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True Stories of Censorship Battles in America’s Libraries

Nye, Valerie and Barco, Kathy (Editors) (2012) 
Chicago, IL.: American Library Association (ALA)
175pages, paperback 
ISBN 9780838911303 
Available from:


Censorship is a deceptively complex issue. Position statements on intellectual freedom published by professional library associations provide clear guidance, from broad ideals through to the nuanced circumstances of particular institutions. In day-to-day practice, however, maintenance and defence of these principles require mental alertness, professional stamina and personal courage. This book of thirty-one contemporary ‘true stories’ provides ample insight into this professional aspect of librarianship. 

Readers will find that both the foreword (written by Ellen Hopkins, author of controversial YA literature) and the editors’ Introduction set the tone of professional experience as the raison d’ĂȘtre for this collection. Biographical notes about contributors and a web address for updates and additional material on the topic supplement this quality. Thirty-one case studies sounds a lot, but these are concisely compiled and categorically arranged within seven thematic sections, each addressing different situational scenarios and a comprehensive variety of censorship challenges. Contrary to my expectation of maybe just sampling each section, I read my way through, from cover to cover, my interest being sustained by the diversity of examples, the authenticity and freshness of each author’s voice and the varying degrees of intellectual challenge they propose. 

The first theme, ‘Sometimes we’re Our Own Worst Enemy’, serves as a salutary warning about the insidious propensity for self-censorship in the library profession. Subsequent theme sections involve all types of libraries and cover a broad scope of issues relating to children, cultural sensitivities, GLBTQ, erotica, pornography, patron confidentiality, vexatious patrons, religious bigotry, nationalism and social control. Situations range from the extreme to the everyday; from intense instances of communal politics through to perverse acts of individual subversion. Throughout, librarians in these stories demonstrate awe-inspiring fidelity to their professional principles, courage in the face of personal vilification, skilful techniques for negotiating confrontation and wisdom in mediating difficult challenges. 

Most importantly, their stories demonstrate the value of having appropriate policies in place to deal with such situations. Policies developed through collaboration between professional expertise and community representatives in matters of the selection of library materials as well as for processes of challenge and reconsideration. In these American case studies, such policies reflect and uphold the ethos and principles embodied in the First Amendment, the ALA Library Bill of Rights and Freedom to Read Statement, the American Civil Liberties Union and other local authorities representing intellectual freedom. 

The librarian’s defence of freedom of speech, freedom to read, and freedom to access information – keeping religious, political and moral bias at bay – is an onerous responsibility, the maintenance of which requires courage and wisdom. But this is the unique mission that libraries and librarians strive to achieve. Collectively, the challenges described in this collection serve as an excellent refresher for professional practice. They invite readers to ponder how they might have dealt with difficult clients, controversial issues and even the occasional defeat. I believe this book offers valuable material for discussion in professional workshops and that it would be extremely useful in library training schools – a purpose the editors anticipate with the inclusion of a comprehensive list of themed discussion questions. Such a thought provoking book deserves strong recommendation. 

Reviewed by Dr Susan Boyce
Member of the Synergy Board

Joint Libraries: Models that Work

Gunnels, Claire B, Green Susan E and Butler, Patricia M (2012)
Chicago, IL: American Library Association (ALA)
220 pages, paperback
ISBN 9780838911389 
Available from:



Based on their own experience and participation in the successful creation of joint school/public libraries, the authors of this book endeavour to provide a ‘clear and up-to-date picture of today’s joint library’. Their enthusiasm for the joint public/academic library concept leads them to ask whether this idea might redefine the concept of ‘library’ as a ground-breaking, adaptable solution for the current climate of changing times and economies, if not for the future. Against this proposal, following chapters provide a history of the model as it has developed in the United States and informed discussions about the distinctive elements of the joint library. These include differences between levels of professional culture, management issues and models, elements of physical design and, significantly, the crucial importance of legal considerations. A chapter devoted to case-studies provides opportunity to bring these considerations to life in a series of usefully illustrative account, which celebrate instances of success and best practice as well as frank acknowledgment of flaws, short-comings, complications and, perhaps most crucial of all, the value of carefully constructed partnership contracts. 

In concluding, the authors return to their question as to whether this model might be a trend for the future. This is a very short section in which the authors reconfirm their original support for the joint library concept, believing it has a role to play in the future evolution of libraries. They do so, however, with some reservation, warning that the quest is not for the faint hearted. Should readers decide to take up the challenge, the authors’ experience documented in this brief text should serve them well. Furthermore, they would be well advised to give close attention to the Appendices which replicate the details of legal agreements formed between parties of three major case-study examples. References, Index and Author notes complete the text. 

Reviewed by Dr Susan Boyce
Member of the Synergy Board

Listening to Learn: Audiobooks Supporting Literacy

Grover, Sharon and Hannegan, Lizette D. (2012)
Chicago, IL: American Library Association (ALA)
200 pages
ISBN13: 978-0-8389-1107-5
Available from:


Current audiobooks can be an avenue to reach those reluctant or struggling readers and to engage them with the written word. The chapters in Listening to Learn: Audiobooks Supporting Literacy introduce some of the research linking audiobook listening and literacy development while presenting many audiobook titles, standards and instructional activities for the classroom, library and home use.

Audiobooks can offer an alternative reading delivery method to boys who may need additional motivation to read. Even for avid readers, audiobooks provide a means of extending their ability to read for pleasure. Audiobooks encourage these readers to slow down and fully grasp the language, humour and context in a work of literature.

In selecting audiobooks, US local, state and national learning standards and frameworks are studied to show how audiobooks can serve as an effective learning tool. These are clearly different from Australian curriculum standards. Nevertheless, there is much in this book that will appeal to Australian teacher-librarians.

Chapters 4 and 5, Audiobooks and Primary School list the audiobooks suitable for Grades K-2 and Grades 3-5, respectively. There is a brief but useful synopsis of the storyline and theme. The audiobooks selected for the primary grades encourage development of comprehension, vocabulary and fluency. Chapter 6, Audiobooks and Middle School, Grades 6-8 provides titles and instructional themes to complete school assignments. There are also excellent stories for this age group: mystery, historical fiction, science, biography, poetry, classics, fantasy and recent award-winning audiobooks.

High school or secondary school students are catered for in Chapter 7, Audiobooks and High School Grades 9-12 to facilitate assignments or reading for pleasure. Included are Charles Dickens’ novels, Shakespeare’s plays and many novels on the Australian scene, such as, Garth Nix’s Sabriel, Melina Marchetta’s Saving Francesca and Philip Pullman’s Sally Lockhart Mysteries trilogy.

Selecting titles according to grade level and subject are key to integrating audiobooks into core curriculum and Chapter 8, Connecting It All presents ideas to support audiobook use in classrooms, libraries and at home. Chapter 9, Technology Innovation Supports Audiobook Use explores options for the delivery of audiobooks. It follows the industry from cassette tape to CD and downloading audiobooks in digital format, such as, an MP3 player. The final chapter, Finding the Best lists sources to build audiobook collections, including review sources in journals, blogs (Audiobooker and Reading with My Ears), awards and best-of lists.

Four appendices have a great audiobook lexicon and steps to look for when evaluating an audiobook. These are both useful and clearly presented. There are details of an Earphone English Club for speaking, reading, writing and listening proficiency in English as a second language. This is followed by an excellent list of websites of audiobook publishers, a thorough bibliography and index.

Listening to Learn: Audiobooks Supporting Literacy is a really attractive, well organised book which draws on the authors’ decades of audiobook experience and research. This book is thoroughly recommended for its clarity and strong case for audiobooks advancing literacy and providing opportunities to engage young people.

Reviewed by Dr. Robin Zeidler
Director of Library Services
The Nigel Peck Centre for Learning and Leadership
Melbourne Grammar Schoo
Member of the Synergy Board

The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror

Spratford, Becky Siegel (2012) Second edition
Chicago: American Library Association (ALA)
184 pages
ISBN13: 978-0-8389-1112-9
Available from: 


The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror begins by examining why we need horror; the attractions of this genre in presenting the ‘next good scare’. Everything in this second edition has been updated and re-evaluated with new authors’ trends, annotations and suggestions. There is a free electronic update, a blog to keep readers up to date in the world of horror fiction. 

‘No other resource is so tailored to your specific library needs. … So what are you waiting for? Enter if you dare’ (p. x). With such an enticing introduction, there is a brief history of the horror genre. This includes an outline of the Gothic novel, the Enlightenment and its influence, the ghost story, the Pulp Era 1930-1973, the late twentieth century and the new millennium. Each era is accompanied by a useful box, labelled 1.1-1.6 of major horror authors for that period of time.

Readers crave horror fiction for the way it makes them feel; for the emotions of fear, anxiety, uneasiness and pure terror elicited in the reader. The author, Becky Siegel Spratford defines horror as ‘a story in which the author manipulates the reader’s emotions by introducing situations in which unexplainable phenomena and unearthly creatures threaten the protagonists and provoke terror in the reader’ (p. 2). In other words, horror readers want to be scared. An uneasy tone must be sustained by the author right up to the last line. Otherworldly events and monsters must threaten both characters of the story and reader, alike.

