Every year during Banned Books Week, the question comes up from students, teachers, or society at large:  are books really still banned?  Each year I respond with an emphatic YES.  South Carolina, a proud state that is not afraid to do things a little differently from the rest of the nation, has been removing books from various districts across the state all year.  Last summer, it was Chris Crutcher’s Angry Management causing a stir in Kershaw County, South Carolina.  It was on a summer reading list, then it was removed after one parent complaint, then the controversy surrounding the removal added pressure to have it reviewed according to district policy, and ultimately it was added back to the district.  I’m glossing over all of the details, but you can read them on Chris Crutcher’s website.  The good news is that Chris came to SC for three days and I had a very cool opportunity to serve on a panel with him at the Richland County Public Library in Columbia, SC.  Here was my Response Chris Crutcher complaint.  Two teenagers were also on the panel and they really shined.  I think Chris and I marveled at how sophisticated and bright these two kids were – we didn’t need to say a thing.

Which brings us to Pickens County, South Carolina.  This week, a Pickens County school decided to remove the No Fear Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet from classrooms because parents were complaining about the language.  On the local news, which generally epitomizes poor reporting, the camera zooms to words like “virgin” “breast” “rape” – none are profanity, mind you.  However, the very notion that Shakespeare’s works were filled with violence, sex, love, hate, and really every human condition we can imagine freaks people out.  Here’s what I got out of it:  parents don’t mind the kids reading Shakespeare, but understanding it?  That’s a different story.

Check it out for yourself…

No Fear Shakespeare

So my last post expressed my desire for SOPA and PIPA to go away.  And they have – for now!  Just got to keep an eye on this legislation and the modified bills that are sure to work their way through the Congress and Senate.  A colleague of mine sent me this TED talk on SOPA – it is a great way to further understand the issue.

http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf

So, today is a day of protest for many websites in protest of the PIPA and SOPA bills that the U.S. Congress is currently considering.  I work in a high school library, so when sites like Wikipedia shut down, I can’t help but chuckle because so many people don’t know where to turn for information when Wikipedia goes down – teachers and students alike.  I only wish Google would have done more than a black box for a graphic on the homepage.  I mean, if Google and Facebook shut down for a day or longer, maybe more citizens would get the message about censorship and government control over the internet and IP addresses and begin to contact their local representatives in Congress to stop this bad legislation.  However, that would entail these companies having a deeper sense of civic duty other than generate profits, which they do not.  Really, the intentions of SOPA (to stop online piracy) is a noble one, but neither of these bills will work.

Illegal piracy of music and films will still occur for many reasons such as:

  • technology will change to circumvent detection
  • other countries do not adhere to our copyright laws
  • people that bootleg/pirate usually don’t buy film & music anyway so these lost profits won’t be restored – they never bought it anyway

On top of that, we just can’t give the government control (or the Attorney General) over which sites to block.  Once we relinquish our freedom we never get it back.  Plus, the application of these laws will inevitably be used for something other than their stated intention. I kind of equate it to how we bring down the mafia:  mobsters are rarely arrested for murder/robbery/extortion/drugs/etc – instead they are indicted under some umbrella of RICO or tax evasion.  That’s how I envision the future if these bills become law.  The internet will be policed, an unneeded industry will be established to support this effort, and eventually online activity that was never intended to be scrutinized by these laws will somehow fall victim to them.  Or worse, more laws restricting the internet will pass.  Liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat or Independent – this type of legislation affects us all and we should be very wary of it and resist it on every level.

If you think I trust any Attorney General to block sites based on their judgement, you’re crazy.  The bottom line is this:  it is a direct threat to our First Amendment rights and privacy rights.  If you still are fuzzy about what the bills entail, check out ALA’s position.

Getting Jingy with it!

Posted: March 28, 2011 in Technology

Last December I began working on some technology guides for teachers at school.  I say teachers because most of the high school students already know how to remove a picture from a digital camera while many of our teachers do not.  I started to use Jing to capture and annotate screen shots to complement my text.  Anyone that works with teachers is aware that they rarely read instructions (I’m not dis’n my colleagues, but it’s true, we’re all like this) and words do not suffice – they need some hieroglyphics in their lives.  That’s where Jing comes in handy.  You can add text and point to important items in still images as well as record screencasts.

I first learned about Jing from a medical school librarian friend of mine in the midwest that used it for fast tutorials for med students.  This was fall of 2009 and I never used it, instead opting to use Camtasia because I wanted something a little smoother for a SCASL conference presentation I was giving on Digital Information Fluency.  However, I never forgot about Jing and went back to it in December.  Overall, I found it easy to use with a minimal need for help and was pleased with the results.  Plus, it’s free – you can’t beat that!

No sleep ’til Brooklyn

Posted: December 6, 2010 in Library

The hardcore librarian never rests!  Yeah, yeah, my blog is looking skimpy these days, but rest assured I’m working to hard tighten this thing up, and my only options are to either blog about work that I’m going to do or to actually do the work and blog about it later, which is what I am opting to do.  Life in the stacks can be tough, so make sure you know your way around.

This is the first “album of the week” posting on the blog and I’m very excited about it.  Discovering and sharing new music is a passion of mine, and I decided to only select compact discs from my school library compact disc collection for recommendations.  You can collect music for your school library and you may be able to lure a whole new group of library users by offering something new.

I first discovered the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club a few years ago on “The Henry Rollins Show” (on IFC) and was totally blown away.  I added this album to the collection because the show featured “Shuffle Your Feet” and it was the only track that I knew and I liked it.  Since then I have added most of their albums to my personal collection and it suits my various moods. 

What do they sound like?  [I hate asking & answering that question]  Good, straight-up rock-n-roll.  Some songs are heavy, some songs are soft, good vocal harmonizing at times, great rhythm, killer guitar riffs, solid lyrics. 

CD Stats:  2 years on the collection, 19 circulations to date. 

Here’s a taste for you – thank you YouTube!

I think this is an interesting case about students’ first amendment rights.  This whole scenario is a teachable moment for any government class as it brings up a lot of questions.  Topics like these need to be moderated carefully by the facilitator but students love to talk about the their rights – think of the class discussions this could generate:

Did the student have a right to express his opinion honestly? 
Why did the teacher request the confederate flag belt buckle removed if it did not violate school policy?
Is it okay (protected speech) to state “I don’t accept gays.  It’s against my religion” in class?
Would it be okay to say, “I don’t accept blacks” or “I don’t accept Muslims, it’s against my religion” in class?
Was the teacher wrong to remove the student from class? 
Should the teacher have been suspended without pay for violating a student’s 1st Amendment rights?