Since there is a great deal of misinformation and gossip about the community read; I want to provide the facts.
I proudly stand by Alex Gino’s book George, as a community read choice for all of us. This story is about a girl who feels she doesn’t belong. The response in the local press illustrates why she would feel isolated and alone. Any title could be challenged, and our responsibility as a library is to provide information to our entire community. Our selection process has a long history and meets our library standards. If our choice makes one child feel more welcome, helps them understand that gender identity is part of human growth, or that we all belong without needing to conform, then we are doing our job.
We distributed the school’s community read selections for Seedfolks (teen pregnancy, hunger, poverty) and I am Malala (child shot in the head); selected by the school for similar reasons without comment. How saddened I am that a story about a transgender child raised intolerance. Parents have the right to choose whether their own children read the selected title or not. And parents were informed.
The library sent 2300 newsletters into the community, advertised on Facebook, our website, and sent numerous press releases out to our regular distribution lists including the community newspapers. On May 24, I sent the flyers, bookmarks, stickers, and bookplates to the school and the Ovid Library so they could also publicize the read, as promised. We didn’t warn or notify, but we certainly did offer publicity for the opportunity to read and learn.
This project was funded by the Myrtle Dee Nash Memorial fund of the Community Foundation of Tompkins County. I invited participation to the Edith B. Ford Memorial Library in Ovid, and to the School Library in Trumansburg and received overwhelming support from both. I did not have an agenda beyond choosing good story that would invite thoughtful conversation, or only use the Ovid library or school for distribution, but rather offered the opportunity for mutual benefit. While the public library would have proceeded without the school or Ovid library we welcomed both.
We also recognize that children participate by being part of a community of peers that struggle with their own issues while growing up. A goal of our grant is to provide a thoughtful, understanding conversation where fear does not make people hide or censor.
I look forward to the opportunity to speak with you directly, rather than through the press. Please read Melissa’s story and come to our book discussions in August.
Annette Birdsall, Ulysses Philomathic Library Director