Chilling Effects of Book Challenges (Banned Book Week Series #5)

As we wrap up our look at assorted Freedom to Read topics, let’s talk about the chilling effect that can happen to collection development in the face of book challenges.

This is the unspoken side of book challenges: the increased reluctance on the part of a librarian to push the boundaries of what may be deemed acceptable when buying books. That balance between assembling a good and balanced collection and avoiding potential challenges can be difficult to master. It can be very tempting to just avoid buying the latest challenged book, or to develop a collection of books that may be challenged, when a librarian wants to avoid controversy.

Everyone needs to think about the basics of their library’s collection development, and think consciously about overcoming a reluctance to work through a challenge process. Look back to our Banned Book Week Series entry #3, and work through some of the processes given to write up a good policy for your library to incorporate to respond to challenges in a professional way. Having that policy in place, and ready to be shared with Boards, patrons, and other concerned stakeholders, gives some security in engaging in a discussion on controversial materials.

School Library Journal published an article on a study of school librarians: SLJ: Self Censorship Survey. Although this article is now a few years old, there is no reason to believe things are different; and the information presented gives a new dimension to thinking about collection development of potentially controversial materials.

Data from SLJ Survey

As you build a collection, and include materials that may be controversial for any number of reasons, think carefully before excluding items on that basis. Although the potential conflict of a challenge is not pleasant for the librarian or patron, the discussion can be valuable and the process can help to educate everyone involved on Freedom to Read policies and ideas. These are the bedrock of our profession, so do not give them up lightly!

Preservation in a nuclear bunker

Packard Campus

When you think of archives, you may picture dusty boxes or dark closets filled with preserved documents or other media. You maybe don’t think of 90 miles of shelves in climate controlled and “radiation hardened” vaults!

However, that is exactly where the Library of Congress is storing its Audio/Visual collection in Culpeper, Virginia. The storage facility is actually a former nuclear bunker that was built during the Cold War to protect huge amounts of money as well as up to 500 Federal employees. This article from the blog Architect of the Capital details the original goal of the bunker structure, pictures and illustrations of the site, and also the end goal of the Library of Congress to eventually digitize their film and video collection.

Watch this video from the Library of Congress that describes the Packard Campus and the process that the digital files go through to record and preserve them at the facility (it includes robotics!):


Strategies to Simplify: Tip 3: Time tactics

“Work simply. Live fully.”  This week CMLE focuses on the following work productivity tip from Work Simply, Carson Tate’s popular book.  At CMLE, we’ve boiled down Tate’s wealth of knowledge from Work Simply to a few key points; please see the book for more detail and resources. At the bottom, see links to earlier tips in the series! Let’s all be our best selves….

This week’s activity: Time is valuable, so choose time investment tactics that work best for you.

In her book Work Simply, Carson Tate argues that “Time is more valuable than money. You need to start treating it that way.” In order to do that, we need to begin “thinking about time as a commodity, and in particular as an infinitely valuable, nonrenewable resource.”

Recently, you discovered your Productivity Style with a simple assessment.

Work Simply

Find your Productivity Style for some personalized time tactics:

Prioritizer: You excel at using time efficiently. Try this: Begin your day with your highest priority project or task.

Planner: You are able to minimize the risk of mistakes by adhering to best practices or past procedures. Try this: Plan for extra time each week to allow for unanticipated issues or opportunities

Arranger: You are skilled at encouraging teamwork in order to get the most done. Try this: To help keep your focus, turn off your e-mail notifications.

Visualizer: You can productively handle multiple tasks and projects at once. Try this: Ask yourself, “What is the best use of my time right now?”

Previous tips in this series

Bubbles + Storytime = Fun!

Try bubbles as a storytime prop!

If you are a children’s librarian, or even just a parent that has taken your child to storytime, you know how fun and important that time can be! In this article from the ALSC blog, librarian April Lee describes her use of introducing bubbles into her storytime adventures.

Lee shares how she was initially apprehensive about using bubbles as a prop during her storytime, but then discovered that a bubble machine solved most of her worries, and the experience was very positive. She writes that the bubbles “Give children a fun sensory experience and a chance to play together at the beginning of storytime – as opposed to just the end – along with breaking down the initial shyness among the group.” You can even find her original bubble-related song lyrics on her blog! 

Another example of bubbles and storytime can be found in this post on the Library Village blog, which describes several different types of bubble machines and even links to some bubble songs on YouTube. For more things bubble-related, including recipes and activities, check out this link to Pinterest.

Have you used bubbles in your library or media center, during storytime or a different activity? Share your experience in the comments!

Read with CMLE – Book group materials available to borrow!

Attention, book-loving CMLE members! (We hope that is most of you!)

You may have read our earlier post introducing CMLE’s two new book groups on Goodreads. One of our groups is aimed at professional development for librarians, and the books that we will be reading will hopefully be useful to you in your place of work. Our second book group is more about reading for fun, and the books we read will be a little more light-hearted!

life-changing-magic-of-tidying-up curiosity_cover_250For the month of October, our book for the group CMLE Librarian Professionals is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Our book for the group CMLE Librarians Enjoying Books is Curiosity Thrilled the Cat by Sofie Kelly.

Do you want to read with us, but need to borrow a copy of either book? CMLE has two copies of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and one copy of Curiosity Thrilled the Cat that are available to borrow! 

Email Angie and let her know if you are interested. Looking forward to reading together!

A Wider Look at Frequently Challenged Materials (Banned Book Week Series #4)

We stand for the freedom to read!

