Friday Focus

Friday, August 19, 2022, vol. 10, no. 3

Friday Focus is a quick digest of news and notes

for members of The Indianapolis Public Library Shared System.

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What's a Nice Book Like You Doing on a Shelf Like This?

Book challenges are crossing state lines, popping up all over the country. In January 2022, Williamson County Schools in Tennesse issued a report on 31 texts included in "Wit and Wisdom," a K-5 English language arts curriculum. The books were challenged by members of the community; only a third of whom had students enrolled in grades K-5. The books were challenged for "being obscene, 'critical race theory,' or inappropriate for elementary-age children." Please refer to the full article in Chalkbeat ( for detailed information. The article opens with a well-designed graphic highlighting and grouping the book jackets that were challenged for particular reasons.

The school district's Committee for the Reconsideration of Instructional Materials issued a report summarizing the comments made about each of the titles, as well as the committee's response. In some instances, the committee made some changes to how the book was presented (for example, don't show pages 13-14), but just one book was removed. The Committee gives much credit to the teachers' ability to manage difficult conversations that might come up in classroom discussion of the titles, which is heartening.

While it's not in the Wit and Wisdom curriculum (it's probably too long), it's good to remember the The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has faced its share of foes in Tennessee and elsewhere*. In 1986, an attempt was made to have it removed from the "public school syllabus" in Tennessee because the challengers said, among other things, there was no such thing as good witches. The challenge made it as far as the Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case. Not its first challenge rodeo, unfortunately. In 1957, WWoO was banned by the Detroit Public Library because it had "no value for children of today," and "supported 'negativism and brought children's minds to a cowardly level.'" And back in 1928, "all public libraries banned the book arguing that the story was ungodly for 'depicting women in strong leadership roles."

To get a look at the list of 31 titles challenged in Tennessee, I created a Bibliocommons list. You could use them for a Banned Books Week display, you could see if you own copies, or you could request some old favorites from the list!

*"Read Banned Books: The Wizard of Oz" on the University of Tulsa, Department of Special Collections and University Archives website.

It's Not Just in Tennessee

The Washington Post, published Wednesday a sweeping review of what teachers, librarians, principals, and school boards are doing to protect themselves from being accused of providing inappropriate materials. The reporter noted "Everywhere, the books targeted are mostly written by and about people of color and LGBTQ individuals, according to analyses conducted by the American Library Association and PEN America." Teachers are culling their classroom libraries. Librarians are being asked to have parent committees approve their purchases. One school library is offering a tiered level of access signed off on by parents. The tiers range from complete access to everything, to only those titles on the list provided by your parents.

One idea, emailing parents when the child checks out a book, could be seen as censorship. This feature is available through Polaris, as you know. You or your families could add an email to the student's account and select what type of notifications to receive. This doesn't have to be looked at as censorship! Don't we want families to decide what books their kids should read (not my kids, their kids)? For younger students, those books could end up anywhere and families might not know they're in the house! The email notification will also ensure families are not surprised by lost books at the end of the school year. Once a student knows how to manage their own library account, they can remove their family's email address if they want to or have that conversation at home!

Building relationships can help avoid trouble. Know your colleagues. Talk to teachers. Talk to other library staff (the directory is on WeShare, or send me a question for the community). Talk to your school administrator. Make sure you have a written book challenge policy and that you and your admin agree to follow it. More than anything else, as much as you can, communicate with families. Show up on back to school night, at volleyball games, or parent/student/teacher conference days. Open your library to them. Ask questions, and let them get to know - and trust - you!

You can read the whole Washington Post article in the proQuest Global Newstream online database. If you're not reading this in an IndyPL location, you'll have to login with your library card.

Note that no books were censored for the photo accompanying this article.

They're in one of our large recycle bins!

Get Ready for Banned Books Week Sept. 18-24

Visit the American Library Association Banned and Challenged Books site for free downloads of flyers and social media. If you're new to the library, or new to the cause, you might also look at the FAQs, and the activity ideas. If you get really into it, you might shop for stickers, bookmarks or bracelets!


