Tag Archives: American Library Association

Yes, Amelia, There Are Great Feminist Books for Children and Young Adults

26 May

Inspirational Feminist Publisher

Every year the Feminist Task Force of the Social Responsibilities Round Table of the American Library Association compiles a list of the best books for children and young adults with strong feminist themes. Dubbed the Amelia Bloomer Project in honor of the great suffragist writer and publisher, the list has been produced since 2002. Each list contains between 20 and 50 books segmented by type (fiction or non-fiction) and reading level (young readers, middle readers, and young adults). The content ranges from coloring books to textbooks, from comics to novels.

The Task Force selects books based on four criteria:

  1. Significant feminist content
  2. Excellence in writing
  3. Appealing format
  4. Age appropriateness for young readers

The “feminist content” criterion is of particular interest. Given the relative prevalence of stronger women characters in modern publishing, identifying books that are truly feminist and not just inclusive of female protagonists is essential. As the Task Force states in its statement of criteria:

Feminist books for young readers must move beyond merely “spunky” and “feisty” young women, beyond characters and people who fight to protect themselves without furthering rights for other women. Feminist books show women overcoming the obstacles of intersecting forces of race, gender, and class, actively shaping their destinies. They break bonds forced by society as they defy stereotypical expectations and show resilience in the face of societal strictures. In addition, feminist books show women solving problems, gaining personal power, and empowering others. They celebrate girls and women as a vibrant, vital force in the world. These books explain that there is a gender issue; they don’t leave the reader to guess. A book with a strong female character that does not demonstrate that an inequality exists may not be a feminist book.

The Feminist Task Force

With the forces at work in our government and society that want to relegate women to second-class status, it is more important than ever that young readers — both girls and boys  — are presented with reading material that emphasizes the power and equality of women. Kudos to the Feminist Task Force for undertaking the essential work of identifying high-quality books with positive messages.

The 2011 list is available online or as a PDF file, and a complete set of the lists is available here.

Oregon Librarians Visit Congress

13 May

Rep. Kurt Schrader with Oregon Librarians

Seven librarians from Oregon spent Tuesday, May 10 visiting the offices of all five Oregon Representatives and both Oregon Senators. These visits were conducted as part of National Library Legislative Day. I was privileged to be part of the visiting group as the President-Elect of the Oregon Library Association. Other members represented the breadth of Oregon libraries, including representatives from public, academic, and school libraries.

It was very gratifying to feel a strong sense of support for library issues from all seven offices. Regardless of party affiliation, district geography, or seniority, all Oregon’s members of Congress recognize the value of strong libraries for strong Oregon communities. Our state has been hit very hard by the economic downturn, and libraries are a rare public good available to all; library usage for internet access and job searching is up significantly over the past two years.

The American Library Association’s Washington (ALA) office held a briefing session on Monday to orient us to the key issues. Due to Congress’ current focus on budgetary and fiscal issues, many of these topics do not have active legislation at this time, but it was still important to raise congressional awareness of library needs and concerns.

On the funding side, one critical issue is the funding of the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). This funding includes monies distributed to each state on a population-based model. States use the money to support local library programs. In Oregon, LSTA funding supports a variety of programs including:

  • Statewide access to a variety of research and reference tools through local libraries of all types
  • The Oregon School Library Information System (OSLIS), providing access to databases and learning tools for Oregon’s K-12 community
  • Grants and aid to Oregon libraries pursuing innovative and collaborative projects to improve the Oregon library community

ALA is asking Congress to fully fund LSTA at the $232,000,000 level it authorized in December. While the current budgetary situation requires careful scrutiny of all programs, library funding returns value to communities in ways that no other money can. The economic downturn has increased library usage and the funding should be held at least neutral to recognize this value.

Another critical issue is funding for school libraries. Unfortunately, as school funding is slashed, library staff are among the first casualties. This is despite research clearly linking future student success to the presence of strong school libraries, which must include a trained librarian or media specialist to ensure student learning. The No Child Left Behind legislation included no library programs. As it is reauthorized (as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act), it is critical that Congress include language that authorizes and mandates school programs and best practices.

Library Champion, Rep. Grijalva

On Monday, the Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations (ALTAFF), a division of ALA, awarded their 2011 Public Service Award to a champion of school libraries (and all library service), Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ). Rep. Grijalva introduced the 2009 Strengthening Kids’ Interest in Learning and Libraries Act, better known as the SKILLs Act.

SKILLs would establish a goal of having not less than one highly qualified school library media specialist in each public school. In addition, it proposes to increase student academic achievement through strategies such as improving the quality of teachers, school library media specialists and principals; and increasing the number of highly qualified teachers in the classroom, highly qualified school library media specialists in the library and highly qualified principals and assistant principals in schools.

It was a true pleasure to meet Rep. Grijalva and hear his generous words about libraries as he accepted the award.

Oregon is very fortunate to have strong library supporters in Congress as well. I truly enjoyed my visits with them and the camaraderie of other Oregon librarians. Anyone else interested in ensuring strong, well-funded libraries should contact their members of Congress and ask for full support of these important library issues.

Support Your Local Libraries

8 May

Tuesday is National Library Legislative Day. Sponsored by the American Library Association, this is a day for librarians and library supporters to contact or visit their members of Congress to talk about the value of libraries.

Libraries are ever more essential in these tough economic times. People are flocking to our nation’s libraries for job and career information, small business research and e-government services as well as support for formal and informal education and lifelong learning. Usage is up everywhere as people try to get back to work. Families borrow more books, DVDs and other materials. Students of all ages seek digital literacy skills. Teachers and administrators recognize how libraries lead to improved student performance. Communities recognize that their libraries are the primary place – and often the only place in rural areas – to find online materials and databases with no-fee access to the Internet.

