The Staff Picks Book Group: A Very Short Poll

Library_theme_Google_form_headerThe Staff Picks Book Group has met once a month since September 2012. Library staff choose the books – usually fiction, but sometimes nonfiction – and all are welcome to come discuss. Now that it’s the group’s two-year anniversary, we want your feedback. Will you answer this Very Short* Poll?

>> Take the Staff Picks Book Group Poll now! <<

*It is literally** just two questions.

**”Literally” in the literal, not metaphorical, sense of the word.

>> Take the Staff Picks Book Group Poll now! <<

Posted in Book group | Leave a comment

Banned Book Trading Cards

Book covers are both art and an act of communication: they tell you something about the book, and the best covers tell you quite a lot about the book. (In other words, if the cover design is good, you can judge a book by its cover.)

bannedbooktradingcards_hungergames_KSThe covers of frequently banned or challenged books, then, are especially important. The Lawrence (Kansas) Public Library and the Chapel Hill (North Carolina) Public Library have started getting local artists to create designs for banned book covers; the best designs are then made into “banned book trading cards.”

This year at the Robbins Library, we want to throw this opportunity open to everyone in the community. Choose any book that has been banned or challenged, then put on your creativity hat and come up with a new design for that book’s cover. Bring your design to the reference desk at the library, and we’ll display all book cover art, starting the first day of Banned Books Week, September 21, and continuing through the end of the month.

Here’s how it works:

1. Stop by the Banned Books Week display to pick up a blank index card, or use one of your own.

bannedbooktradingcards_clockwork_NC2. Decorate the blank side of the card with your own design for a cover of a book that has been banned (or challenged, restricted, or removed). Use your imagination, and any medium you like – crayons, paint, collage, pen and ink, oil pastel…you can even make a design on the computer, print it out, and paste it to the card.

3. Write the book title, author’s name, and your name on the back (lined side) of the card, and bring it to the reference desk at the Robbins Library. If you’d like, you can include a sentence or two about why you chose this book and what you mean your design to convey.

4. That’s it! We’ll display all book cover art through the end of the month, and keep the cards for next year’s display as well.

Posted in Books, Programs | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The right to stay on the shelf

For the last year, I’ve been collecting articles about book banning attempts around the country and the world. It’s less common to hear about book banning in Massachusetts (though that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen here), but it’s definitely happening in many states across the country, as well as internationally.

The ALA has graphed their data on banned books by reason, initiator, and institution. As the stories below make clear, the people who want to ban books are mostly parents. (No one is asking the kids what they think.) The reasons vary, but usually have to do with objections to “offensive language” or “explicit sexuality.” And the targets are usually schools, school libraries, or public libraries.

Here are just a few stories:

twilightTexas: A pastor wanted “demonic” books removed from the teen section of the public library. “I understand they have the right to these books, but I also have a right to complain about them,” he said. The Library Director replied that library materials “should not be chosen or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.” (ABC13 Eyewitness News, August 2014)

tangomakes3Singapore: The National Library Board withdrew several children’s books for having “homosexual themes.” Three judges of the Singapore Literature Prize resigned in protest. (China Topix, July 2014) Separately, sale of an Archie comic has been banned because it depicts a gay wedding. (, July 2014)

areyoutheregodUnited States: Judy Blume was interviewed about her books being challenged and banned over the past decades. Alison Flood writes, “Blume’s theory is that children read over what they aren’t yet ready to understand. Sometimes, [Blume] says, ‘kids will actually go to Mom or Dad and say ‘What does this mean?’, which is the perfect time to talk to them about it. But that’s when sometimes parents get hysterical.'” (The Guardian, July 2014)

steamrollerUnited States: “Semi-retired” librarian Sandy Bradley tells a story of a parent who felt that Margaret Wise Brown’s picture book The Steamroller was “too violent,” and how she handled the complaint. (Long Overdue Library Book via Boing Boing, July 2014)

papertownsFlorida: A parent’s concern about John Green’s novel Paper Towns on the eighth grade summer reading list led to the school district’s removal of the book from the list – in violation of their own policy. (Tampa Bay Times, June 2014)

Colorado: Parents wanted to “cleanse” a reading list for an elective Young Adult Literature class. The list included John Green’s Paper Towns, Looking for Alaska, and The Fault in Our Stars, as well as books by Lauren Oliver, Scott Westerfeld, Gayle Forman, M.T. Anderson, and yes, C.S. Lewis. The school board voted (narrowly) to approve the list, and the class will continue as planned. (John Green’s Tumblr, March 2013)

Toronto, Canada: Since the year 2000, about 100 “request for reconsideration” forms have been filled out at the Toronto Public Library, but only nine items have been removed.(Torontoist, February 2013)

