Sunday Lowdown #57

Interesting Notes from Class:

We’re on week #6 of the Organization and Management of Collections course, and we’re getting started on thinking about collection development policies. Some libraries don’t have one. Others have a short document. Larger libraries, like the San Francisco Public Library, have a policy 54 pages long. A collection development policy communicates to stakeholders — the employees, patrons, government funding the library, etc. — and should discuss obtaining and weeding materials, intellectual freedom, and that particular library’s goals, among other things.

  • To buy an e-book or print book?: it turns out it depends on why the person is reading. In-depth reading, that cover-to-cover sort of reading, means people prefer print books. However, the searchable, easy-to-skim reference work is preferred in e-book format. Reference works tend to be large and take up limited space, and when it’s in print format libraries often mark the book as in-library use only. E-books change that. — Peggy Johnson, Fundamentals of Collection Development and Management, 4th ed. pp. 93-94
  • “Not only are public libraries not to be held responsible for deciding what minors may and may not read, the Library Bill of Rights states in no uncertain terms that minors have the same rights as adults in libraries, meaning that any attempt to assume parental responsibility is not only unprofessional but goes against the professional guidelines of librarianship.” — Jennifer Downey, Public Library Collections in the Balance, 2017, p. 21
  • Some groups that sound positive are actively fighting to censor library collections. Active groups include the American Family Association, Family Friendly Libraries, and Focus on the Family — Downey, p. 28
  • Oftentimes, librarians self-censor by refusing to buy romance or urban fiction due to the perception that such novels have no value, despite the tendency for these genres to be gateways books. pp. 32-33

This Week’s Blog Posts:

Lots of people were excited to read The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware review. It sounds like lots of folks have similar feelings about Ware being a must-read author whose work always lets us down just a smidge. Will you try her fiction in audiobook form in the future and see how it changes your feelings about this mystery/thriller writer’s work?

Doris Lessing writes fiction, but it seems she wants to make you think, too. With her shorter works (a novella or smaller), her tactic is successful, but I’ve been awfully bored by a Lessing novel in the past. I was interested to see such a split in the comments of my review of The Fifth Child. Parents seemed horrified, and my child-free readers were patently uninterested in the plot!

Next Week’s Blog Posts:

Earlier this year I listened to and reviewed Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor, and I’ve been giving intermittent updates on her biography by Brad Gooch. Now, I’m gearing up for a Flannery O’Connor read-along! Many of you have expressed how you own a copy of The Complete Stories and would like to read it someday. Well some day is approaching, and it’s in May 2020! Get your book ready and start thinking about your schedule. I’ll announce the readalong, when I’ll be reading each story, and how I plan to tackle reviewing this chonky book. Check back Tuesday!

On Thursday I’m reviewing The White Gryphon by Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon for #ReadingValdemar 2020. I’ll explain how this book lets me down, the potential I see, and why I keep reading a series that’s getting hazy in terms of characterization.

Book I’m Reading Aloud to My Spouse:

You guys. True Grit by Charles Portis is so funny. It doesn’t hurt that I read Rooster Cogburn’s lines in a John Wayne voice, either. I mean, it’s so painfully cowboy that my husband keeps saying, “Now that’s a line!” (or something like that — sorry if I’m misquoting you, Nick). We both noticed the way the characters tend to speak without using contractions, which can make for some formal sounding people, but then they throw in an idiom like “lip flapping.” I also like this passage in which Rooster Cogburn is trying to tell fourteen-year-old Mattie that she won’t be comfortable if she tags along on his hunt for the man who shot her father:

“I will not be stopping at boardinghouses with warm beds and plates of hot grub on the table. It will be traveling fast and eating light. What little sleeping is done will take place on the ground.”

Books Added to the TBR Pile:

Thanks to Nicole for her recommendation!

