The National Post asks a good question: Is the future going out of print? Is it? Is it?
I don’t know, to be honest. But what I do know is that I’m in Library school, a lover of pulp, and a person who sold my Kobo on Kijiji because I hated it. In short, I hope not.
I know, the title sounds like some B-list horror movie, but I promise, it’s not. No, the Human Library is literally that, an event put on the by the Government of Canada at the 2016 Innovation Fair, whereby public servants lucky enough to attend the event were invited to “sign-out” various experts in order to better understand different government roles.
In their own words, “The Human Library will provide participants with an interactive networking opportunity to learn about the diverse experiences of public servants. Enabling public servants to ‘check-out’ a human book and share their experiences with one another will help build relationships and break down stereotypes contributing towards a healthier and more respectful workplace.”
This is the best darn idea I’ve ever heard, and it got me thinking about the types of humans I’d like to check out:
Astronauts! My childhood dream job, I find astronaut-ing interesting and magical! I’d love to sign-out an astronaut for an hour and pick her brain about the view, zero-gravity, homesickness, and the rigorous amount of work required to prevent the onset of madness.
Giller Prize Winners! My adult dream job (LOL), I’ve long fantasized about accepting this weird statue and the $100,000 cheque (I hope it’s one of those huge lottery-style ones!). I’d ask him about his methods, his sacrifices, and what I should wear when I accept mine.
Hockey Players! Because, um, well, uh…
Can I have this?
As we’ve already established, I’m in love with Vice. A few months back (I’m catching up, people!), the UK edition pointed out that 350(!) libraries in the UK have closed in the last 6 years (with 111 more due to close in 2017), costing over 8000 people their jobs, and diminishing some of the last free community spaces left in the country. In an era where the ignorant often chime in with the helpful “just google it!”, Vice asked several people what they were doing at the library.
What do we do at the library? I don’t know about you, but I like to leaf through magazines, especially the preposterous and pretentious Toronto Life. I also like to skim the fiction section and read the synopses written on the backs of the books (or the inside front cover, one of my greatest pet peeves). Yesterday, as per a class assignment, I tried to look busy while I eavesdropped on some children’s programming. Basically, anything goes. What do you like to do at the library?
I’m currently enrolled in a Children’s Material class, in which we read and discuss books intended for kids up to the age of 7. Something we talk about a lot is representations of diversity, or lack thereof, in children’s books. Are publisher’s afraid that people won’t buy books that feature families of different races, ethnicities, creeds, or lifestyles? Why are some of the most frequently challenged children’s books about same-sex couples? Why do we consistently see children’s stories illustrated with anthropomorphic animals instead of racially diverse humans?
As my home and native land celebrates 149 years of confederation today, I’m thinking a lot about what makes Canada, well, Canada. And, quite frankly, it’s that we offer our citizens liberties and rights and justices that are supposed to protect and celebrate diversity. So why are we squashing it? We should be exposing children to stories and illustrations that reflect different communities, families and realities because different books resonate with different people.
Marley Dias, an 11-year-old girl from New Jersey, believes in this idea. She wanted to know why all the books she read in school featured “white boys and their dogs.” The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Cooperative Children’s Book Center sampled 3000-3500 books in 2014, of which just 179 were about black people, 112 about Asians, 66 about Latinos, and 36 about American Indians. Only roughly 13% of the collection featured diverse characters. That’s gross. So, Marley Dias took it upon herself to collect #1000BlackGirlBooks to send to her mother’s homeland of Jamaica. Why? Because we’re all sick to death of reading books about white boys and their dogs.
Oh man. If you don’t already know this, my favourite news junket is Vice. Created by a once-Canadian (I don’t want to get into it), the publication, as well as its HBO series counterpart, is smart and sassy and often riddled with cursing, so, obviously, it was created specifically for me. A few weeks ago, I was minding my own business, scrolling through the stories via the mobile app, when I caught a phrase that sent a chill down my spine: BANNED BOOKS. Now, I’ll admit that my immediate reaction was that this story was either coming from America’s Heartland, or ISIL-occupied Iraq; but no, dear reader, it was coming from New Zealand.
That’s right! For the first time in 22 years, New Zealand has banned a book. Being caught buying, selling, or lending said book will cost you close to $4000 USD in fines. What, you may ask, could possibly warrant such an extreme penalty? Is it white supremist propaganda? Is it DIY nuclear weaponry? Is it borderline child pornography? NOPE. It’s just your run-of-the-mill award winning young adult fiction.
Ted Dawe’s Into the River was the 2013 winner of New Zealand Post Children’s Book Award, and it includes (GASP!) realistic depictions of drugs and sex, as well as (MY WORD!) swearing. Furthermore, much like the list of most wanted banned books in the US, this one too features a minority teenager, a Maori boy. Dawe worries that the censorship of his novel is indicative of New Zealand’s increasingly conservative leanings. I’m not sure what I find more disturbing: the fact that the last book to have been banned in New Zealand included instructions on how to build a bazooka, or the fact that poor Dawe only learned of the banning of his book by reading about it in a newspaper. You can read the entire interview here.