LIBR 267-10
Seminar in Services to Children and Young Adults
Topic: The Value of Controversial Literature for Teens
Spring 2010 Greensheet

Dr. Joni Richards Bodart
Office Phone: 408-924-2728
Office location: 418H,  Clark Hall
Office Hours: By appointment only, in Clark Hall, 418H. You may also ask questions via email or on the ANGEL discussion board. I will answer email on a daily basis or as quickly as I can. I will also be posting to the FAQs section of the discussion board when questions are asked that are of interest to the whole class.
If you need to speak to me by phone, I will do all I can to be available to you, but scheduling that call in advance to make it convenient for both of us, and ensure that I have enough time cleared to respond to your questions or problems.

Greensheet Links
Textbooks and Readings
Course Requirements
ANGEL Tutorials
iSchool eBookstore

ANGEL Information: Students will be able to self-enroll in the Angel course site starting January 12, 2010. You will need an access code which will be sent to all registered students on January 12, 2010 via MySJSU.

Course Description

History of censorship patterns of YA literature, and an examination of the psychology of censoring behavior. An analysis of novels that are considered ground-breaking or controversial because of their format, content, or treatment of difficult issues facing teens. Coursework will focus primarily on novels by Robert Cormier, Chris Crutcher, Gail Giles, Laurie Halse Anderson, David Levithan, Ellen Wittlinger, Walter Dean Myers, Nancy Garden and other authors of frequently-challenged materials. It will also provide information on helpful resources for libraries facing challenges, and the processes and procedures that should be in place before the challenge occurs, including, but not limited to, selection policies, reconsideration procedures, and strategies and techniques useful to the YA librarian under attack.

Course Rationale:
Because YA literature is, by definition, controversial, because that literature is a rapidly-expanding genre, extending the limits of subject, language, and format into areas previously considered taboo, it is frequently challenged, and young adult librarians need to be equipped to defend it, to protect the intellectual freedom of their customers, and the integrity of their collections.

Course Prerequisites: LIBR 200, 204, and at least two of 262A-265 (or LIBR 260, 261, 262 prior to Fall 2008) required.

Course Objectives

Student Learning Outcomes
At the end of this course, the student will be able to:

  • Identify reasons why YA literature is inherently controversial
  • Identify the characteristics that make a book controversial
  • List the reasons why controversial titles are important
  • Discuss why controversial literature can be a positive influence on the social, intellectual, and ethical development of teens
  • Explain the value of edgy and difficult YA literature to teachers, parents, and other interested adults
  • Discuss their own philosophy of intellectual freedom
  • Recognize, evaluate, and take into account self censorship tendencies in order to objectively evaluate materials in the light of community standards
  • Explain why novels currently being published for teens are more graphic and intense than those of previous generations
  • Analyze controversial titles for teens and explain their bibliotherapeutic value
  • Identify resources, both print and online, that will be helpful before and during a challenge situation
  • Prepare bibliographies on a variety of controversial subjects or situations
  • Write a YA selection policy and reconsideration procedure
  • Write a rationale for a challenged title
  • Explain the steps to take to defend library materials before and after a challenge occurs
  • Demonstrate how to interact with an angry customer making a challenge
  • Identify organizations that can be of assistance in a challenge situation and what services they can provide

LIBR 267 supports the following MLIS Core Competencies:

  • articulate the ethics, values and foundational principles of library and information professionals and their role in the promotion of intellectual freedom;
  • recognize the social, cultural and economic dimensions of information use;
  • apply the fundamental principles of planning, management and marketing/advocacy;
  • use the basic concepts and principles related to the creation, evaluation, selection, acquisition, preservation and organization of specific items or collections of information;
  • use service concepts, principles and techniques that facilitate information access, relevance, and accuracy for individuals or groups of users;
  • demonstrate oral and written communication skills necessary for group work, collaborations and professional level presentations
  • evaluate programs and services on specified criteria;
  • contribute to the cultural, economic, educational and social well-being of our communities.  

