Wednesday, December 26, 2012
There are many polls and stats that label certain professions as being the most stressful or the least appreciated. Librarians is hardly ever on those lists. There's plenty of reasons the omission on these lists. One very important one is that it almost always ranks high in job satisfaction. As the year draws to a close and a new one is just beginning, it's time to consider as John Lennon asks of us each year around htis time, "What have we done?" Librarians have been at the forefront of the information age when it began in the late 80's and zoomed into the 1990's with the Internet taking society on the virtual road trip. The places we have been and yet to go on this information highway is surreal at times. The internet has made patrons comfortable on finding things out on their own. It should have been a wonderful moment for libraries, yet the potholes on the information highway proved to be more troublesome than anticipated. For example, too much information, too little attention to accuracy and too much time spent on gaming, chatting and other time wasters. Librarians continue to struggle with copyright issues and validating a persons' work. In the era instant gratification it seems that the Internet has created he illusion that real research is as easy as a few keystrokes. In reality, research on the internet requires boolean searching skills, patient to go beyond the initial first searches to validate data and a professional librarian who can help and teach how to find the back roads of the information highway. There has been much done on teaching about the information highway but there are still problems that continue to nag the profession. The constant need to prove the value of libraries in a digital era is just one out of many that pops into mind. E-readers and tablets like iPad have significantly changed the way librarians deal with the printed word. Many librarians believed that the day would never arrive when patrons would prefer downloading a book to checking a hard cover out. Thankfully there were librarians who saw the opportunity to serve other patrons by providing online databases and digital contents. With all opportunities there are some strings attached. First and foremost the many different brands of e-readers. Librarians are finding that on a daily basis they are working more with electronic gadgets and becoming techie geeks whether they want to or not. Putting that aside, which is really quite a small detail when considering digital content is chewing up more budget dollars than any library director would like. There continues to be a battle for the library to provide patrons with quality information sources while still holding down the bottom line. It is with fingers crossed that librarians are hoping that a compromise can be reached between publishers and libraries. Could authors jump into the fray of the conversation and defend their library friends? Once could hope. One last note on what has been done this year is the role of the librarian in each library. It is a sad to see many young grads coming out of library schools without the opportunities to work in libraries. Budget are tight to be sure but there is something else that is happening that is being ignored entirely by the profession. There are too few full-time jobs and to many part-time positions. On top of that, many of the smaller to mid size libraries are quite comfortable with clerks and non-graduates with a Bachelor's Degree or less do the work required of a librarian. It is dismal and disheartening. While these libraries who follow this practice may not have the funds to pay a professional and mean well. However, for the people that they serve this is a disaster. It cheapens the profession, library services and libraries in general. It would be far better if state libraries and library associations withhold the credentials and state aid of these libraries until they have at least one Library Science graduate on staff. This may seem harsh but in the long run it will strengthen libraries across the board. For those who would argue that every community deserves a library, the response should be that every community deserves access to a library. It's not the quantity of libraries that's important, its the quality. There is good news for the library professionals in the way of finding opportunities to work. Librarians are realizing just how versatile their education has helped them to become. A librarian is at the core knows the value of the commodity called information. Bring people and information together is done at a public library everyday. Yet, that's not the only place this can happen. Not only that, with a little imagination and creativity, there's no telling what librarians can conjure up to help our fellow man and child. Yes, the good news is that we have accomplished much this year. The better news is that the world is waiting for librarians to take charge in navigating the digital information maze. The best news is that there are so many talented librarians who can take this challenge on successfully and creatively! Here's to an exciting 2013!
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
This is the season where wishes and dreams come true. Where little ones hop onto a jolly old man's lap and give a list of all the things they dream about all year long. Librarians are no different. Yes, its true many may be older and wiser. The case can be made that librarians share the same child like curiosity and wonder as those little ones who sit in storytimes. Of course, the "real" Santa does not normally grant wishes to grown ups but perhaps this might be the year where the jolly old man from the North Pole might find it in his heart to grant a wish or two from the dozen presented here. (By the way for the little ones who are wondering who the "real" Santa is, here's a hint: He's not at your local mall.) So Santa, for librarians everywhere who are hoping for a little Christmas miracle in their libraries, here is a list of Christmas gifts that is sure to put a smile on every librarians' face and for their patrons too. 1. A big spacious library that offers everything for everybody. A spacious children's room for youngsters to explore or find a quite spot to read. Plenty of study and meeting rooms for group discussions. Programming facilities that provides good views from any seating area and comfortable seating to boot. 2. Two great conferences for the library professionals to grow, exchange ideas and bring back to their communities a whole host of exiting ideas that will help their patrons receive the very best library service possible. 3. Three wise and wonderful library advocates that represent the community either locally, statewide or nationally. Yes, librarians would love community leaders such as mayors, state representatives, and congressmen to not only understand the challenges of libraries today but also be the voice needed to represent libraries on every level. It would be wonderful if the entire legislature were pro-libraries but at this point, librarians aren't greedy. Three to start with would be wonderful. 4. Four more hours in the day to read all the wonderful books that stir the imagination and make reader's advisory a joyful part of the profession. As it is now, reading book reviews are the closest that librarians get to reading the actual books. As the saying goes, so many books so little time! 5. Five incredibly awesome Author visits that can make any dull book discussion group rock! Many authors are the best advocates for libraries. Having them visit libraries is like having Madonna go to a music store to promote music appreciation. 6. Six publishers (and they know who they are) who finally see the light that libraries are not their foes. Libraries are indeed their friends. The gift that would be best here relates to e-books and pricing. If all six publishers would re0think their pricing for libraries and make it economical for everyone involved what a much nicer world it would be to see print and electronic text coexists in the library. 7. Seven generous philanthropists who would not only donate funds to help libraries meet the demands of a changing digital information driven world but help in annual fundraising campaigns also. 8. Eight weeks of Summer Reading Programs that are wonderful, creative, inexpensive and suited for every age. Who wants to cut summer short because the funding was not there? Rhetorical question but if anyone is still trying to figure out the answer they are not a true library lover. l 9. Nine teens leaping to get to computers that have all the resources plus the opportunity to "like" their favorite library on Facebook. Maybe they might even retweet a librarian or two? 10. Ten year millage that is renewed every ten years without fail and with full community support --- and that would be for every library in every city in every state. Well, that may be extreme but perhaps settling for our own communities would be acceptable. 11. Eleven pipers who daily sing the praises of libraries and help with free positive PR that every library needs on a daily basis Social media has made getting the positive word out about what libraries offer. Get those eleven pipers pipping away in the real world as well as the virtual one 12. Twelve months of library programming that keeps the patrons begging for more. Which in turn, will inspire the librarians to come up with twelve more months of wonderful programming for the the next year. Without a doubt, Santa can handle these requests. As Christmas Eve approaches, librarians will hang their stockings with care, snuggle up with a good book and wait for Santa to arrive at their library. Hopefully with at least one of these big items in his bag.
Sunday, December 16, 2012
The shootings at Sunny Hook Elementary School has shocked not only the community it served but the country as well. Who hasn't heard the horror stories and shed a few tears over the lost lives of the innocent children and the faculty members who gave their lives in trying to protect them? This act of violence has changed this nation greatly and the consequences of the change are yet to be seen. Whenever a tragedy like this occurs, parents and educators look for answers on how to explain the unexplainable to the children in their lives. The hardest part of finding the answers is looking for the right material that isn't preachy but not too practical that it ignores the emotions and struggles of the reader. There are few books that find that balance and here are a review of some to the titles. As with any book, it is strongly suggested that parent and child read together. Especially when many questions will be raised by the child. When I Feel Scared by Cornelia Maude Speilman touches on the range of emotions children feel when they are insecure. This book is perfect for the younger child in its simplicity and soothing suggestions of what to do to cope with the feelings. It also is a good reminder for children that it is okay to feel scared sometimes. For older children a simple book like Speilman is obviously not going to help them. Nationally known commentators Rabii Mark Gellman and Monsignor Thomas Hartman have written a book which helps children deal with the headlines in our media-centric world in a positive, sensitive, and sometime humorous way. Bad Stuff In The News: A guide to Handling the Headlines deals with the many different story lines such as terrorist attacks, senseless violence as well as other topics that may be unsettling for children. What is also very helpful in this book is the discussion of simple acts of comfort that help in the process of healing. Quite frankly, this should be the go to book for educators, librarians and parents who deal with children on a day to day basis. Eve Bunting has written eloquently on many topics that are sensitive and hard to explain. In The Memory String Bunting tells the story of a little girl who has a string of buttons, each button is a connection to someone she has lost in her family. While the story is one of personal loss its message of dealing with grief and finding hope to carry on is right on target. This story may inspire readers to find their own way to "honor" the memories of the innocent children and heroes that died on December 14 2012. These are just a few books that can help adults help children in tragic situations when answers are not easily found. Each title mentioned here are available at a local library or bookstore. The main important ingredient to helping children deal with loss is a good dose of hugs, reassurance and love. Children can never receive too much love. Also as adults, it is hard to remember that its okay not to have all the answers. If a tough question from a child comes your way, be honest and say "I don't know." Children will appreciate the honesty. At the posting of this blog a complete list of books to help parents, educators and children is being produced. For a complete list of books please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
With the jolly holly Christmas season coming ever so closer. Now would be the perfect time make a list of the many gifts that libraries give to their community and patrons all year round. To be honest this list could be one hundred items long but for the sake of time and attention span this list will contain the most important items. Not only that but the list is easy to remember because it is categorized using the dewey decimal system. Life couldn't get easier, could it? Beginning with the 000, the area affectionately known as "general knowledge". The everyday mundane questions are answered here. What is the average size of a Bengal Tiger? Look that up in the World Book Encyclopedia (030 W). How does one figure out Windows XP? Tons of books for that in 005. So why need to go any farther than that? Seriously simple life questions are found here. However, everyone knows that libraries often go above and beyond the call of duty. If the question of life and it's meaning can be found anywhere it would be in the 100 section of the library. Yes, general answers as well as the deeper meaning of life can be found between the hallowed stacks of the library. Not to mention if one were to drift farther down the stacks they would find the world religions and might find the ultimate answers to life's deep questions. Either that or at least find their a spirituality that is uniquely uplifting. Okay corny but true. Libraries can be very inspiring and uplifting. Consider that gift number two and three. Moving along into the 300's libraries offer the gift of understanding complex organizations, rules and laws. Without libraries political think tanks would not be able to complete their research. It goes without saying that these bookshelves in this area would be bare if political figures who had the desire to run for President didn't pen their tomes. Could this be a blessing or a curse? Let's consider it a blessings for now. Language opens up communications and understanding between people. Libraries have always been about communicating, understanding and bring people together. In the 400's the dictionaries and grammar books of all languages are available for self study. If one is lucky enough, some cultural groups will gather at the library to not only teach the language but also the customs at library programs. Who needs the UN when the libraries can bring the world together through books and programming? Our modern world not have been possible without the advances made in Science and Technology. All the complex issues of the day such as understanding the functions of the human body, fixing a car or getting a view of the inside of a space rocket can all be found here. What is even more amazing is that all of these wonderful discoveries are in print for anyone to find at the library. Following the theory that all things are connected by a common thread. It is quite possible that the world would not have known the genius of Einstein if had not been for libraries. It's all here in black and white, libraries are responsible for the discovery of many wonderful scientific and technological advances in our times. What an awesome gift! The arts and literature have often held a mirror to society for the purpose of introspection. Great paintings plays and novels all contain the "view" of how society behaves or in some cases misbehaves. Whether the picture is rosy or bleak the library has kept these treasures for the next generations to enjoy. Libraries have given their community the beauty of art and appreciation of the wisdom in words. It's quite possible that Shakespeare and other great writers would never had been known if it weren't for libraries. Perhaps the most valuable gift of all is found in the 900. History. The past is a tool that can not have a value placed on it. History tells us who we are where we have been and hopefully can direct us on the right path to follow. Presidents have relied on history books to aid in decision making. One president that comes to mind Lincoln loved reading so much that it could be said that he read his way into the White House. Would it be too boastful to say that libraries have contributed to the education of some of America's finest Presidents? No not really. Somewhere in Lincoln's life there had to have been a library or two that held the books that helped Lincoln be the president he was. It isn't that much of a stretch to believe that he may have had helped from resourceful librarians. As a way of summarizing the grand list of Libraries' gift to the community if not the world The list is as followed: general knowledge the meaning of life, uplifting experiences, understandings of complex government and laws, communications and understanding of cultures, advances in science and technology, safeguarding treasures in art and literature and finally the keys to the past and the future. These are many and priceless gifts and one can honestly say, a community would surely be lost without their library.
