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Posts Tagged ‘CLA’

The Censor’s New Clothes, CLA Presentation

In censorship, education, intellectual freedom, LGBTQ issues, public libraries, school libraries, youth on December 4, 2010 at 1:09 pm

As promised, here are the slides from my brief presentation on the Revolutionary Voices book challenge in New Jersey. (Delivered at the California Library Association conference, Sacramento, CA, Nov 14, 2010).

Library law expert Mary Minow and school librarian Jill Sonnenberg joined me for a great overview on the ideological forces driving intellectual freedom challenges in libraries (from LGBTQ-themed books to Vamos a Cuba to Internet filtering). Mary clarified the meaning of Island Trees v. Pico and legal differences between public–school material challenges.

Jill talked about the ways filters are changing and limiting student’s ways of learning, particularly when it comes to active learning methods using content creation, critical inquiry and collaboration. She shared,

While most of us out there in the trenches will fight to keep important books on our shelves…[w]e are not fighting for students’ rights to create and collaborate…We stop at no when our districts or tech directors or network administrators summarily or arbitrarily ban blogs and wikis and social networking and media sharing and yes, even digital storytelling.” — Joyce Valenza (10/5/08, “2.0 is an Intellectual Freedom Issue”)

Jill left us with an excellent list of practical background reading, especially Doug Johnson.

Censored Book Contributors

A Message to LGBTQ Youth

I talked about the recent challenge against Revolutionary Voices in the context of a religious and political campaign against Obama appointee Kevin Jennings, while focusing on some of the learning and positive outcomes the challenge created. Most notably: both sides harnessed their ability to get the word out online and, therefore, opened doors for a (somewhat) transparent public debate. We need more of this.

I recently heard second-hand that another NJ library is reconsidering The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. The school apparently discussed making the decision quietly behind closed doors. Not every challenge results in a book removal, but transparency about challenges provides a crucial pulse-check and an invaluable learning opportunity for anyone engaging in the debate — especially local students.

On a related note: NJ school librarian Dee Venuto provides excellent documentation on the Revolutionary Voices challenge on Prezi.

CLA 2010 Conference: Day 1 Highlights

In libraries, library associations, library profession on November 13, 2010 at 6:00 am

I’m tweeting from the California Library Association’s annual conference, “Navigating the New.” Follow along @bannedlibrarian

Key Takeaways for Libraries from FCC National Broadband Plan

In broadband, community partnerships, information policy, library funding, open access, telecommunications reform on March 18, 2010 at 7:56 am

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts (here and here), the FCC’s National Broadband Plan came out this week. The 360-page document is a worthwhile read. Below are some key takeaways related to libraries and our constituents.

The FCC writes, “If this plan succeeds, every American community will have affordable access to far better broadband performance than they enjoy today. To do so, the plan makes recommendations about reforming the E-rate and the Rural Health Care support programs. Second, non-profit and public institutions should be able to find efficient alternatives for greater connectivity through aggregated efforts. … Schools, libraries and health care facilities must all have the connectivity they need to achieve their purposes” (See Chapter 2, Goal 4).

Of particular note is the reminder that, “Over half (51%) of African Americans and 43% of Hispanics who use the Internet do so at a public library.”[1] The three primary issues inhibiting equitable Internet access are affordability, digital literacy and relevance. All three of these issues impact library services. And as more and more basic social services move online, libraries must continue to address the literacy gaps and whittle away at the perception (by 19% of people surveyed) that the Internet’s merely a “waste of time.”

To this end, the plan calls for capacity-building among community partners stating, “…public computing centers provide more than just free access to the Internet. They provide supportive environments for reluctant and new users to begin to explore the Internet, become comfortable using it and develop the skills needed to find, utilize and create content.[2] Patrons of these centers overwhelmingly express the value of the personnel who staff them and can offer one-on-one help, training or guidance”[3] New LSTA grants and training programs for library personnel are key components of the plan.

The plan also calls for the creation of a “Digital Literacy Corps” to support programs that close the digital knowledge divide. Chicago Public Library’s CyberNavigators program is one successful example. Libraries across the country should harness this opportunity to shape new local programs and promote existing models. The plan asks Congress to increase funding for IMLS, which, if accomplished, will open incredible avenues for community partnerships, literacy programs and equipment upgrades.

Other highlights include recommendations to ensure greater affordability and speed, increase competition and consumer protections, restructure the E-Rate program, expand rural broadband access, and improve public safety and communications access for people with disabilities. The FCC found that, “An important and cross-cutting issue is accessibility for people with disabilities. Some 39% of all non-adopters have a disability, much higher than the 24% of overall survey respondents who have a disability.”[4] Major barriers include the lack of accessible websites, software, equipment and the connection speed needed to use crucial adaptive tools like VoIP. As any librarian will tell you, many people with disabilities only have access to basic adaptive equipment at their libraries. The plan concludes, “The federal government must promote innovative and affordable solutions to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to communications services and that they do not bear disproportionate costs to obtain that access.”

The Broadband Plan was shaped by input from all corners of the U.S.; yet, it was a broad grassroots effort that assured rural and Indigenous communities, people of color, low-income residents and small businesses were heard. These groups collected stories from digital “haves and have-nots,” met with FCC Commissioners, hosted teach-ins, and garnered media attention to educate the public.

There are a number of outstanding issues and next steps to ensure this plan is implemented. Libraries should not miss the opportunity to partner with these community-based groups and localize our policy advocacy work. Our local communities will be better served for it. One step in this direction: yesterday the California Library Association’s (CLA) Intellectual Freedom Committee signed the grassroots Digital Inclusion Pledge. Representing 3,000 members in California, CLA joined dozens of other state and local groups. I encourage other local libraries and associations to do so as well.
NOTES:

[1] See National Broadband Plan, Chapter 9: FN 77, Jon P. Gant et al., National Minority Broadband Adoption: Comparative Trends in Adoption, Acceptance and Use, Jt. Ctr. for Pol. & Econ. Stud. 3 (2010) (Gant et al., National Minority Broadband Adoption).

[2] See National Broadband Plan, Chapter 9: FN 89, American Library Association Comments in re NBP PN #16, filed Dec. 2, 2009, at 3.

[3] See National Broadband Plan, Chapter 9: FN 90, Dharma Dailey et al., Broadband Adoption at 27–28.

[4] See National Broadband Plan, Chapter 9: FN 10, Horrigan, Broadband Adoption and Use in America at 24, 7.

Calif. Library Association Asks Congress to Do What Judiciary Did Not

In intellectual freedom, libraries, library associations, privacy, public policy on October 13, 2009 at 11:43 am

October 13, 2009 • SACRAMENTO, CA — The California Library Association (CLA) has just announced a resolution calling on Congress to dramatically revise the up-for-renewal USA PATRIOT Act, passed hurriedly in the weeks following the 9/11 attacks.

Librarians have been front-line opponents of certain provisions of the PATRIOT Act since its passage. The Act has made it possible, under Section 215, for the FBI to request and obtain library records for large numbers of individuals without reason to believe they are involved in illegal activity. This jeopardizes the basic ethics of the library profession, expressed in the Library Bill of Rights of the American Library Association.

Expanding on the American Library Association’s PATRIOT Act resolution last July, the CLA resolution goes further to address imminent First and Fourth Amendment concerns with Section 505. This provision grants the FBI broad authority to sidestep constitutional safeguards though use of National Security Letters to obtain information.

CLA Intellectual Freedom Committee chair, Mary Minow, a leading expert on library law, said, “It’s past time for the blatantly unconstitutional aspects of this legislation to be removed from the books, and now is the opportunity for Congress to act.”

Two sections of the PATRIOT Act are currently up for reauthorization, with sunsets at the end of December 2009, and librarians across the country see this as an opportunity to correct those provisions that attack basic civil liberties. CLA’s resolution calls for Congress to allow Section 215 to sunset, to amend Section 505 to “include a clear exemption for library records,” and in general to intensify Congressional oversight of the use of the Act.
* CLA Resolution on 2009 Reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act (PDF, 481k)

For more information, please contact:

Mary Minow, Chair,
CLA Intellectual Freedom Committee
408-366-0123

Amy Sonnie, Member,
CLA Intellectual Freedom Committee,
415-823-0497

or cla_ifc  [a t]  earthlink [dot]  net

Librarian Gets Award for Protecting Reproductive Rights

In activism, censorship, intellectual freedom, libraries, library associations on November 17, 2008 at 6:53 am

censorship buttonSan Jose, CA — Gloria Won, a medical librarian at the University of California, San Francisco, and library director Gail Sorrough received the Zoia Horn Intellectual Freedom Award on Friday night from the California Library Association for challenging government censorship of reproductive health information.

In her day-to-day work as a medical librarian Won noticed that the word “abortion” retrieved fewer and fewer results in the POPLINE (POPulation Information OnLINE) reproductive health database, which is federally funded. She found out that “abortion” and terms related to it had been turned into stopwords. (For those of you not familiar with stopwords, they are usually limited to words like “but,” or “and” that a database should skip over when processing a search request). In Spring 2008, Won wrote to POPLINE database manager Debra L. Dickson:

Even more troubling is the implications for the average user – eliminating this term essentially blocks access to the reports in the database and ultimately to information about abortion. ‘Unwanted w2 pregnancy’ is not a synonym for abortion.

Radical Reference helped get the word out about this blatant affront to information access, asking concerned librarians to contact POPLINE. The block was soon removed on the terms. Congratulations and thank you Gloria!