Written by a teen outreach librarian, the blog post School & Public Librarian Partnerships Are a Beautiful Thing offers some ideas for partnership, but also for those going it alone. Like having a limited number of library passes available in the cafeteria so students can get to you during their limited free time. Or making sure snacks were available! Biggest lesson, though? Making a connection! High school librarians and teen librarians are doing their best to find an audience in a very crowded field. Working together has its advantages!

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Speaking of Teenagers, Do You Have Any with Opinions?

David Jakes Designs is working with the architects planning the re-envisioning of the Learning Curve at Central Library. A long-time high school teacher, David Jakes is good at talking with teenagers. He just needs more teenagers to talk to! If you have some middle school or high school students who would like to spend some time with you and David in a Zoom conversation about what they like about library space, let me know. Your students have a chance to make a contribution to teenagers that could last 15 or 20 years!

David interviewed the middle school students who regularly take over "his" Starbucks when school lets out to find out why they liked coming there every day. They told him they liked being around adults, and they liked being treated like adults. I think they liked that Starbucks let them bring pizza in. They also liked that it wasn't school!

If you can get 15 students with opinions about libraries, we'll find some pizza for them!

By the Numbers; On Peas and Lima Beans

The article in last week's Friday Focus pulling some of the findings from the IREAD-3 test scores generated a little bit of conversation. One librarian wrote that she wasn't aware how drastic the achievement gaps were. Another took issue with my comment that making your kids love reading isn't your job.

Here's what I wrote last week:

That's like saying you're going to make your kids love peas or lima beans. Can't be done. It's a matter of taste. Your job is to put books into kids' hands that they WANT to read, so that they DO read. When they read, they practice the reading skills they're learning in class, they grow their vocabulary, they develop background knowledge about all the other stuff they're going to be learning in the future. And when they develop those reading skills, they, you know, do better on statewide reading tests.

The librarian responded:

I believe some of the most important work I do is helping kids to develop a love of reading. By cultivating a diverse collection that is responsive to the interests of my readers, by book talking and more impactfully, by the one-on-one conversations I have with reluctant readers I can help connect them to something they are engaged with. Will all children love to read? Of course not. But I have seen time and time again that getting the right book to the right reader can break a student's perception that they don't love reading. I have seen students who identified as nonreaders blossom into readers with some guidance and the right books.

I told her I don't disagree with anything she wrote. We used the same means, and occasionally met the same ends, but began with different goals. Some kids will develop a love for peas and lima beans after enough exposure and enthusiasm expressed by others. Some kids will develop a love of reading, and when you're a part of that, it's enormously satisfying. I also got a lot of satisfaction when kids chose to read a book in the library tent instead of run around the gym during the school carnival. They didn't necessarily love reading, they just chose to read that day, if only for ten minutes. Still a win in my book! I think we're both right!

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Kadir Nelson to Give Marian McFadden Lecture Next Month

Kadir Nelson will give the Marian McFadden Lecture on Thursday, Sept. 29th at the Madam Walker Legacy Center. He was supposed to visit in 2020, and again in 2021, but the COVID numbers at the time prohibited travel and large gatherings. The online database, NoveList, provides a complete list of his books* (there are 31!) with summaries, reading levels, and links to our catalog.

Salt in His Shoes , about Michael Jordan's determination to become a great basketball player, is one of my favorites. I bought a copy for my father-in-law, a huge Michael Jordan fan, after he had a stroke and had to start a long round of physical therapy. I highly recommend it for students in need of encouragement to persevere!

Wouldn't it be great if your students could get to know Kadir's work before they came to hear him in person? You could use the book list above to add titles you don't already own to a display. You could create a poster of all his book jackets and ask students to vote for their favorite. Looking at the covers in chronological order, you might ask how his work has changed over the years. And how it has stayed the same.

To learn more about Kadir's work, visit the IndyPL website post about his upcoming lecture . There are links to his website, several interviews, and photos of his work.

Mark your calendars now!

*This is an Ebsco link. Unless you're working in a public library, you may need to login with your IndyPL library card to access the list.

Hello Shared System Friends!

