Saturday, September 28, 2013

Banned Books Week: Children's Classics Edition

On this final day of Banned Books Week 2013, let's take a look at the classics of children's literature that some adults have deemed unsuitable for young minds. 

That Wilbur the pig and the other animals on Zuckerman's farm could talk is "an insult to God," according to those who've banned Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White.
For reasons that range from "too depressing" to "promoting witchcraft" to "criminalizing the foresting industry," many classics of children's literature have been routinely banned in the United States. Buzzfeed compiled a list of the "15 Children's Books That Have Been Banned in America." Some of them are:

Immediately following its initial publication in 1963, Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are was targeted by a number of Southern U.S. states for promoting "witchcraft and supernatural events," according to Buzzfeed.

Since the 1960s, Alice in Wonderland (also Alice's Adventures in Wonderland) by Lewis Carroll has been banned out of fear that it promotes drug use to children, reported Buzzfeed. I have to say that listening to Jefferson Airplane's 1967 hit "White Rabbit" has recently got me to purchase a copy of Alice so that I can see if I can pick up on any drug references re-reading it as an adult.

As was the case with Charlotte's Web, Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne has also become forbidden reading because Pooh and the other animal inhabitants of Hundred Acre Wood can talk and thus are "an insult to God," said Buzzfeed.

Of all books, Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary was banned because an edition of it contains the definition of oral sex, thus offending the sensibilities of some adults residing in the state of California, according to Buzzfeed.

To take a look at all "15 Classic Children's Books That Have Been Banned in America," check out Buzzfeed's article at THIS LINK

All above images from 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Hey! Got Your 'I Read Banned Books' Tote Bag?

Now for sale at New York City's Strand Books! You can order yours online HERE.

Banned Books Trading Cards: Collect 'Em All!

When I was a kid, trading cards featuring the likenesses of athletes, comic book heroes, and more came in packages of bubble gum, inside cereal boxes, and other consumer-friendly containers that appealed to children. It became a big deal among my classmates to collect an entire series of trading cards, and the frenzy to swap cards reached a fever pitch during lunch breaks and recess.

Front of a banned book trading card from Lawrence Public Library.
Image via

The appeal of trading cards is still strong these days, a fact that the staff of Lawrence Public Library recognized when coming up with banned books trading cards. Specifically, Susan Brown, the marketing director of the public library in Lawrence, Kansas, got the idea to produce these cards as a way to heighten awareness of intellectual freedom, particularly during Banned Books Week.
Back of a banned book trading card from Lawrence Public Library.
Image via

"Libraries usually have a display of banned books and maybe a Read Out or panel discussion about censorship," Brown told the Library as Incubator Project. "I was thinking of new says to get the message out." Once funding was secured, in the form of a $1,000 grant from the Freedom to Read Foundation that was matched by the Friends of the Lawrence Public Library, the project to create banned books trading cards was green-lit.

For the front of the cards, local artists designed small-scale works that were inspired by the banned book and its author. Brown provided the information for the back of the cards, including the title of the book and its author, the reason why it was banned, the name of the artist responsible for the work on the front of the card, the artist's statement, and the logos of partnering institutions.
2013 banned books trading cards from Lawrence Public Library.
Image from

The banned books trading cards have proven to be such a hit that other libraries have followed suit, including the Chapel Hill Public Library in North Carolina.

For each day of Banned Books Week this year, the Library as Incubator Project is featuring banned books trading cards from the Lawrence Public Library and the Chapel Hill Public Library on its website. You can take a look HERE.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

For Banned Books Week: Essential LGBT Literature

Hooray! Banned Books Week is underway! Happening September 22 through 28, this is a nationwide celebration of everyone's freedom to read whatever books they want. This annual event also brings attention to censorship when it comes to books that are challenged or outright banned because of their content.

In Our Mothers' House, a children's book on a multiracial family headed by a lesbian couple, is routinely on banned books lists, according to the ACLU.

