Friday, July 13, 2018

Hate in the Library: Voices of Opposition

Recently, ALA updated their Library Bill of Rights. And one particular line has people fired up: they specifically mention that Hate Groups should be allowed to discuss their activities in library meeting rooms:

“Public libraries are bound by the First Amendment and the associated law governing access to a designated public forum. A publicly funded library is not obligated to provide meeting room space to the public, but if it chooses to do so, it cannot discriminate or deny access based upon the viewpoint of speakers or the content of their speech. This encompasses religious, political, and hate speech.

“If a library allows charities, non-profits, and sports organizations to discuss their activities in library meeting rooms, then the library cannot exclude religious, social, civic, partisan political, or hate groups from discussing their activities in the same facilities.” - ALA's Library Bill of Rights (2018)

School Library Journal released an article a few days ago titled Free Speech Debate Erupts with ALA's Inclusion of Hate Groups in Revision of Bill of Rights Interpretation. In that article, ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom Director James LaRue and co-chair of ALA's Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Implementation Working Group, Martin Garnar, both defend this decision. They believe that the First Amendment gives all patrons the right to use library meeting rooms, if they are open to the public. If you go to ALA's Hate Speech page, you'll see court cases which supports why they think libraries cannot exclude hate groups.

But their line of reasoning feels wrong on so many levels. Yes, a library has to protect free speech since it is part of the government, but don't we also have a duty to make sure all patrons feel welcome and safe? There has to be a middle ground. Going down their line of thinking is really scary in this dangerous time, most especially since hate crimes (according to SPLC) are on the rise. I am really worried about where America is heading. I understand that people can have different opinions, but there has to be a line somewhere. And for me, that line is people's safety - both patrons and staff. If we wouldn't allow what was being said behind closed doors to be said in the middle of the library, then why are we allowing it?

Libraries Do Stand Up Against Hate

And we don't allow it, do we? When one library had a display up of a poem that was clearly offensive to the Muslim population -- outside library workers and the public pressured them to take down the poem. Patrons shouldn't feel threatened when they walk in the door and see it displayed on the wall.

Can you imagine if Ferguson Municipal Public Library had hate groups that used their library rooms? Especially if they were meeting during the riots? There would be no way anyone from their community would step into the library. The message, "We're In This Together", would be hypocritical and meaningless if patrons felt like the library was allowing hate to meet and grow there. Thankfully, FMPL didn't do that and were able to bring community members together in a safe haven. That's what libraries are about.

And, lastly, probably the best example of libraries standing up for *all* patrons is when it comes to challenged books. We don't just bow to people's request to remove a book. We have a book challenge policy, explain our process and why that book is important (and why it was bought), and we don't give in to the pressure. Why wouldn't we give that same attention and thoughtfulness to our meeting rooms, too? Even ALA has noted that a "high percentage" of challenged books are titles with diverse content.

Library Workers Are Speaking Out

If you go on Twitter and follow the hashtag #NoHateALA, you will read lots of great points and arguments. We decided to amplify those voices below. Libraries are not neutral. We never were. Tim Hensley's thread is a harrowing account of how LIBRARIANS supported the Nazis. We have to do better.
If you follow Tim Hensley's thread (who is a curator at the VA Holocaust Museum), you'll read a jarring account of how librarians helped the Nazis:

"This has me thinking about how librarians and archivists were complicit throughout the Nazi regime, beginning with subtle alignments:
1. Reshaped collections in support of Gleichschaltung,
2. Expelled Jews and anti-Nazi political opponents (following civil services decrees),
3. Provided access to records for Nazi racial policies,
4. Appraised and accessioned important books, manuscripts, and artwork “confiscated” from Jewish households,
5. Collected and “relocated” important collections from Polish archives to the German interior, and
6. Assisted in the looting and destruction of Jewish material culture.
Before any of those steps, state archivists arrived at their annual meeting in 1933 with multiple calls to conform to their new political climate.
“...the overwhelming success of the Germans was attributable to the fact that they had entered the war with a better filing system.” -- Ernst Posner"

If you follow the thread, @RowMyBoat makes some fabulous points, including:
1. "Oh, we'll let everyone come have their events!" If you have white supremacist, etc. events, you will soon find those are the only ones you have. Because everyone else stays the fuck away. Now you're the overtly white supremacist library, because only they come around, whoops.
2. See, here's the difference. All *people* are allowed at the library. The nazis can come to the library, too. Just, not as nazis with nazi ideas. They can come borrow a book or whatever. Same as anyone.
3. Not letting them have white supremacist meetings doesn't endanger their safety. Having, say, an Afro-Caribbean dance performance doesn't endanger a white supremacists safety. They won't like it, but they are still safe, as a person.

