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Here is the text of my message to the Star-Gazette. Somehow, my last post turned up 
as a HUGE link to the Star-Gazette's web article. 
Dear Ms. Costello, 
I expect that you will receive many responses to your column in the online edition 
of the Star-Gazette. I respectfully add my voice to the cacophony. 
It's easy to bandy about terms such as "scores of librarians," and "banned....from 
numerous libraries across the country, " and "most libraries and bookstores 
automatically order at least two copies of each year's Newbery Medal-winning 
children's books (emphasis mine)." But these statements are nebulous at best and 
irresponsible journalism at worst. 
Who are the "scores" of librarians? Have you talked to multiples of twenty 
librarians who will be banning The Higher Power of Lucky from their libraries? Have 
you found hard evidence that "numerous libraries across the country" are "banning" 
this book? Or have you become caught up in the hyperbole that first appeared in a 
New York Times article that extrapolated exaggerated figures from a small 
discussion on a professional school librarians' mailing list (LM_NET), and which 
now threatens to give lie to the very real respect that librarians have for 
intellectual freedom and the right of children to read whatever they and their 
parents feel is appropriate? 

Before the exaggerations, stereotypes, hyperbolic accusations, and outraged 
protests run away with us, let me tell you what a real librarian thinks. I am a 
middle school Library Media Specialist. I serve a school of seventh and eighth 
grade students in suburban Fairfield County, Connecticut. I have a limited book 
budget. I try very hard to take many things into consideration when selecting 
fiction books for my students. Perhaps the first criteria I look at is interest 
level. Will this book be read by students in my school, or will it languish on the 
shelves for lack of interest? I want to choose books, first and foremost, that my 
kids will READ. I check reviews in respected professional journals such as School 
Library Journal, Voya, Horn Book, among others. I choose books that are at the 
appropriate reading level for my students, which means that I purchase some books 
that are on the lower middle-school level (where Higher Power of Lucky seems to 
fall), and some that are written for the mid-high school level. 

I do take into consideration whether a book is an "award winner", but I DON'T 
automatically purchase "at least two copies of each year's Newbery Award winning 
book." I don't know any librarians who do so. We select. We discriminate. We weigh 
our options. We consider our budgets and our patrons' needs and desires. We buy 
some books that are popular but might not be considered great literature by the 
arbiters of literary taste. We also purchase some books that are wonderfully 
written and will withstand the test of time (modern classics, if you will). I am 
not intimidated by anatomical terms in fiction books. I do not shy away from books 
with controversial themes, such as family dysfunction, alcoholism, gambling, or 
drug abuse, which are prominent in Higher Power.... I've been known to select books 
for my library that have some pretty raw language, much edgier than that found in 
this year's Newbery winner. I make my collection development decisions on a variety 
of criteria, but I will not automatically order a book because it carries a gold 
sticker on its cover. 

Ms. Costello, I don't know how many librarians you've spoken to lately. I don't 
know if you hold the stereotype of the bun-wearing, sensibly-shod, shuusher of 
lore. I don't want to fight the stereotype. I'm tired of having to defend my 
profession from those who believe our members are uptight bluenoses. But your 
column today shows a lack of research, specificity, and knowledge of today's 
librarians. We are all about access to information and literacy materials. We 
defend our patrons' right to find, evaluate and use information responsibly. We 
respect the privacy rights of our patrons. And if our book budgets and shelf space 
would allow, we'd order ten times as many books as we do. 

I still don't know if The Higher Power of Lucky will end up on the shelves of my 
library. I have yet to read the book. And my students seem to be more interested in 
dragons, knights, vampires, and fantasy than social issues and empowerment of 
ten-year-old orphans. I will wait to see what the budget allows and what the buzz 
for books is in my school. I suspect that "scores of librarians" in "numerous 
libraries" throughout the country will do the same. I take the word of the 
venerable New York Times and the mainstream press with a grain of salt these days 
because it seems to me that they are all too willing to accept and perpetuate the 
myth that librarians "ban" books for capricious reasons. I suggest you check your 
facts. If you find that "scores" of librarians are "banning" The Higher Power of 
Lucky from "numerous" libraries, please let us know. And back it up with solid 
figures. We librarians like our information to be verified, concise, unbiased, and 
responsibly presented. 

Respectfully yours, 

Jan Birney, "Media Diva" of Jockey Hollow Middle School, Monroe, Connecticut

Jan Birney, Library Media Specialist
Jockey Hollow Middle School
365 Fan Hill Rd
Monroe, CT 06468

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