Sunday, August 31, 2008

Most Frequently Challenged Book? It's Perfectly Normal

Library Journal: 2008 August 31

Robie H. Harris's It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health was the most frequently challenged book last year, reports the American Library Association (ALA) in its annual list of most frequently challenged books. Harris had another book in the top ten as well. The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom last year received a total of 405 challenges—a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness.

The “10 Most Challenged Books of 2005” include:
  • It's Perfectly Normal for homosexuality, nudity, sex education, religious viewpoint, abortion, and being unsuited to age group;
  • Forever by Judy Blume for sexual content and offensive language;
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger for sexual content, offensive language, and being unsuited to age group;
  • The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier for sexual content and offensive language;
  • Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher for racism and offensive language;
  • Detour for Emmy by Marilyn Reynolds for sexual content;
  • What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones for sexual content and being unsuited to age group;
  • Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey for anti-family content, being unsuited to age group, and violence;
  • Crazy Lady! by Jane Leslie Conly for offensive language; and
  • It's So Amazing! A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families by Robie H. Harris for sex education and sexual content.
Most of the challenges include books aimed at juveniles. ALA pointed out that some books on previous lists, including John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, were not on this year’s list.

Tips for the worried librarian relative to Gustav

LISNews - Librarian And Information Science News
Sun, 08/31/2008 - 16:53 — StephenK

As seen in the past, hurricanes are big news. We worry about loved ones and the electronic communications bring us ever closer. As noted in the response to Hurricane Katrina, communications were a major issue. Rumors easily spread out of the Superdome and due to those massive communications nets those rumors whipped up pretty drastic hysteria...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Canwest Raise-a-Reader Day

Canwest Raise-a-Reader Day is Wednesday, September 24, 2008. If ever you can write a letter to the editor about school libraries and get it published, that will be the week.

Remember to include your name, address, email and phone number (where they can reach you to verify the authenticity of the letter).

Canwest papers:

Vancouver Sun


Times Colonist

National Post

Vancouver Island Newspaper Group Inc.

Van Net Newspapers

Friday, August 22, 2008

Education by the Numbers

Ministry of Education: 2008 August 22

Recent Investments in B.C. Schools

  • $20 million in literacy innovation grants to school districts over the last four years.
  • $4.25 million to help support local libraries and increased library access through programs like BC OneCard and Ask Away.
  • $2.7 million under the ActNow BC strategy for LEAP BC to help increase healthy living and literary skills among preschoolers.

Did you know?

  • Since 2001, government has invested more than $137 million in new literacy initiatives, including pre-literacy and early learning programs such as $9.5 million to operate the kindergarten readiness program Ready, Set, Learn and $2.7 million for the ActNow Literacy Education Activity and Play (LEAP BC) program that encourages literacy, physical activity and healthy eating in preschool-aged children.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tories slashing $44.8-million in arts spending

Canadian Heritage programs hit hardest

Globe & Mail: 2008 August 20

The Tories are committed to cutting $44.8-million in spending on arts and culture by April of 2010, The Globe and Mail has learned.

As criticism of recent cuts continues, most recently from the mayors of Montreal and Toronto in a joint letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, details of several new cutbacks are emerging.

The Conservatives have earmarked 10 programs and parts of another to be eliminated and will reduce spending on two others, after a "strategic review" process that audited all Canadian Heritage programs for efficiency and effectiveness.

All but one cut falls under the Heritage purview, the lone exception being the previously reported $4.7-million PromArt, a grant program for foreign travel administered by Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

The most expensive of five new cuts approved in February was the $11.7-million Canadian Memory Fund, which gives federal agencies money to digitize collections and mount them online. Also chopped were the $3.8-million Web portal; the $560,000 Canadian Cultural Observatory; the $5.64-million research and development component of Canadian Culture Online; and the $2.1-million Northern Distribution Program, which distributes the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network signal to 96 Northern communities.

Funding to the Book Publishing Industry Development Program and the Canada Magazine Fund will also drop by $1-million and $500,000 respectively.

July brought another round of cuts, a Heritage Department spokesman said, which included the previously reported $300,000 Audio-Visual Trust, the $1.5-million Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund, the $2.5-million National Training Program for the Film and Video Sector and the $7.13-million Trade Routes, in addition to cuts and reductions totalling $3.4-million to the Stabilization Project and Capacity Building elements of the Canadian Arts and Heritage Sustainability Program.

The departments says a rarely advertised $500,000 annual fund - part of the Sustainability program designed to rescue arts organizations on the brink of extinction - has also been axed, after helping rescue four groups on the brink of disaster in the past six years: the Winnipeg Symphony, Calgary Philharmonic and Théâtre du Rideau Vert received $250,000; and the Orchestre Métropolitain du Grand Montréal received $100,000.

Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay and Toronto Mayor David Miller's joint letter to Mr. Harper, which decried a perceived reversal in a generous Conservative approach to the arts, only added to the exasperation of the Prime Minister's communications director, Kory Teneycke.

"To listen to some in the arts community and the opposition, you would think that there's blood in the streets," he said.

"When we find examples of programs that are clearly not meeting their objectives, without apologies we will cancel them. That is the entire purpose of Strategic Review. We owe that to taxpayers," Mr. Teneycke added, calling PromArt "a boondoggle."

Freepath--a tool a librarian (and a teacher and a presenter and a student) can love

Freepath--a tool a librarian (and a teacher and a presenter and a student) can love: "
Every once in a while a new tool makes me almost want to be a PC user. Take Freepath, launched yesterday in public beta.

Although Free...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

ALSC provides “Kids Reading List” for Oprah’s Web site

ALA: 2008 August 12

CHICAGO—The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), has teamed up with “The Oprah Winfrey Show” to provide a Kids Reading List on the show’s Web site.

The list, available at, is divided into five age groups, from infant to 2 through 12 and up. Each grouping contains an annotated bibliography of librarian- recommended reading. There is also a separate “Classics” section, grouped by age ranges, giving parents the opportunity to share the books they once loved with their own children. The Web site also provides a list of ways to make reading fun for kids and other helpful tips for parents.

“One of our goals as librarians is to provide all children with quality reading materials,” said ALSC President Pat Scales. “By teaming up with Oprah’s Book Club, we’re able to connect with a wide range of people we may not have reached otherwise. Whether children come into our library or are given a book from our recommended reading list, we are helping our youngest and most important patrons.”

The Kids Reading List was complied by the ALSC Quicklists Consulting Committee, which works to promote books and other resources through recommendations, compilations of lists and related services.

ALSC is the world’s largest organization dedicated to the support and enhancement of library service to children. With a network of more than 4,200 children’s and youth librarians, literature experts, publishers and educational faculty, ALSC is committed to creating a better future for children through libraries. To learn more about ALSC, visit its Web site at

Monday, August 4, 2008

ALA to embark on transition to new Web site information architecture in August

CHICAGO – As it moves toward unveiling a redesigned Web site, the American Library Association (ALA) will spend August making the transition to the new information architecture.

During the next month, staff and volunteers will be focusing on getting the most frequently accessed pages into the new architecture.

While that happens, the ALA will leave its current Web site unchanged during the month of August. The exception will be the section with links to new press releases, which will continue to be updated.

Right after Labor Day weekend, ALA will “flip the switch” on the new ALA Web site, which will boast a new look and easier navigation. The redesign is the culmination of two years of gathering information from focus groups, interview, usability tests, surveys and other feedback loops.

By leaving the current Web site static, ALA will give staff and volunteer content creators and managers an opportunity to make the transition to the new information architecture.

Anyone interested in previewing the new Web site can visit

For more information on the transition, click on

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Teen lit stirs frenzy not seen since Harry

Millions who followed the love saga between rebellious Bella and a sexy vampire await the third instalment, out today

Vancouver Sun: 2008 August 2

I'm discussing vampires with a woman I've just met over the Internet. Well, one vampire in particular, and the mortal girl he loves. We're debating whether or not he should "turn" his beloved so they can share a happily forever after. I think Bella is too young for him (17 to 100-plus when they meet), but Megan Jones, 25, is less sure. "I do hope to see Bella become a vampire and everything that comes along with that," she says from her Richmond workplace. "Because that seems like the ultimate goal of the story. But . . . I can understand his point of view where he would like her to wait and have the normal human experience of a young adult."

We continue in this (yup) vein for a bit and while we're talking, dozens -- hundreds -- of others are speculating just like this in chat rooms, online forums and summer camps everywhere about the future of Edward Cullen and Bella Swan, two of the main characters in Stephenie Meyer's breakaway teen vampire series, Twilight Saga.

Since the publication last summer of Eclipse, the story's third instalment, millions of readers have been left to conjectures about whether Edward (a beautiful, eternally young vampire who slakes his bloodlust by feeding on animals, not people) will finally bite the headstrong, rebellious Bella or whether Bella will choose the books' other hottie, a young native werewolf named Jacob.


If you aren't a 15-year-old girl (or know how to channel one), you may wonder why five million Americans and more than a half-million Canadians care. For fans, the answer seems to be the welcome confection of a story of true romance, what Time magazine has called "Gossip Girls for good girls." For the publishing industry, it's something besides: a welcome cash transfusion.

Tom Best, vice-president of marketing for HB Fenn, the Canadian distributor for the Twilight Saga, says the appetite for Meyer's work isn't just strong, it's seemingly unending.

"When I first joined Fenn," he says by phone from Toronto, "the books were all selling 500 copies a week, which is fantastic numbers -- and that's never ceased. Those numbers just continue to rise and rise and rise, which has led us to think there really is a way bigger market for this writer than would have been imagined."

Asked what kids' book compares in sales performance and fan fervour, Best is unequivocal.

"There's no question the Harry Potter model is something we are somewhat following. And with great deference to my former employer" -- Best's previous job was at Raincoast Books, Canadian publisher of the boy wizard -- "we have tried to pick up some of the great things that were part of that campaign."

