Dee Venuto Admits Not Performing Work For Which She Was Hired
offer guidance and support services." Here are her own words, emphasis mine:
Indeed there are librarians who censor—I have always struggled with the conflict of providing students with what they want to read, view, and hear, and the fact that I have always worked in public schools, which are, in my opinion, pretty conservative institutions. Interestingly in my 18 years of experience, they’ve become even more so. In the beginning of my career I inter-library loaned the Anarchist’s Cookbook for a high school student—not so sure I would do that today. After a discussion I had at the fall [SJRLC] membership meeting, I will most likely put Eric Jerome Dickey back on the shelves, but would be wary of buying a book by Zane. Dickey came off the shelves, by the way, because of a discussion I had with one of our student media assistants who often reads urban lit and who I depend on for openly discussing the books that I just can’t read. She shared some of the sexually explicit parts with me, which were lengthy, vivid descriptions of a ménage a trois. Professionally, I truly believe it is discriminating to keep materials from young people who want to read, but do not always have access to the public library or the purchase of books. I’d love to buy everything the students want; I’m toying with the idea of a parent permission form/phone call or inter-library loaning books for students who want titles that are mature. [N3]
Dee Venuto, RVRHS Media Specialist
Dee Venuto, the media specialist who admits her role is to "select resources," actually does not. She admits she "just can't read" certain books, and that is in the sense of content, not in the sense of a large number of books, since in the same sentence she talks about "openly discussing" "urban lit." She has students read and report to her on books she just can't read including one involving "lengthy, vivid descriptions of a ménage a trois." She claims it is "discriminating" to keep such material from children. She would "love to buy everything the students want."
Dee Venuto and the American Library Association
Dee Venuto spoke publicly at an ALA annual meeting about how my SafeLibraries blog is changing her library profession. In doing so she remarked that I "seek to educate people and politicians about who controls the public library and that citizens should, not the ALA." [N4] However, as soon as she figured out something was afoot at her school, she sidestepped her own administration and went straight to the ALA. [N5] The ALA then contacted all 50 state library associations to encourage them to get involved. [N6]
The ALA's Misleading Letter to RVRHS
|Angela Maycock, ALA OIF|
Equally misleading is this from the ALA letter: "This constitutional duty applies with particular force in the school library, which, unlike the classroom, has 'a special role...as a place where students may freely and voluntarily explore diverse topics.' Campbell v. St. Tammany Parish School Board, 64 F.3d 184, 190 (5th Cir. 1995)." The court did not rule that sexually inappropriate material is considered a "diverse topic" that a student should explore in a public school.
Most Misleading is the Failure to Disclose that Books May Be Removed Legally
|Judith Krug as "Hysteric" Librarian|
Dee Venuto spoke publicly and approvingly of a number of Judith Krug quotes that support her view [N5], but, like the ALA itself, left out the essential one directly on point that dooms the view that anything goes.
The picture above right is of Judith Krug wearing a button saying, "Another 'Hysteric' Librarian for Freedom." If even an "hysteric librarian for freedom" who was the ALA's de facto leader for four decades says, "get it out of there" if material does not "fit your material selection policy," then schools have a green light to remove material that does not fit their selection policies. That crystal truth is the very reason for the misinformation campaign and legal threats (usually by the ACLU) intended to intimidate local communities into not even trying to do the right thing or reversing themselves when they do. Also, attempts to claim selection policies are so inclusive as to exclude nothing do not ring true with Judith Krug saying what she did.
ALA Misleads on Dee Venuto
More on point regarding Dee Venuto, the ALA misleads the school again. Specifically, the ALA said, "We extend our full support to Media Center Coordinator Dee Venuto, who has worked to select a diverse range of materials for the collection without shying away from potentially controversial subjects." The ALA said this on March 3, 2010. But is was a month before that, on February 1, 2010, that Dee Venuto admitted she "just can't read" certain material and has students read and report to her on things such as "lengthy, vivid descriptions of a ménage a trois." [N3]
In other words, by Dee Venuto's own words, it is factually impossible that Dee Venuto "worked to select a diverse range of materials for the collection without shying away from potentially controversial subjects," as the ALA claimed. Just the opposite. She "just c[ould]n't read" certain material and had students read such material and report to her. In other words, she "sh[ied] away from potentially controversial subject."