If you follow the thread, Ana Ndumu continues:
1. Consider also the library staff who themselves are immigrants and refugees. What does this do for staff morale, let alone safety?
2. Here's the thing with bonafide hate groups (I'm aware that the label "hate group" is weaponized): once they make themselves at home in your space, they begin to question why other people are there. Think "inch/yard"
3. Finally, it was silly for ALA to classify conservative and/or religious groups with hate groups. Lends itself to conflation. Bottom line: embracing hate groups who verbally and physically attack entire classes of people is, well, dangerous.

I love that line: "If you are making choices, don't choose hate." Exactly!

Melissa Hubbard's thread goes on to explain about book challenges and how ALA supports the library:

1. When a user says, "you should remove books with LGBTQ content because they're immoral," we don't just do it. Nor do we throw up our hands and say, "if any books are in the collection, then all books must in the collection."

2. We craft a reasoned and supported argument to justify our collection development decisions. We can do the same when making a determination that allowing a hate group to meet in the library constitutes a threat to user safety. ALA could support our professional judgement here.

Again, if we don't allow what is being said behind closed doors to be said in the middle in the library in front of all patrons, then perhaps it shouldn't be at the library at all.

Great points. And again, refer to the first tweeter, Tim Hensley, who laid out how librarians participated in the Holocaust. Now is the time to stand up and do something. We can't let history repeat itself.

What can you do?

From the way I see it, there are four actions you can do in response to this:
1. If you want to have direct involvement, there is nothing better than joining the IFRT.
2. Madison (@Beastlibrarian) put together a great template to reach out to ALA. Even if you are a library worker but not an ALA member, you are encouraged to still send a letter. ALA is for everyone, member or not.

3. You can also visit ALA's post called Library Meeting Rooms for All and post in the comments to share your thoughts.

4. I would also like to throw out a fourth option. I know ALA's stance doesn't have to be accepted by any library. So, I'd like to propose that everyone go back and examine their meeting room policy. Are you happy with the wording? Should you include more? We don't want to censor free speech, of course, but I do think it is important that it includes wording which protects the safety of patrons and staff. Now is a good time to do so.

Friday, July 6, 2018

To Clean or Not To Clean: The Library Book Question

Recently shared on Facebook is a fascinating video of a library cleaning every item returned to the Children's Department. I watched it in awe - wow, who has the time and staff to do all of that cleaning? (Here's the video, if you would like to see it.)

But what a great idea! If you don't have the staff, it would be a good volunteer project. It doesn't require many resources, just half water/half rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle and reusable towels. Squeaky clean books will make any collection much more attractive. And viruses can last on books (especially the plastic covers) for days, depending on what virus it is.

It isn't surprising to see someone bring their kid too sick for school to the library... And, being a parent of young kids, I am learning that kids can be contagious *before* symptoms appear. In my house, we dodged the Flu, but succumbed to Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. So, even being a responsible guardian, sometimes, you just don't know.

Another area that I wonder about -- if your library has a play area with toys, how often do you clean it? I thought when I had kids, I would be visiting the play area every rainy day. Now, I actively avoid it during flu season. (If you don't wash the toys often, please, please, please offer a "To Wash" bucket where parents can put toys that their little ones have put into their mouthes to be washed.) Another idea to simplify the process is to buy a UV cabinet (or UV wand) and use the light to sterilize the toys.

Ah, the library... Where you can get books, movies, and viruses for free! Just kidding. Actually, according to this article from Mental Floss, while books do hold minuscule amounts of viruses, the risk of patrons getting infected is very low. So, no guilt if you don't clean!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Fourth of July Facebook Posts You Can Share

School is over, and library life has been all about the Summer Reading Program for weeks (if not months) at this point. If you, like many of us, have been so busy that you haven't given a thought to anything to post for the Fourth of July, fear not! Other libraries and organizations have done the work for you, and you can share them on your Facebook page, thanks to the Shareable Clique Facebook group.  We've compiled some of our favorites here for you. Simply click the link, and share the post!

Flag of Books

Thanks to the Kaufman Library

Jefferson's Last Words

Thanks to the Aloha Community Library Association

Flag Over Grand Canyon

ABC15 Arizona posted this photo last year. It doesn't get much more American than this!

The Declaration of Independence 

This original draft of the Declaration of Independence was posted by the Library of Congress


If you're thinking of playing a video clip, we recommend:

Stars and Stripes Forever: This version is by the United States Army Field Band

A Message from Sam the Eagle: This silly message brought to you by The Muppets

Want to Make One of Your Own?

Check out these historical images from the Library of Congress!

As always, we'd love to see what you decide to post. Share with us here in the comments, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter. Or, join the Shareable Clique and share your best social media with everyone!

Friday, June 22, 2018

14 Ways Libraries Can Help Immigrant Children and Families

The news around immigration to the US is heart breaking right now. If you find yourself wanting to do something, but are not sure what, here are a few suggestions curated mostly from a post in Library Think Tank.

Collection Displays

  • Create a display related to Migration and Refugees to help inform patrons of why people are coming here.
  • Display Central American Literature.
  • Display books connected to epigenetics, showing how trauma can be passed down through subsequent generations.
  • Always display books that include POC kids. When book talking, always talk them up and get them into kids' hands to grow empathy.

Information Displays

  • Provide sanctuary locations and qualifications.
  • Display information on immigration and legal rights/citizenship/etc. Include this information in multiple languages! Print out Know Your Rights cards in multiple languages.
  • Highlight (or start) your collection on ESL Learning Materials, citizenship exam study books, and information on becoming citizens.
  • Curate useful websites for your patrons: Informed Immigrant, Immi, and more. Check out Libraries Serve Refugees for great and local resources! 


  • ‘I’m a Migrant, Ask Me Anything’ Program
  • Invite authors to speak, like Reyna Grande (The Distance Between Us) and Luis Alberto Urrea (The Devil's Highway: A True Story). Offer programs in both English and Spanish!
  • Invite an immigration lawyer or a local nonprofit immigration service to give a talk.
  • Movie screenings about immigrants like El Norte
  • Host a program where your patrons can become pen pals with an immigrant
  • Currently, there's The Comfort Campaign going on right now which is open to anyone (ends July 4th). They're asking for letters of welcome and comfort, artwork and/or a teddy bear to be sent to a nonprofit which will send it out around the US to their 27 different locations. Might make a great and easy program.


On a Personal Level, If You Want to Help Out, You Can:



Inform Yourself

Make Phone Calls

  • DOJ Comment Line: (202)353-1555
  • Chief of Staff, John Kelly - 202-456-1414
  • Attorney General, Jeff Sessions - 202-353-1555
  • DHS Secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen - 202-282-8495
  • Acting ICE Director, Thomas Homan - 1-866-DHS-2-ICE
  • HHS Secretary, Alex Azar - 202-690-7000
  • Acting Assistant ACF Secretary, Steven Wagner - 1-877-696-6775​
  • ORR Director, Scott Lloyd -202.401.9246

Do you have any additional suggestions? Please let us know in the comments!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Ready to Go Book Display: Mermaids

Welcome to our series, "Ready to Go! Book Display." Once a month we'll highlight the latest or greatest for every age group that you can promote within your library or order for your collection. This month we are featuring books with merpeople!

Recommendations for Adults:

The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd (Apr 2005) 

Jessie Sullivan is summoned home to tiny Egret Island, where she meets Brother Thomas, a monk who is about to take his final vows, and encounters the legend of a mysterious chair dedicated to a saint who had originally been a mermaid.

Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale by Carolyn Turgeon (Mar 2011)

Falling in love with a prince whose rescue by a mermaid she secretly witnesses, Princess Margrethe is promised in marriage to the prince to bring peace to their warring kingdoms only to discover that he has taken a familiar-looking lover.

Folklore expert Carolyn Turgeon looks at the beautiful, seductive, mysterious, and potentially dangerous mermaids that are global literary and pop culture icons.

The Mermaid's Daughter by Ann Claycomb (Mar 2017)

Opera singer Kathleen has always suffered from strange maladies, and when they get in the way of her career, her girlfriend Harriet encourages her to visit Ireland to determine the cause of her dark family legacy of suicide.

Recommendations for Teens:

The Mermaid's Sister by Carrie Anne Noble (Mar 2015)

Clara discovers that her sister is becoming a mermaid, and realizes that no mermaid can survive on land. Desperate to save her, she and her friend load the girl in a gypsy wagon and begin a journey to the sea. 

The Mermaid's Mirror by L. K. Madigan (Oct 2010)

Lena, almost sixteen, has always felt drawn to the waters of San Francisco Bay despite the fears of her father, a former surfer, but after she glimpses a beautiful woman with a tail, nothing can keep Lena from seeking the mermaid in the dangerous waves at Magic Crescent Cove.

September Girls by Bennett Madison (May 2013)

Vacationing in a sleepy beach town for the summer, Sam is pursued by hordes of blonde girls before falling in love with the unusual DeeDee, who compels him to uncover secrets about the community's ocean-dwelling inhabitants.

Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly (May 2014)

Uncovering an ancient evil, Serafina, a mermaid of the Mediterranean Sea, searches for five other mermaid heroines who are scattered across the six seas, to save their hidden world.

Merman in My Tub by Itokichi (Oct 2015)

What happens when an intruder from the sea stakes claim to your bathtub? A cool yet demure teenage boy named Tatsumi must learn to live with the self-obsessed and playful mermain, Wakasa, in a small Tokyo apartment in this manga series.

Of Poseidon by Anna Banks (May 2012)

Galen, a prince of the Syrena, is sent to land to find a girl he's heard can communicate with fish. He finds Emma and after several encounters, including a deadly one with a shark, Galen becomes convinced Emma holds the key to his kingdom.

Recommendations for Kids: 

The Mermaid by Jan Brett (Aug 2017)

Set in the ocean off Japan, this retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears stars Kiniro, a mermaid, who finds a baby octopus's breakfast, chair, and bed just right.

The Little Mermaid by Trixie Belle (May 2013)

Toddlers and preschooler can discover the fairy tale of the Little Mermaid with just a handful of words and bright, enchanting illustrations.

Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love (Apr 2018)

Glimpsing a trio of women dressed up in fabulous mermaid costumes while riding the subway home with his abuela, little Julian resolves to make a fancy mermaid costume and headdress for himself and wonders what his abuela will think of the mess he makes, and more importantly, how his costume will reflect how he sees himself.

Introduces the concept of point of view through the prince's retelling of the classic fairy tale.

Poor Unfortunate Soul: A Tale of the Sea Witch by Serena Valentino (Jul 2016)

Presents an adaptation of the classic Little Mermaid fairy tale from the perspective of the sea witch who provides Ariel with human legs in exchange for her voice.

Fish Girl by Donna Jo Napoli & David Wiesner (Mar 2017)

Fish Girl, a young mermaid living in a boardwalk aquarium, has never interacted with anyone beyond the walls of her tank until a chance encounter with an ordinary girl, Livia. Their growing friendship inspires Fish Girl's longing for freedom, independence, and a life beyond the aquarium tank.

Dive under the sea and into Ariel's enchanting world. Featuring a sea witch and her spells, dinglehoppers and mermaids, this storybook retelling of the classic animated film is a treasure to behold. Also check out: The Little Mermaid: Read-Along Storybook and CD.

The Mermaid Queen by Shana Corey (Apr 2009)

As a child growing up in Australia, Annette Kellerman was a frail ugly duckling who dreamed of becoming a graceful ballerina. With courage and determination, she confronted a crippling illness to become an internationally known record-setting athlete who revolutionized the sport of swimming for women, a movie star who invented water ballet, and a fashion revolutionary who modernized the swimsuit.

The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler (Apr 2012)

After finally convincing her mother that she should take swimming lessons, twelve-year-old Emily discovers a terrible and wonderful secret about herself that opens up a whole new world.

Friday, June 8, 2018

8 Creative Book Club Ideas

Everyone loves a book club, but sometimes even the most well-attended group can start to feel stale. We looked into some different ways to revive, or start an entirely new club, and have compiled a list of ideas for you.

Book Clubs By Genre

Different Genres - Every month, your patrons can read a book of a different genre. Maybe January can be a mystery, February is historical fiction, and March highlights local authors. Perhaps you use cultural heritage months, and read books from around the world or different ethnic groups. Maybe you create a Diversity Matters group, and read titles from a broad range of nationalities and ethic groups. The sky is the limit! Broaden those horizons!

One Genre - So, your group loves mysteries. Start out with a murder mystery, move to a Cozy, and continue on to a police procedural. Investigate the options within your one genre by alternating between classics, lesser-known authors, and the first book in a James Patterson series.

Mysteries aren't your thing? No problem! There are shades of every genre, from science fiction to romance. One of the most popular clubs at a previous library was a group for tweens that read and discussed fantasy books each month. Specialized? Yes. Successful? Yes! The Muggle Support Group (I wish I could take credit for that name, but it predated me) was very popular.

Book Clubs with Crafts

Arts and crafts are hugely popular and successful at almost all age levels, and reluctant participants tend to be more talkative in a group setting when they have busy hands. Why not combine a crafting experience with a book discussion? You may want to keep the craft fairly repetitive and easy to do while focusing on a discussion, such as decoupage or coloring, rather than an involved craft that needs extra attention paid to instructions. Book clubs combined with knitting groups are a great combination.

