Tag: Library

“The Little Library” and Its Nonbinary Librarian Are a Big Delight

"The Little Library" and Its Nonbinary Librarian Are a Big

I’ve long said we need more LGBTQ-inclusive kids’ books where the characters’ LGBTQ identities are incidental to the plot. A new picture book in a popular series takes just that approach with a delightful tale of a boy who “is a slow and careful reader” and a librarian (who happens to be nonbinary) helping him find just the right book for his interests.

The Little Library

The Little Library, written by Margaret McNamara and illustrated by G. Brian Karas, is the fifth book in the duo’s Mr. Tiffin’s Classroom series from Schwartz & Wade Books. In this one, most of the class is excited about visiting their school’s new library and meeting the new librarian—except for one boy named Jake. “Jake was a slow and careful reader,” we learn. “Sometimes he read the same page more than once so he could figure everything out.” On Library Day, he “felt left behind.”

The new librarian, Beck Goode, is “a friendly-looking person” who says, “Please call me Librarian Beck.” As the other children run off in search of books, Jake studies the bookcases and how they’re put together. Librarian Beck notices this and comes over with a big book called Woodworking for Young Hands. Jake can already identify many of the tools in it, but notes that it has a lot of pictures and therefore “doesn’t count as reading.”

“Says who?” Beck counters. Jake checks out the book.

The Little Library

Over the course of several days, Jake reads through some of the projects in it. When the book is due back, Librarian Beck sees the careful notes Jake took and encourages him to keep it longer. Librarian Beck later recommends some additional books on DIY projects.

At the end of the school year, however, all books are due back and the library will be closed all summer. Jake, however, has an idea. With the help of his grandfather and the woodworking book, they build something, which Jake reveals at the final Library Day of the year. It’s a “little library”—a small box shaped like a house, on a post like a mailbox, where people can take and return books for free. They place it outside the school, and Librarian Beck fills it with books.

We see children using the little library all summer. Jake hasn’t wanted to do so, however, telling Librarian Beck that he’ll wait for his favorite, Woodworking for Young Hands, in the fall. Yet one day in July, a package appears in the mail for Jake. It’s that book, along with a note from Beck, who tells Jake that because he’s “loved it more than anyone had in a long time,” Beck withdrew it from the library and gave it to him.

A final note “by Jake” informs readers that Little Free Libraries are a real thing, and more information can be found at littlefreelibrary.org. (It’s true!)

Both Jake and Beck are White, although the class as a whole is multiracial. Beck sports an asymmetrical haircut, a plain circular earring high on one ear, and a variety of colorful shirts. We’re never told that Beck is nonbinary; McNamara simply uses “they” pronouns for Beck without fanfare. It’s refreshing—and the main point of the story, that different children read differently and there’s no right or wrong way for a book to have an impact, is an important one.

Yes, there’s still a vital place for books that explain different gender identities and pronouns, but there are happily already a number of those. (Find them in my database under the “Gender identity/expression” tag—read the blurbs to get a sense of how explanatory each one is.) At the same time, it’s great to see a book that simply shows nonbinary people as a part of our world—and as a valued mentor, no less.

For more picture books with nonbinary and genderqueer characters, see my database under the “Nonbinary/genderqueer kid” tag. For another picture book with a queer librarian, check out Brian Bigg’s I’m a Librarian.

(Thanks to Alli Harper of OurShelves for alerting me to this book!)

Library Board to Discuss Removal of LGBTQ Books from Children’s Section

Library Board to Discuss Removal of LGBTQ Books from Children's

A group of patrons has asked for LGBTQ-inclusive children’s books to be removed from the children’s section of a Louisiana public library and made available for checkout only by adults. The library board is set to discuss the matter this afternoon.

Books challenged in Lincoln Parish Library children's section

The Ruston Leader in Ruston, Louisiana, reported Friday that according to Lincoln Parish Library Director Vivian McCain, she and members of the library’s Board of Control in mid-November “began receiving emails from more than a dozen patrons, all with identical verbiage, asking that ‘LGBTQ items’ be removed from the shelves and displays in the children’s department.”

Among the books targeted for removal, according to the paper, are My Two Moms and My Two Dads by Claudia Harrington; Real Sisters Pretend, by Megan Dowd Lambert; The Great Big Book of Families, by Mary Hoffman; Jazz Jennings: Voice for LGBTQ Youth, by Ellen Rodger; Snapdragon, by Kat Leyh; the Wings of Fire series by Tui T. Sutherland, and George and Rick

by Alex Gino. Other books would also be impacted, but were checked out at the time the paper did its reporting and photographs.

A few board members met to discuss the complaints and asked McCain to remove the books, which she allowed, reported the paper. It added that McCain said, “This goes against every grain in my body as a public librarian.”

McCain told local news station KNOE yesterday that the books had been chosen for the library’s collection according to “stringent criteria,” and that they were removed after the complaints in order to make sure they did meet the criteria. My interpretation is that she was willing to subject them to this extra scrutiny knowing that they are fine, but that she is not in favor of permanently removing them from the children’s section. She spoke with KNOE about the stigma that restricting the books puts on patrons, particularly children, who want to check them out.

The board has now reviewed the books, KNOE reported, and is expected to recommend at a meeting today at 4:00 p.m. CT, that they be placed back on the shelves. KNOE said McCain is “thrilled.”

The library is in fact now closed to the public until December 14 because a staff member has tested positive for COVID-19, but the meeting is as of this writing, still proceeding.

Unfortunately for the library, too, the town on Saturday voted down the property tax that funds most of its budget. The Ruston Leader said that this vote had been mentioned in the November letters challenging the LGBTQ books; it is unclear if the challenges impacted the vote.

LGBTQ-inclusive kids’ books are among those most often targeted for removal or restriction, as the American Library Association’s Top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books of the Past Decade list shows. Authors of such books also face attempts to stop them from giving book talks in schools or libraries, whether in-person or virtual. Once books about LGBTQ people and those with LGBTQ parents are restricted in libraries and/or schools, what’s next? Banning a transgender parent from taking their kids to a library book reading? Telling a kid during show-and-tell that they can’t talk about taking a family vacation with their two moms?

And yes, it’s a parent’s choice about what to teach our kids and expose them to, though our ability to control that declines rapidly as our children grow, in my experience. As I wrote way back in 2007 (in relation to attempted censorship in a school curriculum), “At some, if not many, points in my child’s education, the curriculum will contain something that contradicts a viewpoint I hold. The solution is not to ban it from being taught, but rather for me to be involved enough—with both the school and my son—that I can use the occasions as opportunities to teach him what I do believe. Wanting to ban something from the curriculum is an admission that I have little faith in my own teaching abilities and influence over my child.” (Though again, that influence tends to decline as our kids reach adulthood, which is something we parents just have to roll with.) Same applies to books in libraries.

Let’s hope that the board does indeed do the right thing, as KNOE indicates it will, and keeps these books on the shelves.

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