Here is a the question recently posed to a e-group of librarians:
Our school is having parents complain about the book “Hold Still.” Are any of you having this problem?
Not familiar with this YA Book?
It’s okay, a quick search can reveal the title, the author, and more. I had read the book but had to go back to my favorite review site to re familiarize myself too–it’d been a while since I read it. It is a South Carolina Book Award Nominee for the
2012-2013 (thanks Heather for the correction!!) 2011-2012 school year for us, and I must share it has been really popular with our girls.
But it’s an award nominee!
I am surprised at the possible challenge. Though if memory serves there were some friends of the main character Caitlin that were openly gay. My guess is that is what is concerning the parent. This is a great time to remind librarians to really learn as much as possible about the books you place on your shelf. You know your school and community much better, and despite our most solid reviewing tools, we don’t always realize the quantity of profanity, the amount of promiscuity, or the level of acceptance of alternate lifestyles many of these titles have.
So how do you know?
The best way to know is to read each book before placing it on the shelf, but that is not always possible. I find that scouring through sites like GoodReads, Shelfari, and LibraryThing can be a reliable way to know how heavy a topic is covered in YA books. Why? Because actual readers for the most part are the ones sharing their reviews–not professionals. Using a combination of my own reading, professional reviewing tools (like SLJ, Booklist, and VOYA), and amateur readers’ reviews from sites like those mentioned above, one can be almost 85% prepared for questions about selected books added to the collection. 85%? Yeah, sorry, but I don’t think there is a 100% full proof way to know for sure UNLESS you read every book placed on the shelf. And even more sorry, but I’m not a fan of everything enough to make myself read them.
On a side note, this site was shared this week from our group, and I will be looking more into it. Networking with like-minded folks can provide a wealth of knowledge about various content. This was a jewel introduced to me this week. Instead of telling you about it, I will share the rave review that came with the sharing.
…I have had to read MANY book reviews on books recommended by students before hitting that ONE review that told me the book was a no-go for my population! I do like CommonSenseMedia’s Book Reviews because it IS biased in that it lets you know if there is any “bad stuff” in the book that you might not enjoy. They don’t make judgement calls but do recommend ages and provide discussion guides for the sticky parts! Shared by LMS Samantha McManus, Sullivan Middle School, Rock Hill, SC
How to deal with it??
Be sure your book selection policy is available for parents to see, and remind them that the library provides a variety to meet the curriculum standards as well as needs and interests for a variety of readers. Key to having a balanced collection is being able to offer choices, and the book in question is but one choice out of many. Acknowledge the parents right to limit their own child’s choice.
Are you getting the impression a formal complaint will be filed?
If it were me, I’d be preparing my administrators for the possibility, and making sure everyone is following the policy. Refresh their memories on the process and timeline for seeing a challenge through so everyone is on the same page–just to avoid some unintended consequences (negative publicity, rash decisions.) Of course know also these may happen anyway despite your best intentions.
Oh by the way, don’t forget to DEFEND the Freedom to Read
Don’t forget to log this challenge with the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom. ALA’s OIF wants us to log ALL challenges. With a parent already voicing concern, it meets the criteria for reporting to the ALA OIF.
Here is the link to the form.
Also check their suggested path pf preparation for a challenge.
Last, checking the sidebar there will lead to other helpful online resources.