Course Requirements

The Angel Site
Please check the site regularly for announcements, discussion board questions, and so on. As soon as you sign up on ANGEL, go to the discussion board and introduce yourself, both professionally and personally. Explore the various forums for other information I think might be helpful to you. More will be added as we go along. Assignment due dates are also posted there, as well as below. You will be submitting all your assignments via Assignment Drop boxes.

Please let me know right away if you have problems with anything.

Elluminate sessions
There will be seven Elluminate sessions to highlight parts of the course: 2/4; 2/18; 3/8; 3/25; 4/8; 4/19; 5/10 (6:30-8:30pm PST) . Topics will include, but not be limited to: why books are controversial, why controversial books are valuable, how to deal with an unhappy customer, how to write a selection policy that supports the inclusion of controversial titles, programming centered around controversial materials, the components of an effective display, how to find props, how to keep it looking good, and so on. You are also welcome to suggest discussion topics for Esessions. Suggesting a topic can be done at any time, but the earlier in the semester, the better. You will be doing your class presentations during the 6th and 7th sessions.

These sessions are all required, meaning live synchronous attendance. Missing an Esession means you will not be able to ask to have points covered or clarified, or add to the discussion, and give the rest of the class a chance to hear your contributions to the topic at hand. If you don’t participate in a session, you are still required to watch/listen to the tape, since we will be covering information that will be important for all of your assignments. You may miss one of sessions 2, 3, 4, or 5 without penalty, but only one. You must notify me ahead of time that you will not be in class, and explain why you will not be able to attend. Sessions 1, 6, and 7 are mandatory, and you must attend them.

Topics for the essessions will be:

  1. Houskeeping and class procedures, reviewing the assignments, discussing group presentations, forming teams, explanation of why I chose the required titles, and other assignments, including your databases. (We will be spending the majority of time on this, because I want everyone to feel clear and confident about the assignments.)
    What is censorship? What is intellectual freedom? Hot buttons—where do they come from and why?
  2. What makes a title controversial? Why are they valuable? How do you defend them? Why do authors write them? Who reads them? Discussion of required titles (If time allows, specific titles TBA)
  3. Programming using controversial titles, displays of controversial titles, discussion of required titles (specific titles TBA)
  4. Selection and reconsideration policies for controversial titles, reconsideration procedures and forms. (This class may include some roleplaying about handling an angry customer. Participating in a roleplay will contribute toward your class participation grade.) Discussion of required titles (specific titles TBA)
  5. Writing a rationale for a controversial title, discussion of required titles (specific titles TBA)
  6. Group presentations, discussion of your top five titles
  7. Group presentations, discussion of how you have experienced this semester and your own thoughts about censorship, intellectual freedom, and controversial titles for teens

All assignments are designed to help you gain knowledge that will allow you to achieve competency in one or more of the competencies listed above. They are not busy work, and I have designed them carefully to give you both knowledge and skills that will help you promote the controversial and valuable titles written for teens. If you don’t understand how a particular assignment will help you do this, please ask me. I will be happy to explain.

    Read texts, attend Elluminate meetings, and participate in class discussions on discussion boards. Participate is defined as posting 3-4 times weekly, both in response to the questions, topics, or titles that I post, and to others’ reactions to them. (1-2 original posts and two or more in response to others’ posts per week.) Comments should be thoughtful and insightful, adding to our mutual learning process. Questions will be posted approximately weekly, depending on how the discussion is going.

    Class participation also involves being an active group member, and contributing to your group’s class presentation. Group members will also be required to do a self and peer evaluation as part of their participation grade, discussing your performance and the performances of the other people/person in your group. The peer evaluations will be about one page, describing how the group came together, who did what, and how well or how poorly your process worked. (I recommend you write at least a draft of your peer evaluations immediately after your presentation, even though it’s not due for another month, so you don’t forget the details.) The self evaluation will be about two-four pages, and will include, in addition to how you functioned in the group, a comparison of your thinking about controversial YA literature at the beginning and at the end of the class, showing how you have changed in your thinking—or how you haven’t, and why. How has your participation in this class affected your thinking and perceptions? What is your own philosophy of intellectual freedom and how you will exhibit it as a part of your career in librarianship? What do you think are the most important things you will take away from this class? How and why has this class been valuable?