As librarians, we spend all day sharing information with our patrons. Therefore, it can be beneficial during this Banned Book Week to look back at some of the most challenged materials over a broader span of time than discussed in our previous post in this series about the materials challenged in 2015. I like to be very deliberate in seeking these books out to read, so I understand why there may be concerns, and so I am better prepared to discuss the content of a book in a challenge situation.

This is a list of the  100 most challenged books from 2000-2009, as complied by the ALA. Of course, a list like this can not be entirely accurate: many challenges go unreported, or may not rise to the level of a full challenge but still provide concerns for patrons. But it does give us some ideas about the types of materials that get challenged, and we can see some trends in consistently challenged books.

1. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
2. Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
3. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
4. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
5. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
7. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
8. His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
9. ttyl; ttfn; l8r g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
11. Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
12. It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
13. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
14. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
15. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
16. Forever, by Judy Blume
17. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
18. Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous
19. Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
20. King and King, by Linda de Haan

And here is the ALA’s list of the 100 most challenged books from 1990-1999.  I am copying in the top 20 from each list; and when you click on the links you can see all 100. You will see several books that are consistently on the list, and several authors who write in areas of sensitive material and appear regularly on these lists.

  1. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
  2. Daddy’s Roommate, by Michael Willhoite
  3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
  4. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
  5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
  6. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
  7. Forever, by Judy Blume
  8. Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
  9. Heather Has Two Mommies, by Leslea Newman
  10. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
  11. The Giver, by Lois Lowry
  12. My Brother Sam is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
  13. It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
  14. Alice (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  15. Goosebumps (series), by R.L. Stine
  16. A Day No Pigs Would Die, by Robert Newton Peck
  17. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
  18. Sex, by Madonna
  19. Earth’s Children (series), by Jean M. Auel
  20. The Great Gilly Hopkins, by Katherine Paterson

Some of these books are not popular anymore, or too dated to be of interest to today’s school-aged readers. But some carry on as significant enough to continue reading. And many of the books in both lists appear there after some national publicity of challenges – which may have caused other challenges in other places to occur.

A troubling trend in book challenges, beyond just their existence, is the increased number of challenges over materials about diverse content  from the ALA, or books written by authors of color. Read through that second link, which is a blog post by Malinda Lo – one of the creators of the blog Diversity in YA. She looks at a lot of perspectives on publication of authors of color and books with diverse content, complete with charts to make her points visual. Although the authors have ceased contributing new content, looking back through their archives gives some interesting insights into this issue. Censorship, or book banning, is not always an overt process; and we will explore that topic further in the fifth post in our series this week.

As with everything we do in libraries, there is a lot to consider and a lot to balance. We serve the needs of our communities with their diverse interests and needs; and we also serve the library profession. A strong collection development policy, with a lot of discussion in the library among staff and with the community about rationale for different collection items, will be the best way to ensure communication happens when conflict occurs. You can not stop conflict, but you can plan for it and be ready to address it in a professional way.

CMLE wants to read with you!


Let’s read together!


As a library system, filled with library people, we like to read books. So let’s get together and read books and chat about them!

We have set up two monthly book groups on Goodreads, where we have a forum to discuss our books. If there is interest in holding in-person book group sessions at host locations, that would also be great; but we want it to be accessible to everyone, so we will always have an online discussion where we can all share in the reading. (If you want to have an in-person monthly meeting, either at CMLE Headquarters, or in another location – email Mary !)

We will have two copies of the paper book to share, if you want to borrow one for a few days. Email Angie to get on the borrowing list!

The first group will be have a professional theme; here we will read books that may be helpful to you at work. They may be specifically library-oriented, or may be books that would be relevant to the work we do in our libraries. We have a preliminary list of books that might be interesting to our members; and we encourage you to suggest books that we all might enjoy!

For our October book in this group, we will be reading “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondō. “Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again.” Can this help you at work?? We will have to read the book to find out how!

Below is a fairly long video (42 minutes) Kondo gave at Google. She, and her translator, work through her entire system of sorting and keeping objects in the house.

And here is a short video, with just music in the background, where Kondo helps a woman organize her bookshelf:

They may be aspirational, but the results look good!


Our other book group will be a fiction book group, with readings we do for fun. There may be a theme of “librarian as main character” through the books we read, but that will not be a requirement. As library people, we all hear too much of the comment “it must be so fun to sit around and read books at work all day;” and it’s amazingly frustrating!! But of course, most of us really do like to read books! So we can have this time to enjoy a book together each month.

In October, we will be reading “Curiosity Thrilled the Cat” by Sofie Kelly. “When librarian Kathleen Paulson moved to Mayville Heights, Minnesota, she had no idea that two strays would nuzzle their way into her life. Owen is a tabby with a catnip addiction and Hercules is a stocky tuxedo cat who shares Kathleen’s fondness for Barry Manilow. But beyond all the fur and purrs, there’s something more to these felines.”

This book does not come with videos, but we have a couple of other ones for you to enjoy:

  • Who wouldn’t want a job as Kitten Librarian?? (not technically a library; but still a great idea!)
  • And these important helpers in the Huron Library in London, Ontario are clearly making an important contribution!
  • Stacks the Library Cat has a pretty significant fan club at the New Castle library in Pennsylvania

Both of these books are available in paper, eBook, and audio formats; so pick a format that works for you! Content is the important part; flexibility of format is just a bonus.


Central Minnesota Libraries Exchange

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