I am a supervisor librarian in the Learning Curve at Central Library, and I’d like to extend an invitation to visit our space with your students! My job is to lead our team of Youth Multimedia Learning Specialists in developing and presenting engaging STEAM activities to youth. We can also provide instruction for using IndyPL resources (using the catalog, placing holds, navigating databases, etc). All of the activities we offer align to Indiana Academic Standards.

I was once a Shared System library manager, so I know how busy this time of year is for you. If what I mentioned fits a need for you and your students, please reach out to schedule a field trip. Our schedule fills up quickly, so the sooner the better! Field trips can be organized by emailing

Sending positive vibes for a great new school year!

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World Book at Your School

The start of the school year is the perfect time to remind teachers their World Book encyclopedia doesn't sit on a shelf anymore! IndyPL patrons have access to all the resources pictured above. In addition to encyclopedia articles, students can create and modify timelines. The whole class can read the same ebook together for free. And those traditional encyclopedia articles? Well, not so traditionally, they can now be translated online into 100 different languages.

A quick intro to the encyclopedia resource for your teachers can be found on the World Book training site. You could attach the pdf directly to an email to teachers as pdfs are full of links

To get to the World Book from anywhere, use this link and login with your library card.

If you are in the Shared System, please check to make sure you can login to World Book without using a library card. If not, then we do not have your IP address on file with them. Please ask your IT person for help finding your IP address!

Q&A: Multiple holds and Record Sets

Q: Do you have the correct settings for the receipt printer? Mine are set incorrectly and are printing out like a CVS receipt!! LOOOONG! LOL

A: Yep! Login to WeShare and scroll down a tiny bit on this page: You will likely need to know how to change these settings if you get a new computer or new printer, or are logging in to a computer for the first time. Too bad our receipts don't include coupons...

Q: I bought a book at Goodwill this weekend that turns out is an IndyPL book! It does not appear to be discarded. It is the Chinese version of Runaway Bunny. Here's the barcode. Can you tell me whether I should drop it back at the library, or if it is a discarded book?

A: It must have been so long overdue that it fell out of the system. If the book is in good condition, the selector would like to reinstate it since we don’t have many picture books in Chinese. I’m so sorry! You can put it in the drop box at any branch and it will make its way to the selector. If it’s not in great shape (you be the judge!), then please keep it as she will likely put it in our book sale! Thanks for being so thoughtful!

Q: I had a teacher come in last night to check items for her school. She already has a regular card and a school card for her part time job as a teacher. She was asking about getting another card for her full time job also as teacher. Can a teacher have two school cards? She is a teacher 2x. 😊 I assumed no, but anything is possible. 😊

A: {Some discussion here about who has the energy to teach part time AND full time. Turns out she teaches summer school and during the regular year as well.) Her fall school should look up her card from her summer school, change the registered location to the fall school and set the expiration date for the last day of school in the spring. Her summer school would then do the same with summer dates. She would just have two cards. Her personal card, and the second card which would change registered location depending on where she is teaching.

Q: I need to get a barcode scanner for the library. What kind should I get?

A: You should get the kind IndyPL uses in case you have questions. You can find the specs on a staff page on WeShare. However, I just heard someone bought one for ONE TENTH OF THE PRICE. It’s probably not as sturdy, but you’d have to buy a new one every year for ten years to make up for it. It doesn’t have a stand, and you will definitely want a stand that it will fit into, so you’ll need to look for that. Lastly, IndyPL will not be able to offer tech support since we use only the heavy duty more expensive ones. If for some reason it stops working, you would have to figure out why. This prevents our staff from having to learn how to troubleshoot 100 different kinds of barcode scanners!

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Monday, August 22nd - Teen Intro to Dungeons & Dragons at Lawrence
Tuesday, August 23rd - Taco Tuesday for Teens & Tweens at Haughville

September 11 - History of the Negro National League at Central

Saturday, Sept. 17th - Eiteljorg celebrates Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day - free admission

Thursday, Sept. 29th - Kadir Nelson gives the annual Marian McFadden Memorial Lecture

Friday, Oct. 7th - Tuesday, Oct. 11th - Indy Library Store Book Sale