Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.


How many complaints...

How many complaints does it take to get a school to change an assignment?

At one school, it appears that the magic answer is two.

Think about it: a small, small fraction of parents voice a complaint about an assignment, and that is what controls.

Eighth grade honors students were asked to look at a list of banned books with their parents, and with adult input, pick one title to read. (From reading the article, Views of the Few Send a School Into Retreat, my educated guess is that this ALA list was the source list used.)

This assignment had been done the year before without problems; was repeated this year, with school approval; and despite some parents liking the assignment, it was cancelled due to the complaints of "less than five" (and perhaps, only two.)

What else could the school have done? It didn't dictate that any one book be read. It put the control in the parents hands, so that a book appropriate for the child could be selected. Parents were involved.

The paper says that the objecting (and triumphant) parents said, "there were titles on there I did not need my daughter exposed to" and "I am going to assert myself as I see fit to protect my child from premature exposure to inappropriate material."

But the parents were in a position to guide what their child was exposed to: no particular title was required, and what was selected was up to the parent and child.

So what was really being objected to? The titles. The titles alone, without the context of the book itself, was the problem. Apparently, even reading the title "Daddy's Roommate" was too much exposure.

And the entire assignment was cancelled.

Leslie Burger's blog has a letter from a parent who liked the assignment. Unfortunately, this parent, and others like her (or him), don't matter.


  • At 5:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I posted about that story about a month ago and just today a parent who sounds like one of the critics of the list came and said I had the story all wrong.
    You might want to check this out.
    Feel free to link to my piece and I'll link back to yours.

    Even better is if you could steer the parent who wrote you my way.


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