    This assignment is due on May 16 and will be averaged with your programming and display assignment for 25% of your grade.
    Read the required titles, and at least 35 titles by other controversial authors and prepare a database of them. This should be a searchable database, and you can use Excel, Access, or FileMaker. If you would like to use other software, please make sure I will be able to open your files. Some students have created a blog or a website for their databases. This is fine with me, as long as I can access it and you can search it. My rationale for this requirement is that doing the work now to create a searchable database will make it easier for you to add titles to it in the future. You are welcome to move beyond the lists I have provided, but please limit your selections to literature written for teens, rather then adult titles enjoyed by teens. (For instance, Jodi Picoult is read by teens and her books are in high school libraries—but she is NOT a YA author and does not write books that are marketed to teens as the primary readership.)

    You may use any format you choose to, but you must include the following information: complete bibliographic information, summary, evaluation, readers’ 1-2 sentence annotation, bibliotherapeutic usefulness, genre or subject, and if it wasn’t required, why you chose it—as in why you were intrigued enough to pick it up. (It looked interesting is NOT a sufficient reason, nor is that it was required or on a list—what hook did it have that made you want to read it?) You may also want to include booktalk ideas, similar titles, or other information to help you remember the book for class discussion and for the future. (This is when you curl up with a book, and smugly tell family and friends you are doing your homework.)The King Library has a subscription to NoveList and Reader’s Advisor Online, which you can access using your library card. I strongly urge all of you to take advantage of this.

    THIS ASSIGNMENT IS DESIGNED TO BE WORKED ON DURING THE ENTIRE SEMESTER. PLEASE BEGIN WORKING ON IT IMMEDIATELY. I also recommend that you read the required titles sooner rather then later. This assignment will represent 50% of your final grade, and is due on May 16.
    Create a program for Banned Books Week, or for some other event highlighting controversial fiction, including:
    • the rationale for the program
    • who it is aimed at
    • speakers
    • activities
    • promotion
    • displays and handouts for them
    • anything else that would allow someone else to set up and run this program, based only on your description of it.
    This is to be a one-shot program, not a series, such as a weekly program, or an SRP. Take a look at some of the BBW programs online to help you get started.  (Google Banned Books Week programs)  You will be describing this program in an informal paper, illustrated with pictures of your display on it and promotional materials you create to promote and market it. If you are doing this program in conjunction with another community group or organization, include information about them, why you are working together, and how you got connected so you could do so. You need to be specific and detailed in your description, so another librarian could take your program plan and displays and and make them real with no other input.

    You need to include at least one display. The information on each display should include:
    • the titles and types of materials you would put in the display
    • how it was created
    • what props you used
    • where in the library it would be located
    • when it would be available
    When planning the display, consider how it will be perceived by teens and by other library customers. For instance, a display that looks good, but no self respecting teen would go near, for fear someone would see them checking out that topic or subject, isn’t going to be effective. This paper probably won’t be more than 3-4 pages long, outside of the pictures and promotional information—flyers/signs/bookmarks, etc.

    Due March 14. Please post your work on the appropriate discussion forum after you have put it in the appropriate dropbox. This assignment, averaged with your final paper and class participation grades, will represent 25% of your final grade.
    Working in groups of two or three, investigate a specific genre or topic in YA lit that is frequently challenged, and several of the authors who write these books. This is the scenario I’d like you to follow. You are the YA librarians at a public library in a medium sized town in either an urban or a rural, liberal or conservative setting. The topic you have chosen has been challenged, and you have been asked to investigate the topic and the authors who write about it and prepare a document for the library director supporting the topics and authors challenged, and also prepare a presentation for the library board and city council, explaining the library’s position.

