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Copyright (c) 2009 Ginny Maziarka. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Kewaskum Librarian turns back on ALA, “censors” books? Movies?

It seems the West Bend Library Board was wrong. The ALA was wrong, too. Unless, of course, Kewaskum Public Library’s director, Steev Baker, is the one who is wrong.

According to a recent open records request, Baker posted (July 30, 2009) to the Midwest Federated Library Share message board these quotes from a recently rewritten American Library Association (ALA) Bill of Rights:

“The adoption, enforcement, or endorsement of any of these rating systems by a library violates the Library Bill of Rights."


“In addition, the inclusion of ratings on bibliographic records in library catalogs is a violation of the Library Bill of Rights."


Baker goes on to comment, “The above quotes are from a recently released ALA “interpretation” of the Library Bill of Rights. How seriously do we, as institutions, take this “Library Bill of Rights?” During the famous West Bend Fiasco of ’09, local media and bloggers made much of the power of the ALA and its Library Bill of Rights. The Fiasco was framed as a fight between community standards and the standards of a national, liberal-biased group; David vs. Goliath (in more ways than one). With these new interpretations by the ALA about game and film ratings, it appears that the bloggers weren’t far off. Who is the ALA to tell us how our local policies should address media content ratings? What is the power of this “Library Bill of Rights” that it can control even our bibliographic records? What does it mean to “violate” this bill of rights and who enforces it?"

Dwight Foster Public reference librarian Amy Lutzke responds:
“Excellent questions. Doesn’t the omission of information about a particular item in the library’s holdings constitute censorship or, at the very least, crappy cataloging? Why would a library want to censor the ratings listed on their visual materials? Wouldn’t identifying an audio book as “abridged” be a violation of the ALA’s Bill of Rights? After all, some of us have very strong feelings about abridgement!”

The day before this posting, Baker warned other librarians about purchasing the HBO series “True Blood.” He states,“Before you go rushing out to purchase it, however, you should know that it is “not rated.” Despite what the bib record says (“TV-MA”), since it is a cable show it does not fall under the same ratings as network shows. There is a lot of very explicit sex and very, very strong language. Not a ton of violence….but what killings there are are very gory…….it is definitely for mature audiences only.”

Baker’s solution?

He tells West Bend Library’s assistant director, Sue Cantrell, “I actually made “TV-MA” stickers to put on the spine and also a description of what “TV-MA” means on the back cover. Just so people know. Most “R” rated films list what the rating is for, but since True Blood is not rated, there is not any indication that parents of teenagers will contact the local newspaper about the content if they see their kids watching it…. Steev

Steev Baker is doing what library directors can, and SHOULD do – meeting his community’s standards, without bowing to the pressure of the almighty ALA. Baker is right.

Added note:
If one takes a wander through the Kewaskum Public Library, they would notice that YA graphic novels are stored on the highest shelf in the YA section, accessible with a step stool. One librarian, and subsequently Baker himself, confirmed that, indeed, this is being done to keep them out of the hands of younger children.

Perhaps like THIS community, and THIS ONE, and THIS ONE, Baker actually is doing the RIGHT THING.

Thanks to organizations such as SafeLibraries, PABBIS and Family Friendly Libraries, we have resources that empower parents to see through the ALA propaganda on a local level, whether in the public library OR in the public school system.

The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) recognizes that parents have a right to choose what their children will read. The NCTE also states, on their web site, that a book rationale should be done prior to book selection and that special emphasis should be placed on controversial material so that parents know when to select an alternate book. PABBIS favors this and believes the information should be objective and quantitative so parents may decide for themselves and their child.

We do agree, indeed.


Non-Censor said...

I'm not sure where you're going with this one. If you support "objective and quantitative" ratings, does that mean your are finally going to get specific about which books get re-shelved or labeled, and come up with a set of formal criteria that can be operationalized?

Anonymous said...

True Blood is a television series, not books.

Non-Censor said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said...

"without bowing to the pressure of the almighty ALA."

Again, you completely misconstrue the propose and influence of the ALA. The ALA has no "pressure" to put on a local library. The ALA is a professional organization, and part of its duties are to create best practices and principles for librarianship. One of those is the Library Bill of Rights, that has been around for decades.

Individual libraries, however, aren't required by some law or other coercive power to follow what the ALA says to the letter. And the ALA can't do anything if a library decides to do something a little bit differently.

What Baker did makes sense: He consulted with what that ALA advises in a situation, and then he started a discussion amongst his colleagues. (Why you're looking through all these librarian's emails is seriously troublesome, IMO, but that's a different issue).

He then decided to label this particular DVD because, it seems, it was missing the typical rating information that most other DVDs contain. (Most say R, G, PG, with a reason, but this just said TV-MA, with no reason, so he felt it best to add one).

You painting this as "turning his back" on the ALA is completely incorrect and misleading.

Paigealicious! said...

"True Blood is a television series, not books."

Not to nitpick, but "True Blood" is a TV series based on a series of books...

Non-Censor said...

Thanks and a hat-tip to Local MLIS Student, who always brings a professional breath of informed fresh air to this craziness.

West Bend Citizen Advocate said...

Non: You may leave commentary here. You may not redirect readers to your personal blog for the purpose of attention. Since you have appropriately registered, readers can find your blog simply by clicking on your user name.

Unknown said...

You may not redirect readers to your personal blog for the purpose of attention.

Whoa, Ginny, does that mean you're not going to allow posts from Dan Kleinman anymore? If that's your rule, he's the one who has abused it most.

West Bend Citizen Advocate said...

Thanks for the reminder, Maria.

Forgot to mention: You need to ask my permission first if you want to post your blog link.



Anonymous said...

"Not to nitpick, but "True Blood" is a TV series based on a series of books..."

Yes, but unless I am mistaken we are talking about the TV series, not the books, therefore my comment is still valid.

Paigealicious! said...

"Yes, but unless I am mistaken we are talking about the TV series, not the books, therefore my comment is still valid."

Of course it is, I just felt like adding a nerdy nitpick to spice things up a little.

Unknown said...

Ms. Maziarka - do you have any response to my comment above? Do you understand that your understanding of the role and presence of the ALA in local library operations is misguided?

(are you interested in engaging in any discussion here?)

Unknown said...

Again, calls for clarification and requests to engage in a reasoned dialogue are met with silence.

This trend, Ms. Maziarka, is becoming very telling...

Free speech said...

As a Village Trustee in Kewaskum who asked for a courtesy copy of the open records West Bend for Safe Libraries requested, I am very proud of two things in Kewaskum Village government:

1.) Our village staff immediately worked diligently on complying with the Wisconsin Open Records Law on this request!

Unlike West Bend, there was never a talk of lawyers, or the need to hire a lawyer to stall or block open records of this nature. I find West Bend's position of stalling and delaying release of open records unacceptable. This is NOT good government.

This is a clear sign West Bend is ashamed of its mature material labeling and locating policies in its library.

2.) After reviewing the open records produced in the Village of Kewaskum I am very proud of our Librarian! He treats constituents and library patrons with courtesy and respect.

By comparison, in the Kewaskum open records request, emails from the West Bend librarian are rude, discourteous, and demean the very public constituents the director is supposed to serve! I WAS ABSOLUTELY SHOCKED BY THE WEST BEND LIBRARIAN COMMENTS! If any member of village government staff acted this way toward constituents, I would push to have that person removed. The Library Director's behavior in West Bend fails the most basic standards of public service.

West Bend's problem is lack of good government and city officials willing to tolerate bad government. Clean, honest, and open government is essential. I wish and hope West Bend would start down that path.

Kevin Scheunemann
Kewaskum Village Trustee