I was pleased to see that my classmates were blogging about the same issues that I’ve been contemplating lately. How do I as a junior high school librarian approach the careful selection of materials while the reality is that I cannot read them all myself (too many books, too little time), and I need to determine which ones should be labeled ‘YA’. I’m not even sure now if that label is even necessary. Are some books in our collection just too adult for my 7th and 8th grade audience of readers? As a first year librarian who is rather new to YA literature, this feels like a big responsibility. I find myself relying on the reviews published in School Library Journal, notes from the publisher, and recommendations from other professional sources, including my local book seller. Lucky for me I have not encountered problems and complaints from parents on the books in our collection……yet.
In the blog Brant’s Rants, my classmate muses about the same topic. I was quite surprised to read about the cabinet of books that C. L. Brant discovered in her school library–a collection of potentially controversial titles conveniently hidden away from students. The titles socked away in the cabinet had been marked ‘lost’ in the inventory 4 years prior, and covered a range of genres. All of them had a common thread though–they seemed to have controversial content that might raise eyebrows of parents. Brant is now sorting through them and deciding which ones to put back on the shelves.
The middle school age is a tricky one for book selection. Some kids are much further along in their development as an adolescent and can really handle literature on more controversial topics, while others really seem very young and not yet ready. Having started late in the school year at my site, I found out that some students had gotten parent permission in their enrollment paperwork to read YA novels, a note indicated on their library record. But I find I don’t bring this up to students when they check out books. I let students check out any book they want to. And not all of our books are labeled YA consistently either. I believe our students, given choices to read books that interest them and are engaging will pick good books for them. Students need the opportunity to choose.
In Linda Jacobsen’s School Library Journal article Unnatural Selection, she points out that labeling these books with a warning or shelving them in a special restricted area may be a violation of students’ First Amendment Rights. Reading that made me feel much more comfortable with how I’ve been handling things so far this year.
Brandt, C. L. (2017) Adventures in library schooling #5 Retrieved from https://brantsrants.wordpress.com/2017/02/24/adventures-in-library-schooling-5/
Jacobson, L. Unnatural selection: More librarians are self-censoring. School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://www.slj.com/2016/09/censorship/unnatural-selection-more-librarians-self-censoring/.