47 comments

  1. I love that ye share yer class facts. I had no idea that libraries were not supposed to censor what minors read. I remember getting told by some adults that I was not supposed to be reading stephen king and dean koontz in sixth grade. Of course I didn’t listen. I am a firm believer that kids should read what they want. And glad to see the TJR and sarah gailey books on here. I really enjoyed both so I look forward to yer thoughts.
    x The Captain

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    • Parents can guide their children’s reading and even forbid them from reading certain books much the same way parents set curfews and decide if their kid can go out or not, but the library is not a parent: it is a place of information, so no matter who wants information, they get it. In some cases, children live in dangerous situations and libraries can literally save their lives. Whether we’re a place for children to hang out when their parents are at work for a long time or to escape a troublesome family life, the library is a safe space. If they want to know about puberty or reproduction or drug abuse or vaccines, they can learn all of that, too.

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      • When I lived in Charlotte, it was in a very poor neighborhood with lots of crime. At first I thought it was crazy how loud and crowded the library was. I like silence. Then I realized it was one of the only safe spaces for the children to be after school while their parents worked. There was tons of activities like video games, computers, and (of course) books for the children to use. Also the library was awesome for english as a second language classes, resume and job help, and basically served as the community center for the area. I felt like an unenlightened jerk. I am so glad that libraries serve their patrons in that way and provide services for all. And who doesn’t like to see teens hanging out and having such fun.
        x The Captain

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        • Libraries are quote noisy these days, but until someone complains we kind of let it go to follow the natural fit of what’s happening. Sometimes lots of patrons are talking. Other times, it’s dead silent in there, so if one person gets out their phone and is loud, that stands out. Through my class I’ve learned that more libraries are loaning out board games or mini quests for inside the library. I thought that was cool.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. For what it’s worth, True Grit really does mimic cowboy speech. When I saw the Coen brothers’ film, I was struck by how much the characters sounded like my mom’s side of the family. They’re farmers and ranchers in northern Kansas, and they sound exactly like the people in the film True Grit. The lack of contractions comes along when they’re emphasizing something, usually, but sometimes just comes because of the regional twang.

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    • I love that the Coen brothers’ film actually used a girl to play Mattie. Even when I was young, I was so confused as to why these cowboys were talking to a woman clearly in her 30s like she were a little kid in the John Wayne version.

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  3. I’m intrigued by that quote from Jennifer Downey. In my memory, my public library did have a policy that those with a children’s library card (which lasted until the age of 12) weren’t allowed to take out adult materials. And I was 12 I was definitely questioned when I started checking out adult novels for myself. I’m curious now as to whether I was imply misinformed or if this is something that’s changed. (Or perhaps it’s different in Canada.)

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      • I did a little more sleuthing on the Vancouver Public Library site (the library system I grew up with). It looks like there aren’t restrictions on what minors can take out but the rule is that adults aren’t allowed to take out material on a child’s card. Fair enough but I guess the library employees assumed I was taking home novels for my parents rather than myself. I’ll have to ask at our current library what the policy is now. A quick internet search tells me that Canadian libraries fall under the Canadian Federation of Library Associations. I couldn’t find a detailed statement on their website but they do state that they work to ensure access to information for all, regardless of age.

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        • Ahhh, I know that policy. So, what happens is parents will check out a bunch of stuff (especially movies) and not return them, racking up huge fines. Then, they still want to check stuff out so they use their child’s card. We also have a policy about adults using their own cards. However, if a child is using his/her own card, we don’t ask why they’re checking out the materials from the adult section. Thanks for sleuthing — this is really interesting!

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          • Children’s cards here (and probably in your library) don’t have late fees so I can see that some parents would take advantage of that. You got me reading the Library Policy Manual for the first time, which was actually kind of interesting! There doesn’t seem to be restrictions around children being left alone in the library (following up on our previous library discussion) but there are rules about jumping!

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  4. I love reading about what you are learning about in your classes. It is surprising how positive some of those groups sound- but at the same time, (sadly) I am not surprised. I could very likely have not been a reader if my mother had taken my Stephen King books away from me because I was “too young” or because they were not family friendly. She used to talk about them with me and then cringe when I described what was happening. Now as adults we share books (some King but not just). This is why you don’t censor kids access to books. Open communication is better. King kept me reading even if he was all I read for a few years. Now i read much more diversely. (Though he is still a big crutch lol.)

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    • I know that Emily @ Literary Elephant reads a diverse array of books, largely in the “literary” category. . . and then suddenly she’s reviewing a King novel. I think he’s just someone that we can sink into for his ability to write an interesting story. I used to feel guilty over some books I read, but I’ve had to let that go, especially as I’m so involved in the S.M. Reine Descentverse books.

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      • I do think King is one of the best storytellers out there. People can say what they like about his writing, but he writes stories unlike most others out there.

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        • I’ve read his book On Writing so many times and still get something out of it. My favorite part is when he writes that people who create work in the genre they love to read produce more interesting books. If someone is writing a “hot” genre at the moment, the work suffers.

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            • People seemed all up in arms when he said that it wasn’t good that Woody Allen’s book got pulled. What do you think about that? On the one hand, I agree that it’s a slippery slope, but on the other hand, the publisher is a business and is under no obligation to print anything they feel would hurt their business. It’s when the government prohibits someone from being heard that it’s technically “censorship.”

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              • Interesting question! I think what’s scary about it is how fast word spreads these days and how quickly people jump on the wagon of hate without having all the facts or knowing all the details. I remember an author last year pulled her book from being published because a few bloggers and twitter users felt the way she covered slavery was highly insensitive, except the truth of the matter is she was speaking about slavery from her own perspective (she was from Thailand I believe). There was nothing dishonest or insensitive about it and publishing needs more voices like hers to spread light on such issues. That is an example of why this is bad- she was silenced before she had a chance to share her book.

                We have to abide by “innocent until proven guilty” because we have placed the value of innocent lives not being punished for crimes they didn’t commit above the importance of the guilty being brought to justice. It is too easy these days for us all to assume guilt.

                So Woody’s book being pulled has set the standard that doing so is okay. I don’t think the issue is censorship- I certainly don’t have any desire to read it- it’s no great loss to me. But just think about how many wonderful voices and perspectives we already have lost because of social inequity, especially in publishing. (Of course, this doesn’t apply to Woody Allen – but my point remains, a crowd objects to something, and it suddenly being okay to reneg on the deal could be very harmful.)

                Sorry- this is a long winded way of saying I agree with King, but for different reasons. So much of what we consume is already censored and sensationalized. It’s hard to see the truth between the lines.

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                • I remember that author who pulled her book. It was something odd, like the bloggers were mad that she used slavery of individuals in an Asian country instead of black slaves in America? The reason was super dicey, is what I remember thinking. I think people forget three important things: in the U.S. we always “vote” with our money, so if people don’t want to read Allen, they don’t need to buy his book or support circulation stats by checking it out at the library. 2) Sometimes, reading a work by a person with whom you disagree gives you more information about how to take on any issues you see crop up, instead of saying, “I didn’t read it, I’m just mad it exists.” And 3), it’s both scary and pretentious to me that people want to read a book they deem offensive and then tell other people not to read it because those people are too “sensitive” or “damaged” to read it for themselves. That’s also censorship (in the non-government way).

                  I’m glad you were “long winded” because it’s an interesting conversation, and I always want to hear other people out. The latest one I’ve heard about was a woman who wrote a fiction book about a girl who has a sexual relationship with her teacher. A writer named Wendy Ortiz (whom, weirdly, I follow on Goodreads and have for years?) claimed that this other woman getting her book published was total trash because minority writers don’t get published with big advances. I’m not sure why Ortiz felt the need to crap on this other author’s parade simply because she’s mad at the publishing industry. Anyway, it’s a whole thing now.

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                  • I apologize – I meant to come back and respond to this and just got side tracked. I think Ortiz’s issue is that it was a story that, in Ortiz’s words, should have been told from someone with first hand experience of the culture. Here is a white woman being paid a 7 figure advance to tell a story she has no experience with. In the acknowledgments section she said: “She really wished someone of Mexican descent had told the story” (or something to that effect).

                    Ortiz’s argument is that there are similar stories out there being told by people who have first hand experience, who have not littered their book with stereotypes, who definitely did not receive a 7 figure advance or even a publishing deal due to the racism ingrained in publishing.

                    I don’t like to get into this whole territory of whose stories should be told by what people – I like a good story first and foremost, no matter who is telling it. On the one hand, American Dirt is doing a good thing in that it is shining light on the issues in publishing with minority voices. On the other hand, Ortiz would know better than I would if the book was filled with bad cliches and negative stereotypes. And I hate to think of anyone getting paid 7 figures to release things that are harmful to a specific community.