For Breaking Dawn, those "great things" include all the Rowling hallmarks: winnable signed bookplates and intimate author/fan meets rather than multi-city readings; midnight launches across the country; and a do-not-open-before-12:01-or-else embargo. (Raincoast Books declined to comment on the similarities.)

"A year ago this summer we launched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows and the wisdom was we would never see anything like it," says Trevor Dayton, vice-president, kids and entertainment, for Chapters Indigo. "And here we are a year later seeing something very much like it. It's not of the scale of Harry Potter, but it's ... got all of the similarities to Potter in terms of the kids being incredibly enthusiastic."

The midnight launch format -- this is the first for the chain for any book outside the Potter series -- satisfies "a generation of readers who have experienced reading through Harry Potter as a very social and engaged experience," Dayton says from Toronto. "Engaged as they are, they wanted to come at midnight and celebrate. They're training us -- we really are responding to what this audience and this generation of readers want."

"Responding" is perhaps an understatement: Dayton says Breaking Dawn represents the biggest order of a book the chain has made outside Harry Potter.

Kelly McKinnon, co-owner of Vancouver Kidsbooks, calls the Twilight Saga "probably the most universally adored book by teenage girls at this moment."

She says it follows in Potter's footsteps in another regard as well. "The thickness [758 pages] doesn't put anyone off. So people who are not even huge readers are taking it on. I think Harry Potter definitely broke that wall."

The very luxury of falling into a deliciously long, involving romantic story may also help explain the series' appeal.

"Meyer floods the page like a severed artery," Time wrote. "She never uses a sentence when she can use a whole paragraph. ... They have a pillowy quality distinctly reminiscent of Internet fan fiction."

(Think of this description of Edward: "He lay perfectly still in the grass, his shirt open over his sculpted, incandescent chest, his scintillating arms bare ... smooth like marble, glittering like crystal.") There's something to that Internet comparison: has an amazing 1,000 amateur spinoff stories based on the series.

"It's a great summer read," says Mc-Kinnon. "Even people who don't like vampires love these books. It's the love interest and it's the relationships and it's the longing."

Online fan sites such as and reflect that: Posts are full of speculation about matters of the heart -- not how to stake one, but how to open it to love.

That's not traditionally attractive territory for teen boys, but Alastair Champion, 14, is one of the male minority among fans. He's not a follower of vampire stories, and he calls the series "an interesting twist on Romeo and Juliet."

Does he have a favourite moment? "I truthfully can't say. It's all too good." He can't wait for the next instalment. "I won't sleep for a week."

"When I first heard the book was about vampires," agrees confirmed fan Gillian Scott, 14, "I was sort of skeptical because it sounded a bit weird. But it's not just about vampires. It's fundamentally a love story. And that's always fun to read."

By the way, Scott, who was planning to attend the Kidsbooks midnight party in costume, hopes Bella gets her undead way. "She knows what she's getting into," she says. "If she loves Edward enough to do that for him, he shouldn't stand in her way."

Meyer herself might agree. The mother of three has frequently insisted that the books are meant to champion not bloodsucking so much as the validity of resisting temptation and choosing your own path. Meyer, unschooled in vampire lore and a practising Mormon, only picked up a pen after Edward appeared to her in a dream.

One reader who did come to the series for the bloodsuckers is Megan Jones, who started a community group on to hook up with other fans looking to attend the Chapters Granville launch.

From the beginning, she says, she was hooked. "I read all three books in one weekend ... I really enjoy the fact that Stephenie Meyer's character of Edward is a bit more relatable, much more human than typical vampires. They're often aloof and sometimes grotesque. I like that even though he's about 109 years old, he still experiences a lot of the things that young adults and teenagers do."

Jones, also planning to come in costume, was certain about one thing: what she would be doing as of 12:02 a.m. today.

"If everything goes according to plan, I'll get my book, I'll go right home, and read it the entire night. I was hoping I could savour it and let it go for a couple of days, but I don't think I'm going to find the strength for that."


Vampire romances for girls are all very well in the world of publishing, but when Hollywood comes calling, niche markets just aren't profitable enough. The film version of Twilight, the first book in Stephenie Meyer's vampire series, cost a rumoured $37 million US. To capture a wider market, the film, directed by gritty-coming-of-age helmer Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown), seems to be promising not just murmurings of love, but kick-ass fight scenes too.

The adaptation, due out in mid-December, stars Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan and Harry Potter actor Robert Pattinson (he played nice guy Cedric Diggory) as Edward Cullen. Internet rumours claim 5,000 actors tried out for that role.

Advance trailers show the film to be true to the book's rainy Pacific Northwest setting, but the recent cover of Entertainment Weekly, with an extremely knowing Stewart holding a juicy red apple (nudge, nudge), suggests steamy bedrooms might get as much screen time as dripping forests.

Book publisher Tom Best wishes the film every success, particularly outside the core teen girl market. "Maybe," he says, "there will be a whole re-interest when the movie comes out from boys that may help spark that drive to go back and read these, if only to better understand what the opposite sex is attracted to."