Monday, December 10, 2012
Reading is a very personal activity. What motivates a reader to finish a book or not is a mystery. Was the story lacking a plot? Was the writing style too flowery or just too plain? Where the characters engaging? All of these questions are valid to be asking from a publisher's and author's point of view. Even valid from the standpoint of a librarian who is considering whether a book is a worthwhile investment for the library. How are these questions answered? Before the digital era, publishers relied on sales of books to determine popularity and prosperity of an author's work. There was also the opportunity to have prominent reviews to promote the book before the publication, but by and large sales have always driven the market. For librarians determine what will circulate based on bestsellers and reviews. With e-readers things have changed slightly. Publishers now have the ability to track the reader's habits by gathering information digitally. They types of information they gather can be how many times an author's work is downloaded or how quickly do readers read through a book. This may seem innocent enough in the e-reader digital friendly era, but should there be some concerns for librarians about protecting the privacy of their patrons? Perhaps now is the best time to explore these issues. If the information that the publishers are receiving from e-readers download is simply to find out how popular an author is by then number of downloads, that is not a serious issue. That action in itself is not violating the readers right to privacy. However, what if the publishers were doing more than just seeing the number of downloads. Is there a possibility that other information could be obtained such as the types of books downloaded? Nonfiction? Fiction? Titles that deal with sensitive health issues or political views? Most readers might say that its okay for publishers and authors to find out what they are reading. After all this might motivate publishers to continue working with authors to write and publish the stories people like to read. Could there be a time when this information could be sold? Could this information get into the wrong hands where it could be used against the reader? Not to sound like an alarmist who believes that Big Brother is beginning to control all aspects of life, but it does seem a little creepy that reading habits could be monitored. After all, as stated previously, reading is an activity that is purely personal. There was a time, not too long ago, when getting an email required that a user subscribed to an internet provided such as AOL. Not true anymore. If users don't mind their email scanned for key words used for marketing. An email address is as simple as signing up for one in a matter of minutes. What has this got to do with digital reading? Plenty. Just as there are row away email addresses and disposable cell phones what would stop publishers from marketing e-readers that are one time use only, very cheap and to keep the cost down companies like NIke can advertise on the e-readers through pop-up ads. Don't think this would happen? It could especially with magazines and newspapers trying to find ways to stay afloat these days. Never mind the fact that more throw away gimmicks and technology will fill up garbage trucks faster than landfills. The ability of a company to "bother" the consumer while reading is enough to make any lover of print book to scream "I told you e-readers are awful!" Who would want to be interrupted during a pivotal part of story with an pop-up ad from Amazon? Frankly, this is another invasion of privacy but more annoying than intruding. One other thing to consider is that everything it seems is on the internet. Personal information work history, pictures and just about anything under the blue moon. There are times when searching the net or social media where the TMI moment happens more often than not. Librarians have always been at the forefront of protecting the privacy of their patrons. In the brave new world of digital access this will be harder to achieve. Libraries that are offering the Kindle or Nook for checkout to their patrons should be considering how "private" those devices are. Would a patron have the ability to see what other books were downloaded by the previous patrons? Amazon has a wonderful way of keeping track of what has been downloaded and suggests similar titles for the reader to consider. Would this not come up when Patron X checks out a Kindle after Patron Y? Libraries should not be loaning these items out until an e-reader is made specifically for the library market that allows for libraries to control content and history of downloads. E-readers like any other computer device, can be manipulated for purposes that might not be so noble. Certainly, this is an era where libraries are approaching with a mix of caution and excitement. The possibilities that technology has brought forth are fascinating. However, there continues to be the small black cloud of worry that follows the profession. Can library professionals continue to protect privacy and information of their patrons? It is a loaded question to be sure but it needs to be addressed and discussed.
