Questions may be submitted for this column using the confidential link at the bottom of this post
"Graphic novel cataloging wisdom needed - I've inherited a rather mixed collection including GN fiction, non-fiction, and Manga all inconsistently labeled making some items almost impossible for a student to locate.'
Students, in my many years of experience, do not want to spend any great amount of time looking for what they really want to find. Using this concept as the basis for my shelving decisions, I shelved graphic novel fiction separately by author. If you are ordering books pre-processed, you can ask to have your graphic novels cataloged as fiction, so the book Anya's Ghost would be cataloged as F or FIC SAT. If you have an existing collection of GN fiction, then this would require you to change the call numbers from 741.5 to F or FIC. This can be done using a “batch” processing option in many automation systems. Of course, you then need to print new labels, but the effort is worth the extra work and the new labels can be applied by students or parent volunteers.
As for graphic novel non-fiction, this is more complicated. I generally shelved those items separately, but in my graphic novel section. So first came the graphic novel fiction arranged by author, and then the non-fiction arranged by call number. Only if I knew a certain book was curriculum-related and used alongside other non-fiction books on the topic would I shelve the non-fiction graphic novel in with the regular non-fiction. For most non-fiction graphic novels I used a location code in my automation system and also added “GN” to the spine label, above the call number. This would ensure that the books were shelved in the right location.
As for Manga, this is tricky. I finally decided to shelve the Manga by series and then by title or number in the series, depending on how the series was labeled. TI also kept Manga in my graphic novel section.
Question Number Two
"What do you do with books that have won the Caldecott or Newbery awards but may have some outdated/inappropriate material? Keep them or weed? For example, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble uses the statement 'stone-dumb,' and police are pigs (don't know if that was intentional or not, but it was written in 1969). Thank you for your thoughts."
Weeding books can be a very school-specific and even librarian-specific process. However, this issue of whether or not Sylvester and the Magic Pebble should be kept on the shelves dates back to a 1971 column in the professional journal American Libraries titled “On Note.” This article stated the following about this book:
ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom has issued an advisory statement concerning Sylvester and the Magic Pebble:
(1) The Library Bill of Rights, the American Library Association's basic policy statement concerning intellectual
freedom, states that, "... no library materials should be proscribed or removed from libraries because of partisan or
(2) Librarians who remove Sylvester and the Magic Pebble from their collections, or who remove the controversial
page, play, in effect, the role of censor. Such a role violates both the spirit and the letter of the Library Bill of
(3) In the absence of a court order, issued after a fair hearing and decision, the publication Sylvester and the Magic
Pebble is a legitimate library acquisition, fully protected under the law.
In the text of the advisory statement, the OIF stated that individual libraries have responded to requests for removal of the book in varying ways and one librarian went so far as to tear out the controversial page and return the book to the shelf. The basis for objection is an illustration in the book depicting policemen as pigs.
“Of Note.” American Libraries, vol. 2, no. 4, 1971, pp. 331–338. www.jstor.org/stable/25618241.
And later, an article in Children & Libraries published in 2013 states the following about the book:
Could a simple story, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig, about a donkey who finds a magic pebble and
turns himself into a rock be offensive? In 1970, police in Rochester, New York, thought so because one page depicts
the police officer as a pig. Never mind that Steig liked pigs, the book was caught up in the unrest during the Chicago
riots when calling policemen “pigs” was a contemptuous slur. Copies of the book across the country disappeared as
police associations made their dissatisfaction known. Sylvester survived and is happily back on library shelves today.
Cummins, Julie. "The Gold Rush." Children & Libraries: The Journal Of The Association For Library Service To Children 11.1
(2013): 3-5. Library & Information Science Source. Web. 24 Jan. 2017.
Lastly, as this question evokes much thought and collection development dilemma, I turned to an expert in the field. Through Helen Adams, Megan Schliesman of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin was contacted and asked for HER opinion. Her response:
I don’t believe there is a blanket way to address this. Instead, I think the books have to be assessed individually, as the
reasons they may be considered problematic may differ from book to book. “Stone-dumb,” for example, is, I think,
(potentially) very different from a book that has been criticized by for racism or harmful stereotypes or
misrepresentation, such as Gerald McDermott’s Arrow to the Sun. Even then, I think you have to decide book by
book, in the same way you would (or should) when purchasing new books, and I think the goal is informed choice.
Regarding historical value, it depends on the point or purpose of the collection. I would question whether an
elementary school library, for example, necessarily needs to keep old, potentially outdated books, even award
winners, unless studying those awards are part of the curriculum in some way.
Award books may become dated, but my opinion is to retain these award-winning books on our shelves and use
them as springboards for healthy discussion. I have always been someone who bristles at any hint of censorship. In
our quest to do the right thing, and with some titles, weeding can cross the line between removal of outdated
material and censorship.
More about Megan Schliesman’s on the Cooperative Children’s Book Center’s website:
So the Library Legend turned to the experts for support and reinforcement. Censorship comes in all forms. Make informed decisions for your student population and school culture is the key. There really is no “one-size-fits-all” answer to this question.