EleanorPark_cover2-300x450Minnesota: Rainbow Rowell, author of Eleanor & Park, was dis-invited to speak at the Anoka County public library after a small group called the Parents Action League complained so loudly that both the public library and school district rescinded their invitations to Rowell. The parents also wanted the books pulled from library shelves. (, September 2013) The Star Tribune reported in November 2013 that the book would stay on the library shelves.

invisiblemanNorth Carolina: The local board of education voted to remove Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952) from school libraries, due to a parent’s complaint. (“I didn’t find any literary value,” said one board member.) The board quickly reversed their decision. (Christian Science Monitor, September 2013)

Of course, parents have the right to decide what their own children are and aren’t allowed to read. But it is not the job of one parent (or a small group of parents) to decide what everyone’s children can or can’t read. As Clare Boothe Luce put it, “Censorship, like charity, should begin at home, but, unlike charity, it should end there.”

For more quotes about censorship, visit the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and Mesa Community College (MCC) Libraries’ Banned Books Week guide.


Posted in Books | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Adult summer reading prizes 2014

Even more people participated in our summer reading program this year than last year – we had 170 people register, and too many raffle tickets to count! With each raffle ticket representing one book read, that’s great news. And now it’s time for the prizes!

Grand Prize: Three (3) lucky readers will receive a year-long membership to Boston’s Museum of Science and can enjoy free admission to this incredible museum for a whole year!

Don’t Blink: Three (3) more lucky readers will receive one of three Doctor Who-themed prizes: a replica of his pocket watch, a three-pack of journals, or a string of TARDIS twinkle lights. Allons-y!

bookrackReader Rabbit: Five (5) lucky readers will receive a $20 gift certificate to the Book Rack, located at 13 Medford Street in Arlington. Buy books for yourself, family, or friends.

From Page to Screen: Twenty (20) lucky readers will receive a bundle of five (5) coupons for free DVD rentals from the library’s feature film collection. These coupons can be used in combination and do not expire.

The prize drawing will be tomorrow, September 12. Winners will receive a call or an e-mail. All prizes (except museum memberships) must be picked up in person. Thank you for reading!

Posted in Summer Reading | Tagged | Leave a comment

Not-So-Young Adult Book Group on 9/15

clockworkscarabThe NSYA book group will meet next Monday, Sept 15, at 7pm in the Robbins Library Conference Room. We’ll be discussing The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason. Copies are still available if you haven’t read it yet!

We’ll be skipping our regular October meeting due to scheduling reasons, but will be meeting on the regular second Monday in November, which is the 10th. For that meeting we’ll be reading Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick, which I loved a whole lot. Copies are on their way now, in case you want to get an early start.

Hope to see many of you on Monday!

Posted in Book group | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Queer Book Group / Social and two very funny web series

QBG Social webseries090514


Okay.  The QBG-ers have spoken! We’re having a web series night on Wednesday, 9/24 at 7 PM. Hudson Valley Ballers comes from out SNL writer, Paula Pell.  It’s funny and weird.  F to 7th is the ongoing series by Ingrid Jungermann. Season 2 is very different from Season 1. [SPOILER] decides to she’s straight.  I know!  Homoneurotic, indeed.

Wed., 9/24 at 7PM at the Robbins in Arlington.

Posted in Book group, LGBT | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Banned Books Week: Ideas are incombustible

We’ve written about Banned Books Week once or twice or seven times here before, but shockingly, people around the country and the world are STILL trying to ban books…so we must write again in favor of everyone having the freedom to read whatever they want.

Stop by our display in the library to see what books the censors are up in arms about this year, and check one out! (Look for the “Danger! Contains ideas” tag.) You also can see a complete bibliography of books that were challenged, restricted, removed, or banned in 2013-2014 [PDF compiled by ALA].

bbw_dangercontainsideasYou may notice that a lot of the books that upset people are those assigned in school or written for kids and teenagers. The esteemed, beloved author (and mother) Judy Blume has this to say about that:

“Let children read whatever they want and then talk about it with them. If parents and kids can talk together, we won’t have as much censorship because we won’t have as much fear.” ―Judy Blume

I’m inclined to agree with Ms. Blume. And even if adults aren’t comfortable talking with kids about the subjects raised in books, reading still helps kids; sometimes it even saves lives.

In that vein, here’s one of my all-time favorite images about books:


You can contribute to the library’s Banned Books Week display by telling us what books or authors have meant a lot to you. What books are you grateful you had the chance to read? (Can you imagine if you hadn’t been allowed to read them, because someone, somewhere, thought you shouldn’t?) Write down the authors and/or titles and drop them in the Books Change Lives, Books Save Lives jar.

bookssavelivesjarBanned Books Week is September 21-27 this year. More blog posts on this topic to come…

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment