February 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Leading The Technology Charge | Feedback

When blaming librarians for the demise of libraries [“Feedback: In the Name of Technology” (Nov. 2013, p. 8)], please keep in mind that not much is how we remember it. In fact, every generation that comes along brings new technologies in many formats that improves or changes the way we live. Not accepting technology because we feel threatened that it might replace the way we do things would be unfair to those who could benefit from it. When Gutenburg invented the printing press it changed the way information was disseminated from handwritten materials to printing by a machine. Suddenly, reading could be available to all, not just a few. The idea that if we have new devices to read from means we no longer need libraries or librarians is just absurd. Librarians are more than just keepers of the books. Libraries are places of information that has been offered in a variety of formats for many years. Those information specialists you think will be outsourced are needed now more than ever to support users—especially our students—in accessing and evaluating the mass amounts of information available on the Internet. If we were to only offer print sources of information, what would that say about our libraries?

Victoria Sammartano
Floral Park-Bellerose School District
Floral Park, NY

Isabel Allende defends her novel

EH_11_21_13_AllendeOur story “Isabel Allende Defends House of the Spirits to North Carolina School Board” compelled several readers to write in support of the book and students’ freedom to read.

I am a senior at Watauga High school in Boone, NC, and I had Mrs. Whitaker as my teacher in English. I would read anything she put in front of me because I respect her decisions as both a teacher and a person. I have heard nothing but good comments on the novel by Isabel Allende and I hate that one parent had to cause so much drama and conflict. Boone is a wonderful place to live, and I hate that people might jump to conclusions about the rest of us based on a single person’s actions. The novel is in the curriculum for a reason, and for that reason alone it should not be challenged. It is embarrassing to see members of my community referring to the novel as “filth” and “despicable.” I, and most of Watauga High School, apologize for the situation at hand.

Watauga High School
Boone, NC

I am crying as I read comments by people decrying this exceptional novel. Obviously, these people didn’t bother to read it. I have taught it and the result was that students learned from it. For example, one student discussed it with her parents and learned—for the first time—that her family came to the United States because of a repressive government in her home country. Another student, from Cyprus, said he had thought the sort of violence and disregard for people was peculiar to his home country—to learn that it occurred in other countries, while upsetting, was a valuable lesson about power over the powerless. There are life lessons aplenty in this novel and there is hope that we can learn to forgive even the worst treatment, and that we can be human beings.

Pam Hildebran
Hildebran, NC

Perhaps some of the issue here is that Boone is a very small community with limited experiences with diversity. In fact, the lack of diversity is one of the most prominent observations I made upon moving here. To ban a book because it does not meet your perceptions of the world is exactly why we need to engage students with this book. These are stories and tragedies of our world: rape, murder, revenge, poverty, oppression, political corruption, violence, women’s suffering, and, yes, sex. These are realities of the world in which we live and to refuse to allow our children to read, discuss, and grapple with these realities only limits their horizon. What book or list of books is next on the chopping block?

Amy Adams
Boone, NC

I have read the book twice, and though I despised much of the story, and hated [the character of] Esteban Trueba passionately, it does as Allende says. It provides a very alternate point of view—politically, historically, socially, ethically, and morally—from my own. While I would not deify any character, it is an important work that brings a different culture to bear with our own. I don’t know if I would teach it, but children can’t live in a bubble all their lives. Awful things do happen. You can’t sugarcoat that. I applaud her for sticking up for her book.

Rachael Herbert-Varchetto
Program Director,
Starke County Public Library
Knox, IN

This article was published in School Library Journal's January 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Building Literacy-Rich Communities
Hosted by Library Journal and School Library JournalStronger Together is a national gathering of thought leaders and innovators from across the country who will share where and how partnerships between school districts and public libraries are having success. Join us May 10–12 at the University of Nebraska Omaha, as we explore the impact these collaborations are having on the institutions, communities, and kids they serve.
Facts Matter: Information Literacy for the Real World
Libraries and news organizations are joining forces in a variety of ways to promote news literacy, create innovative community programming, and help patrons/students identify misinformation. This online course will teach you how to partner with local news organizations to promote news literacy through a range of programs—including a citizen journalism hub at your library.