Book Clubs With Food

We wrote about adding Cookbook Clubs, both by cooking theme or by cookbook, in a previous post, but it bears repeating! Cookbook clubs are a trend that we've seen a lot of lately, and they can be run in various ways. Will everyone cook the same style of dish from their own cookbook, or have the same cookbook and make different dishes? The choice is yours!

Another option is to have book clubs that serve food associated with the book. Many cozy mysteries and Amish romances include recipes in the back of the book, and titles of just about any genre include descriptions of meals that could be eaten. I would recommend probably sticking to smaller dishes, such as appetizers or desserts, rather than trying to cater an entire luncheon, but the choice is yours. This could also be done regionally; is your book set in Italy? It's the perfect time to serve some bruscetta! Are you reading Jane Austen? Scones and tea may be called for.

If this is cost- or time-prohibitive but appealing to you, it may be wise to ask your book club members to volunteer to bring one dish per month; alternating between who provides refreshments shouldn't overly be a burden, and would make things much easier on you.

Of course, we also see book clubs with wine or beer, usually held at a local restaurant or brewery. Just getting the club out of the library can reinvigorate a stagnant club, or add some "cool" factor to the mix.

Book Tastings

Book Tastings are not to be confused with book clubs with food! Generally, tables are set up as though at a restaurant, each place setting including one book rather than a plate. Members read the back cover or front flap, and the first chapter, to see if it's something they may be interested in, then alternate books. After "tasting" each title, members of each table can discuss which books they are interested in and why. (Some clever librarians also include an actual dessert - you have three books, and then a slice of pie.)

Reading Level Book Clubs

When learning to read, at any age, one of the challenges is being interested in what you're reading. Why struggle through when you don't really care what Dick and Jane do in the first place? Enter the Book Club. These can be useful for children beginning to read, but also for adult literacy or English Language Learners. Of course, you don't want to be talking down to a person just because they are working on mastering a skill, so choosing a book in these instances can be more difficult, but non-fiction titles tend to work well for most groups.

Inter-generational Book Clubs

The idea of a parent-child book club isn't a new one, but it can be a valuable addition to your inter-generational programming. Have each group of adults and children read the titles together, so they can discuss as a group how they feel about characters, actions, and plot - views change a lot when the character you relate to is the parent rather than the child in a story! This can be useful as a bonding experience, but also as an exercise to remind parents to remember what it's like to be a child and see things from their point of view. 

Books and Movies Clubs

When a book becomes a movie, they have to change things, if only because there's just not enough time to transfer every single detail from the page onto the screen. Whether they do it well or do it poorly, avid readers always want to talk about it! 

The options here are to have a showing of the movie (license permitting), or to distribute copies of the movie just like you would with a book. Get together after the movie and discuss just like you would a normal book, but including the adaptation into your conversation. Do the characters look and sound like they thought you would? Did they include all the most important scenes?

Book Conversation Groups/Readers' Advisory Groups

Rather than trying to get everyone to read the same book, have a group where people discuss what they're currently reading and enjoying and what they're excited about coming up. Then, showcase some titles that are new or exciting to you at the library, recommending specific books to specific patrons if possible. This type of group has worked for me especially well with teens, where I feed them baked goods. We call it "Books and Brownies."

We would love to see what kinds of creative book clubs you've been running! Please leave us a comment here, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Shelf-Sitters That Rock!

Summer is upon us, we here at the 5 Minute Librarian would like to help make things a little easier for you while you're trying to plan, promote, and implement programs, paint windows, take photos, encourage a love of literacy, and generally manage the hectic pace that accompanies summertime in the libraries. How can we help? With some easy displays!

We know you loved the shelf-sitters and staff pick bookmarks we wrote about before, so we decided to jazz them up with this summer's theme: LIBRARIES ROCK! Of course, all these images are copyrighted, and must be used within the set guidelines.


A shelf-sitter is a little piece of advertising material that sits right on your shelf with a book. You simply cut out around the design, fold down the remainder of the paper, and the tag sticks up in front of the book you want to highlight. These are great for displays, and also work well in the stacks, where you can call addition to particular titles with ease. Just right-click and save the files to print.


You can fill out the bookmark and leave it on the shelf where it lives, or on a display. Alternately, leave a small stack of these next to your book return, and let your patrons fill one out when they find a book they think really rocks. (Yes, let them do the work for you!)


And, of course, no display is complete without signs. Here are a few simple variations on our theme to make things easy for you.

Please let us know if you enjoyed these! You can comment here on the blog, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter.