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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

ALA rejects West Bend Community's conference request

I noted on the OIF blog that Deborah Caldwell-Stone had invited West Bend Community Memorial Library supporters to speak at the ALA conference in July.

Since I, too, am a supporter of the West Bend Library and advocate for a large group of parents in West Bend, I asked if she would consider me as well on her panel of speakers from West Bend.
I explained that West Bend Citizens for Safe Libraries, like the librarians in West Bend, also want to keep library materials on the shelves, and have confirmed this time and again.

WBCFSL feels that we have much in common with our librarians and West Bend Parents for Free Speech in this respect and would like to be allowed the same opportunities as those who are also leading our community, or providing advocacy in this manner.

This is her response to my request:

I apologize for the delay in responding to your email. It was directed to my spam folder, and I did not discover it until yesterday.

ALA's Annual Conference is intended to provide professional development and educational opportunities for librarians, library trustees, library paraprofessionals, and "Friends of the Library" groups. The panel is not a debate on the merits of West Bend Citizens for Safe Libraries' challenge, or an opportunity for advocacy, but instead a discussion about policy development and management of challenges for the benefit of those four constituencies. We have invited panelists we believe will offer insights and advice on the topic that is consistent with the First Amendment and established ALA policies, such as the Library Bill of Rights and the ALA Code of Ethics.

Thank you for your interest in this program. Though the discussion you propose is outside the program's scope, I am sure there will be future opportunities for such a debate.

Deborah Caldwell-Stone
Acting Director
Office for Intellectual Freedom
American Library Association
50 East Huron, Chicago, IL 60611


Do you see where it says, "the controversy arose in February 2009 when a West Bend couple filed a request to reconsider books"? That's me, I'm part of that "West Bend couple." The ALA is talking about me. One would think the ALA would enjoy having me say something at the conference. I offered, but as you can see, my offer was not accepted.

Instead, the ALA has invited the person that arose to oppose protecting children from inappropriate material, but not me. What exactly is the point of the panel? So people will hear the "censorship" message from only the ALA's point of view? Even if they had me there as the person ALA tribes love to hate, at least that would be more open minded than just cutting out the "West Bend couple" that started it all. Is there nothing we could contribute to "a discussion about policy development and management of challenges"?

I do admit efforts to keep children from inappropriate material are not "consistent with ... established ALA policies, such as the Library Bill of Rights and the ALA Code of Ethics."

52.5.2 Sex Education Materials in Libraries

ALA affirms the right of youth to comprehensive, sex-related education, materials, programs, and referral services of the highest quality; affirms the active role of librarians in providing such; and urges librarians and library educators to reexamine existing policies and practices and assume a leadership role in seeing that information is available for children and adolescents, parents, and youth-serving professionals.

Sex-related materials! Active role! Leadership role! Of librarians! Available for children! Again, I admit efforts to keep children from inappropriate material are inconsistent with ALA policy. Apparently, that is why I have not been invited.

While Ms. Caldwell-Stone states that this panel will not be used as an "opportunity for advocacy," there can be no doubt that the City of West Bend will take a huge hit by the likes of Maria Hanrahan, who clearly opposes the community standards of West Bend, and will be presenting her story due to the generous offer from the ALA, an offer not extended to me.

Naturally, we can only assume that West Bend will be used/abused on a national forefront by the ALA as our very own Michael Tyree, WBCML director, Kristin Pekoll, YA librarian, Mary Reilly-Kliss (former board member) and library board president, Barbara Deters, proudly proclaim their pyrhhic victory over the community they live in, represent, and for some, are paid by.


Anonymous said...

So...you're saying sex education materials are inappropriate for young people, (i.e. those who need sex education), and those materials shouldn't be in the public library?

I only infer the above because you quote from a policy regarding material on the subject of sex education in your post.

SafeLibraries® said...

Get a load of this! A movement is afoot to get another guy kicked out of another ALA conference!!!

"Anyway, it's quite obvious that Hermansen, Koushanpour, and Ammar represent the dominant and stereotypical view of Islam, whereas I will be, if I end up speaking, an actual dissenting and non-stereotyping voice, articulating an actual different point of view and perhaps stimulating people to think about these issues, if they care or dare to do so."

Sound familiar?

See: "Profs Try to Block Spencer Appearance at American Library Association Conference," by Robert Spenser, Jihad Watch and Dhimmi Watch, 7 July 2009.

Libby said...

