still being read and honored in today’s times. Yes, most authors from this time period and others would fail against today’s standards. Some have disingenuously argued that this is evidence we just want to erase history, rather than learn from it. The truth is that this name change is indicative of a population that has learned from its history, acknowledged its mistakes, and is moving forward with the intent of doing less harm.

Harvard Professor James Noonan wrote:

Because the stories are so colorful and told with the wide-eyed wonder of a child, it’s also easy to be blindsided by the racism … It’s how racism gets perpetuated That is, by children soaking up the prejudices of people they love, laid bare in unguarded moments.

Other reactions have been mixed. William Shatner has been quite vocal about the Wilder decision. He said, “An author who cannot defend herself was inadvertently judged in 2018 for a viewpoint from 1867.”

The Daily Wire commented:

Wilder’s work is considered ‘controversial,’ because of how she speaks of her family’s fear of Native American attacks, and her era-specific views on blacks. Intellectuals and historians might teach Wilder’s works in the context of her upbringing, but, apparently, children’s librarians are incapable of the same level of nuance.

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Some posts from the Library Think Tank – #ALATT Facebook group reacted to both renaming campaigns:

“Excellent decisions on both counts.”

“Revisionist history has never been of interest to me.”

“I think renaming the Dewey medal is great. Dewey was an incredibly problematic person (sexist, anti-Semitic, racist) despite his contributions to librarianship.”

“While I understand that Dewey was a pig and a misogynist, and that his behaviors should never have been acceptable, he did make huge contributions to the library world. I don’t think that anyone awarded or nominated for Dewey medal thinks it’s because of his behaviors, but only for his contributions to the library.”

“Please just stop this trend of demonizing people of the past because of the stories they wrote. These authors were a product of their time and life experience. Her books made a significant contribution for their time. I am not against the name change but sad that this action could lead to a snowball effect in demonizing authors who told stories from a different perspective of their time and place. It’s a kind of censorship we should be careful how we implement going forward…”

“Change the names as much as they desire; they will never change the fact the Dewey was a pivotal individual for this profession. His contributions will forever last.”

“The sentence ‘The only good Indian is a dead Indian’ is said three times in the Little House on the Prairie series. What would you say to a little American Indian girl who was upset about reading that? How would you defend naming Wilder as the ideal writer of children’s books? People have talked about the importance of preserving history. This is true, but the place to remember the genocide of American Indians is in a museum, not in the name of an award for children’s literature.”

“I think renaming the award is fine, maybe even a good idea. I don’t think we should demonize the books, though, for accurately depicting a point in time. You can’t just erase racism from a book that takes place in a time when racism is rampant. Just look at Tom Sawyer. The books are a record of what life was really like back then. But, that being said, I would hope that if a teacher were to assign something like that as reading, they would have the awareness to use it to start a conversation about what’s WRONG with the language being used or the actions being done.”

“Jacqueline Woodson addressed the name change in her speech last night. When the winner of a lifetime achievement award feels othered and marginalized by the award that is meant to celebrate them, we need to listen to them. We need to listen to what our library colleagues & favorite creators say when they tell us they are affected & hurt by racism. If they feel this way, how must a child feel encountering these things? 2) I feel it is common to say we as book people discuss & explain these books & their harmful content with/to kids. However, I do not feel this is a wide mainstream practice. So our perceptions of how much damage an outdated book can do is deeply flawed. 3) No one said to remove the little house books, demonized Wilder, or proposed any kind of censorship in the official statement. Censorship & Wilder’s legacy are separate from this issue.”

“Since Washington, Jefferson and even Lincoln were all rather racist by today’s standards, will places and things named after them be changed in future? I wonder where we need to draw the line.”

 

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How do you as a librarian feel about these actions taken by ALA and the ALSC?

Were they correct? Or, do you think they were politically correct? Some people have labeled them as yet another example of disgusting “political correctness” gone overboard. To be sure, Americans have heard tremendous negative commentary regarding PC. “Politically correct” has been chewed and spit out and snickered at in the media over the past two decades and even Nobel Prize winners such as Elie Wiesel have weighed in critically on the subject. I wonder, though, if many of us are attaching different meanings and connotations to the term. Like countless other words and phrases, what PC means depends on the person using it.