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
There are very few books that seem to be tailored just for the library professional. There are always a title or two will come up that librarians will fall for and instantly recommend for their peers as well as their patrons. Rarely,however is there a book that talks exclusively about books and how the readers respond to the stories. The End Of Your Life Book Club does just that. Schwalbe writes a touching tribute to his mother and their shared love of books in his recent best selling tome. However, it does more than that, it inspires anyone who comes across this book to read and think more deeply. It is a definitely a book for the librarian in all of us. The thought that comes across first after reading this book is whether this title would be a good catalyst to begin a book club. It's not. Not because it is not well written. It is. Also not because it is a sad story and talks about death. It is sad but hopeful in a way that can't be explained. As a book club reading it delves deeper into the books and sometimes into the minds of the authors who wrote them. At times, it felt a little like a English lecture about the writers and their works. This is not a bad thing. It was wonderful indeed. However, in thinking about the books, the authors, and their words, it all came together that this is a very intimate book about how stories affect our lives and thoughts. This is truly meant to be a book club for two not six or ten or more. Having said that, there may still be a way to use this book for the purpose of a book club. Use the appendix. The appendix provides an alphabetical listing of the books,poems and plays that were mentioned. This handy list is perfect for the reader to search out the gems discussed at their local library or bookstore. For the librarian who is looking to start a book club, this is where to begin. (The Irony of starting at the end is not lost here. More than likely, Mary Anne Schwalbe would have done the same.) It is a wonderful mix of old and new titles. Will Schwalbe is a talented writer and clearly loves the written word as his mother did. It is touching to see that his mother's passion for reading extended outside the United States to Afghanistan. One of her last projects in life was to help raise money to build a library in Kabul and along with that a traveling library to go to the remote parts of Afghanistan to reach children who are in need of books. It warms a librarian's heart. Perhaps this is why the book is truly meant for librarians. It touches the core of what our profession strives to do everyday: connect people to stories that teach us about ourselves and our world. Nicely done Mr. Schwalbe nicely done.
Monday, December 3, 2012
There is good news out there in the reading world. Could anyone have guessed that young adults are reading and using their libraries? It really shouldn't be a surprise to those working in libraries and bookstores. With the slew of writers in the Young Adult genres that keep producing compelling stories that has readers begging for more this certainly not a surprise. Every generation no matter if the times are good or bad, everyone loves a good story. When the Pew Research recently presented their findings on the habits of young readers there were a couple of surprises. (Younger Americans Reading and Library Habits, October 23 3012) One surprise that instantly leaps out of the report is the format usage for younger readers. It is interesting to note that young adult (16-29) who read books in the past 12 months, read a print version more often than an e-book or audio book. This seems to be odd coming from the generation that basically grew up with the Internet, gaming systems and cell phones. Why would the numbers be so lopsided? There could be many reasons which can start with economics situation at home to a child's school policy which prohibits all types of electronic gadgets in schools, including cellphones and e-readers. This is not to say that this age group is not adapting to technology, it simply just may be that print is still an acceptable format for books. As the e-readers grow in popularity and usage it should be interesting to revisit how reading habits will change yet again. High school students are more likely to use the library more frequently than any other age group. This can be attributed to the need for completing homework assignments. High schoolers are also open to receiving book suggestions from a librarian. In the same survey, over 50% of high schoolers said that they did not think that libraries were that important in their lives. Looking at the overall picture of the survey this isn't necessarily a bad view. It simply means that the young adults today will more than likely support the library as adults. To take it a step further, the stretch can be made that they will be the patrons that will embrace technology changes within the library. Libraries will always have to compete for every tax dollar from the citizens. If they are not up-to-date with technology or simply serving a small population seeking to stay with a "print" majority, the library will lack relevance not only directly to the community they serve but in their counties and states. It's not a bad idea to begin a program called No Library Left Behind to help smaller libraries keep up with the technological trends. Thus keeping them relevant in the eyes of their community. Perhaps the most fascinating part of the survey is that high schoolers did not know that e-book borrowing was available at the library. Could it be that they are walking into a library and are following the adage what you see is what you get? Changing this perception may take time since most teens hate asking "What services do you offer?" for fear that they may look silly asking the question. As the library begins to shift towards to digital reading, the progress will be gradual. Keeping this in mind it will have to be every librarians' duty to promote e-contents and help patrons discover and use them effectively. This comes from the top down. This includes the Library Directors who should promote the technology to local officials and agencies to the circulation clerk when assisting patrons to check out books asking the question "Do you know you can borrow e-books at this library?" The whole survey is good news for libraries. It is a good indication that the support for libraries is strong across all age levels. That should make the "Year" if not the "decade" for every librarian. This study definitely points to the need for libraries now and twenty years from now. Once again proof that libraries are not dead yet. In fact, it should be said out loud, libraries are not even on life support. Given the right leadership and willing tho grow with the challenges of new technology there should be no reason for any library to have to close its doors ever.
Saturday, December 1, 2012
The age old question of what children literature should discuss and shouldn't is about as old as the bible itself. Many public and school libraries have had to deal with concerns from parents over the years about suitable topics for children in books. Thus the American Library Association (ALA)provides support for libraries dealing with patrons challenging a particular book in the library's collection. Books from Are you there God, it's me Margaret (Blume) to Harry Potter Series (Rowlings) have survived the parental questionings and remained on the shelves. This may seem to be a Win for the library's advocacy of children's rights however, it may also be a reasons why some claim that librarians are not flexible and deaf to parents concerns and needs. The child, it seems, is the only one who has rights that are to be protected. Perhaps, this is as good as time as any to examine the concerns that parents have about topics that are controversial and sensitive. To get this topic out of the way, we will begin with discussing the "outing" of famous people in history. In the children's Biography Series Giants of Science, author Kathleen Krull is not shy about tackling topics such as Issac Newtnn's sexuality. suggesting that the brilliant scientist who discovered Calculus, may have been gay. If parents object to this book, (on a personal note: I have worked at a library where it was challenged.) there is good reason for them to do ask that it be removed. Why? There is no documentation that supports Newton's "sexuality" nor is it relevant to his contributions to science. In addition to that, nine year olds do not need to be side tracked with what Newton may or may not have believed in a book that is marked as "true". Children need to understand the difference between fact, fiction and it could be. At nine years old, let's make it easier on the child and stick with the facts and the facts only. Librarians who insist on leaving the book on the shelve on the basis that it had good reviews do a disservice to the community and to the profession. AS librarians, we are not to discriminate about the viewpoints of books on the basis of whether we agree or disagree. Having said that, librarians should also demand accountability from the author and publisher that what they put in print it accurate. If it is a personal opinion of the author that a historic figure may have been gay, then that should be disclosed as such. Also, as noted before if it is information that is essential to telling the story of a person's work, then by all means put it in the book. One question that never gets asked it seems is this: would a nine year old doing a paper on Great Scientists like Newton need to know that the scientist may have been a homosexual? Let's reverse that, would it be important to know he was heterosexual? Sex has always been a sensitive topic between adults and children. When is it too early to talk about the topic? There should be a common sense approach here. Not all children are the same. Not all parents think the same ways about sex. Librarians are to merely help locate information for the patrons not demand that all parents allow all children to read whatever they want. Parents often times feel as though they are looked down by "professionals" who think they know children better than parents simply because they have a degree. The gray area of the profession is leading patrons to the information they want and not necessarily what librarians think is a better and alternative information. Is this suggesting that all librarians have an agenda and steer patrons to information that may be misleading? No of course not but if the professional journals and publishers are any indication that all topics are on the table, controversial or not, there is a distinct possibility that protests against certain titles will continue. Librarians must be able to have the freedom to say that not all books are worth defending. Some truly have an agenda that is simply blatant propaganda. Again, harking back to the need for documentation. Another topic that ways heavily on parents mind is the topic of suicide. Should young adults novels delve into the topic and explore what happens when a friend decides that suicide is their only answer. Again it's touchy subject and one that should be treated with sensitivity. One of the complaints that parents may make is that these books may "glorify" suicide and tempt their children to see this as a way out of their problems. One of the best books that deals with this topic very well and does not glorify the act of suicide is Thirteen Reasons Why. It is a haunting book about a girl who has committed suicide and leaves behind an audio tape to her friend to listen to after she was gone. As the title suggests, she gives her friend thirteen reasons why she choose to end her life. It is sad, compelling and makes the reader think about the words that they say and how they affect their friends. Should this book be off the shelf? Yes, as in checked out by parents and their children. Dealing with difficult topics such as these does require some adult handling. It's not a bad idea for parents to read the books their children are reading and have an open discussion about the topic. Books can be a great communication. It is with great reluctance to leave the discussion with a sense that any books about homosexuality, drugs, suicide, sex or rape are topics should never be brought into books for children. There is a time a place to introduce sensitive topics to children. Sexuality does not belong in a picture book or chapter books written for children in lower elementary. For that matter, the other topics mentioned shouldn't be discussed to the young ones either. As a child grows older and a serious discussion can be held with them about sensitive topics than it should be up to the parent to decide when and how the topic will be discussed. Certainly there is a role for librarians and teachers to play here but it is a small part. Children's minds are inquisitive, imaginative and inspiring. It's the professional's responsibility to handle it with care and help them learn. Parents must handle their child's learning experience with care as well. Where professionals teach, the parents responsibility to help their children , take what they have learned and apply it to make life better. In the case of social cultural issues, it is important to trust that parents will do the right thing and help children deal with sensitive topics in positive ways.