Censorship offends me

Okay, I know this will surely date me to prehistoric times, but do you remember the BOOKMOBILE? The bookmobile day was such an exciting day! We could check out two books for a whole week. Wow! Exciting times. Well, reading has changed. Or maybe that should read – Young Adult books have changed since the bookmobile days! I believe that students should have access to literature and that the student and parent should decide together what is appropriate for the student. That being said, I know that sometimes the books I wanted to read, I didn’t want to discuss with my momma. She tells how she became a reader when she got ahold of the book Peyton Place. She was in high school and the book was passed around her crowd until it was a wreck that no one could read. The more I read – the more “stuff” I would read about. That was much better than hearing false information from friends or no information from home.
When I first became a librarian, the other librarians would talk about how their principal would remove books from their shelves without going through the correct procedures on reconsideration of material policy. I believe that is censorship in its vilest form. It is the job of the librarian to remind principals/parents/people about the district policy that has been adopted about reconsideration of materials. Censorship should not be tolerated. Yes, books have changed, but it isn’t your call what I should read.
Talk about changes – I remember when Judy Blume’s books were all the rage because of content! I couldn’t wait to read them. I don’t think that I became warped because of a book!
My mom thought being informed was better than not.
This quote from Joseph Henry Jackson certainly hits a high note with me: “Did you ever hear anyone say, ‘That book had better be banned because I might read it and it might be very damaging to me?'”
So yes, books have changed due to content and language, but does that make them bad books? It makes them “real” books. I think that librarians today would be hard pressed to find a YA book that doesn’t contain the F-word. Do words on paper really make us better or worse people? Isn’t it better to make your own decisions about what you read? In the words of Bob Dylan – “Times – they are a-changin’.”
In high school we teach Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 where books are banned and burned. I hope people today understand the awful implication of this and will stand against censorship.

New Readers Thrill Me

A new student just came into the library and said, “My friend told me that you have lots of new books. Do you have…”

“No, that one is checked out, but let me tell you about this Dystopian novel! Have you heard of that before? Dystopia-futuristic-world-gone-wrong books? I loved this one, so here’s what it is about…” I replied. “You also will love this great fantasy (for next time) that has a love story in it. Make sure that you read at least 20 pages before you decide whether you like it or not and if you don’t like it, bring it back. We’ll find you something you love.”

“Oh, another thing that I tell new students. This library is your ‘safe spot’. If you need help or just a few minutes to get away, come here and I will help you.”

“Ok, just one more thing, do your eyes jump around the page? Use this blue slip of paper to read with. It will help relax the pressure in your eyes and your eyes won’t jump around the page. Just try it; it works for many of my students.”

The new student left feeling like she was important to me and her new library. She was excited about her new book and couldn’t wait to start the trilogy. I know that she will be back and I will look for her in the hallway to make sure things are going okay for her in her new school.
Since many of us remember what a teacher in school said about us, everyday I try to make students feel good about who they are, where they are, and where they are headed. I try to instill hope about their future and, of course, a love of reading. Getting out positive energy to students who are having a hard time is rewarding, helpful and most of all, IMPORTANT. Yes, it’s about the books; it’s more about the student.

If you are excited, they will be, too

Getting reluctant, alternative school students into the library is a challenge… This is not a disciplinary school; it is a school where students are behind or off track, and we help them get back on track.  But, still, many don’t read, so how do they ever make the trek to the library?

We get students almost every week, so I asked the counselor; “when you check a student into our school, would you bring them by the library?”  This way (1) they find out where the library is, (2) I introduce myself, (3) I find out if they like reading and if they don’t (4) I ask them to please give me a chance – just 5 minutes to tell them about some books.  Usually they come back!  Yes, they do and usually after 5 minutes they leave with a book and a promise to read at least 20 pages before they decide to like it or hate it.   It is quite pushy, so what?  Call me the pushy librarian.  We have readers at this school now.

It is real strange that teachers forget to include the library and research or free reading into the curriculum.  Well, maybe not so strange – they have so much to cover in so little time!  I ask teachers to come to the library with their classes each 9 weeks, but if they can’t do that (4) times; I ask them to come in each semester (2) times.  Sometimes they only get down to the library with their students for 10 or 15 minutes , but that is long enough to “sell” a few books.  Someone will take a book or two!

In the halls, I see students who haven’t come by the library and go up to them, “Hi, I’m the librarian!  I haven’t seen you in the library yet!  When do you think you can come by and visit?”  Usually that very day the student comes in! 

You may say, “Sure, that’s easy for you to do, you have a small school.”  Even when I had 2 campuses and 3200 students, I did that.  It always gets students in the library because they see that someone cares about them and notices them.

The main way that I have such a large book check out is because I ready Young Adult books through the school year (summers are for adult books).  I book talk like crazy!  If there is a book I haven’t read, I ask the student to come back and tell me about it.  They do that especially if they loved the book and then I tell the next student, “Oh, a girl just read this and loved it!  She said I had to read it, so you might want to try it.”  Simple?  Yep, and they take the book!

Really, to “sell” the books and the library to teachers and students, you HAVE to get out there and advertise!

Books are for kids! Down with book fines.

I am asked by students everyday, “How many books can I check out?” My answer is simple, “How many would you like?” Of course, they are shocked and amazed! “You mean I could take all four of these?”

I don’t put limits on how many books a student checks out, nor do I charge fines. These are things that just keep students out of the library and books wasting on the shelves. What good is that?

I ask the students to bring the books back in three weeks, but I don’t charge fines or hound them about it. I send out reminders about every 6-9 weeks.

I believe that a book in a student’s hand is better than a book getting moldy on the shelf. Other librarians tell me, “Well, I sure don’t get enough money to just throw books out the door!” I explain that I am not throwing books out the door. And yes, a few books get lost in the school year, but they were going to anyway! We never get back all the books that go out the door. So what?! Replace it or buy a new title. Books in hands are still better than books on shelves. If the student loses a book, he has to pay for it; Well, that is in a perfect world.

My students rise to the expectation that I set. They come back in three weeks and either return or recheck a book. I ask them a little about the book. I hate when a student returns a book and I how they liked it and they say, “I never got to read it.” My reply? “Here recheck it! Or let’s get you something you will love!”

Books on a shelf is just a waste of district money, but books in students’ hands can change their lives!

He HATES reading!

This morning as I sat in my little school library working on the next mentoring lesson presentation, a young man from our GED program came into the library. 

“Hi, do you remember me?”

“Sure!  How are you liking your book?” I asked him.

“Do you remember that I HATE reading?”

“Yes, so does that mean you don’t like the book?”

“No, just the opposite!  I love it!  I have only read 4 books in my life!” said the 20 year old student.

“No one has ever taken the time to tell me about a book before you.  This book is incredible!  Do you have any more just like it?”  He asked enthusiastically.

“Well, no not exactly like that, but there is a sequel to that one that I found a bit repetitive.  You could try it, but I have another that you would like.  Would you like to try it?  Let me tell you a little about it.”

“That sounds like something that I would like.”

“Do you remember that you have to give me 20 pages before you decide whether you like it or not?”

“Yes, ma’am, I remember.”

“Are your eyes still jumping around the page?  Did you use your blue slip?”

“I can’t believe that something so easy would make my eyes calm down enough to read, and I can’t believe that ANYONE could have gotten me to read a book!”