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Librarian Blog

Now ... the other side

It's about time.

Finally, the author of a banned children's book is speaking out with her side of the story. And a very interesting side it is.

The author is Ramin Ganeshram. The book is "A Birthday Cake for George Washington." It's a children's illustrated book featuring Washington's real-life cook, Hercules, a slave.

When the book came out in January, the world of children's literature exploded in anger. Here we had Hercules depicted in the illustrations as a happy-as-a-clam chef just dancing around with delight about his plight and his work.

Bloggers, columnists, speakers, talk-show hosts, radio show loudmouths -- everyone took after Ganeshram like she was a heretic, a lunatic or racist or worse.

Now comes Gaaneshram writing in The Huffington Post about the book, the process of creating the book and the stance of Scholastic Inc., which banned the book after publishing it.

Turns out there's a lot we don't know about the publishing of children's books, namely that the writer doesn't have anything to say about the illustrations, and the writer is essentially an indentured servant to the publisher, who can dictate when and how the author can speak to the press.

Ganeshram was under a gag order about the whole thing. She speaks now out of defiance.

Her story is worth listening to, because she turns out to be a black woman, a woman of letters and a culinary expert. Her intentions were undermined by illustrators who were also black but who were obviously clueless and a publisher who gutlessly dealt with the uproar.

I feel sorry for Ganeshram. She deserved to be treated much better.

Reversing course

Several years ago, the public library looked to be on the endangered species list.

Or that was the general feel that one could take away from library journals and news reports.

Counties and cities were contemplanting or making grievous cuts in library budgets. Staffs were being trimmed. Materials purchases were down.

But, things seem to be turning around.

Library Journal just released data from its 2015 survey of libraries about funding and staffing, etc.

The bottom line is this: Libraries are seeing small incremental gains in funds for staffing and materials. We're talking on average less than 4 percent year over year.

But, with low inflation, that's not bad at all. Growth IS growth, after all. And far better than going the other direction.

Status of 'The Book'

Our book about the May 23, 2015, flood of the Blanco River in Wimberley is at the printer as of today.

We hope it will go on the press this week. We're printing 1,000 copies.

The books will be about 350 pages and 8 1/2 x 11 in size, softback, perfect bound with a heavily laminated cover.

The plan is to have them ready for distributioin around March 1. Cover price will be $20 (comparable books routinely sell for north of $35).

Check back for more information near March 1.

Whither diversity?

I had no idea.

I thought the publishing industry in this country was largely white and male.

Not so.

A report called Diversity in Publishing finds there is no diversity in publishing.

About 80 percent of publishing and review journal staff members are white. And nearly 80 percent are female.

And that's the case even at the executive level. There, 86 percent are white. And 60 percent are women.

No wonder there are so few books about and by people of color.

That's kind of a national scandal, when you think about it.

Just grow up ...

I've been out of the daily college millieu for a long, long time so I haven't a clue about the new ultra sensitivity of university students.

I read about it from time to time. Seems that kids all over the country are frightened by the idea of being confronted with the New and the Unusual and the Unexpected and the Uncomfortable.

Waaaaa!

The Jan. 30th edition of The Economist is the latest publication to note timidity and touchiness of college students. Good story. The best part is about the Chicago Statement, which has been adopted by a variety of institutions. It is brief. Here is a salient part of it:

"It is not the proper role of the university to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable or even deeply offensive. ... Concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable."

The responsibility of a university, its says, is not only to promote "fearless freedom of debate," but also to protect it.

Amen, folks.

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