"Challenges are motivated by a desire to protect children from 'inappropriate' sexual content or 'offensive' language," according to the American Library Association (ALA). These challenges are typically brought forth by members of the local community who object to a school or library carrying a particular title. Many titles that have been objected have an LGBT focus. Two recent examples are children's books Tango Makes Three and In Our Mothers' House, reported the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

In honor of Banned Books Week, I'm sharing with you a list of LGBT works of nonfiction that many people consider essential and that everyone should be allowed to read. Compiled by Flavorwire, this list includes:

The Gay Metropolis: The Landmark History of Gay Life in America, by Charles Kaiser
"Kaiser's historical look at how gay men informed the culture of America's urban areas - particularly New York City - spans 56 years from the periods of silent acceptance, the tumultuous pre-Stonewall years, the empowering '70s, and the AIDS crisis of the '80s" - Flavorwire

Before Night Falls/Antes que anochezca, by Reinaldo Arenas
"The internationally renowned poet shares his life story, from his adolescence spent fighting for the Castro regime to his imprisonment for his sexuality to his flight from Cuba to his deathbed in New York City" - Flavorwire (The 2000 film adaption alerted the world to the awesomeness that is Javier Bardem!)

Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin, by John D'Emilio
"Bayard Rustin was responsible for teaching the principles of nonviolent protest to Martin Luther King Jr., yet his status as an openly gay man in the midst of the civil rights movement kept him from being recognized for the efforts and activism he accomplished" - Flavorwire

And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic, by Randy Shilts
"Shilts' indelible and controversial reporting on the AIDS epidemic not only reveals the origins of the virus' spread but also examines the ramifications of the medical community and the government's ignorance of the crisis" - Flavorwire (This book was also adapted into a movie, in 1993.)

Sister Outsider, by Audre Lorde
"This collection of speeches and essays from the influential and outspoken Audre Lorde touches on racism, sexism, and homophobia without losing a sense of hope for positive results in the face of class struggles" - Flavorwire (Also worth reading is Lorde's autobiography, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name.)

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, by Alison Bechdel
"Alison Bechdel's gorgeous and heartbreaking graphic memoir follows the artist as she grapples with both her own sexuality and the revelation that her cold, distant father led a secret life as a gay man" - Flavorwire (If you're a fan of graphic novels/comics, check out Bechdel's Dykes to Watch Out For, her long-running comic series that also comes in book form.)

Ceremonies, by Essex Hemphill
"Hemphill's collection of poetry and commentary tackles the experience of being an African American and a gay man in a society that refuses to accept both" - Flavorwire (For more on the late poet and activist, watch Tongues Untied, the 1989 semi-documentary directed by Marlon Riggs.)

Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us, by Kate Bornstein
"Legendary transgender activist and writer Kate Bornstein details her transition from a heterosexual man to a lesbian woman in this modern classic about challenging gender and cultural norms" - Flavorwire

See Flavorwire's entire list of "25 Essential Works of LGBT Non-Fiction" HERE.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Your Library Student Business Card: Do's and Don'ts

More and more, I'm finding myself at functions where librarians, archivists, and library school students can meet and mingle. After people introduce themselves and share a bit about their academic, professional, or personal background, the inevitable question arises: "Do you have a business card?" Well, um...
Here's an idea for a library student business card! Can't say I've seen this before.
Image from

I'm sorry to say that I don't have a business card. Being that I don't (yet) work at a library or archive and am currently a library student, I wonder what I would put on it. Should I say that I'm an MLS student? And if so, should I put on it that I'm graduating soon? Nicole Helregel advises against it.

In "Your Very First Library Student Business Cards," her article for Hack Library School, Nicole Helregel says to avoid putting "a student position or temporary appointment" on your card. "To maximize your card's longevity," she says, also "steer clear of 'expected graduation' and other phrases that will become dated. Perhaps just list: 'Degree, Institution, Graduation Year,' e.g. 'MLIS, University of Illinois, 2014.'" Sounds good to me. But what about the all-important contact info?

"Consider having more than one point of contact," Helregel strongly suggests in her article. "Include the ones you check most frequently. Also for longevity's sake, consider listing an email address that isn't linked to your institution, since that will likely change once you graduate (go with Gmail or something comparable)."

If you're active on social media, Helregel says it "would not be out of place" if you put, say, your Twitter handle on your business card. If you have a blog, include the link to your blog "if it focuses primarily on LIS issues or can showcase your writing skills in a way that won't detract from your professionalism and employability." If you're on LinkedIn, add that information as well, "particularly if you don't have any other online resume or web/blogging presence," Helregel says.

For more about what to put on your first library student business cards, as well as what to print them on and whether or not you should print them yourself, see Nicole Helregel's article for Hacked Library School at THIS LINK.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Banishing Bad Odors from Your Books

Books often have a distinct smell. There's that mildly intoxicating "old book smell" that I wrote about earlier - the result of compounds in the ink, paper, and glue of books decomposing with age. Another pleasing aroma can arise from the pages of books in which dried flowers, such as roses or violets or lilacs, were carefully pressed. However, you'll discover that some books can have a not-so-fresh scent.

