Saturday, October 10, 2009

Thanks to Kristin Pekoll, West Bend's Young Adult librarian, for writing up her recent experience confronting censorship in her library. And thanks to blogger NotEmily for calling attention to the article, which I otherwise would never have known about.

Ms. Pekoll's article, titled Stand Up! Defending Teen's Right To Read at West Bend Community Memorial Library, can be read by clicking HERE. That's a PDF file, and if you have trouble downloading it with Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox, try Internet Explorer. The article is part of the October 2009 issue of VOYA, Voice of Youth Advocates, a library magazine (click HERE).


  1. What a well-written article. It shows exactly what's been happening. What a mess. I'm glad it's over for now.

    And if anything's disgusting, it's those emails.

  2. What a great article. I think those emails speak volumes. People who claim "protection of children," as their mantra have no issue with abandoning decency, polite speech and logical argument. Instead they send inflammatory, pointless emails and suggest Ms. Pekolls' ability to do her job is somehow related to her
    reproductive status. It's sad.
    Here's something I have been thinking about through this whole mess. Maybe what needs to be pointed out is that our teenagers don't need to be sheltered from "intellectual freedom," as was claimed. Maybe, as adults, we should listen to them more, read some of their books, listen to their music, watch their TV. I tried it. My daughter brought home a book I thought I should check out first. I did. I loved it. It opened a conversation that has continued and expanded for four years on many subjects. Maybe what we should do is start giving our teenagers the respect they deserve for being intellegent, capable human beings. I have learned, and will learn, a lot from her, all while still maintaining the role as her parent.

  3. Well said beesbess. I'm glad that there are active parents out there like you (and my Mom ;)).

    I'm a little offended that these "protect the children" people think children and teenagers have jell-o for brains and will do something just because they read it in a book. Do they not give kids any credit to think their own thoughts and make their own decisions?

  4. I, too, found Ms. Pekoll's article well done. However, as a member of the media community that covered the West Bend Library controversy, I have to say I found a couple of her assumptions wrong, and to me, personally offensive.

    They are:

    "Newspapers and headlines are not always objective, and their sensational tone can often incite emotional responses rather than inform the community."

    "Editors and the station managers for both radio and TV [Editorial note: Actually, it would be the news directors at a TV or radio station.] realize that controversy, sensationalism, and catchy sound bites can appeal to an audience and make a profit. Rational discussion and debate are frequently overlooked because they don't always 'sell' that well."

    I am a reporter and I wrote several articles about the YA book controversy. Not once did I evern consider newspaper sales when I composed my articles on the controversy. Nor do I on any other subject I write about for that matter. Neither do any other reporters I work with or know of.

    Do I compose my articles in as interestingly a way as I can to get people to read them? Yes, I do. Would you prefer I write as boringly as possible?

    Do I summarize complex issues, leaving out some details? Yes, I do. It's the nature of the business. I've never had an editor tell me there is unlimited space, so write as much as you want. On the contrary, I'm usually told the opposite. Shorter is better.

    I write for a general audience, which quite frankly, rarely reads more than a few paragraphs about anything. Think about it, how much of a newspaper, magazine, or Internet article do you read before you start skimming?

    Summarizing, finding the briefest way to explain an event or issue, is the nature of journalism. Time, print space,and audience interest demands it. I will not apologize for doing my job. I do the best I can to present both sides of a controversy so that the reader can weigh both sides of an issue and come to a conclusion. I try to inform the reader as best I can what is actually happening within the guidelines of my profession and the limitations of time, space and reader interest.

    I have now been criticized by both sides in this controversy. The library censors consider me a mouthpiece for the liberals running the library. The library considers me a sensationalist out to inflame passions without interest in properly informing the public.

    You know what, I take comfort in the fact that both sides hate the messenger. I know of no other profession where the best way to judge if you're doing a good job is when both sides of a controversy despise what you're doing. I guess I'm doing something right.

    One last comment. I had to laugh at Ms. Pekoll's statement that "controversy, sensationalism, and catchy sound bites can appeal to an audience and make a profit." I do not believe a single article I wrote about the West Bend Community Memorial Library added a single dime to my employer's bottom line.

    And if she's suggesting there was no controversy before the media started covering the story or that it wouldn't have escalated without media coverage, I think she is sadly mistaken.

    Dave Rank

  5. Thank you, Mr. Rank, for a thought-provoking perspective.

  6. I haven't googled the issue in a while but I'm glad I found this entry. I'd like to respond to Mr. Rank. I apologize if my article offended you. It was not intended to. The part you quoted, "controversy, sensationalism, and catchy sound bites can appeal to an audience and make a profit." was actually a quote from Michael tyree from the ALA presentation. And while the WB Daily News articles did have some sensational headlines. (the frequent use of the word Porn, for example) the media I was mostly refering to was the brief coverage from Milwaukee TV and the outlandish and bias interview of Ginny Maziarka and Maria Hanrahan by WBKV - West Bend Classic Country AM 1470 and Mark Belling's radio show. There was also a minister disguised as a Talk Show Journalist who had no interest in unbiased information. I can't remember his name at this moment.

    If it makes you feel any better, I kept each and every one of your articles to share with friends and family and to also share with those who were interested in an ongoing account of what was happening.

    I do not despise your work at all!

    And Non-Censor and commentors. Thank you for the very nice sentiments about the article. A lot of sweat, tears, and heart went into it.

    Kristin Pekoll