Yet the characters must receive sympathy and feel cared about since the reader must engage with the protagonist to sufficiently care that he or she is endangered. All horror stories must build in intensity as the dread builds and the pace becomes relentless. The language of horror is quite distinct in that there are many adjectives to allow the reader to experience fear with all senses heightened and on alert. These listed appeal factors are all much more important than the plot, which often involves a coming-of-age theme to overcome personal demons; to rise to the occasion and triumph. The flawed protagonist does just this, defeats the monster and becomes more sure and confident as he does so. Often, this validates the reader’s sense of personal growth, belief in the supernatural and escape from reality; an antidote to hardship. Characters are isolated from the main population in a background frame or setting, such as a scary island, in a storm, deserted old homes, even captivity or apocalyptic times. A nightmarish mood is established in the first scene.

The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror discusses the main horror authors who are described as ‘the reigning kings of terror’ (p. 32). Later chapters refer to the classics of the genre, vampires or ‘books with bite’ (p. 65), zombies or ‘follow the walking dead’ (p. 75) and shape-shifters ‘nature morphs into something terrifying’ (p. 83). Each chapter has Becky’s Picks and an excellent title/author list. There are witches and the occult, demonic possession, comic horror, whole collection options and horror resources and marketing. These are all given so that librarians can best assist their horror patrons. The book concludes with a bibliography and index.

This is an excellent book which I found thoroughly engaging and exciting to read. Becky Siegel Spratford has a wonderful sense of humour in her presentation of the horror genre. I thoroughly recommend this well organised and presented, clearly written book. The author fully understands and is engrossed in her subject material.

Reviewed by Dr. Robin Zeidler
Director of Library Services
The Nigel Peck Centre for Learning and Leadership
Melbourne Grammar School
Menber of the Synergy Board

Doing Social Media So It Matters: A Librarian’s Guide 

Laura Solomon (2011) 
Chicago, Il: American Library Association (ALA)
ALA Editions: Special Reports
80 pages Paperback 
ISBN 9780838910672
Also available as an e-book.



The approach of the reader to Doing Social Media So It Matters: A Librarian's Guide will vary according experience, be it personal or professional participation in social networking. This text is not a 'how-to' manual on social media tools and techniques, it is a discussion of the principles underlying the use of social media, the means by which it creates influence and the critical role of library personnel managing the tools within the organisation. The introduction opens with a 'proof of concept' statement detailing the role played by social media and the committed individuals driving it, to achieve a successful outcome to the 'Save Ohio Libraries' campaign.

Author, Laura Solomon, library services manager for the Ohio Public Information Network was recognised for her role in mobilising the social media campaign that saved more than $147 million in proposed funding cuts to the Ohio Public Library Service in 2009. The actions of Solomon, library staff and patrons in harnessing social media resources such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, achieved a result that could not have been accomplished through traditional, slower media channels. The campaign required no large scale capital expenditure; however, critical to its success was close attention to planning and strategic implementation, combined with the skill of experienced social media staff. Solomon has applied the experience gained through that campaign to this text as a support for other library professionals at a time of large scale funding cuts across libraries worldwide.

The purpose of this book is stated in the title. It is a manual for 'doing social media so it matters'. Although making the assumption that the reader is already familiar with the tools, this text is accessible to the novice still to be convinced about the value of social media. In the hands of the beginner, it clearly explains the purpose of adopting social media practice with libraries, with recommendations and ample advice. To the experienced practitioner it will be beneficial in evaluating his/her own activity; bringing colleagues on board or convincing administrators, as to the value of a library Twitter or Facebook account as a legitimate and effective investment.

Chapter one opens with an acknowledgement of the ephemeral nature of social media, accompanied by warning that it is a mistake to dismiss social media as a passing fad and therefore not worth embracing. Social media, says Solomon, 'is here to stay, in its constantly evolving form'. This chapter addresses the importance of trust building and understanding that within the social media landscape, the organisation no longer has complete control over the message.

Chapter two discusses goal setting, identifying possible outcomes and emphasising the need to start small. Policy development and involving the library community in the choice of platforms is explained, showing the author's ability to not only make recommendations but to provide the reasoning to support them. Bottom Line snippets are inserted regularly throughout the text to summarise and add emphasis. This chapter ends with the warning to avoid rushing in and bypassing the essential setup steps.

