During Banned Books Week, of all weeks, I received the first irate parent phone call of my library career. This involved father was already psyched up because his boy had taken a photo of a book on display at the library and sent it to his dad. That book - "Yay! You're Gay! Now what?". He had some very passionate concerns and an expectation for how our conversation was going to go. I hate to say it: he was angry. He was pushy. He had very strong feelings and very strong words. However, it is important to note that he was NOT disrespectful in any way.
I asked the basic questions: what book was it? What were his concerns?
And then I just listened. For about 20 minutes. Until he had everything out.
Then I acknowledged him, his concerns, and his involvement in his son's life. I explained our selection policy and what had lead to this particular book being selected. I made sure he knew his son wasn't required to read it, but it was available if he chose to. Then I told him about our challenge procedure. I offered to make the appropriate copies of paperwork and policies and leave them in the front office for him. I offered for him to read the book on school grounds - assuring him that it was very short and could be read in an hour or two. (Our policy says school copies of challenged materials cannot leave the grounds until the challenge is completed.) I made sure he knew that he wasn't obligated to go through the process if he read the material and no longer felt it should be removed from the shelves, but that the process would need to be adhered to if he truly wanted it removed.
An amazing thing happened. To this dad's credit, he calmed down. He really listened. He still didn't agree with it personally, but he ultimately decided the things we were discussing were a satisfying answer. The phone call ended amiably - with me offering to talk to him about it any time and to pull the necessary paperwork and material if he should ever choose to use them.
Then I hung up the phone and immediately began shaking. My aide, bless her heart, came over and let me pour some things out. I grabbed the book and the policies and paperwork and immediately headed for the principal's office. I briefed him, and he chose to keep and read the book in case the parent came to see him about it. My principal was impressed with the phone call and how I handled it.
I went back to the library and drafted an email to two of my best library buddies and former professors. Never would I have been able to handle that phone call without focusing on defending the actual book had they not drilled it into my head to make great selections with plenty of evidence why that book should be there AND don't defend the book - defend the process.
So, my library friends, it's going to happen at some point. It happened to me even in my small town! The best advice I can possibly give is: stay calm, be respectful, and defend the process. If you do not have your selection criteria or process in your library policy, make that happen! Also, if you do not have a challenge process in place, get it going. The ALA has a great webpage that I used to create ours. I also looked up school libraries that had those policies and borrowed their ideas and processes.
Oh, back to school season!
It's a great jolt to the school library's summer laziness when all the students return and suddenly circulation is back in full swing. I love it! Everything is at its best.
Students are polite and kind.
Teachers are polite and kind.
LIBRARIANS are polite and kind.
Enthusiasm peeks around every corner. No one cares if you have a box of books that hasn't arrived yet or if the library shelves aren't just so. We're all on our best summer sun-kissed behavior.
This year marks a lot of "let's try it" initiatives for me and my school library. The first to demonstrate immediate positive results is introducing book walks/book passes/book speed dating.
No matter how you organize your book pass, don't lose sight of your purpose for doing it: to introduce students to a host of books they might read and to encourage conversations between and among students about books. (Miller, p.113)
What a great opportunity to have nearly every student in the school come through the library right away! Teachers were on board to try a book pass instead of the "regular" checkout experience of turning the children completely lose like a pack of feral wolves and hoping they made good choices. The library was excited to establish the library's three expectations - effort, listen, and no put downs - and get some new and old books in front of so many faces.
You know the scene: tables of carefully curated books. Ours were separated by interest and tailored to the teacher bringing students in and their purpose. Fortunately, our teachers are great at planning in advance so we were able to switch books on a period to period basis with our fully loaded waiting book carts.
Students saw books they may never have seen otherwise, tried new things, and honed their personal reading tastes. They also saw a library staffed with people who care and listen to them. They saw adults working together to support their success.
Was it perfect? No. In fact, we had a student loudly proclaim that he hates reading choose to fill out his log rating all books a 0, with no interest, no appropriate vocabulary, no stamina, and no fluency. But, he DID fill out the entire log, so he put his hands on many more books than the students actually studying each book to answer all of the questions. We're counting it a small victory. The log we had students use was from
Then, the book pass experience lead to other experiences: MLA citations, how to use our databases, showing classes how to renew their own books on their iPads, and planning ahead for Banned Books Week activities to span the classroom/library divide.
All in all: the book pass activity was a great way to begin our year. Will we repeat it on a regular basis? Probably not - but I do have an idea brewing for before Christmas break that looks a lot like a White Elephant gift exchange.
So what's the book I quoted above? It's called "Game Changer! Book Access for All Kids" by Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp. It got my library fire roaring. I'll wind up sharing a lot from it this year, and I encourage you to grab a copy. I got mine from Amazon. It's all highlighted and written in because that's how I respond to learning. I hope you love it too!