I think the most important point Caldwell-Stone made was that this panel is NOT a debate. It is exactly what she says it is: a discussion of policies and procedures meant for librarians.

They are under no obligation to have you there. Period. And no offense, but why would they want you there for a discussion like this? Like many non-librarians, you have no real understanding of the basic principles of librarianship that inform such policy and procedural decisions. Yet, you feel free to insist upon the library acting according to YOUR principles instead of its own professional guidelines. In what way would your presence there positively impact a POLICY AND PROCEDURE discussion?

Honestly, I'm not even sure why Maria was invited. No offense to her, I look forward to the panel, but I do find it curious that a community member will be included on the panel at all. I'm not privy to those decisions, though.

But this will be a discussion for librarians and frankly, having you there would only hinder that discussion as it would surely devolve into a debate instead of staying focused on the topics at hand. Honestly, it would hinder any discussion because the panel should have the right to speak openly about how they feel about this situation, which they would not really be able to do if you were there.

You have been able to court public opinion through this blog and other media outlets. It would have been inappropriate for library staff to have done so, but they deserve a chance to be heard among their peers. If people want to find out your side of things, they can simply read this blog. What people in the profession want to hear is THE LIBRARY'S side of things: what procedures they had in place to deal with challenges, what were their collection development and reconsideration policies, if any of those policies will be changed...I could go on. THAT is what I want to hear.

If it were a debate, you would be correct in the expectation of an invitation. But it is NOT a debate.

Sorry if I seem frustrated, but I really don't see what is so hard to understand about this. Caldwell-Stone is right. What you request is beyond the scope of the program.

SafeLibraries® said...

"In what way would your presence there positively impact a POLICY AND PROCEDURE discussion?"

If Ginny would say how she felt the library board was purposely not addressing the issues raised, and indeed people were not reappointed for that very reason, then that might get people to be sensitive to the concerns of patrons and to act accordingly. As it was the library was sensitive to the needs of anyone but the complaining patron and left Ginny out in the cold. No yes, no no, just nothing. Very unprofessional.

Frankly, they make a very poor example of how to handle challenges. Will they teach the fine art of foot dragging, personal attack, issue avoidance, lying to reporters, and attempting to block open public record requests (if that happened)?

Anonymous said...

Since Maria is not part of the library, but a "friend" the ALA is being hypocritical and dare I say censoring.

If they want to discuss "policies" then why is Maria there? Isn't a discussion people talking. I don't think Ginny was implying a "debate", but a chance to discuss policy.

I see you only want to discuss with people who agree with you. Hmmm...I see.

Let them have their little "discussion" while we are back in West Bend tackling the problems of West Bend.

Paigealicious! said...

"They are under no obligation to have you there. Period. And no offense, but why would they want you there for a discussion like this? Like many non-librarians, you have no real understanding of the basic principles of librarianship that inform such policy and procedural decisions. Yet, you feel free to insist upon the library acting according to YOUR principles instead of its own professional guidelines. In what way would your presence there positively impact a POLICY AND PROCEDURE discussion?"

Well put, Libby. I completely agree.

West Bend Citizen Advocate said...

What is disturbing, Libby, is that I agree with the ALA's policies in all respects but one; that is, access to sexually explicit materials for minors. In saying this, an ensuing discussion by a patron who agrees with the free speech issues, but has grave concerns on the extension of such being taken to the level of giving children inappropriate materials could actually be a very worth discussion. As Dan stated, hearing from a patron's point of view would be a great learning tool and expose ALA conference attendees to the valid concept of listening and reacting to the taxpayers and citizens you represent. A call to the highest standards of your community, reacting appropriately, and serving that community to the best of your ability would, indeed, be a most ideal way to discuss the "West Bend Issue." Your statement concerning the extension of an invitation to Maria is my point exactly. Here is a patron posing her point of view and explaining how she felt it needed to be handled. Where is our point of view on the matter that questions the actions of the librarians and denotes a lack of respect for the community they serve? This, indeed, is censorship at it's finest, and it is very revealing.

Kristina said...

Dan at Safelibraries said:
As it was the library was sensitive to the needs of anyone but the complaining patron and left Ginny out in the cold. No yes, no no, just nothing. Very unprofessional.

Frankly, they make a very poor example of how to handle challenges. Will they teach the fine art of foot dragging, personal attack, issue avoidance, lying to reporters, and attempting to block open public record requests (if that happened)?

