Week 7 Readings- Notes and Thoughts
In an effort to keep myself accountable, raise my profile, and maybe even create discussion, I’m going to post my thoughts on what’s left of the weekly reading assignments. I invite anyone who’s interested to do likewise, and everyone who isn’t interested to laugh at my ever shifting tenses and rampant use of run-on sentences.
“Diversity in Collection Development” – ALA
Summary: This concise pronouncement from the American Library Association addresses censorship by stating that we as librarians have a duty to be as inclusive as possible in collection development. Even if we find materials to be personally objectionable, we must tolerate them and provide them for patrons. As the document states, “A balanced collection reflects a diversity of materials, not an equality of numbers.”
My Take Aways: Providing access to as much information should be our mission as librarians, and it’s good to see that it’s upheld by our guiding organization. However, there are many circumstances where this viewpoint of “diversity” turns into a gray area, and it’s hardly broached in this brief statement. The best the posting does is to tell us that the “focus on censorship has fluctuated from generation to generation,” and that we should look to the First Amendment (whatever that is). While the existence of gray areas isn’t entirely addressed, this document succeeds in setting some kind of baseline for further discussions.
Expanding a collection to reflect diverse user populations – J. Schomberg and M. Grace
Summary: The students of Minnesota State University encompass a large percentage of the Twin Cities’ population (14,000 students out of 50,000 people in the area). However, the collection of resources at Memorial Library does not adequately reflect the diversity of this cluster. To address the expanding presence of students from Non-European cultures, the authors of this article believe that more materials should be available that accurately reflect the backgrounds of immigrants. To help develop this idea, Schomberg and Grace requested $500 to acquire materials about Somalian culture. After applying cultural parameters to the materials (English-language only, books where the Western influence was central were eliminated), a bibliography of Somalian books was created. There were at least 8 books ordered, and 6 of them were available to be checked out by students. At the time the article was published, all of the books had been checked out at least once. This leads the authors to believe that diverse groups will indeed use the materials that are best representative of their lifestyles.
My Two Cents: My first impression was that this article had some interesting connections to the De la Tierra piece assigned a few weeks ago. In both cases, the authors mention the emotional and psychological affects that users undergo when they encounter libraries with no materials about their lives and histories. I believe this is a huge point for every type of librarian to grasp- there is always another audience in need of information we could be delivering.
This article is powerful in that such a small amount of money and resources (the collection had 8 books) yielded positive results. It makes a case for specialized collections (Tribal libraries and LGBTQ collections come to mind), and makes me wonder if and how stringently those in charge of collection development within the UW system apply checks to see if certain demographics are being ignored.
2 for 1! – The librarian’s responsibility: not Censorship, but selection by Lester E. Asheim, and Selection versus censorship by Tony Doyle
Summary: Both of these articles deal with the distinction between selection and censorship in collection management. Asheim argues that librarians choose to reject or include materials based on a number of factors, including author’s presumed intent, literary excellence, presumed effect upon the reader, and the makeup of the community. While each of these factors are subjective in their own respects, it is Asheim’s contention that there are two approaches that guide collection management:
- Selection: A “positive” view in which librarians find reasons to keep books. They look at the whole material “for values, for strengths, for virtues, which will overshadow minor objections.
- Censorship: A “negative” view that only examines parts of books, as the librarian looks for “objectionable features, the weaknesses, the possibilities for misinterpretation.”
Asheim equates selection with liberty, and prompts librarians to adopt this mindset.
Doyle concurs with Asheim’s assertion that information promotes democracy, and contrasts this viewpoint with examples of the government limiting information after the events of September 11. However, Doyle does not necessarily agree with the ideas of “selection” and “censorship.” Doyle believes that the distinction between the two terms is “woolly”, because in both instances there is bias coming into play. Citing articles by Carole Hole, Doyle uses an example of a library trying to catalog The Anarchist’s Cookbook as an instance in which selection and censorship butt heads. As a manual for making explosives, car bombs, handheld weapons, etc.,The Anarchist’s Cookbook presents a gray area in the idea of providing materials for the sake of open access. Because of its contents, one could assume that using the information in the book would result in violent scenarios.
To the bet of my understanding, Doyle offers the argument that materials similar to The Anarchist’s Handbook not be censored, unless they espouse certain beliefs or call readers to action. Rejecting both the notions of censorship and unfettered access to materials, Doyle seems to leave it in the hands of the public. Using the unfiltered internet as an example, Doyle believes the public should be entrusted to judge the merits of materials. He then urges readers not to look at the government’s restriction of materials in the wake of September 11 as just issues of censorship, but of larger privacy issues.
My Brain Farts: I appreciate that Doyle is looking at both perspectives critically. At first I felt like he was just raising questions and then not giving any suggestions, but upon second glance it became a little more clear. By leaving selection (or censorship, however you view the world) in the sphere of public decision, it certainly creates the idea of open information. I’m glad he used the analogy of the internet, because that is one system where the user has to decide for him/herself whether or not the information found is worthwhile. But much like the internet, the idea of leaving materials out for the public to search through opens up the idea of protection. I think it’s great for users to find whatever they need when they need it, but then I think of kids and their abilities to stumble upon things they shouldn’t. I’d like to think that in a world where selection is truly left to the public, parents have a helping hand in sorting through resources with their kids, but I know better. I do agree with Doyle overall, and feel that the more open and available the information, the better.