    In order to do this, you need to create the background information
    • a copy of the complaint, information on who filed it and if it involves a group, information on that group
    • A YA selection policy designed for your department, including specific statements about why controversial materials are important. (However, you don’t need to do anything for the rest of the library collection.)
    • A reconsideration procedure which would be appropriate for challenges to materials for youth—children as well as YAs
    • The report from the person who took the complaint and filed the reconsideration form, stating what happened during that interview
    • Anything else you need to create a complete scenario before you start writing the document for the director or the presentation for the board
    Your document for the director should provide:
    • history and current status of the topic
    • why it is important
    • what the most important titles and authors are
    • what challenges have been made to those titles and authors and how they have been resolved
    • reviews of individual titles
    • why you thought they were appropriate for your library
    • articles about the titles or authors that discuss their importance
    • rationales for the titles
    • anything else you think defends or supports the authors/titles
    You want to give your director all the information s/he needs to defend the topic/titles/authors. Bullet lists of the author’s and titles’ strengths, or quotes from the authors about why the titles were written, especially if they speak to the specific objections of the challenge, excerpts from reviews or articles, could be included in the text of your document. You should attach as appendices the full text of the reviews and rationales, and any other documents that you think your director would need to have immediate access to.

    This is a formal paper, with a complete bibliography and appendices. It will take all the information you can get and filter or summarize it so your director has all the grain and none of the chaff. Please limit your paper to about five pages, not including appendices or bibliography.

    Prepare a presentation with a PowerPoint slideshow on your topic and authors, with an accompanying handout for your audience, the library board and city council members. It could include (but wouldn’t be limited to) the YA selection policy (all if it’s not long, or a summary or excerpt if it is), an annotated bibliography of the major titles written by the author, excerpts from reviews, excerpts from articles on the topic/title/author, information from authors’ websites, information on how the works being challenged could be used as part of a school curriculum, and any other information supporting your arguments—and you don’t necessarily need to include all of these. What information does the board/council need to have? You will be giving them that information in two ways: your presentation and your handouts. They should complement each other.

    Please note that you are talking to people who probably don’t know much if anything about the library, the YA collection, and the principles of intellectual freedom. You need to have a reason for each part of the handout, briefly explain why each is included, and refer to each of them with a slide. More handouts does not necessarily mean a better package or a better presentation.

    You also have finite amount of time—15 minutes for your presentation and five for Q&A afterwards. Your presentation needs to be informative, but not dull—it’s supposed to convert the board/council to your point of view, and support the library’s stand. It should be polished and sophisticated as much as possible—you are talking to the power brokers for your library and town. (This means practice.) You are limited only by your own creativity. I will post examples on ANGEL, but I have changed the assignment in significant ways and made it more specific since the last time I taught the class, so they may not be all that helpful.

    You may divide up the work in any way you choose, but all group members should participate in the presentation in some way. I must approve all topics. This can happen during the Esession, on ANGEL or via email, but needs to get done as quickly as possible.

    Presentation, PPT slideshow, handouts, and paper due April 19, and should also be posted on the appropriate discussion forum within 24 hours after the presentation is completed. This assignment will represent 25% of your final grade.

Textbooks and Readings

Required Textbook:

  • Aronson, M. (2001). Exploding the Myths. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press. Available through Amazon: 0810839040. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Bodart, J. R. (2009). Radical Reads 2: Working with the Newest Edgy Titles for Teens. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press. Available through Amazon: 081086908X. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Bodart, J. R. (2002). Radical Reads: 101 YA Novels on the Edge. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press. Available through Amazon: 0810842874. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain

Recommended Textbook:

