Monday, September 15, 2008

Want To Fight About Politics and Children's Books?

I was getting irritated by the political squabbling that's commandeered most of my online groups, listservs, and forums. I've always relished the freedom to disagree as a sign of a healthy system. After all, as was recently noted by the moderator of child_lit:
...People need to accept and be prepared for forceful argument because children's texts are at the center of significant cultural debate about weighty matters, such as how we relate to our culture and how we define ourselves as human beings.
So why are these particular arguments bothering me so much? Maybe because they're defined by contempt. I feel like a child forced to dine with parents who despise each other and are doing their best to triangle me into their destructive relationship. It takes a lot of energy to sit still and say nothing, and leaping into the fray feels like a no-win solution.

In the children's literature world, we need clear guidelines for appropriate online practices when it comes to forums, listservs, blogs, social networks, and comments. Some venues are suitable for fiery freedom of expression (child_lit, for example); others aren't (yalsa-bk clarified a "no-politics rule," creating a new forum for librarians eager to discuss this election with each other):
Over the last several weeks, there has been considerable discussion and many questions raised about the constraints imposed by federal law on ALA as a nonprofit charitable organization. On the other hand, there has also been considerable interest in having a forum available where ALA members could freely discuss political topics and the current election in relation to library issues.

ALA, because of its 501(c)(3) tax exempt status, is expressly and absolutely prohibited by the U.S. Internal Revenue Code from engaging in "political speech." This means that ALA resources, including electronic discussion lists, blogs and wikis, cannot be used for "the support of, or opposition to, a candidate for public office". Political speech is different from "lobbying," which seeks to influence legislation or regulation (ALA continues to lobby aggressively for libraries within federal guidelines).

For more information about the IRS prohibition on political speech by 501(c)(3) tax exempt organizations, as well as links to additional information, please see the Marginalia blog posting.

To this end, the ALA-APA Board has authorized the creation of an ALA-APA Forum discussion list to discuss mutual issues of interest to librarians and other library workers, including political issues and candidates. This list is open to ALA members and others. Subscribe to the APA Forum here.
Now that's clarity. So out here on the Fire Escape, let me make the rules clear: anything goes, but with respect. By all means express yourself, but leave your contempt inside.

5 comments:

Tricia said...

I'm so glad you wrote this. I've become so disgusted with child_lit that I've been deleting the digest. I don't want to wade through the mean-spirited comments and rebuttals.

TadMack said...

I think Blogger ate the comment I'd put up here earlier -- I agree with Tricia so much. I just joined the child_lit group to ask a question about MG multicultural mysteries three weeks ago, and now I feel like I'm caught in the middle of this ragefest and have to delete multiple collection emails a day.

I got such helpful, positive responses to my question that I know the group is a valuable resource. I don't want to opt out, but wow -- YALSA_bk is beginning to sound great, since they declared a no-politics zone. Is that one open to everyone, too?

Mitali Perkins said...

Yes, as far as I know YALSA-BK is open to everyone. But I recommend sitting with Child_Lit and waiting this one out -- keep hitting the delete button until some moderation is achieved through the unwieldy but inevitable process of mutual self-regulation. The absolute commitment to free discussion there often leads me to new insights. I'm rolling my eyes but not running away.

gail said...

I belong to four or five listservs and child_lit is by far the most argumentative. Yes, it's worth sticking with them because you do get a feel for what's going on in kidlit, particularly from an academic angle. It's also a good place to ask questions of librarians. But they do like to take off there on subjects that have only limited connection to children's literature. Contempt is an excellent word to describe the tone there right now.

Jennie said...

Oh man, I was really into your post today. And then I caught up on your email. Now I'm REALLY into your post. The yalsa_bk discussion seems to have died down, but child_lit is just getting started.

After 1 digest of child_lit, I had to
come back and read your post. I think I have another 2 digest in my mailbox... oiy.

Post a Comment