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Among others ...

The scuff-up in New Zealand about banning a book intended for young adults is not some isolated event.

I mention this because this is Banned Books Week, and this year's theme has to do with the banning of just such materials.

Over the years, I have heard about dozens of books considered offensive by this group or that group -- like "A Separate Peace," "Catcher in the Rye," "The Giver."

My take on the situation is that people are easily offended by just about anything, and that in the last two decades they have become more strident and more prickly about what bothers them or has the potential to bother them. A lot of us are just picky, picky, persnickety people, looking for things to be irritated about.

So, the list is long of books that in the past year have been listed as offensive. Banned Books Week.com put together a short list:

  1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
  2. Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi (Pantheon Books/Knopf Doubleday) 
  3. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison (Holt, Rinehart, and Winston)
  4. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini (Bloomsbury Publishing) 
  5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky (MTV Books/Simon & Schuster)
  6. Drama, by Raina Telgemeier (Graphix/Scholastic)
  7. Chinese Handcuffs, by Chris Crutcher (Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins) 
  8. The Giver, by Lois Lowry (HMH Books for Young Readers)
  9. The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros (Vintage/Knopf Doubleday) 
  10. Looking for Alaska, by John Green (Dutton Books/Penguin Random House)

Not Armageddon

Remember e-books?

They were supposed to be the digital giants that ate paper by the trainload and drank ink by the barrel.

Well, they kind of started out that way.

But, now?

"The digital acocalypse never arrived, at least not on schedule," The New York Times reported late last week.

E-book buying has peaked, and now it appears that early adopters are going back to traditional print books.

Seems that, among other things, people like having books aroundl, and you can't have them if they're digital. Oh, and people are moving away from dedicated e-readers to smartphones, which are ubiquitous.
 It's not easy to read a book on an iPhone.

This is all good news for we librarians and for bookstores, many of which have already given up the ghost.

But, we'll never go back to a model of library that doesn't offer e-books for readers to check out for awhile.

Some welcome refugees

While Syrian refugees in a camp called The Jungle outside Calais, France, have started their own little library, in other places across Europe public libraries are trying to be as responsive as possible to the migrant crisis.

That's according to the European Bureau of Library, Information and Documentation Association. The association posted an item yesterday quoting officials with the Danis Library Association, for example, declaring that their libraries were open and hoping to serve a safe havens for refugees.

The Danes issued a press release, saying: "We cannot promise that there will be enough books in the language of the refugees in all libraries, but librarians will do their best to ensure that refugees feel welcome..."

Further, the association said, "EBLIDA believes that libraries all over Europe should act as a platform for democratic and open-minded values, and be a safe place where social inclusiveness for all is a priority."

Good for them.

Now, how do they get that message to Hungary and Serbia and Croatia?

Texts and tests

I had never thought about this:

If you're an instructor and your students are using e-books, you can arrange to track how those e-resources are used. Specifically, you can see how much time a student is spending with a text, something you could never ever do with paper books.

I discovered this by reading an abstract of a study of e-book use posted by InfoDocket. The study was conducted by Reynol Junco of Iowa State University and Candrianna Clem of the University of Texas.

They tracked e-text use time with more than 230 students at UT-San Antonio, not just for the heck of it but also to see if text use and final grades could have any correlation.

Not surprisingly, there is a direct correlation: The more a student uses the text, the higher his or her final grade.

That's intuitive, isn't it? But until now, unprovable.

Who knew?

Why libraries matter

A large group of refugees has set up a camp commonly called The Jungle near Calais, France.

They are, of course, homeless, and utterly without modern resources.

Pamela Druckerman writes of their plight in Sunday's New York Times.

Many of the refugees have iPhones and iPads, apparently.

But, they have set up a library with real books, set up by a woman who recognzed that many of these Syrians were educated people who wanted to read and learn things, like French, and not just sit around and wait for something to happen.

Books are mainly castoffs from Britain.

However, Druckerman makes mention of a French organizatoin called Libraries Without Borders that helps set up libraries in refugee camps, including a WiFi link.

But even if they could get access to the Internet at The Jungle, it seems likely they would still hunger for books in the traditional format.

And this is on the very far edge of civilization, a sad reality.

I wonder how we could get books to them.


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