“Merriam-Webster” defines PC as “conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated.” A 2016 article in the Washington Post sheds a lot of light on the history and evolution in meaning of “politically correct.” I highly recommend that anyone with a curious mind (and aren’t we as librarians a curious profession?) read it.

shutterstock_1292732065What to do? How to proceed? Are the ALA and ALSC actions examples of political correctness?

In 2019 we are in the thick of a muddy mire as to determining what is offensive to whom, and when, and why, and where, and how in the heck do we respond sanely?

As I write this, I am doing my best to be sensitive and mindful and yet not stray from an honest inquiry. Many discussions, issues, offenses, behaviors, and loaded words exist to potentially trip us up. Here are a few that come to mind.

Brown Bag Programs

shutterstock_774540499Do those of us who plan library programs offer brown bag lunchtime programs? Think about the point raised in a memo by the chief spokesman (should I use spokesperson?) for the Seattle Office of Civil Rights. He advised the city’s public information officers to avoid the phrase “brown bag” and instead use “sack lunch” or “Lunch-and-learn.” The memo read, in part, “Innocuous phrases, right? Mm, not so much. For some people, the phrase ‘brown bag’ calls up ugly associations with use of the expression ‘brown bag’ to determine if people’s skin color was light enough to allow admission to an event, a home, etc.” So, what is your library doing? Do you offer “brown bag” lunch programs?

The Education of Little Tree

If you are of a certain age, you may recall this 1976 book by Forrest Carter with much fondness. I most certainly do. Oprah Winfrey recommended the book on her website soon after it was released. Imagine the shock when the truth emerged in 1991 that the author was Asa Earl Carter, a Ku Klux Klan leader in the 1950s, and that the book is fiction, not nonfiction as it was originally catalogued. Where does the shock come from? The fact that it isn’t factual? The fact that it was written by a Klan leader? The thought that it wasn’t honest or true? Knowing the author’s views, would we speak of the book today with the same reverence and awe that we did at one time? Has the message of the book shifted, or is it our view that has shifted?

Huckleberry Finn

shutterstock_76729498Does your library have copies of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”? As a classic of American literature, it probably has a place on your shelves. How do we as librarians deal with Mark Twain’s language? Specifically, his frequent use of the N-word in the novel? One Twain scholar, Dr. Alan Gribben, has edited a 2012 edition published by NewSouth Books (9781603062350) that omits use of the word in question. Did this significant change fundamentally alter the spirit or intent of Twain’s original, or make it more acceptable to a modern audience? I wonder how many libraries own this version of Twain’s classic.

Dr. Seuss

Was Theodor Geisel a racist? A 2012 article in Business Insider offers evidence of this from his early advertising illustrations. Children’s Literature professor Philip Nel agrees in his book “Was the Cat in the Hat Black?” (9780190635077 ), citing several examples. The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum in Geisel’s hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts, removed a mural in 2017, taken from the book “And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” that showed a Chinese character with chopsticks, slanted eyes, and a pointed hat (read more here). Do some of the illustrations in his beloved books perpetuate racist stereotypes? Should the library withdraw them? Should the American Library Association (ALA) consider renaming its Theodor Seuss Geisel Award? As described by ALA, “The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award, established in 2004, is given annually (beginning in 2006) to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished contribution to the body of American children’s literature known as beginning reader books published in the United States during the preceding year.”

Alice in Wonderland

shutterstock_1216708135Was Lewis Carroll a pedophile? In an article in School Library Journal (“Separating Art from the Author,” School Library Journal, June 2018 p. 10-11), the Livingston N.J. Public Library’s youth services librarian, Anna Coats, questions consistency in current calls to condemn some authors. She points out Lewis Carroll, who “was believed to be obsessed with two young girls, photographing them naked, and taking a picture of himself kissing an 11-year old.” Should we revise our opinion of this mid-nineteenth century author in light of his behaviors?