First of all if you had read my blog a few posts from the top you would see the library followed the law and their policies. Ginny on the other had launch the attacks and yes lies. Of which she has yet to respond to. She was did say to Channel 12 news the night of her meeting at Silverbrook that she had re - filed her complaint with the library in April which was an out right lie. She never did that.
She has repeatedly said that she has never asked for any books to be removed which you wold se on my blog she has. That it has never been an issue of homosexuality. Which of course it has. Her complaint targeted only the out of the closet gay themed books. It her repeated use of the word never with these issues that is causing her to loose credibility.
As far as the library dragging their feet etc.. Being in the know of library issues our aware the library could only hear the only complaint that was filed in writing. That has always been the policy. So when her complaint began to morph into other things and other details that is when things there started changing. She did not refile but most of her media comments and those on this blog which you can also find on my blog several posts down from the top, it became apparent that she was no longer asking for what she stated in her original and only complaint filed. So they did not drag their feel. Ginny was driving that bus and her words and public statements put the path in motion that it went and is still going. Yet she still refuses to accept any responsibility of any of this. Which I think is a big point of contention with many in all this.
Ginny has lobbed many personal attacks against people both library staff and board members. She made a comment today on Owen's blog about Michael Tyree. Apparently an attoeney left a comment that he was willing to represent him if he chooses to file in civil court. That is a prime example of many of her attacks.
She could be handling all this better. She could stay professional about it and completely stick to topic and not veer off to the personal attacks and the like. She could watch what she says to the media and on her blog and keep it all on the up and up and her credibility would not be going down hill.
It would be much more clear to the public if she would and had handled it this way.
Seriously Dan, her quotes are all on my blog. I did not paraphrase any of them. They are all her and her words. There you will see why people are so upset with her and her changing of the complaint.

SafeLibraries® said...

Kristina, I'm not certain we disagree. I am certain, however, that we are seeing different parts of the story, and that when we see the same parts of the story, it's always from a different viewpoint. For example you explain why I may have been wrong. But the reasons I said what I said where not those you discussed. In other words, it depends on how you and I look at things.

But if we step back and look at certain key facts, certain things cannot be avoided. Like the government refusing to reappoint the four library board members. That's a fact. That tends to support my view that the library board did not act in an exemplary manner, and may have acted just the opposite. That tends to suggest they did not follow their own policy.

Really, I have no idea why the ALA thinks West Bend should be held out as a model to the nation, unless that model is one of foot dragging, etc.

Unknown said...

Here is a patron posing her point of view and explaining how she felt it needed to be handled.

How do you know what I will discuss?

there can be no doubt that the City of West Bend will take a huge hit by the likes of Maria Hanrahan, who clearly opposes the community standards of West Bend

Rest assured, Ginny, I am not going to represent the city of West Bend, and I have never claimed to represent the undefined "standards" you constantly refer to. I will be representing citizens that were against having their parental rights taken away, something I think fits well into the "community standards" of West Bend and something I think all parents in our city want to protect.

SafeLibraries® said...

Maria said, "I will be representing citizens that [sic] were against having their parental rights taken away."

Maria, exactly what do you mean by "citizens that were against having their parental rights taken away"?

Kristina said...

Ok I will go with you on the first part. However where I differ is at the point of the board not being reseated. There was a huge underlying currant that most of the CC members were not aware of. I do know this because I talked with several of them some time after and they were not aware of everything that had gone on. Only what they say in the papers.
Most were not aware of exactly what books were being discussed. Thy only heardthe wods pornography and the like. They were not aware that te complaint had evolved over time and changed dramatically. They also were not fully aware of exactly what the board policy was.
What they did hear was what was in the paper and maybe Emails and phone calls. Most of those were highly emotionally charged on both sides or very religious.
I do not know if any of them would have changed their voted had they had all the info they needed to have for a fully informed decision and frankly I don't even know if it is even important now. We can't turn back he hands of time on that now, because of that naming names of who I talked to is also not important anymore. I just thought some of the off the record comments were interesting.
I am curious how you feel about the cost ratio for city tax payers because of this issue and also the previous one with the schools harrassment policy and also what is sounding like another challenge the district will be facing from her. It is after all the city residents that will have to pony up for the bill. She lives in the township and is exempt from this. Also when she did contest the harassment policy at the schools that money came directly out of the districts pocket. Of which they already are strugging fiscally. Another challenge would do the same and it is the children she so wants to protect that are going to and have paid the prive for this. When they have to cut things out of the budget that are either athletic programs or even combining the teams into 1 for expense purposes that leaves a wholelot of kids left out for the possibility of scholorships. Many of which can only afford to go to college with them.
Or they further cut arts, music, phys. ed, and other classes out to try and save costs.
It just does not seem right that the kids are the ones that will suffer because of some books that are in the schools library that frankly most did not even know about until all of this started.
Are you also aware the the boks in question at the public library now have waiting lists weeks and sometimes months long to be checked out now? Where as before they were seldomly checked out? So while I understand her perspective on these issues, though I disagree those are the books that are now sought after not only from libraries but also bookstores. All because of this. So I don't understand whow that is protecting them when they are all reading them now. OK all may be too broad but you know what I mean. Only a very small faction of kids were reading them before. But the check out rate has more gone up more than 150%.