View original image at

Let's say that you are a nonsmoker who lent one of your books to a friend whose roommate chain-smokes. Or at a sidewalk sale, you happily discover an excellent vintage cookbook that unfortunately has the pungent aroma of a food that you can't imagine anyone ever eating. Or say the book that you now possess strongly reeks of a long-neglected cat litter box. Or it smells of mildew. What do you do?

In his article, "Is It More Than 'Old Book Smell?,'" antiquarian bookseller Joachim Koch gives you a technique to try. Using tips gleaned from the Dartmouth College Library, Koch says you should:

1. Find a container that is big enough to hold your malodorous book, then find a second larger container that has a lid. Be sure that neither container has been used to store food or liquid.

2. Place an odor-absorbing material, such as baking soda, charcoal briquettes, or fresh kitty litter, in the larger container.

3. Open the book and place it flat within the smaller container. If you're removing the stink from more than one book, you can place them upright inside the smaller container, with their pages slightly fanned out.

4. Place the smaller container inside the larger container, and close the lid on the larger container. After several days have passed, check on the book(s). If bad odors still waft from the pages, close up the container again and let the books sit for a while longer. Sooner or later, the offending smell will be no more.

Koch further advises that, if you wish to keep the bad smell from returning, you should make sure air circulates well in the room where you keep your books. He also recommends you control the temperature and humidity in the room, and urges that you dust your books regularly in order to prevent a buildup that can encourage the growth of mold and mildew.

Now you can enjoy your books without having to hold them at arm's length!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Why Bother Keeping Books?

When I graduate from library school next year, I plan to pick up everything and move. Already I've begun to take stock of my belongings, and I've decided that most of what I have, I'm OK parting with. This includes all of my furniture, except for my black leather sofa that converts into a full-size bed. I also want to keep my multicolored (but mostly red) vertically striped curtains and my sunburst wall clock. But most importantly, I want to keep my books. All of them.
This is what happens when you run out of room on the bookshelf.
Photo credit: Dominic Lipinski/AP via

Having moved quite a few times before, I understand completely what a hassle it is to take books with you. You have to collect enough cardboard boxes for all of them, and you can't fill the boxes with too many books or else you'll make them too heavy for lifting. Then you end up with just as many boxes for your books as you do for your other belongings. In this age of e-books especially, you think, "It would be so much easier if I didn't insist on carting all of these (paper) books around with me." But for me, a house isn't a home without books.

I grew up with a mother who loved to read, which means the house I grew up in contained tall bookshelves filled with books. That's "normal" for me, and it's comforting. So for me, books are as much a part of the home environment as a sofa or an end table, plants on the windowsill, and a teapot on the stove. That's why I keep books. Others keep books with the intent of rereading them, according to Tasha Brandstatter in her BookRiot article "Why Keep Books?"

"Some people think the possibility of rereading is the only justifiable reason for keeping books after you've finished them," says Brandstatter in her article. "I personally am a huge fan of rereading novels because a good book will reveal more of itself every time you pick it up." I have to admit that I generally don't reread the books I own. (Although lately, I find myself wanting to reread Linda McCartney: A Portrait, the biography of Sir Paul's wife that was written by Danny Fields, just to savor the stories of her life as a young rock photographer in 1960s New York.) I'm much more likely to take a book from the shelf to find a particular excerpt, then put it back.

But then there are those books that I hold onto simply because I plan to read them at some point, including Rethinking Camelot by Noam Chomsky and Autobiography of a Bluesman by Taj Mahal. Brandstatter says that one of the books she owns that she plans to read, eventually, is Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisisted, which she bought at a library book sale. "Am I ever going to read that thing, considering I refuse to even watch the movie?" she asks in her article. "Nope. Probably not. But hey, you never know!"

Keeping books for the sheer love of books and keeping them with the intent of reading them sometime in the future are just two reasons why bibliophiles like myself and Brandstatter continue to own what some people in this digital age are starting to look upon as passé. Other reasons include the books that we have were gifts or they are unique in some way: they were signed by the author, they are first editions, or they are no longer in print, for instance. To better understand why people keep books, check out Brandstatter's BookRiot article at THIS LINK.