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Is it time for this classic to be renamed? After all, that word is now uniformly accepted as being derogatory. A British theater company in 2002 that produced the play changed its title to “The Bellringer of Notre Dame.” What does Quasimodo have to say to us in 2019?

When We Was Fierce

Author e.E. Charlton—Trujillo’s 2016 young adult novel received starred reviews and was a VOYA Reluctant Readers Pick. The author appeared in the publisher’s booth at the ALA summer conference and distributed signed copies. But a few days before the book’s official release date of August 9, “the sh** hit the fan,” due to perceived stereotyping of its black characters and use of a “made-up” dialect in narration. Candlewick, the novel’s publisher, pulled the book with an explanation that they would work with the author on revisions. A revised version was never issued and, to my knowledge, no commentary has come from either the author or the publisher. Some libraries that preordered the book received it, followed by at least one vendor’s attempt to recall copies. While some libraries weeded it, other libraries may have copies available for checkout. Should they be withdrawn? Read more about the furor here.

Sherman Alexie

Several women have recently accused prominent American Indian author Sherman Alexie of sexual harassment. In early 2018, the American Indian Literature Association rescinded Alexie’s 2008 YA Book of the Year Award, “to send an unequivocal message that Alexie’s actions are unacceptable.” Was this move justified?

American Beauty

Does your library still have a copy of the Academy Award-winning film “American Beauty”? Given the highly publicized predatory sexual behavior of one of its lead actors, Kevin Spacey, does this film belong in your collection?

Bill Cosby

What, if anything, are libraries doing with their copies of “Fatherhood,” “Time Flies,” and “Love and Marriage,” or the DVD copies of television series that he starred in? What do you think about having these in your collection?

Hanta Yo

This novel, written by Ruth Beebe Hill, was a beloved portrayal of Plains Indians life prior to the influx of North Americans of European descent. When it was published in 1979, it was on the bestsellers list. However, Sioux activists soon organized protests against it for its alleged inaccuracies that demean the Plains Indians. It has been out-of-print for years, and chances are that most libraries no longer have a “live” copy. But should a book considered so offensive to the Sioux be part of a library’s collection?

The Good Earth

Objections to Pearl S. Buck’s novel and its 1937 film version are longstanding for its stereotypes and cultural appropriation. Author Celeste Ng, whose parents immigrated from Hong Kong to the U.S., began her review of the book on GoodReads by saying, “It’s difficult for me to explain how much I hate this book, and even harder to explain why. I don’t think it’s just because I hated the main character so much, and in this case at least, I don’t think it’s because of the weirdness that arises from a Westerner writing about a colonized country.” However, the facts about Buck’s Chinese upbringing and firsthand experiences do lend weight to the book’s accurate portrayal.

 

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Quite the quagmire, eh? Is our footing on a slippery slope? Renaming awards isn’t new and isn’t limited to the library profession. Recently, Analog Science Fiction and Fact made the decision to rename its John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Campbell was the publisher of the magazine from the late 1930s until 1971. A statement from its current editor, Trevor Quachri, was posted on the website in August of this year and reads in part:

Campbell’s provocative editorials and opinions on race, slavery, and other matters often reflected positions that went beyond just the mores of his time and are today at odds with modern values, including those held by the award’s many nominees, winners, and supporters. As we move into Analog’s 90th anniversary year, our goal is to keep the award as vital and distinguished as ever….

This past spring, the Vermont Department of Libraries decided to change the name of its Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award, which honors excellence in children’s literature. Fisher was an educational reformer, social activist, and popular author in the early 20th century. Eleanor Roosevelt cited her as being one of the 10 most influential women in the United States. So why rename the award? Fisher, it is alleged, was associated with the eugenics movement of the 1920s and ’30s that promoted “better breeding.” Her novels were regarded by some as being stereotypical of French Canadians and Native Americans. Fisher’s defenders say the famed author, who died in 1958, stood up for prison reform, adult education, and war relief. They say she is being judged unfairly over a minor association with the now-vilified eugenics movement.

Here are three comments from the many responses to the Fisher renaming:

“Revisionist historians with their sanctimonious posturing…”

“Why must we constantly judge those in the past with the standards of today? Those in the future will find today to be wanting as well.”

“We hope that this name change will help make all kids feel welcome to be part of the book award program….”

In some cases, an award is not renamed despite complaints. Cable channel MTV awarded its Video Vanguard Award in 1988 to Michael Jackson, and in 1991 renamed it the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. Despite protests about the appropriateness of retaining Jackson’s name on the award, given the numerous allegations against him of child sexual abuse, MTV is so far not considering a change in name.

In 2015, Sports Illustrated renamed its Sportsman Legacy Award as the Sports Illustrated’s Muhammad Ali Legacy Award. This award, as the website states, “was created in 2008 to honor former athletes and sports figures who embody the ideals of sportsmanship, leadership and philanthropy as vehicles for changing the world.” Might a military veteran object to receiving this award, since its namesake was convicted in 1967 as a draft dodger? Although the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the conviction in 1971, it is not a stretch of the imagination that a military veteran might be offended if given an award named for a man who refused to be drafted into the U.S. Army.

Anne Rice made this comment on her Facebook account on August 10, 2015:

I think we are facing a new era of censorship, in the name of political correctness. There are forces at work in the book world that want to control fiction writing in terms of who “has a right” to write about what. Some even advocate the out and out censorship of older works using words we now deem wholly unacceptable. Some are critical of novels involving rape. Some argue that white novelists have no right to write about people of color; and Christians should not write novels involving Jews or topics involving Jews. I think all this is dangerous. I think we have to stand up for the freedom of fiction writers to write what they want to write, no matter how offensive it might be to someone else. We must stand up for fiction as a place where transgressive behavior and ideas can be explored. We must stand up for freedom in the arts. I think we have to be willing to stand up for the despised. It is always a matter of personal choice whether one buys or reads a book. No one can make you do it. But Internet campaigns to destroy authors accused of inappropriate subject matter or attitudes are dangerous to us all.

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What’s next? Who’s the next author to be posthumously censored? Which award renaming will be put to a vote next? Where will it end?

I don’t know. The 2009 comedy film starring Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, and Alec Baldwin pops into my head. The title says it all: “It’s Complicated.”

I leave you with two quotes, one from an ancient sage, and one from a more contemporary critic of modern society.

 

 

“We cling to our own point of view, as though everything depended on it. Yet our opinions have no permanence; like autumn and winter, they gradually pass away.” —Zhuangzi

“Political Correctness is Fascism pretending to be manners.” —George Carlin

 

 

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Paul

Nothing brings a smile to Paul Duckworth’s face quite like a good book, a long walk, and the unmatched beauty of country life. Click here for more.

 

 

Spanish-Language Collection Development: What to Keep in Mind When Selecting


Hablas Espanol_331952135

By Jessica L. Blaker, Spanish Services, Collection Development & Acquisitions

The demand for Spanish materials in public libraries has increased dramatically over the past few years, and librarians have accepted the challenge to find the right titles for their library’s demographic.

Often, libraries do not have in-house staff with enough experience or language skills to make the best decisions. When you don’t speak the language and reviews are nonexistent, how do you know what to buy? Simply filling your shelves with Spanish language titles does not guarantee success, and it doesn’t mean your materials will appeal to patrons or circulate.

Library Patrons_160679732Know Your Patron Base

One of the keys to selecting Spanish materials for your library is knowing your population’s country of origin. The Spanish dialect in which a book is written can have a big impact on how readable or useful it will be in your community. For instance, the Spanish spoken in Spain is much different than the Spanish spoken in Latin America. A picture book or board book that contains words and expressions colloquial to Spain, for example, may look odd to Mexican readers, and therefore be less appealing.

While it is important to be mindful of regionalism, it’s a mistake to take this too far and totally exclude authors and publishers from Spain (assuming your patrons hail from countries other than Spain). Doing so could cause you to miss out on a big chunk of what’s out there.

Thinking that Mexicans or Salvadorans would not want to read materials from Spanish authors is akin to me saying that, because I am an American, I won’t ready Harry Potter, since the author of that series is from the UK. Spanish authors such as Carlos Ruiz Zafon, who enjoys universal readership, could get lost in the shuffle. That would shortchange your community.

Brodart’s Spanish materials experts vet as many titles as possible — particularly children’s titles — reviewing them for dialect and quality. We also note author country of origin on adult titles to aid in selection. These are the factors that will be important to your Spanish-speaking patrons.

English Language Titles in Spanish

Many Spanish translations of popular English language titles are published in Spain. For example, “Miedo: Trump en La Casa Blanca (Fear: Trump in the White House),” by Bob Woodward, is being released in December by Roca Editorial. This is likely to be one of the biggest books of the year. But a library that excludes publishers from Spain would never see that title in its library collection. Other examples of popular and must-have titles coming out of Spain include “El cuento de criada (The Handmaid’s Tale)” by Margaret Atwood and “La forma del agua (The Shape of Water)” by Guillermo del Toro.

Appropriateness for American Libraries

We Americans tend to be more prudish than much of the rest of the world when it comes to sex and nudity. An example of this is a book from Spanish Publishers called “El pañal de Bumba.” This is a board book about a little boy who has lost his diaper. Right or wrong, the illustrations in this book, while perfectly acceptable in Europe, would be challenged in the US. The title does not meet American standards for board books, due to depictions of nudity (albeit childish nudity).

In this case, it would be understandable to exclude the title due to the illustrations. This is why book-in-hand reviews are imperative.

Here’s another point you may not have considered: juvenile titles from Spain are often printed in cursive font. This may not sound like a big deal, but many schools across the US are no longer teaching children cursive. Conversely, cursive writing (la caligrafia) is still widely taught in Central and South America. Thus, while a book’s subject matter may be deemed appropriate for American children, and while Spanish-speaking children who have learned to read in another country might have no trouble with it, it would be unintelligible to English-speaking American children learning Spanish. Titles printed in cursive are not of interest to many public libraries.

What Is Popular among Spanish Speakers?Hispanic Couple Reading_253450447

Like their English-speaking counterparts, Hispanic patrons read a balanced mix of both fiction and nonfiction.

In nonfiction, the most popular Dewey categories are the 100s, 200s, 300s, and 600s. The general trend in Hispanic nonfiction is toward self-improvement books. Leylha Ahuile, writing in Publishers Weekly, points out that there is a high demand for self-improvement literature in the Spanish-­language book market in the US, including books on “finance, health, marriage, parenting, acquiring or improving skills, entrepreneurship, leadership, and spirituality.” The same holds true for English speakers: these topics are universal and tend to be among the most in-demand and highest-circulating items in libraries today.

Graphic Novels

Most Spanish-language graphic novels tend to come from Mexico and Spain. Spanish Publishers has recently picked up the wildly popular “Lumberjanes (Lenadoras)” in Spanish for the YA market. Interestingly enough, there are a number of current widely popular graphic novels that poke fun at the US President and our current state of affairs. These titles are mostly from Mexico.

Hello Hola_1020911380Háblanos! (Talk to Us!)

Overcoming language barriers and reaching underserved populations is one of the most rewarding experiences for librarians. We would love to hear your stories and welcome your questions and concerns about Spanish-language collection development. Leave a comment to share!

For further reading:

Library Journal’s Collection Development feature on Selecting Spanish

RUSA’s Guidelines for Library Services to Spanish-Speaking Library Users

 

Jessica Blaker

Jessica

Jessica Blaker has been a Spanish cataloger and a customer account manager at Brodart. She came back to Spanish as a collection development paraprofessional, which she loves due to the variety and the opportunity to work with customers. Click here for more.

Shelving, Collection Usage, and Your Library

By Stephanie Campbell, MLIS

Have you ever wondered how your collection “stacks up?”

The following figures, which represent how most Brodart customers approach opening day collections, are the target proportions you should aim to achieve when building a collection from scratch.

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Pie Chart #3 - NEW

Of course, every library is different and should reflect the wants and needs of the community it serves. But chances are, your usage reports, re-shelving carts, and catalog searches will mirror the same general ratios shown above.

So how do general collection ratios influence strategies for displaying your materials? Good question! In short, your existing shelving should support how the collection is being used. In the absence of the space or money required to install more shelving, you can move collections around the building, which both highlights individual collections and frees up space in the stacks for areas that need to grow.

shutterstock_108584921Although slatwall and display kiosks are better for merchandising your collection, the fact remains that most libraries still rely on stacks—rows upon rows of shelving units—to arrange the bulk of their materials. The above guidelines are great when you’re planning a new space, but what if you want to rework an old one? How should you juggle the competing needs? How do you do justice to every subject area while growing those areas that enjoy the most traffic? At the end of the day, our primary goal as librarians is to help patrons find the titles that interest them.

Arrangements need to make sense so that patrons can self-direct. That said, fixed shelving units and the layout of your building may dictate the sizes of the collections and how they are arranged. Aside from weeding, how can you make more room for those popular 600s and 700s?

Breaking out collections is one way to overcome shelving obstacles. Here are some examples.

  • Biographies and classics can stand alone; they need not be housed in the physical rows where they belong according to Dewey classification
  • Reclassify and move your short stories to fiction, or vice versa
  • Pull out your paperbacks for a dedicated commuter collection
  • Interfile all books by a particular author, regardless of bind
  • Pull all the language learning materials, test prep, or travel guides into a special section
  • Dedicate stand-alone locations to mysteries and/or sci-fi/fantasy

There are pros and cons to all of these approaches. However, the needs and preferences of your patrons should guide your decisions.

shutterstock_394779487Once you’ve determined your priorities, sketch out a new layout. As the saying goes, “measure twice and cut once.” What type of material do you want to move? Do your materials and shelves follow standard dimensions? Take into account the measurements of both where the materials sit now and their future location. You don’t want to get halfway through a move only to find that a collection won’t fit in its new destination (i.e., those art books that are too tall and/or too deep) which would require reducing the number of shelves. Be prepared with signage to alert patrons about temporary locations until the dust settles.

Don’t be afraid to make major changes or be daunted by major moves. With a little pre-planning, shifting projects and relocating other materials can progress smoothly and manageably. And your collections can meet traditional expectations while embracing current usage.

Here are some resources to help you with measurements and standards:

https://libraryarchitecture.wikispaces.com/Shelving
http://web.nmsu.edu/~ebosman/church/spaceplan.shtml

stephaniecampbell

Stephanie

Stephanie Campbell has worked for more than 20 years in public, academic, and special libraries. She is an avid gardener, bicyclist, and kayaker. Click here for more.

The Collection Development Conundrum

By Paul Duckworth, MLS

5934882 - student looking at empty book shelves in libraryAlmost ten years ago, David Feldman penned a series of “Imponderables”: books with catchy titles such as “Why Do Pirates Love Parrots?”, “When Do Fish Sleep?”, and “Do Penguins Have Knees?” They moved well in public libraries for a few years, and then people seemed to lose interest in those questions. There are bigger questions, though, that people never seem to tire of pondering:

  • How did life begin?
  • Will we ever cure cancer?
  • Are we alone in the universe?
  • Why do we dream?
  • What makes us human?

Certainly, the shelves of our libraries are replete with titles that attempt to answer each of these quandaries. I want to single out a different question, though— one that we librarians chew on from time to time: “What’s the best way to select new titles for our collection?”

After many years of practicing the art of selecting new materials for public libraries, I have learned many things but I don’t intend to imply that I have all the answers. Nor does anyone else—and I recommend you not allow yourself to be bamboozled by anyone who claims their modus operandi is numero uno. What I’m suggesting is that the question “What’s the best way to select new books for the collection?” is a classic imponderable.

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Oops… I have let a clue slip into the previous paragraph: Art. Selection of new materials is an art, not a science. Says who? I say it is. Ah, yes, art vs. science, another timeless conundrum—and also the name of an Australian electronic dance band that is raucously frenetic, IMHO. But I digress.

Before getting into the art of selecting titles, let’s look at the various triggers that prompt us to select. “How do we decide what gets added to the collection? Let me count the ways.” (Apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning.) 

  • The powerful influence of media presence
  • The appeal of cover art: it goes without saying that poor design or the lack of text and colorful graphics will dissuade most if not all patrons from checking out the book
  • Physical size, or the Goldilocks principle (not too big, not too small)
  • Binding
  • Patron requests or to meet the needs of a particular audience
  • School assignments
  • Local interest or tie-in
  • Library book selector says, “It’s my favorite area of interest and my library can never have enough _____ books.” (Fill in the blank: knitting, backpacking, Indian cooking, Scandinavian mysteries, etc.)
  • Fill a gap or special need
  • Amazon customer comments
  • Expeditions to bookstores
  • Donations
  • Bestseller lists
  • Anticipated demand for a title
  • Author popularity
  • It’s the next one in the series
  • A particular title is selected to provide balance in the collection
  • Self-promotion by author
  • Publisher catalogs
  • “Let George do it”—or, in the library’s case, outsource selection responsibilities to a vendor
  • Vendor promotion/customized selection lists
  • Vendor buying levels
  • Vendor list of “best” books
  • Visit from sales rep
  • Print run
  • Price
  • “Whoops! Look, we’ve got some funds we need to encumber by the end of the week.”
  • “The computer made me buy it,” a.k.a. suggested titles generated by software programs
  • Blanket orders or standing order plans
  • Television shows (get ready—Oprah is returning to the air this autumn!)
  • Did I mention the influence of media presence?

 

7338274 - book. word collage on white background.   illustration.What haven’t I listed? Reviews, of course; book reviews. But do they really matter these days? While that’s a completely separate topic in itself, I won’t hesitate to jump in and firmly state, “Yes, reviews matter!” Librarians have many excellent sources of professional reviews from which to choose.

It comes as no surprise that our public expects new books. Not a travel guide from three years ago and not a hot author’s thriller that has been available for a few years. Every survey of our customers says “We want new books,” and every public library’s circulation statistics bear this out. We have our marching orders from patrons: “Make our collection fresh, new, appealing, and up-to-date!”

But consider this not-too-far-fetched example. While we are evaluating a brand new title that discusses the history of yodeling in Tasmania — to replace our worn-out, aging title on the topic — we may find reviews suggesting that this new title is poorly edited and full of inaccuracies, or that it is an unstated reprint of a title originally issued in 1957. Here’s how “art” comes into play. Perhaps we will serve our patrons better by purchasing a well-reviewed title on the topic that was published two years ago, as opposed to one published this month. Also, we may have to stand our ground when other staff members question why such a limited-interest title would be selected at all. We know our clientele, and we see the circ. stats for that old, worn-out tome on the shelf, and we employ what is so aptly described by the phrase “professional judgment.” This is the art of selection!

Selecting books can certainly be informed by science, but I’m of the firm opinion that simply letting the computer do the work is not the way to go. Humans can make judgment calls and handle nuances and shades of gray in ways that software simply cannot, no matter how sophisticated the algorithms may be.

11293717 - young smiling female librarian handing a book to a customerAs professional librarians, we have access to respected journals that offer us reviews of forthcoming and recently-published books. Amidst our efforts to respond to media saturation, vendor buying levels, tweets, emails, phone calls, and blog posts, let us not neglect the art of reading reviews, using good judgment, and knowing our community. Hippocrates said “Art is long, life is short.” I interpret this to mean that it takes us an extended period of time to develop and perfect the craft of selecting books for our library and community of users.

So, where are we now, dear reader? Are you reconsidering your book selection process? My motive was to raise a question, get you to think, and encourage you to ponder possibilities. How do you and your library select? How is it working for you?

And now, forward! Ahead into these times of turmoil and changing tools for publishing and selecting! Having begun with the imponderable question of how to best select new books, I now suggest you be forewarned to never lose the art of your foresight—and to never forebear.

“‘Go back?’ he thought. ‘No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!’ So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.”
― J.R.R. TolkienThe Hobbit

 

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Paul

Nothing brings a smile to Paul Duckworth’s face quite like a good book, a long walk, and the unmatched beauty of country life. Click here for more.