Sunday, March 15, 2009

Note to self: challenges don't just occur in libraries...

I was reading some news online today when a headline caught my eye, "Show will go on — on Steve Martin’s dime: Author-comedian to fund off-campus production of banned play." In short, the article details how a play written by Steve Martine called “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” was banned at a high school in La Grande, Oregon due to objections from parents for adult content. After receiving a petition signed by 137 people, the school baord stopped rehearsals for the play. In the end, the play will go on because a Student Democrats group raised money to present the play at a local university instead. In addition, Martin has donated money to ensure that the play would go on...I thought it was nice to read that any fund left over would go towards acting scholarships.

There is no doubt that this situation is very similar to the challenges that sometimes occur in libraries. There is also no doubt that the school board's decision to cancel the play amounted to censorship. It is a relief to know that the play will still reach an audience in La Grande (and that student activism helped achieve this goal) but the banning at the high school is disheartening. I wonder how many high school kids who would have attended the play when it was on their campus will be able to attend the play at the new venue... then again, maybe the controversy will encourage more students and members of the community to view the play, thereby negating the censorial efforts of the petitioning parents...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

IF bumper stickers, shirts, and more!

Looking for a quick way to make sure everyone knows how you feel about protecting and preserving intellectual freedom...? I found some wacky gear that might satisfy your needs... (N.B., I am no way associated with the sellers of this merchandise, claim the merchandise is high-quality great stuff, etc.) I just came across it and thought it might appeal to other folks taking LIS 551 or who happen to stumble across this blog. Anyhoo, here's the link... -e

Friday, February 20, 2009

And Tango Makes Three part 2

So I decided to check out the most challenged book of 2007, And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell with illustrations by Henry Cole. I wasn't even sure if my local public library would carry it but a quick check of the HCL catalog revealed that I could get my hands on it, most challenged book be damned! What a relief!

Anti-Ethnic, Sexism, Homosexuality, Anti-Family, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group- these are the reasons identified by ALA for why this title is so frequently challenged. It should be noted here that ALA defines a challenge as "a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness."

So needless to say, due to all the uproar and identified "challenge-worthy" criticisms, when I first sat down to read this book, I expected to find lots of racy pictures of male penguins having cartoonish-like sex. Wrong! Instead, I found a sweet story about two male penguins named Roy and Silo at the Central Park Zoo who fall in love, make a nest of stones together, and desire to fill their empty nest like all the other penguin couples hatching little baby penguins together. In the end, their keeper sneaks an orphaned egg into their nest, and Roy and Silo take turns caring for the egg until a baby girl penguin named Tango hatches. Ultimately, this is a love story. It does not advocate homosexuality or disparage "families." It sends the message that love is love and no family or couple is the same.

What I find most interesting about the book comes in the author's note on the last page- this is the true story of a penguin family living at the Central Park Zoo. I wonder if the individuals and groups who challenged And Tango Makes Three went to the zoo to protest the real Roy, Silo, and Tango. Seems pretty silly to me...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Banned Books Week *Bleep* video

Here's a video from ALA on Banned Books Week '08 that makes a great point about the harm of censorship...apparently censorship can induce moderate to severe hallucinations...yikes!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

And Tango Makes Three part 1

Here is a tidbit I found about a challenged book I am going to read... I'm curious to find out if the title lives up to its salacious reputation...

The most challenged book of the year, though, was "And Tango Makes Three," a picture book that told the true story of a pair of male penguins in New York that receive an egg to nurture. The objections were varied: it was anti-ethnic, sexist, gay, anti-family, it had an inappropriate religious viewpoint and wasn't suitable for children -- all of this despite excellent reviews from both School Library Journal and Booklist.

Apparently no one objected that reading the book might make the kids want to grow up and be penguins.

From: Have You Read a Banned Book? By Martha Brockenbrough

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Tipper Sticker

I was driving in the car today with my two young sons when I heard the edited, "clean" version of a song that I know for a fact has multiple cuss words and references to sex in the album version (Akon's "I wanna love you"). Immediately, several thoughts came to mind:

  1. I was glad that it was the clean version so I wasn't forced to change the station because my boys are like parrots and repeat everything they hear. My 4 1/2 year old will also grill me for hours about expressions and slang he doesn't understand so I was happy I didn't have to explain some of the references... yikes!
  2. I was forced to think about the connection between intellectual freedom and "clean" versions of songs, and the ramifications/implications for the artists, their work, and their vision. As a mother, I was pleased that I didn't have to hear the explicit version of the song but as someone interested in intellectual freedom, I was struck by the artist's compromise to their original version.
  3. I was reminded of my younger days when buying a record with a "Parental Advisory Warning" or "Tipper Sticker" (so-called due to Tipper Gore's role in the label's development) was considered so risque that it was actually cool. I even remember some stores wouldn't let minors buy albums holding the label so my friends and I would stand outside the store asking strangers to buy them for us. Come to think of it, this scenario sounds a lot like an afterschool special where minors are trying to score cigarettes or alcohol...hhmmm, kind of makes you think.
  4. I had a vision of my boys standing outside a music store or library trying to "score" some explicit lyrics which is both sad and funny to me.
  5. Back to the thought about artists compromising or altering their music in order to gain airtime- is it about money, catering to the diverse needs of their audience, both, none of the above, forced by their label, it all depends? It is worth noting that the labels are voluntary and "The PAL Notice is an indicator that record companies, artists, advertisers, and online and mobile merchants voluntarily place on products, advertisements and services to better inform consumers and retailers, while also protecting the interests of artists in free expression and artistic creativity" (from the RIAA's PAL program website).
  6. Last thought I had, "I am definitely getting old...!!!"

Thursday, February 5, 2009

UN and IF

I was checking out the United Nation's website today in order to learn more about the organization's position on intellectual freedom. Article 19 of "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights" was the closest statement I could find within the UN relating to intellectual freedom. It states:

  • Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Although article 19 does not specifically state that it is about intellectual freedom, the language used in the statement (i.e., "to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers") reassures me that the UN does support intellectual freedom and the free exchange of information. I feel like this statement is a pretty good one and could even be used in library's statement or policy on intellectual freedom.


Searching the UN website for documents relating to "intellectual freedom," I also found an interesting article called "The role of the library in promoting peace," written by an UK librarian named Bob McKee. In the article, McKee maintains that "...a library can promote peace not just through the knowledge it contains, not just through the understanding it promotes, not just through the opportunities it provides – but also through the principles and processes it embodies" (p.1).

I'm curious to hear what others have to say about the McKee statement or article that libraries can promote peace... true, false, maybe, depends, etc.