Chapter three is devoted to explaining the concept of 'social capital', earning it and spending it. This advice recommends spending the gains of social media wisely; avoiding self-promotion and 'broadcast' type communication. It is only in chapter four that the reader is fully introduced to social media technique. Here Solomon provides advice that will assist the reader who has had a less than satisfying reaction to using social media. The importance of using discretion in the selection of 'friends' and 'followers' is discussed with a cautionary word about assigning the role of social media manager to the most appropriate member of staff. Tips on framing messages are particularly helpful.

Chapters five and six deal with the practical payoff to be gained from a library's use of social media. Statistics are important, also the growth in quality communication with patrons and an understanding of the 'return on investment' to be gained through effectively building positive relationships. However, social media will not suit every library community, warns the author in providing reasons why it may fail. These prompts could be used to reassess a library's activity and are supported by a useful table, 'The Do's and Don’ts of Pulling the Plug', to assist decision making.

Chapter seven concludes with the advice to approach 'social media as a long-term process of building relationships with individuals, rather than any kind of marketing to the masses'. Social media is 'about people and relationships with them’; therefore, the perspectives of library staff are critical to a successful outcome.

The layout of this guide contributes to its ease of use as a practice self-reflection tool or to support the instruction of others. Chapters are well labeled with notes and 'Bottom Line' comments assisting the reader. 

The index is detailed and the bibliography extensive and relevant, with a broad range of references to assist further investigation. The audience for this book is primarily public library staff; however, this text applies equally to academic and other libraries. 

I recommend Doing Social Media So It Matters: A Librarian's Guide, as a valuable reference for both novice and experienced practitioners. It would assist administrators in understanding the effect and value of developing a social media profile for their organisation. Library managers would find it a supportive document in the essential task of adopting a new approach to traditional library services and developing appropriate policy and training to support the change. Well worth reading.

Reviewed by Camilla Elliott
Head of Library & eLearning Coordinator
Mazenod College
Mulgrave, Victoria
Member of the Synergy Board 

Using Web 2.0 and Social Networking Tools in the K-12 Classroom

Crane, Beverley E. (2012) 
Chicago: Neal-Schuman Publishers
257 pages, Paperback 
$US 65.00 
ISBN: 978-1555707743



In Using Web 2.0 and Social Networking Tools in the K-12 Classroom, Crane presents a concise and detailed look at how educators can use information and communications technology to engage their students in twenty-first-century learning. In today's classrooms, teacher-librarians and teachers can harness the wide range of digital and social networking tools - such as wikis, blogs, podcasts and videoconferences - that many of their students are already using outside of the classroom, to provide effective and stimulating learning opportunities. 

Using Web 2.0 and Social Networking Tools in the K-12 Classroom explores many educational technologies and tools, and outlines how to use them across a range of subjects, including English, History, Science, Language Arts and Social Studies. The educational technology tools that Crane describes, explains, and demonstrates in detail include blogs, wikis, podcasts, videoconferencing, social networks, Google Tools, and digital video and storytelling. 

Examples of some of the chapters are:

  • Collaborating and Communicating with Blogs
  • Creating Multidisciplinary Wikis
  • Experiencing History through Podcasts
  • Opening your classroom to the world via Skype
  • Google Tools: Enhancing Instruction in the Science Curriculum
  • Creating motivating lessons with Video
  • Bringing the social networking revolution to P-12 Classrooms 
  • Using VoiceThread and Video to Improve Language Development
  • Creating Community with Web 2.0 tools and social networking

Each chapter of the book is organised for efficient and targeted learning and includes the following: a list of Learning Objectives; a Glossary of terms; Information, Ideas and Insights into each specific technology; steps to begin using the tool with detailed specific examples; Practical Applications with detailed lesson plans and a listing of further references and URLs relevant to the particular technological tool. Crane has included a range of screen shots and URLs as real-life examples of how educators have incorporated each of the information communications and technology tools into their pedagogy, which provides the reader with opportunities to examine the tools in much greater detail. 

In the final chapter, Crane discusses how teachers and teacher librarians can harness the power of Web 2.0 tools and social networking tools beyond the curriculum by utilising the technologies for their personal productivity to communicate, collaborate, and learn with their colleagues, including how to create their own Personal Learning Network (PLN).

