Friday, December 15, 2006

Thanks for a great semester

Just wanted to close out the blog here by once again saying thanks for your interest and participation in my first-ever round of teaching LIS 450. I think I learned as much as you did, but we're not supposed to admit that sort of thing around here. I tend to be hard to find around SLIS -- since I'm split between two departments and often teaching undergraduate courses -- so do keep in touch if we don't get to share a class again. And on that note, if you're at all interested in my Spring Tuesday afternoon seminar on "uncovering information labor," do let me know -- there are still plenty of open spots and we now have eight guest speakers scheduled. The readings and discussions in this class will take a lot of the ideas we introduced in LIS 450 to the "next level." Either way, have a good break and I'll see you at Wal-Mart ... I mean, at the library.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Library vs Wal-mart ?

After reading Lisa's thoughts about libraries vs. Bookstores, I thought I would chime in...
A couple of years ago the library where I used to work changed all of our internal and external publicity, replacing the word "patrons" with "customers". That felt odd. What did this change imply? And now that we've had a couple of years to get used to that, there has now been talk of another change. The Library Director wants to restructure several libraries, uniting the circulation and adult reference desks into one single desk/area that will now be called "Customer Service Points". YIKES!

The plan also includes senior volunteers as greeters in some of the larger libraries, to help people find their way around.

If I had the guts, I'd call my library director and ask her her thought process behind these changes. Why? It certainly seems like a fast-food mentality and maybe younger patrons...I mean customers, will love this. Just get in, get what you need and get out. But what about our non-traditional customers, seniors or others who don't want to rush around? Will they like these Customer Service points? Why would the library director do this? Maybe it has something to do with our consumer economy. Lisa said that libraries are not commercial zones, but maybe we're heading that way. Is there a way to offer convenience and still provide a place to sit and think and read or whatever? What do people really want? Are things so different in the suburbs?

Let's just hope that the librarians don't have to start wearing blue smocks and a smiley face pin!

Week 15, Case Studies: One City, One Book and Mega Bookstores

One City, One Book
What else can I say about this idea except brilliant! Whether in the context of a community-wide program or of a middle and high school, being able to share a common reading experience provides a space for conversation and connection similar to book clubs. By freeing the participants from the pressure of reading as an assignment, again like book clubs, the one book campaign allows everyone to relate to the literature as they want to and levels the literary playing field. Like one student said in Debby Van Dyke’s article: “It didn’t matter who was smart or who was athletic; we all were at the same level”. It alleviates the stress of trying to do well or trying to say things students think are what the teacher wants to hear; it leaves the individual with only their free-flowing thoughts, and I imagine boosts students confidence in themselves as intellectuals by welcoming every and all unbridled thoughts on the book. With all the organization for the event happening behind the scenes, all the people are free to enjoy the benefits of having a well-coordinated, participation-friendly opportunity at their fingertips without contributing to the underlying planning. Personally, I think ensuring everyone has been assigned to a discussion group and access to any supporting materials they need is critical. This support network encourages those people likely to give up on reading the easiest to keep reading through a collective sense of community. I was thinking of joining a book club for this very reason: to find an open, non-academically pressured space to, quite simply, think about and discuss things I’ve read without trying to write them up in a paper or follow a rigid scholarly framework for interpretation. Just the book, my ideas, and a congenial forum.

