We are a team of certified secondary school librarians and English teachers with a combined total of over sixty years experience who are publishing under this communal nom de plume.
Speaking as a team member, I recently retired as a public school library coordinator in a very conservative state and, while plowing through files, books and materials to discard or shift to someone or somewhere else, came across this email I had sent out six years previously to a state librarians listserv:
“It is time for me to pack up and go home. Can someone please tell me in what public school universe I would be allowed to put on a library shelf the YA novel by Aaron Karo, LEXAPROS AND CONS, that opens with these sentences: “In the past year, I masturbated exactly 468 times. That’s an average of 9 times a week and 1.28 per day. I’m not sure what impresses me more, though–the fact that I jerk off so much, or the fact that I actually kept a running tally for an entire year.” Maybe I could get away with purchasing the book for a school collection if this didn’t start ON THE VERY FIRST PAGE, but censorship issues and tastes aside, why would I spend $16.99 of a very meager library budget on a book that would inevitably be tossed after the first officially-registered challenge from a student, parent, administrator or community stakeholder? Yes, this book was recommended by VOYA, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Kirkus, and even Seventeen, but had I trusted their recommendations and purchased it without reading it first, I would have wasted the school district’s money. It’s a shame, because with a little more judicious editing the book would have been a great addition to our high school libraries. As it is, I guess I’ll drop the copy in the book return at the local public library and let them put it on their shelves, since they don’t have to worry much about public standards.”
As a district we had continued to purchase as many of the popular, recommended books as possible, holding our breaths when they were shelved and circulated. Censorship was not our guiding concern (though we adhered to agreed-upon district standards) but judicious book selection was. Maximizing the budget so that purchased books could stay in circulation without being challenged and possibly removed (a tricky balancing act, to be sure) was our goal.
Fast forward to today and the situation has gotten even dicier with it being almost impossible to find any new YA book that doesn’t include language, sexual situations, and controversial topics guaranteed to send up red flags in a conservative community. So we devised a tab system to provide a visual clue to the contents to help with decision-making. The likelihood of a book challenge can be gauged with a quick glance at the tabs.
You can check out our tab system and read some of the reviews submitted by our team in future posts.