Archive for the ‘Library’ Category

Celebrate the Freedom to Read

30 September 07

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” Ray Bradbury

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This week is banned books week in the US, and it is all the more pertinent to me since I live in a society where books are frequently banned, movies are censored, protests are squashed, news is propaganda and the Internet is filtered. And if my blog wasn’t blocked before, it probably is now.

Reading over ALA’s (American Library Association – America’s top freedom fighters. Librarians aren’t all grannies in glasses!) banned books website, I am not a bit surprised to see that, once again, we are worried about our kids reading the classics and getting ideas. Scary! To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – perennial guests on the banned books list.

I headed over to google to see what websites are saying about banned books week. Of course, how many pages was I actually able to load? Thanks Great Firewall. Time to turn on the TOR. Actually, I’ve noticed that lately, I am surfing with it on almost all the time. Slows things down a little, but it is good practice with being patient. All good things come in time.

Funny that the website I was able to open without the proxy was a “pro-family”, ultra-conservative, conspiracy theory website condemning the ALA as an organization that wants to turn America’s youth gay. Not sure how that one made it past the GFW! The ironic thing is that librarians are taught – at least at my school – to be so pro-freedom to read, that they would never deny anyone the right to read that website, even as they bad mouth the profession. A library is a place for everyone, and all views should be evenly represented. Not that this happens in all libraries, but it is what librarians should strive for and what the ALA recommends. Another thing the ALA recommends is that parents take responsibility for what their children read, not the librarians.

The very idea of freedom to read and freedom to access information involve no value judgment on what people choose, however, librarians are human too and some cannot separate their own personal values and beliefs from the professional. And that is truly a shame. I’m not afraid to say that maybe they shouldn’t be librarians.

“Banned Books Week is about upholding a fundamental American value,” says Gorman. [Michael Gorman is a former ALA president.] “We don’t believe in suppressing other peoples’ right to read. I’m a university librarian in a large-ish institution, so it’s very easy for me. The whole institution believes in access of information and freedom of inquiry. People working in a small rural library, where the most challenges are issued, can be very isolated. And we tend to want them to do the whole Gregory Peck act and stand up and defy their challengers. The dilemma is a lot more complicated. Banned Books Week says to those rural librarians, ‘You’re not alone.’ ”

Garden [Nancy Garden, banned author] sympathizes with the librarians facing those challenges, too, and considers a book challenge a good time to talk. “Librarians have to listen to the objections that people have to books,” says Garden. “But I think it’s important to say things like, ‘Well, look, we can’t remove this stuff, but if you want to tell us materials that you would like us to put in the library, which represent your viewpoint, we can put those in, too.’ ”

Conversation is often a good starting point for Ball [Miranda Ball, a library director in rural Alabama], who has intervened when kids check out books she thinks are too advanced for them—when a ten-year-old came to her with Stephen King’s Carrie, Ball explained to her that the book might be too advanced. “So then she wanted to read Anne Rice, and I said ‘I don’t think you want to read that either, honey,’ ” says Ball. “But I told her, ‘If you want to get it out, then go ahead.’ ”

“I am a conservative Christian, and I have a two-year-old daughter, and there are things I won’t want her reading. But I don’t want anyone else telling me what she can read,” says Ball. “And I’m sure not going to tell other people what they can read.”

The Book Standard – September 2005

The top banned books of the 21st century?
1. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
2. “The Chocolate War” by Robert Cormier
3. Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
4. “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck
5. “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou
6. “Fallen Angels” by Walter Dean Myers
7. “It’s Perfectly Normal” by Robie Harris
8. Scary Stories series by Alvin Schwartz
9. Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey
10. “Forever” by Judy Blume

What can you do to observe banned books week?

For further reading:
Amnesty International remembers the authors persecuted for sharing information. (Not available in China without a proxy.)
The Forbidden Library
Top 100 Banned Books – 1990 to 2000

“Censorship, like charity, should begin at home; but unlike charity, it should end there.”  — Clare Booth Luce

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Glad It’s Friday

28 September 07

Fall is here. (Even though by the Chinese calendar we are in mid-autumn already.) I’m wearing a jacket. It is windy and cool. It is even cool enough for my favorite treat – green tea oatmeal. (It’s way more delicious than it sounds!) How long will this last?

As predicted by our local meteorologist, September is turning out to be sensational flying weather. Despite the fact that today is a little rainy, visibility is great and the planes are in the air. The DH has been flying everyday for the past week. This is what we came to China to do, and it is a huge relief to see the instructors doing it!

I’m writing some posts about the challenges of flight training in China and some other aviation in China themed stories. I should be posting them this weekend or next week, and then on a regular basis after that. It’ll be my “Aviation in China” series.

In the meantime, I’m swamped with lots of reading and studying. When I left my last nursing job, I was so burned out that I never wanted to see a hospital or a sick person ever again, but I have to admit I’m really enjoying my medical librarian courses. I’m reading about infectious disease for a course, instead of my own pleasure, (I know, I’m twisted.) which is a huge change. I’ve never enjoyed reading a textbook before. Does this mean I have found my career? What I want to be when I grow up? I’m even watching medical dramas for fun. (House – Season 1) And sometimes, when I’m deep into an episode of House, and I have to turn to the DH and translate some of the medico-speak, somewhere down in a corner of my mind, I actually miss the hospital, just a little, tiny bit. Smiley

It is a little frustrating that I am studying about libraries in a country where I can’t actually read a book. In Linyi, there is no public library, and even if there were, I’m sure the English section would be minute. It’s times like these when I wish I was in a big cosmopolitan city like Beijing, Shanghai or Hong Kong. There I might have possibilities of working in a library. Still, I have some outlets here. I want to build a virtual aviation library for our school and I’ve been reading about an interesting library project going on in China. Library Project is an organization that donates books and libraries to school and orphanages in developing countries. If there is a way I can be involved in this project, I’d love to be. More on that later.

Have a great weekend, wherever you are!

America Doing Some Good in the World!

25 November 06

When I think of Myanmar, (actually I think of Burma) I think of a tropical country hidden behind a curtain of oppression & isolation. Burma is a place that I would love to visit – if and when the ruling junta are out of power and Aung San Suu Kyi is no longer under house arrest.

Imagine my surprise when I read in the International Herald Tribune about the American Center, located in Yangon. The American Center is part of the US Embassy and contains a library, reading center, broadband internet center and auditorium showing popular movies. Burmese members of the American Center can even request special books or DVDs. Right now there are over 15,000 members.

America may get a lot of bad press for meddling in other countries’ affairs, but here is an example of an excellent initiative!

As some of you know, I have decided to return to Grad School to get my Masters in Library Science. This story is so inspiring to me because one of the reasons I would like to be a librarian is to ensure that information is equitably available to the people who need it, especially in cases like this.

I am waiting to hear if I have been accepted to Texas Women’s University’s Distance Study Program for Spring 2007. This is the perfect time for me to go back to school as my work schedule is light enough to allow for lots of studying. You may ask how I can study about libraries while living in a small city in China – I asked the same question. Technology, my friends. The future of libraries is on the Internet and computers.