Libraries v. Bookstores
As I was reading a few of these articles, it struck me that the underlying difference of objectives between libraries and bookstores is what causes the two to display their materials so differently. The purpose of the bookstore is to provide a consumer friendly space to sell! sell! sell! only the most recent releases and bestsellers. The library on the other hand, has no ulterior commercial motive. Libraries preserve materials, and so they need to use the decimal system to standardize collection organization throughout all libraries, not just one particular retail outlet. This is another significant difference. While bookstores may share the same corporate name, each individual store falls under that branch’s management without regards to a scheme that must transcend physical space. The best libraries can do to compete with these mega stores is to put lots of creative energy into temporary displays, mimicking the high priority tables of the mega stores or other highlight sections consumers are used to already. Since we live in a consumer economy, where individuals are conditioned to expect quick, efficient access to the goods they want immediately, bookstores cater to these instant satisfaction demands. Libraries, however, are not commercial zones and so they stand out as even more counter-intuitive to use compared to the ultimate consumer-friendly bookstores. Overall, when it comes to books, people want tables set out with items they might like because most people will find something they do in fact like there. People want books to be organized under unofficial popular section listings like ‘fiction’ or ‘drama’ so they can browse. If libraries want to keep up with the rising tide of mega store commercialism, we need to borrow some of their more effective marketing gimmicks to offer users as much of the convenience they know and expect from being in these comfortable reading areas with ambient lighting that are nearly as prevalent as Starbucks. Rotating, temporary displays provided easier browsing with catchy, popular titles or new releases is just a beginning.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Colbert's Truthiness and Webster's dictionary...

I saw this flash by in the "underlines" of CNN this morning and couldn't pass it up. Get you Faux News here...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Warrior Librarian periodical

Thought everyone might be interested in a tongue-in-cheek periodical called Warrior Librarian: Of special interest is the page on "rejecting the stereotype": I especially like the Avenging Librarian. Their webpage starts out: "Why you should fall to your knees and worship a librarian"! And, of course, there is the "Macho librarians with guns" webpage that starts out: "STEP AWAY from the Reference Desk ... slowly"



Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Word of the Day

I subscribe to Merriam-Webster's Online 'Word of the Day'. Sometimes it's interesting, sometimes it's obscure, sometimes it's relevant to a class of library school students:

cybrarian \sye-BRAIR-ee-un\ noun

: a person whose job is to find, collect, and manage information that is available on the World Wide Web

Example sentence:
The library provided an e-mail address to submit inquiries to the cybrarian.

Did you know?
We've been using "librarian" for the people who manage libraries since at least the beginning of the 18th century, and the word was used for scribes and copyists even earlier than that. "Cybrarian," on the other hand, is much newer; its earliest documented use is from 1992. "Librarian" combines "library" (itself from "liber," the Latin word for book) and the noun suffix "-an," meaning "one specializing in." When people wanted a word for a person who performed duties similar to those of a librarian by using information from the Internet, they went a step further and combined "cyber-," meaning "of, relating to, or involving computers or a computer network," with "librarian" to produce the new "cybrarian."

Monday, December 04, 2006

Group One's PowerPoint Presentation

Group One's PowerPoint presentation may be found here.

Group One

Group Five Readings

Here's our reading list for the "Big Box Bookstores" topic, plus the rest of our bibliography. Note: soft music and an overcomplicated coffee beverage will greatly enhance your reading experience.

Additional Material for group one presentation

The following is an account of a book challenge which took place in 2004 at Arrow-
head High School in Waukesha County. It was originally intended to complement the “def-
initions” segment of our group presentation on banned and challenged books. Due to time
constraints, it appears here instead.
--Becky Brumder