Crane is an experienced educator and conference presenter at primary through to high school and university levels who has extensive experience creating and incorporating information and communications technology into curricula. She has taught English, Language Arts and ESL at the middle, high school and college levels and conducted workshops for P-12 teachers on literacy, writing and the writing process, ESL, and integrating technology into the curriculum. She has created educational materials for classroom teachers and teacher- librarians on integrating online searching into their curricula. As Director of the English Education Program at San Jose State University for five years, she worked closely with classroom teachers and administrators to provide guidelines for mentor teachers supervising English student teachers. Crane's past works include Teaching with the Internet: Strategies and Models for K-12 Curricula, Internet Workshops: 10 Ready-to-Go Workshops for K-12 Educators and Using Web 2.0 Tools in the K-12 Classroom. In this fourth book written by Crane and published by Neal-Schuman (an imprint of the American Library Association), she has developed an essential guide for educators on how to incorporate Web 2.0 and social media tools into their lesson plans. With its thoughtfully explained lesson objectives and drawn examples, this valuable resource will assist Australian educators to design learning tasks which address the general capabilities of the Australian Curriculum. In addition, to further assist educators, Crane has provided a companion website to her book, at, where she presents current developments, ideas, and educational uses for technology tools. Crane has further supplemented her companion website by hosting a blog at, where educators can share their ideas and learn what their colleagues worldwide are creating with educational technology for their students.

Reviewed by Dianne Ruffles
Head of Library
Melbourne High School
Member of Synergy Board 

Coteaching Reading Comprehension in Secondary School Libraries: Maximising your Impact

Moreillon, Judi (2012) 
Chicago, IL.: American Library Association (ALA)
ISBN 978-0-8389-1088-7
Available at:



The dedication in this publication states, "To every educator who commits to helping students strive to become more engaged, effective and critical readers". This alone attracts me to exploring the author’s ideas further.

When you see however, that the author, Judi Moreillon is a literacies and libraries consultant and teaches courses including "librarians as instructional partners" at Texas Women’s University, has worked for many years as school librarian and a district mentor, chaired the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) School Librarian’s Role in Reading Task Force and served on the AASL Guidelines and Standards Implementation Task Force, it is clear that she has the credentials to back up her intentions.

I see so much in this publication that reflects the approaches familiar to Victorian teacher-librarians and the discussions currently occurring in our secondary schools. The concepts of building background knowledge, questioning skills, determining main ideas and synthesising will resonate with any SLAV members who have read or enjoyed the presentations of Dr. Ross Todd and Dr. Carol Kuhlthau regarding the information process. The practical strategies and examples offered are very easily transposed to our own libraries and classrooms.

Suggested resources, ideas, how-to’s, cited literature, collaborative approaches, lesson plans and assessment and learning indicators occur regularly throughout the book and are extremely useful. The inclusion of tools, both print and web-based, for skills development enhances the value of the publication and the citing of works by Australian authors including Shaun Tan and John Marsden indicate the broad and global approach of the author.

With the emphasis on evidence-based practice and consequent decision-making, this publication makes a very worthy contribution to the raising of literacy standards and to the vital role of the school library in this very important task. I would highly recommend this companion volume to Collaborative Strategies for Teaching Reading Comprehension for all secondary school teacher-librarians who want to make a difference to both the information literacy and literacy standards of their students.

Reviewed by Mary Manning
School Library Consultant and member of the Synergy Board

Technology and Literacy: 21st Century Library Programming for Children and Teens

Nelson, Jennifer and Braadfladt, Keith (2012)
Chicago, IL.: American Library Association (ALA)
ISBN 13: 978-0-8389-1108-2 



As has been articulated in recent Victorian and Australian curriculum documentation, students are not just consumers of information but creators of new content. This publication supports that concept and offers innovative ideas and philosophical approaches for the extension of your library services into multimedia and the exploration of multiliteracies and transliteracies. 

Reading Technology and Literacy, I was reminded of the recent articles and presentations by Lyn Hay introducing the iCentre concept which expands the role of the school library to embrace the expertise of learning and ICT specialists in a ‘one-stop-shop’ approach. This publication explores creative ICT applications and media mash-ups to explore new ways to develop 21st century literacy skills.

Whilst written for the public library sector, the process for gaining management and financial support and for changing the focus of current library programs is highly relevant in the school situation. Furthermore, the planned workshops for the teaching of Scratch animation are applicable and provide formal programs, open hardware and software availability as well as real world connections. The clear message from these practical examples is that whatever software application that you select for your hands-on multimedia program, it needs to support students in multiple spaces – their intellectual world, their social world and their physical world. The discussion around this ‘foundation for success’ is well worth reflection – if school libraries are offering browsing of print and digital information sources, then why not offer supported access to, and exploration of, simple, creative software applications for students to present and share their ideas and new knowledge gained from these information sources.

The practical teaching strategies in this publication offer elements of collaborative learning, just-in-time learning and resultant deep learning. Very down-to-earth in its approach, we are offered the how-to of using and work-shopping the software as well as lists of free software, project templates and further excellent resources. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Mary Manning
School Library Consultant and member of the Synergy Board