(Another reason to keep books is to make cool art projects, as seen in the photo above. The little girl is standing amid a massive spiral made up of secondhand and new books. The spiral is an installation created by Brazilian artists Marcos Saboya and Gualter Pupo for the 2012 aMAZEme Project. The installation was on display in the Clore Ballroom of Royal Festival Hall in London, England, last summer.)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Working with Library Patrons with Disabilities

"Treat others how you want to be treated." This includes library patrons who have disabilities. It seems simple, I know, but you wouldn't believe how often I've seen disabled adults talked to as if they were children. That is, if they're acknowledged at all - I've also seen people talk to the disabled person's helper as if the disabled person wasn't even there. No, no, no - don't do that.

Don't be intrusive. Just be there if he needs you.
Image via

You should never talk down to disabled library users, and do acknowledge their presence as you would the presence of any other visitor to the library. These are among the "Basic Tips for Working with Patrons with Disabilities" that Ruth Kitchin Tillman offers in her article for Hack Library School. Other things Tillman wants you to remember are:

1. If the person has a service dog, don't pay the dog more attention than the person. Sure, some people are uncomfortable around those with disabilities, so it's probably easier for them to address the dog than it is to address the person. Or it could be that you as a library worker are really into dogs. But the dog isn't there to check out a book; the owner is!

2. Don't be "that person" who asks intrusive questions about the disabled patron's life, including questions about health or disability. I mean, c'mon - that's just rude. If a patron with a bandaged hand approached the desk, you wouldn't say to him, "Wow, man! How'd that happen?" (At least I hope you wouldn't.) So don't ask the patron in a wheelchair, "How'd you end up in that?"

3. Don't assume what patrons with disabilities can and cannot do. For instance, although a person may be in a wheelchair, that doesn't mean that he or she is unable to stand. A person who uses a white cane to get around may still have some vision. "There's a broad spectrum of ability levels," says Tillman. "Don't police other people's levels of ability."

4. It's not OK to touch library users with disabilities, nor is it OK to reach out and grab their assistive devices - their wheelchairs, canes, whatever - without their permission. As you would with anyone, don't touch the disabled patron without asking him or her first. Just think about how much you like it when random people reach out and grab you.

5. Patrons with disabilities are much more than their disabilities, and thus they will have interests beyond their disability. Just because a person is using a white cane to get around the library doesn't mean that he or she will necessarily be interested in inspirational books about blind people. As you would with any other patron, let the disabled patron tell you what they've come to the library to find.

Tillman admits that "these things may seem ridiculously simple, even patronizing to point out." Still, she urges, "Treat people as people. It's not hard."

For more "Basic Tips for Working with Patrons with Disabilities," go HERE.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Librarians Win the Internet with 'Sabotage' Remake

I love 1970s crime dramas: the sartorial splendor of the cops' street clothes and hairstyles, the often over-the-top scenarios, the requisite car chase with vehicles flying over hills in the road, and the wah-wah/chicka-chicka of the soundtrack. Most of these elements were incorporated into the Beastie Boys' 1994 video for "Sabotage," making it one of my all-time favorite music videos.

Better book it! This librarian means business: A scene from the "Sabotage" remake.
Image via Huffington Post

Nearly 20 years later, librarians at a Chicago private school are featured in a shot-by-shot remake of the Beastie Boys' hilarious send-up of '70s cop shows, and the video has become a viral sensation. Originally filmed for the annual variety show at the Francis W. Parker K-12 School this past May, the video began to take on a life of its own after it was picked up last month by the New York Public Library for its Tumblr. Then it was shared by the technology and culture blog Boing Boing, and within days the Huffington Post, CBS News, and Rolling Stone spotlighted the Chicago librarians' smart redo.

"I'm blown away by the whole thing," said Mike Ferbrache to "It's been amazing to watch." Thirty-eight-year-old Ferbrache, a third-grade teacher at the school, and thirty-four-year-old Duane Freeman, a counselor at the school, made the video with the participation of some very game librarians at Francis W. Parker. Initially, it "was just a fun way to showcase the school's librarians in a new light," reported But the video has since racked up more than 500,000 views on Vimeo and over 200 "likes."

The librarians in the video - Anne Duncan as "Story Time," Stephanie McMurray as "Late Fee," Branka Steinbaugh as "Bookworm," and Margaret Threet as "Dewey" - are amazed at all of the attention. "One of them emailed me back and just said, 'OMG,'" Freeman told

Looking at the video, it's obvious these librarians "didn't hold anything back. They were 100 percent committed to their roles," said Freeman. To see for yourself, click on THIS LINK to see "Late Fee," "Story Time," and the rest in action.