                    So it kind of stinks. One of my favorite books was recently accused of the same thing: The Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Brodsky. She’s a white author writing about Inuit culture. I felt like because of the time period her race was irrelevant (it’s set in like 880 AD). It’s not like anyone was alive that far back? But at the same time – I understand the concern. Were their Inuit writers who could have told the stories and mythologies better? It seemed pretty well researched to me, but I can’t claim to be an expert.

                    Shrugs. It makes my brain hurt. I just hate to think that The Wolf in the Whale wouldn’t exist if we said Brodsky couldn’t write it because she wasn’t Inuit, you know? I’m all for more diversity in publishing and agree it’s a big problem and maybe I’m just putting on my blinders when it comes to this book, but it becomes a slippery slope of where do we draw the line? Should all characters in a book reflect only the author’s perspective and experiences? That would make for very boring publishing indeed. But how do we stop people from publishing harmful stereotypes? I don’t know.

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                    • The Ortiz situation and the American Dirt situation are actually two different situations! The American Dirt one I get, but the Ortiz situation seems more like taking a stand against one book by a lady who isn’t behind Ortiz’s gripe for the sake all non-white writers publishing. Very twisty-turny.

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                    • Maybe she’s involved in two different things? Because she’s definitely one of the main voices behind the American Dirt pushback. I didn’t realize there was another instance.

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                    • I take it back- I don’t know how I got Wendy Ortiz mixed up in that. I swear she was tagged on Twitter in the #DignidadLiteraria campaign they did a month ago, but it looks like maybe she was retweeting something or speaking generally, not to American Dirt.

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                    • Ohh – is that the My Dark Vanessa? I do remember that controversy also. I do recall thinking I wasn’t understanding what her issue is. Books about teacher student relationships aren’t new by any means. Maybe Ortiz is just trying to draw attention to herself so she can get a 7 figure advance too?

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                    • Yes! There we go. Ortiz was made that the My Dark Vanessa author is white and got a bunch of money, whereas Ortiz’s story was similar and she had a hard time selling it. She chalks it up to the publisher neglecting authors who aren’t white.

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  5. Hmm interested to see what you think of that Taylor Jenkins Reid book-that’s one of hers i haven’t read, but she’s an entertaining author for sure.

    And censoring what children read? Ugh. If my kid has an advanced enough reading ability to read those words, then he/she can damn well read the book. I snuck Stephen King books off my parent’s shelf for years, and look where I am now! hahahah

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    • Ha, another reader just wrote a comment about Stephen King books, too! He was like the naughty nudie books of readers (meaning we snuck them and kept them secret, not that they’re pornographic). The even bigger concern to me is not that children are reading LGBTQ books, or books with sex and drug use and strong language, but that some families think keeping information from their kids will protect them — everything from puberty to sex and pregnancy to what drugs even do to the human body, and in some communities people deny that mental health issues exist — so it’s important for young people to learn IN SPITE OF their families.

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  6. I read classic westerns from time to time though Shane is probably the only one I own (except for some venerable ES Ellis, including one rescued from my grandfather’s barn, so probably 100 years old now). The association with John Wayne would have put me off reading True Grit.

    My current library sure has lots of Romance, a whole shelf of Nora Roberts for instance. I just looked her up and she writes the In Death series as JD Robb. So there you go, I read Nora Roberts. I’m flabbergasted.

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    • Wait, Nora Roberts IS JD Robb?? How did I not know this….

      I don’t know that Roberts is actually sold as romance even if her plots are often romantic. There are publishers who only put out straightforward romance (and their books are always the most garish colors).

      I must know more about why there was a book in a barn and also why you do not like John Wayne.

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  7. I won’t lie, often my favorite part of reading your Sunday Lowdown posts are reading all the comments. They are so varied!

    I’m glad you’re enjoying True Grit! I wish I could do voices. I used to be great at them as a child, but I basically didn’t do them for 20 years and now I’m awful at it. Could I practice? Surely. Will I? Nah. Sounds like work.

    Those quotes from your class give me a lot to think about. I wonder what my own library policies are? I have no idea! There must be a way for me to find out, however…

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