Given the above, it appears that a public school media specialist admits to and explains why she is not performing her work she states is her job. It appears she intentionally exposes school children to potentially inappropriate material. It appears she holds the ALA to be a higher authority than her own school district and is guided by the ALA, including by its view that it is discrimination to keep children from inappropriate material, a policy that may violate local policy and common sense. It also appears she and the ALA have misled the public, including failing to disclose that school library materials may be removed if they do not meet the school's selection policy.
That's my view. What's yours?
- N1. "NJ Public School Teachers, 2009-10," Asbury Park Press, undated.
- N2. "Working to Shelve Students' Book Choices," by Monica Yant Kinney, Philadelphia Inquirer, 2 May 2010.
- N3. "Teen Lit: Edgy or Over the Edge?," by Patricia Bruder, NJEA Review, February 2010.
- N4. "SafeLibraries Changing Library Profession According to Speaker at ALA 2010 Annual Conference; SafeLibraries Welcomes Media Requests for ALA Balance," by Dan Kleinman, SafeLibraries, 14 August 2010.
- N5. "Video from Annual Conference: IF Issues Briefing," by Angela Maycock, OIF Blog, 13 August 2010, speech by Dee Venuto starts about half way through. Also see her speech handout.
- N6. See, e.g., "[AKLA List] FW: Intellectual Freedom Issue: Support Needed," by June Pinnell-Stephens, Alaska Library Association, 26 March 2010, forwarding a letter from the ALA to all state library associations: "[stateifc] Intellectual Freedom Issue: Support Needed," by Angela Maycock, ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom, 8 March 2010:
The media specialist, Dee Venuto, has been in contact with ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom and we are working to provide her with the support she needs. Ms. Venuto would like other librarians and organizations to be aware of this situation, given the possibility that this particular 912 chapter’s efforts may be adopted by other 912 groups across the country.
I would encourage each of your state library associations to express their support for the media specialist and the school, if you feel it is appropriate.
- N7. "Letter from ALA to RVRHS," by Angela Maycock, ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom, 3 March 2010.
- N8. "Marking 25 Years of Banned Books Week," by Judith Krug, Curriculum Review, 46:1, September 2006.
NOTE ADDED 22 APRIL 2011:
For Dee Venuto's efforts in going directly to the ALA instead of her own management to seek external help for local book challenges, she has been awarded by the ALA, apparently to set an example that others should go directly to the ALA as well. I commented as such on the page announcing the award. That led to many of her friends commenting in response and supporting what she did.
One Lynn Harpool even called those who challenged some books "terrorists." I'm not kidding. See "School Librarian Stands Against Organized Challenge, Receives AASL Intellectual Freedom Award," by Jennifer Habley, American Libraries, 19 April 2011, wherein Lynn Harpool commented:
I am appalled by the actions of the Rancocas Valley School Board in bowing to the wishes of this organized, outside, terroristic (yes, I consider them to be a form of terrorist) group in pulling the books. Although two out of the three titles were re-instated, the fact that the third title was not restored does not clear them in my mind. I intend to further educate other alumni of RVRHS at our upcoming reunion about this incident and hopefully they too will join me in expressing our dismay at the cowardly actions of our former school which, until this action, we held in high regard. Rancocas Valley Regional High School failed in this matter but we can be proud that they have Dee Venuto on their staff (hopefully they won’t retaliate against her).
RVRHS alumnus and NJ Librarian
|Librarian Lynn Harpool's Facebook comment|
supporting MoveOn.org's anticapitalism.
The library, by the way, has the ALA's anything-goes policy, and the bold emphasis and capital letters are in the original:
6. Parents - NOT LIBRARY STAFF - are responsible for what their children check out from the Library and for what they access on the Internet.
I also note from the Lynn Harpool Facebook wall that she positively promoted the anticapitalist work of MoveOn.org. The graphic above shows the approving comment she wrote. I find it ironic that she decries corporations "shirking their tax-paying duty" while her library shirks its tax-paying duty to protect children from harm and she shirks her own duty to refrain from using inflammatory/defamatory language.
So an anticapitalist-supporting, anything-goes librarian who calls people terrorists and cowards supports another anything-goes librarian who admits she does not perform her duties and who complains immediately to the ALA. Any surprise here?
By the way, the National Coalition Against Censorship [NCAC] also handed Dee Venuto an award "for fighting against censorship." See "NCAC Honors Myracle, School Librarian as Defenders of Free Speech," by Rocco Staino, School Library Journal, 14 December 2010. No surprise there as the NCAC promotes porn, just like Dee Venuto.