I live in Waukesha County in the Arrowhead High School District. The school offers and elective course in Modern Literature to juniors and seniors. One of the books on the course reading list is Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which was published in 1999 by MTV. For those of you who may not be familiar with it, Wallflower is an epistolary novel, written from the point of view of a 9th-grade boy. It is controversial because it deals with sensitive subjects such as date rape, abortion, drug use, and pedophilia.
In 2004, a junior boy in this Modern Lit class complained to his parents about Wallflower, even though h e liked the teacher, a man by the name of Frank Balistreri. Mr. Balistreri designed the Modern Lit course at Arrowhead. He’s one of the school’s most popular teachers, and has won the Teacher of the Year Award. He’s beloved by most of the Arrowhead community. But, the parents of this particular boy in his class, Kurt and Karen Krueger, felt differently. When their son complained to them about Wallflower, they went on the warpath and launched a challenge to the book.
I contacted Frank Balistreri with the hope of interviewing him, but he declined to speak to me. Here, in part, is what he said: “You’re asking me about a particularly horrible episode in my teaching career. I’d rather not revisit it.” A colleague of his in Arrowhead’s Language Arts Department did agree to speak to me, however, on the condition that he remain anonymous. Our phone conversation lasted a half hour, and most of the information in this account came directly from him.
Kurt and Karen Krueger (whom the faculty at Arrowhead took to calling “KKK” during the controversy) are Fundamentalist Christians who had home-schooled their children until their eldest son’s junior year. Ironically, the wanted their kids to graduate from Arrowhead because of the cache a diploma from the school holds (AHS is one of Wisconsin’s top public schools, and is recognized nationally for its academic and athletic excellence.)
When the Kruegers, who were described to me as being “rabid”, challenged Wall-
flower, they didn’t go for subtlety or nuance in their approach. To quote the teacher I spoke to, “They pressed the nuclear button.” They wrote an angry letter to the school’s superintendent, claiming that their son had been “traumatized” by reading the book and accusing Frank Balistreri of being a “pornographer.” They also hired a lawyer and went straight to the press, giving interviews to the Lake Country Reporter, the Waukesha Freeman, and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel; and appearing on all the Milwaukee TV news channels.
It wasn’t long before the “nu ts” started coming out of the woodwork. About a dozen other Arrowhead parents joined the Kruegers in their challenge to Wallflower, and Frank
Balistreri (the “wonderful” man and admired teacher) found himself almost overnight to be the target of vicious attacks from people and organizations not only in Wisconsin, but from all over the country. More than 64 anonymous phone messages were left on his voice mail at school, many using foul and threatening language. A Christian radio station in South Carolina contacted him as he was about to teach a class, trying to get a live interview with him. When he declined, saying that he believed he was being set up, he was vilified on the air for being a coward and a sinner. Mr. Balistreri and his family also got angry, obscene, and threatening phone calls at home (again, most of them anonymous.)
This story does have heroes as well as villains, though. Most faculty members, staff, students, and parents supported Balistreri. A school librarian, Bonnie Logerman, enlisted the help of the ALA, which offered its support in combating the book challenge. Mrs. Logerman became one of the fiercest advocates not just on Mr. Balistreri’s behalf, but also on behalf of Wallflower and other books that came under attack in the wake of the original challenge (These included Krik? Krak! by the Haitian author Edwidge Danticat, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold.) I was told that Logerman nearly lost her job in the process, because she also became under attack from the would-be book banners. Finally, three doctors with children at Arrowhead spearheaded the effort to mobilize the local community on behalf of Frank Balistreri (and Logerman). Their efforts were also
highly praised by the teacher I spoke to.
Even though Arrowhead had never experienced a challenge of this kind before, the school did have a procedure in place for dealing with it. A committee was formed, with two representatives each from the school board, the faculty, and the student body. The librari an from the South Campus (holding freshmen and sophomores) also served on it. More than one lengthy and highly charged public hearing was held at AHS, which was heavily attended by the media and moderated by the committee. Ultimately, the latter determined that Wallflower was not offensive, and it remains on the Modern Lit course reading list.
In the aftermath of the challenge, four things happened that are worth noting. First, Arrowhead altered its Curriculum Guide for the Modern Literature course, which now includes a warning to parents about the potentially controversial subject matter and language contained in some of the readings. Parents are urged to visit the Web page of the Language Arts Department, where 34 detailed and comprehensive textbook rationales are offered. If a parent ultimately decides not to allow their child to read a certain book, alternate choices are made available. The Curriculum Guide also states the requirement that parents sign a letter permitting their child to take the class; these letters must be submitted before
any books are distributed to students.
The teacher I spoke to told me that these new requirements are a burden on the faculty and staff at the school, because they demand--in his words--”a great deal of time, labor, energy, blood, sweat, and tears.” They detract from his and other teachers’ ability to focus on what they do best--teaching. In the two years since the challenge forced these changes, only one out of a total of 203 students taking the Modern Lit c ˆlass has refused to read an assigned book.
The fallout from the book challenge also resulted in a contentious school board election, where the Kruegers and their supporters failed in their bid to win a majority of seats. Kurt Krueger, who had once served as the District Attorney for Walworth County, ran unsuccessfully for the same office in Waukesha County this fall, losing in the republican primary.
Finally, Frank Balistreri, the teacher who became the lightning rod in the book challenge controversy, no longer wants to teach the Modern Literature course, which was a labor of love for him at one time, because he was its creator.
As for myself, I think the main lesson I’ve learned from this assignment is that book challenges take a very real toll on the people involved in them. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the conversation I had with Mr. X, the teacher at Arrowhead who, even though he was a peripheral figure in the challenge, still seems emotionally raw from the experience.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Group One Bibliography

Arrowhead High School Web site. (2006). Retrieved November 28, 2006 from

American Library Association Web site. (2006). Retrieved November 16, 2006, from

Battles, Matthew, "Knowledge on Fire". The American Scholar 72:3 (2003) 35-51.

British Broadcasting Company (BBC) News. Online.

Boyer, Paul S. "Boston Book Censorship in the Twenties," American Quarterly 15 (1963): 3-24

CNN News Archives Online. “Church group burns Potter books.” December 31, 2001.

Coeyman, Marjorie. "Teachers tackle `uncomfortable' books head on." Christian Science Monitor 90.121 (1998): B4

Cooperative Children's Book Center. (2006). Interview with Megan Schleisman (Librarian). Madison, WI.

Family Friendly Libraries.

Goldberg, Beverly, “Pastor’s Potter book fire inflames N. Mex. Town”. American Libraries 33:2 (2002) 19.

Hillerbrand, Hans J., "On Book Burnings and Book Burners:Reflections on the Power (and Powerlessness) of Ideas”. Journal of the American Academy of Religion 74:3 (2006) 593-614.

Howard, Douglas L. "Silencing Huck Finn." Chronicle of Higher Education 50.48 (2004): C1-C4.

International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). Last Updated October 27, 2006. Quotes by Subject: Book burning. Online.

Ishizuka, Kathy, “Harry Potter book burning draws fire.” School Library Journal 48:2 (2002) 27.

"It's official: Potter helps." Reading Today 23.1 (2005): 26.

Johnson, Bill, Johnson, J.J. "Words of Wonder." Teaching PreK-8 31.8 (2001): 58-59.

Karolides, Nicholas J, Margaret Bald and Dawn B. Sova. 120 Banned Books. New York: Checkmark Books/Facts On File 2005.

Landover Baptist Church, Ltd. Harry Potter Book Burning Invitation. [Online]

LaRue, James. (2004). "Buddha at the Gate, Running : Why People Challenge Library Materials." American Libraries: December 2004; 35, 11: Social Science Module pg. 42

Manley, Will, “In defense of book burning”. American Libraries 33:3 (2002) 196.

National Coalition Against Censorship.

Noble, William. Bookbanning in America: Who Bans Books and Why? Middlebury, Vt.: Paul S. Erickson 1990.

Perlez, Jane, “Ruins of Sarajevo Library Is Symbol of a Shattered Culture”. The New York Times on the Web. August 12, 1996.
Post.Havard: An online community for Harvard alumni. Online image:

Riedlmayer, Andras. International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA): Annual Conference August 20-25, 1995. Online.

The Advanced Research Corporation. Last Updated January 1, 2006. Online image:

The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker (2006). New York: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers.

The Wolfstone Group. Online image.

Group 4 Readings and Bibliography

In case anyone wanted to get a bit of a head-start on the readings, both our full bibliography and readings for class can be found here.

(Here's the URL if the link didn't work:

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Pop Culture and Wikipedia

As a last minute activity please visit and look up a pop culture idea with which you are familiar. Is the information posted on Wikipedia consistent with your understanding of the topic? If not, how is it different?