LIBR 267-01
LIBR 267-10
Seminar in Services to Children and Young Adults
Topic: The Value of Controversial Literature for Teens
Spring 2011 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

Students will be able to self-enroll in the Angel course site starting January 24, 2011. You will need an access code which will be sent to all registered students on January 24, 2011 via MySJSU.

Course Description

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 young adult novels by authors of frequently-challenged materials, and will  feature information on the current trend on horror/monster books for teens, including vampires, werewolves, zombies, and other monsters, and why they are currently popular with teens.  Also included will be 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: 2/2; 2/17; 3/2; 3/24; 4/13; 4/28; 5/12 (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.    

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 session 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.  

Topics for the essessions will be:

  1. Housekeeping and class procedures, review of the greensheet and the class assignments, including class presentations.  What is censorship?  What is intellectual freedom?  Hot buttons—where do they come from and why?  What makes a title controversial?  Why are they valuable?  Why do authors write them?  Who reads them? 
  2. Monsters and monstrous situations, real and fictional; appeal of monsters, their uses and their value; how to defend supernatural monster titles.  Discussion of Chocolate War, Fallen Angels, and Annie on my Mind.  Two presentations.
  3. Programming using controversial titles, displays of controversial titles, and other merchandising techniques.  Discussion of Whale Talk, Speak, and Shattering Glass.   Two presentations.
  4. Selection and reconsideration policies for controversial titles, reconsideration procedures and forms.  Discussion of Identical and Will Grayson, Will Grayson. Two presentations
  5. Writing a rationale for a controversial title, including public and school perspectives.  Discussion of vampire books and shapeshifter books.  Two presentations.
  6. Discussion of your top five titles.  Discussion of zombie books and angel books.  Two presentations.
  7. Discussion of how you have experienced this semester and your own thoughts about censorship, intellectual freedom, and controversial titles for teens.  Discussion of demon and other miscellaneous monster books.  Two presentations.

The number of presentations is estimated, based on the number of students in the class and the number who decide to work with a partner or alone.


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.  (This is an averaged figure—some weeks you will have more to say, some weeks less.  DON’T stress out over doing 4 every week, so you stretch out your comments to get to 4.  Don’t include “attaboy” posts to get you to 4.  Be consistent in your postings, making sure you contribute something worth reading every week.  That will get you a higher grade than 4 “attaboys” a 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.  You will also evaluate yourself as a member of the group.  (If you do two group presentations, you will need two separate group evaluations.  If you do one individual presentation, you will need to submit a self evaluation for it.)  Group evaluations are turned in within 24 hours of the presentation, as described under the presentation descriptions. 

Reflection papers 

You will also do a separate summary/self-evaluation/reflection paper will be about two-four pages, and will include an overview and 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 part of your participation grade, which is 10% of your final grade. 


In addition to the 15 required titles (see below), read at least 35 titles by other controversial authors and prepare a database of all of the titles, both required and self-selected.  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.  Please limit your selections to literature written for teens, rather than adult titles enjoyed by teens, such as those by Jodi Picoult.  You can tell what’s written for teens by looking at Amazon, and under Product Details, you’ll find a reading level.  If it is a YA title, it will say so.  You can also look for where it was reviewed, and the reading level the review recommended.

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 (15 words or less), bibliotherapeutic usefulness (what issues or situations or problems does it include?), genre or subject, and 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, readalikes, 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 than later.   This assignment will represent 25% of your final grade, and is due on May 8. 


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 deal, 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.  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. 

Please post your work on the appropriate discussion forum after you have put it in the appropriate assignment dropbox.  This assignment, averaged with your participation grade, will represent 15% of your final grade.  Due March 13. 


This presentation may be done as part of a 2-3 person group or as an individual presentation.  Choosing to work in a group or alone will have no impact on your grade for this assignment.  There are a number of topics and characteristics that cause a book to be challenged.  Select one of these and prepare a presentation on it, including why this topic/situation is controversial, who is likely to object to the material, authors and titles that include this material, why the titles are important and valuable, including reviews and other information that would be valuable in writing  rationales on these titles.  You need to prepare a slideshow and a handout to accompany your presentation.  Your audience will be a group of public or school librarians (specify) who want material on this topic in their collections but are concerned about how to show its value and appropriateness when someone objects to it, whether formally or informally.

These presentations will be scheduled during the first month of the semester.  You will post your handouts to the indicated discussion forum 24 hours before your presentation, so your audience will have access to them during the presentation.  This allows you to refer to them as part of your presentation if you choose to do so.  Due 24 hours after your presentation has been given.  25% of your final grade.


You and 1-2 colleagues are librarians in a medium sized community, either in middle &/or high schools, or in the public library.  A group or individual in the community has submitted a formal challenge to a book (or other material) in your library.  You have been asked as the librarians in charge of this collection to do a presentation for the 10 person reconsideration committee, which includes:

  • librarians
  • library administrators
  • paraprofessionals
  • community members (may include youth workers, parents, or other adults)
  • students from the school or teens and tweens who use the public library (have active library cards)
  • local experts in YA literature or with the subject of the titles being challenged
  • other members as needed or preferred

Please specify the makeup of your committee (number of members from each of the above groups).

