March 8, 2021

COVID-19 Travel Updates

Last week, New York State eased some Travel Restrictions related to COVID-19. Specifically, domestic travelers who are fully vaccinated will no longer need to quarantine or test out of quarantine if they travel within 90 days of their vaccination. (This 90-day window may change, most likely in place to see if the vaccine will be effective against future variants/strains of COVID-19.) Due to this change in regulation, you make need to revise your Daily Employee Health Screening questions. The NYS Travel Advisory site has yet to be updated with this information, but you can read more here.

State Aid for Library Construction Info Session

Tomorrow at 10:00 AM. You can find more information at -

Here is the GoToMeeting Link -

Legislative Bills Updates

Senate Bill S4430

Relates to library and school district petitioning

Signed by the Governor. Takes effect immediately. Click here for a summary and the full bill text.

To review the status of the other bills I am keeping an eye on, check out the Legislative Bills Information in last week's briefing.

Question of the Week

How many libraries have gone fine-free in our System?

There are a few different types of fine-free that libraries have been experimenting with. Some have their entire collections, while others limit to specific sections of the library. Right now, we have roughly 18 libraries will some type of fine-free program going on right now. If you're interested in learning more, let us know.

Rerun: Thoughts on the Six Dr. Seuss Titles

Originally sent to D-All on March 4, 2021

Good morning everyone,

A few questions have come in this week regarding the six Dr. Seuss titles that will no longer be published due to insensitive and racial character depictions. This conversation is not a new one, but it is something that has gained media coverage recently, so we need to think about it. In recent years, Read Across America has moved away from using Dr. Seuss's birthday to kick-off its month-long celebration of children's literature. A visit to the National Education Association website will demonstrate their focus on diversity and presenting their own voices. This year the shift away from Dr. Seuss is receiving additional attention because "cancel" and "cancel culture" are headlines that will generate clicks and shares online. However, the NEA actually rebranded Read Across America back in 2017.

Even though this is a long-standing issue and there was most likely a great deal of deliberation that went into the decision made by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, libraries will certainly (and already have) receive comments on our intentions with these titles.

Luckily, we have options. Obviously, the decision on how to handle this situation is up to you and your boards. My comments are only meant to help your decision-making process. Below are a few thoughts on the initial action steps that can be taken.

The first action will most likely be to take the six titles (listed below) and check them out to give you time to review all the information. Second, all libraries should have a 'Collection Development Policy' and a 'Reconsideration of Libraries Materials Policy/Procedure.' Following those procedures and filling out any required forms will be critical in showing the library's deliberation process. Third, depending on your board set up, this may be an agenda item for your next board meeting. You are welcome to copy the lists below to help them think through this issue. Fourth, make a decision.

Possible decisions could be to follow suit with Dr. Seuss Enterprises and weed these from your collection. You could also put these in a reference or similar section. Or you could leave them in circulation.

If leaving them on your shelves is the direction your library decides to go, there are additional steps you can take to support the issues surrounding these titles. You could mark them as titles that will not be displayed in storytimes or set on book displays. You could also include a message at the beginning of the book that offers an explanation or warning of the content. For example…

"This book contains racist depictions of certain ethnicities and has been removed from publication by Dr. Seuss Enterprises. Our library believes in keeping [Title of Book] in our collection to document the history of inappropriate racial depictions in literature across America. We hope this message will produce a thoughtful reflection of this title and highlight the inequalities in the depictions of literary characters. This title will not be used in library displays, storytimes, or programs without an appropriate presentation of this warning."

That is just a quick write-up, so you can develop one better suited to your library.

There may be other creative ideas on how to tackle this issue, but to me, the most advantageous tool the library has is following its policies and documenting all the steps made to come to a decision. This will help future employees, trustees, and community members understand that this was not a decision taken lightly.

Six Titles No Longer in Publication:
  1. And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street
  2. If I Ran the Zoo
  3. McElligot’s Pool
  4. On Beyond Zebra!
  5. Scrambled Eggs Super!
  6. The Cat’s Quizzer
Read These Links: Keep in mind that it is important that libraries work to make all members of their communities feel welcome and safe, these issues should be explored even when the conversations are difficult or uncomfortable. Decisions regarding the use of certain themes, holidays, or authors must be made in the bests interests of all community members. Nostalgia, tradition, and convenience cannot guide our work if it makes others feel unwelcome and unsafe in our libraries.

For ways that you can promote inclusion in literature, visit the NEA's 2020-2021 Calendar and We Need Diverse Books. Both feature reading lists, activities, and resources to help promote the books that reflect and celebrate our diverse communities.

To further this conversation, we are planning some continuing education opportunities for the fall that will focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in our work in libraries (considerations for programming, collection development, et cetera).

Take your time, think through this issue, and read to understand. This is a moment in libraries where we can practice our ability to lead in literacy as well as social equity.

Message developed by Ron and Suzanne.

Questions on Dr. Seuess Email

Questions have come in about the email above. Here is a rundown of the responses.

Does the System have a recommendation on whether to discard these items or keep them?

Nope. The only suggestion we have is to make sure that you think critically about the implications of your decisions. This is a moment in libraries where we can practice our ability to lead in literacy as well as social equity.

Is this considered censorship?

It would be difficult to label this specific case as censorship since the publisher was the first one to take action on a long-standing conversation about social equity. Also, CREW: The Weeding Manual for Modern Libraries, endorsed by ALA and considered the standard for deaccessioning library materials, states in their "What to Weed: General Guidelines" to consider "Material that contains biased, racist, or sexist terminology or views" as "Poor content." This can be found on page 19 of the manual. Also, specific to Juvenile Fiction, the manual states, "Consider discarding older fiction especially when it has not circulated in the past two or three years. Also, look for books that contain stereotyping, including stereotypical images and views of people with disabilities and the elderly, or gender and racial biases." This is on page 33.

What if my library does not have a "Reconsideration of Library Materials" policy?

It's a good time to write one. Take a look at ALA's Weeding Library Collections: A Selected Annotated Bibliography for Library Collection Evaluation for some inspiration. They also have a Sample Reconsideration Form. You can also take a look at Geneva Public Library's Collections Policy. They have a materials complaint form in section 7.4 (thanks, Chris Finger).

Why would I go through the process of filling out a Reconsideration Form?

Following this procedure documents your decisions. You would most likely not do this during a typical weeding of the library's collection, but this is a bit unusual considering the attention these titles are receiving. If a patron, trustee, funding agency, or anyone else asks about this, you will be able to show that this situation was taken seriously. Whether the items are discarded or remain on your shelves, you will be able to justify the library's stance.

Should I bring this discussion to my board?

Bringing this to your board is up to you and your policies. In most cases, the reconsideration of library materials is at the discretion of the director (just like purchasing items). If you think it would be helpful, or if your policy specifically says to bring it to the board, I would go ahead and put it on the agenda.

What if I believe we should get rid of these items, but the board disagrees?

This could go in a lot of different directions depending on the library. In general, in this situation or vice versa, a conversation should be had with all parties and a vote should take place at the board level (if that is appropriate) in an open meeting. Reasons and dissent should be listed. Then Collective Authority kicks in and the library goes with the decision that is reached.
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