The federal role in library development and funding is targeted and unique. For example, state library agencies utilize funding from the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), to build shared services and collaborations that save funding while improving public services. The need for school libraries is demonstrated by the research showing that students perform better in schools with an effective school library program. Transparency and open government are best served when open access policies assure a strong Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) in the Government Printing Office (GPO) and public access to federally funded research reports.

Facing tough budget decisions, Congress should make equitable decisions and not cut library programs twice as much as other education and cultural programs. The people using public, school and academic libraries are using libraries more than ever – libraries that are also filling the gaps made when other agencies and services are cut.

In these tough budgetary times, Congress has to make hard choices about what services to fund. Libraries are more important than ever. If you value your public, school, and academic libraries, please take a moment and contact your Representative and Senators this week.

The Most Challenged Books of 2010: Proof we need our libraries

15 Apr

The Most Dangerous Book In America?

As National Library Week draws to a close, it is important to celebrate one of the most critical roles of the library: to provide all kinds of information to everyone who visits. Intellectual freedom is a cornerstone of the mission of the library.

Sadly, library materials are challenged every year in every part of the country. Regular TSM readers may remember our celebration of Banned Books Week last fall. That week recognizes all of the materials challenged in libraries. As part of this week’s recognition of library service, the American Library Association releases the annual list of the most-challenged books in America’s libraries over the past year. This year’s top 10 were:

  1. And Tango Makes Three –– Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian –– Sherman Alexie.
  3. Brave New World –– Aldous Huxley.
  4. Crank –– Ellen Hopkins.
  5. The Hunger Games –– Suzanne Collins.
  6. Lush –– Natasha Friend.
  7. What My Mother Doesn’t Know –– Sonya Sones.
  8. Nickel and Dimed –– Barbara Ehrenreich.
  9. Revolutionary Voices –– edited by Amy Sonnie.
  10. Twilight –– Stephenie Meyer.

This is a typical list, focusing on blocking free access to reading of children’s and young adult materials. It also includes an old standby (Brave New World) and another less-recent book that is targeted by the Tea Party (Nickel and Dimed) for its supposed leftist bias. Two books on the list are of particular note this year.

Revolutionary Voices is a multicultural anthology of works by radical queer youth designed to empower the young LGBTQ community. The award-winning book was published in 2000 and is out of print, selling for $50.00 or more online. This makes library access all the more critical for people who cannot find or afford a copy for purchase. How did a 10-year-old, relatively unknown book wind up at #9? We can thank Glenn Beck. Members of his 9/12 Project targeted the book in several communities, successfully removing it from at least two communities. (It is rare that challenges result in removal, so this is a notoriously notable achievement.)

The most-challenged book is And Tango Makes Three, which has been in the top two every year since it was published in 2005. This sweet, fact-based story of two male penguins who live as a mated pair and raise a chick together failed to melt the Antarctic hearts of dozens of “family values” organizations which have mounted incessant campaigns against it. Fortunately, the absurd uproar has also kept this book a bestseller. Thanks to the Unshelved guys for this perfect analysis of the absurdity of these challenges:

Books are for reading, and libraries are for everyone. Celebrate National Library Week by reading a challenged book today! If you are interested in this year’s books, here’s a convenient list of the Top 10 with links to local libraries.

Celebrating National Library Week

12 Apr

Americans continue to turn to their local libraries for help a wide variety of information services as we celebrate National Library Week, April 10 – 16, 2011.

Americans visited their libraries nearly 1.5 billion times and checked out more than 2 billion items in the past year. Library users continue to turn to their libraries for use of computers, free wireless Internet access and e-books, personal finance tools, information for job searches and small business opportunities and, of course, the knowledge and experience of librarians. Nearly two out of every three Americans own a library card.

Public libraries tended to experience slightly greater output in all measures last year, reversing last year’s slight dip. A survey of 1,105 libraries ranging in size from serving 125 to serving more than 3.5 million people in their service areas revealed the following information:

  • These libraries served 87.8 million registered patrons in 2009, 53.8 percent of a total legal service area population of 163.3 million in the United States and Canada.
  • On average they circulated items 1,548,590 times, performed 216,872 reference transactions, provided programs to 47,694 patrons, and provided 16,656 materials to other libraries, while receiving 16,875 materials from other libraries annually.

Local public libraries continue to play a vital role in communities nationwide as unemployment rates hover near 9 percent –– or higher, in many areas –– and people look for ways to make ends meet. More than two-thirds of adults responding to a January 2011 Harris Poll Quorum said that the library’s assistance in starting a business or finding a job was important to them. Libraries are helping job seekers, since more businesses – including a majority of America’s leading retailers – require applicants to apply online. Job-seeking resources are among the most in-demand among the technology resources available in U.S. public libraries. These figures were up from a year earlier, testament both to Americans’ entrepreneurial spirit and libraries’ role in nourishing that spirit.

But despite the value they offer, libraries face budget cuts throughout the United States. Nineteen states reported cuts in state funding for public libraries from fiscal 2010 to fiscal 2011. Of these, more than half indicated that the cuts were greater than 10 percent. As your local decision-makers meet to resolve major budget issues, please speak up for your libraries and ensure that these critical institutions receive the funding they need to serve all citizens.

“Libraries … will be the best security for maintaining our liberties. A nation of well-informed [citizens], who have been taught to know and prize the rights … given them, cannot be enslaved. It is in the regions of ignorance that tyranny reigns.” – Henry Stuber (as part of a biographical sketch of Benjamin Franklin from 1793, often misattributed to Franklin)

Libraries, open to all and free of charge, are our most democratic institutions. For more information, here is the American Library Association’s State of America’s Libraries Report.

Added bonus: April 12 is National Library Workers’ Day. Stop by your local library today and thank the people who keep its services running for you!

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