SafeLibraries® said...

"I am curious how you feel about the cost ratio...."

On this issue I do not know enough to have an opinion. I am aware schools now include extremely sexualized inappropriate materials.

It is easy to ask why should the city spent money to defend challenges on those books. Isn't it just as easy to ask why would the city purchase inappropriate materials in the first place?

Remember, Board of Education v. Pico allows inappropriate materials to be removed from schools in the blink of an eye.

Should that case not be applied simply due to fear of ALA/ACLU lawsuit? Does the ALA/ACLU trump the US Supreme Court? Does the ALA/ACLU trump West Bend?

Anonymous said...

Let Maria and the others who think obscene materials are good for minor children go to the ALA's conference. Let them agree with each other and pat each other on the back, while we continue to stand up for parents, children and our community here.

They don't have to have Ginny attend, but like the library board they choose not to be upfront about it. They would rather give some off-handed reason, which makes no sense.

Unknown said...

Dan, I believe parents are the only ones who have the right to decide what material is appropriate for their children. Everyone is going to have a different opinion on what is appropriate and what isn't. The public should not be saddled with someone else's opinion, which is what would happen if policies recommended by WBCFSL were instituted.

So I am protecting my right, and the right of every parent, to determine what books are appropriate for my/their kids and not have it decided for them.

Anonymous said...

Maria- someone all ready is making the decision for us, so your argument is moot.

Give the power back to the community and the parents. Let US choose.

Your statement... "The public should not be saddled with someone else's opinion"...you are now telling us that WE the public shouldn't be bothered. Excuse me? Are we the "public" paying for the library? Are we the "public" parents & library partons?

What gives YOU the right to tell us that we shouldn't be bothered? Should we not be bothered when Doyle raises our taxes?

Unknown said...

Anonymous, I did not say the public "shouldn't be bothered", I said they should not be saddled with another person's/group's opinion on what is appropriate or not. For example, if WBCFSL were to get their wish and be the ones to decide which books are "appropriate" for the YA crowd and which aren't (and I am not saying that they are suggesting that.....they have not said who would determine the criteria for sexual content and oversee the implementation of such a policy), why should I, as a parent, go along with that? Why would I permit another party to determine which books are appropriate for my children and which are not?

You cannot compare this to ratings systems (such as those for movies and video games) because those ratings systems were developed and are operated by those industries. Participation in and enforcement of the ratings systems is voluntary, and they are not legally binding. For example, you can't sue a video store for violating the ratings system if they allow your child to rent an R rated movie; the ratings system is not law.

Your first statement about someone "making the decision" for us is unclear. If you are referring to laws concerning what is illegal for minors, you are correct. However, the books in the complaint do not meet the criteria to be classified as obscene or obscene for minors, so I am not sure what you are trying to say.

Anonymous said...

In observing all this ruckus from a distance, a couple questions pop up in my mind...

1) Ginny, why do you keep claiming to represent the West Bend community as a whole? You're representing others who share your views, however, the very nature of your back-and-forth on your blogs indicates you must be aware that you are not representing the whole community.

2) While you state over and over that all you're objecting to is the inclusion of "sexually explicit" material (quotes deliberate), what would you say to the argument that perhaps I (and again, this is for the sake of argument only) am offended by pro-Christian literature, because it diminishes the stance of other religions of the world? For that matter, any other subject could be inserted.

Do you really want one group with an agenda in charge of what is in our library? I'm sure there is a motivated "group" for (or against) every topic out there.

Let the library be the library: a resource for the community where you can go and select what you CHOOSE to read, and pass over what you do not choose. If you don't trust your kids to make decisions you support, then go with them. Open up the dialogue about what is and is not acceptable to your family, and provide a rationale, so they understand your theory and not just your rules. Honestly, your kids have access to much worse in many other ways...do you have cable? Internet? Do your kids ever spend time without you? Giving them the rationale for why you expect them to avoid these things, if that is what you feel they should do, will take them much further than just telling them "Don't do it, because I said so!", don't you think?