You will need to create a slideshow and you will also need to have some handouts for the reconsideration committee, which should include in addition to a copy of the book/material being objected to:


  • 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.) 1 page limit
  • A reconsideration procedure which would be appropriate for challenges to materials for youth—children as well as YAs 1 page limit
  • Documents and statements from ALA and other organizations that you support in your library policies


  • A copy of the complaint, information on who filed it and if it involves a group, information on that group 2 page limit
  • The report from the person who took the complaint and filed the reconsideration form, stating what happened during that interview  1 page limit
  • Biographical data on the author, his/her importance and major titles (this is to be brief, you will expand on it in your presentation) 1 page limit
  • Brief summary of title’s value and importance (expand in presentation) 1 page limit
  • Excerpts from reviews on the title—from the most authoritative sources 1 page limit
  • Brief summary of other challenges to title and how they were handled and resolved (expand in presentation) 2 pages limit
  • Bibliography of articles on the title and articles on the author that are relevant to this title (include at least some of these in the presentation) 2 pages limit
  • Other information you deem appropriate and important 2 pages limit

Remember 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.  In your presentation, 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—15-20 minutes for your presentation and 10 for Q&A afterwards.  Your presentation needs to be informative, but not dull—it’s supposed to show your point of view, and support the library’s policies.  It should be polished and persuasive—you are talking to one of the most important and diverse committees your library has.  (This means practice.)  You are limited only by your own creativity. 

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 titles that are challenged. 

Handouts should be posted at least 24 hours before the presentation so other students can access them.  In addition, handouts, slideshow, script for your presentation and your peer evaluations need to be submitted to the appropriate assignment Dropbox within 24 hours after your presentation.  Due as scheduled.  25% of your final grade.

Textbooks and Readings

These titles are ones that are widely available, so you shouldn’t have to buy them unless you choose to do so.   I have listed in parentheses other titles by each author that are not required, but that are recommended.



  • Laurie Halse Anderson—Speak (Wintergirls) rape (anorexia)
  • Robert Cormier—The Chocolate War (I am the Cheese; Rag and Bone Shop) manipulation
  • Chris Crutcher—Whale Talk  (Ironman; Deadline) bullies, anger; death
  • Nancy Garden—Annie on my Mind (Endgame) lesbian, school shooter
  • Gail Giles—Shattering Glass (Right Behind You; What Happened to Cass McBride?) bullying, manipulation, revenge; kidnapping
  • Ellen Hopkins—Identical (Tricks) multiple family related problems
  • David Levithan—Will Grayson, Will Grayson (Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist, Boy Meets Boy) homosexuality, vulgar language
  • Walter Dean Myers—Fallen Angels (Sunrise over Fallujah) vulgar language, realistic view of Gulf War



Titles that are *’d are ones I particularly enjoyed

  • Alexandra Adornetto—Halo  angels
  • Jennifer Barnes—Raised by Wolves  werewolves
  • Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier—Zombies Vs. Unicorns  zombies, unicorns
  • Andrea Cremer—Nightshade  werewolves
  • *Melissa de la Cruz—Blue Bloods (or another title in the series) vampires
  • *Charlie Higson—The Enemy (The Dead)  zombies
  • Stacey Jay—You are so Undead to Me (Undead Much?, My So-Called Death)  zombies
  • Jonathan Maberry—Rot and Ruin (Dust and Decay)  zombies
  • Kristopher Reisz—Unleashed  werewolves
  • Adam Selver—I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It  zombies
  • *Darren Shan—Cirque du Freak The Saga of Darren Shan Book 1 (11 volumes in series)  vampires
  • *Cynthia Leitch Smith—Tantalize (Eternal, Blessed) vampires, werewolves, fallen angels
  • Lili St. Crow—Strange Angels  angels
  • *Maggie Steifvater--Shiver (Linger, Forever) werewolves
  • *Daniel Waters—Generation Dead (Kiss of Life, Passing Strange)  zombies
  • Robert Paul Weston—Dust City  werewolves


  • Barry Lygas--Boy Toy (sexual manipulation)
  • Elizabeth Scott--Living Dead Girl (kidnapping; sexual abuse)
  • Todd Strasser--Boot Camp (physical, psychological manipulation)
  • Suzanne Collins--Hunger Games (sequels, Chasing Fire, Mockingjay) (manipulation; murder)
  • Patrick Ness--Knife of Never Letting Go (sequels, The Ask and the Answer, Monsters of Men) (violence)
  • Alex Flinn--Breathing Underwater (date abuse; physical parental abuse)
  • Kathleen Jeffrie Johnson--Target (male rape)
  • Brent Hartlinger--Geography Club (homosexuality)
  • Natasha Friend--Lush (alcoholic parent)
  • Marion Dane Bauer--Am I Blue? (homosexuality; anthology)
  • Blake Nelson--Paranoid Park (violent death)

You may also read any other titles by the featured authors above. You may select titles from any of your textbooks—make sure they are YA, not children’s or adult.  Google “banned books teens,” or something similar—but be aware that some of the titles on lists from various libraries are children’s or adult titles.  If you have a question about whether or not a title is YA, ask me.  You can also google "Banned Books Week" and see what school and public libraries are featuring as banned books.  Look for titles on the Office of Intellectual Freedom website.  They have lists by year, but do NOT separate out the YA titles.  Look at the Banned Books Week site.  Get creative!

Required Textbooks:

  • Aronson, M. (2001). Exploding the Myths. 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. Scarecrow Press. Available through Amazon: 081086908X. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Rubin, R. J. (2000). Defusing the angry patron. Neal-Schuman. Available through Amazon: 1555703720. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain

Recommended Textbooks:

  • Bodart, J. R. (2002). Radical Reads: 101 YA Novels on the Edge. Scarecrow Press. Available through Amazon: 0810842874. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Campbell, P. (2006). Robert Cormier: Daring to Disturb the Universe. Delacorte Press. Available through Amazon: 0385730462. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • LaRue, James (2007). The New Inquisition. Libraries Unlimited. Available through Amazon: 1591582857. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Reichman, H. (2001). Censorship and selection: Issues and answers for school (3rd ed.). ALA. Available through Amazon: 0838907989. 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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