  • Campbell, P. (2006). Robert Cormier: Daring to Disturb the Universe. New York: Delacorte Press. Available through Amazon: 0385730462. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Dresang, E. (1999). Radical Change. New York: HW Wilson. Available through Amazon: 0824209532. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • LaRue, James (2007). The New Inquisition. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited. Available through Amazon: 1591582857. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Rubin, R. J. (2000). Defusing the angry patron. New York: Neal-Schuman. Available through Amazon: 1555703720. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain

Grading Scale

The standard SJSU School of Information Grading Scale is utilized for all iSchool courses:

97 to 100 A
94 to 96 A minus
91 to 93 B plus
88 to 90 B
85 to 87 B minus
82 to 84 C plus
79 to 81 C
76 to 78 C minus
73 to 75 D plus
70 to 72 D
67 to 69 D minus
Below 67 F


In order to provide consistent guidelines for assessment for graduate level work in the School, these terms are applied to letter grades:

  • C represents Adequate work; a grade of "C" counts for credit for the course;
  • B represents Good work; a grade of "B" clearly meets the standards for graduate level work;
    For core courses in the MLIS program (not MARA) — INFO 200, INFO 202, INFO 204 — the iSchool requires that students earn a B in the course. If the grade is less than B (B- or lower) after the first attempt you will be placed on administrative probation.  You must repeat the class the following semester. If -on the second attempt- you do not pass the class with a grade of B or better (not B- but B) you will be disqualified.
  • A represents Exceptional work; a grade of "A" will be assigned for outstanding work only.

Students are advised that it is their responsibility to maintain a 3.0 Grade Point Average (GPA).

University Policies

General Expectations, Rights and Responsibilities of the Student

As members of the academic community, students accept both the rights and responsibilities incumbent upon all members of the institution. Students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with SJSU's policies and practices pertaining to the procedures to follow if and when questions or concerns about a class arises. See University Policy S90-5 at More detailed information on a variety of related topics is available in the SJSU catalog at In general, it is recommended that students begin by seeking clarification or discussing concerns with their instructor. If such conversation is not possible, or if it does not serve to address the issue, it is recommended that the student contact the Department Chair as a next step.

Dropping and Adding

Students are responsible for understanding the policies and procedures about add/drop, grade forgiveness, etc. Refer to the current semester's Catalog Policies section at Add/drop deadlines can be found on the current academic year calendars document on the Academic Calendars webpage at The Late Drop Policy is available at Students should be aware of the current deadlines and penalties for dropping classes.

Information about the latest changes and news is available at the Advising Hub at

Consent for Recording of Class and Public Sharing of Instructor Material

University Policy S12-7,, requires students to obtain instructor's permission to record the course and the following items to be included in the syllabus:

  • "Common courtesy and professional behavior dictate that you notify someone when you are recording him/her. You must obtain the instructor's permission to make audio or video recordings in this class. Such permission allows the recordings to be used for your private, study purposes only. The recordings are the intellectual property of the instructor; you have not been given any rights to reproduce or distribute the material."
    • It is suggested that the syllabus include the instructor's process for granting permission, whether in writing or orally and whether for the whole semester or on a class by class basis.
    • In classes where active participation of students or guests may be on the recording, permission of those students or guests should be obtained as well.
  • "Course material developed by the instructor is the intellectual property of the instructor and cannot be shared publicly without his/her approval. You may not publicly share or upload instructor generated material for this course such as exam questions, lecture notes, or homework solutions without instructor consent."

Academic integrity

Your commitment, as a student, to learning is evidenced by your enrollment at San Jose State University. The University Academic Integrity Policy F15-7 at requires you to be honest in all your academic course work. Faculty members are required to report all infractions to the office of Student Conduct and Ethical Development. The Student Conduct and Ethical Development website is available at

Campus Policy in Compliance with the American Disabilities Act

If you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a disability, or if you need to make special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible, or see me during office hours. Presidential Directive 97-03 at requires that students with disabilities requesting accommodations must register with the Accessible Education Center (AEC) at to establish a record of their disability.

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