Let's let the library be the library, and the parents be the parents. Hey, I like the librarians. But I don't want them raising my kids. They seem busy enough as it is, anyway. :)


Anonymous said...

Maria- Saddled or bothered it's the same thing. Ginny or WBCFSL does not want to choose what books are in the YA Zone. They want community to decide and giving the power back to the parents.

Right now you and the library are choosing to keep the parents out of the decision making process. Because when parents signed up for a library card we thought our children would be safe from obscene materials, they are not.
All I am asking is that the library ask library patrons to re-consent so that the library can distinguish which parents deem it okay for their kids to read obscene materials and which do not.

I DO think the books in question meet the requirements for obscene. They have to meet "community standards",so let the community decide.

Why is is that you don't want to let the community decide???

Anonymous said...

Anon #?- It sounds easy enough to just go to the library and choose a book. The problem arises, at least for me when a child is unattended. This happens a lot and perhaps the parents are not involved in their lives. This minor child (11-17) may pick up one of these books are read it. Have you read these books? Because if you haven't you should...YIKES! Anyway, these books would certainly confuse a child and be misunderstood. This is why I think a parent should be aware and be able to guide the child throgh the books.

Second, the library has to uphold community standards. Right now those are in question. What are out standards in regards to minors? This is why this needs to be open to the community and let them decide.

See, I'm willing to ask the community what they want. Maria, the librarians and the board don't seem to want to do that. Now you have to ask yourself why?

Why don't they want to the community in which they serve to have a voice? Why?

Unknown said...

This must be you, Kelly. You are the only one who seems to want this "re-consent."

They want community to decide and giving the power back to the parents. Really, Kelly? WBCFSL has never said how they want what is "sexually explicit" to be decided. And if you are right, how exactly are you going to determine what the community wants? Are they going to vote on every book? Parents will have different opinions one different books; some with sexual content may be ok with them and others may not. Leave it in the hands of the parents.

As discussed before, libraries do not act in the absence of the parent, so they cannot decide these things for "unattended children." Even if parents are not attentive to what their kids are reading, it is still their responsibility to monitor it and decide what is appropriate or not.

If you really want to determine the community standards, that's great. But a group such as WBCFSL (or my group) doesn't necessarily represent those standards. I'm not sure on what basis you think WBCFSL does reflect the standards of the community/city of 30,000. The fact that they collected 1000+ signatures? So did I.

How are you going to determine those standards? By vote? Does this library issue have to cost our city even more money and resources?

Christine said...

Yeah, I'm not really sure where people got the idea that the public library is a "safe space" for children. It makes me insane when parents leave their children alone here for hours - it's shockingly irresponsible. No eight-year-old should be in the library by themselves, even though most library policies allow it. It's bad parenting - anyone can come into the library and see that your kid is unattended, your kid could leave the library and get hit by a car... Maybe now that parents are more aware of the kind of materials that are available, they'll start coming WITH their children to the library, rather than using librarians as de facto babysitters.

As for older teenagers - come on, guys. You're kidding yourselves if you think fifteen-year-olds don't know how sex works. These books aren't telling them anything they don't know. And to be honest, you'd be hard-pressed to find a YA novel that glorifies destructive habits. I'm not sure why you're so worried. So teenagers might learn that sex within a committed relationship is pretty nice? Yikes, I'm scared for our future.

Oh wait. No, I'm not.

Anonymous said...

The community needs to decide on what the term "community standards" is. The libary must follow "community standards". We are the "community" so let us decide.

Why are you against that?

True, to leave your child unattended at the library is poor parenting. Does this mean we (as a community) should not interest?

The YA Zone and these books are in the library and children of ANY age have access to them..young or old.

Anonymous said...

What would be most appropriate and to end this controversy would be to put this back onto the community and let them decide.

Afterall the library is for the community and that community is West Bend and Washington County.

SafeLibraries® said...

In comment #2 above I mentioned a person being targeted for being invited to speak at an ALA conference. Here is follow up from the same source:

"Hamas-Linked CAIR Defames Me Again, Tries to Block My ALA Appearance, Takes Material from Libelblogger Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs," by Robert Spenser, Jihad Watch and Dhimmi Watch, 9 July 2009.