INFO 267-10
Seminar in Youth Services
Topic: The Value of Controversial Literature for Youth 
Fall 2018 Syllabus

Joni Richards Bodart
Phone: (408) 924-2728

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Canvas Information: Courses will be available beginning August 21st at 6 am PT unless you are taking an intensive or a one-unit or two-unit class that starts on a different day. In that case, the class will open on the first day that the class meets.

You will be enrolled in the Canvas site automatically.

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 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 trends on horror/monster books and realistic novels featuring “human monsters” or toxic adults and/or teens, 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.

Office Hours:

I will be in my office ONLY by appointment, Clark Hall, 418H.

I will answer e-mail on a daily basis or as quickly as I can. I will also be posting email responses to the FAQs section of the discussion board when questions are asked that are of interest to the whole class.

Please feel free to use Zoom messaging to contact me.  I will respond immediately if I am at the computer, and as quickly as possible if I am not.  If I am writing or in the middle of something, my response may be quite brief.  Such brevity is not intended to be construed as rudeness or lack of willingness to help you.  Complex questions may be more efficiently handled via the FAQs or email.

If you need to speak to me by phone, I will do all I can to be available to you, by 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.

I make every effort to proofread Syllabus and the Canvas website, but errors can occur. Please contact me with any errors you see or any questions or may have so I can correct or explain them.

Instructional Philosophy
I want each of you in this course to succeed, and I will do everything I can to help you do so, but this is a partnership. Please make sure that communication is your top priority during the semester. Ask questions when you have them, seek clarifications when you need them, and take responsibility for understanding all expectations, content, and assignments for the course. You are responsible for your own learning experience. I do not make you succeed. YOU make you succeed. You also make you fail. Understanding the contents and expectations explained in the Syllabus is critical for a student’s success in the class.

The Canvas Site
Please check the site regularly for announcements, discussion board questions, and so on. As soon as you are enrolled, go to the site, read my welcome message, then go to the discussion board and introduce yourself, both professionally and personally. I will give you a format for each part of your introduction.

Zoom sessions

Four Zoom sessions have been scheduled for 8/22, 9/11, 10/9, 11/13.  ALL OF THE ZOOM SESSIONS ARE REQUIRED FOR SYNCHRONOUS ATTENDANCE.  The first session will be an introduction to the course, including Q&A, and I will go over the syllabus, the course website, and the Zoom sessions.  The second Zoom session will be on the reasons for controversial literature, why it can be valuable and helpful to teens, and how to define and defend it.  The last two sessions will feature well known YA authors, Chris Crutcher and Laurie Halse Anderson.  After their presentations, we will discuss their comments, their titles, and what you learned from them.  You will also have a chance for a Q&A session.  You will be required to read two books by each of them and create a list of questions for each.  More information will be given on the class website.

Student presentations

Students will do their topical and challenge presentations asynchronously, and post the links to the presentations on the appropriate discussion forum.  Students will watch the recordings of all presentations, discuss them on the appropriate discussion forums, and submit evaluations in the appropriate dropbox. 


Class Requirements


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 Collaborate meetings, participate in class discussions on discussion boards, and participate in challenge presentations as assigned.  Participating on discussion boards is defined as posting 1-2 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.)   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.  Answering a discussion question that has been answered previously, and repeating the same information in your own words is not appropriate.  Do not repeat information, but comment on it and elaborate on it, responding to the information rather than starting from scratch.

Participation also includes attendance at Zoom sessions, especially those with a guest speaker, and interacting during the sessions with your colleagues, me, and our guest speakers. 


Many of the titles you will be reading are quite dark and bleak, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by them.  But not all controversial books are difficult or depressing.  Consider reading some that are more humorous—Boy meets Boy or Will Grayson, Will Grayson, for example—inbetween the darker titles, so you will have some respite from them.

In addition to the ten required authors/titles (listed on the class website), read at least 25 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 created as a blog or a website.  My rationale for this assignment is that you must read these controversial books in order to purchase, recommend, promote and defend these titles.  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 at where it was reviewed, and the reading level the review recommended.

Please include ONLY titles that you would recommend.  If you start a title (other than the required ones) and decide it is not of high enough quality to include in a general YA collection, DO NOT INCLUDE IT IN YOUR COLLECTION FOR THIS ASSIGNMENT.  Stop reading it and go on to a more worthy title.

The first part of this assignment, at least 18 entries, is due on 10/ 14.  The second half of this assignment, all the other entries, is due on 12/9.  You will receive two separate grades, which will be averaged together to get your final grade on this assignment. 

In order to submit this assignment, you will put a document with the link to your blog, and login/password if necessary, in the assignment dropbox.  I will let you know if the link doesn’t work, but you would be wise to test it first. 


Create a program for Banned Books Week, or for some other event highlighting controversial fiction.  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. 

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.  Additional detailed information on this assignment is given on the website.

Please post your work on the appropriate discussion forum after you have put it in the appropriate assignment dropbox.  Due November 4.

4.  PRESENTATION ON CONTROVERSIAL TOPIC (CLOs 1234, 5, 6, 789, 1011, 16)

This presentation will be done individually,  or in pairs, so as many topics as possible are included.  You will be researching various topics that are considered controversial, and make a 20-minute presentation to a group of librarians who want to expand their knowledge of and collection of controversial literature.  You will have a choice of three due dates to turn in both presentations.  Due as scheduled—see three dates for submitting presentations Detailed information on requirements for this assignment is given on the class website.

5.  BOOK/MATERIALS CHALLENGE PRESENTATION: (CLOs 123456891011, 12, 13, 14, 1516)

This assignment gives you a chance to learn how to structure a presentation to a reconsideration committee when a specific title has been challenged.  You will put together a presentation with a slideshow and a group of handouts.  Detailed information is given on the class website.  Due dates will be the same as for the topical presentation and are given on the class website. 

6.  REFLECTION PAPER  (CLOs 123456, 78910111213141516)

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?  Additional information on this paper is on the class website.   Due December 9.


Database, topic presentation, challenge presentation (as a librarian):  25% EACH

Participation (discussion boards, committee membership for challenge presentations), program/display, reflection paper:  25% COMBINED


Course Workload Expectations

Success in this course is based on the expectation that students will spend, for each unit of credit, a minimum of forty-five hours over the length of the course (normally 3 hours per unit per week with 1 of the hours used for lecture) for instruction or preparation/studying or course related activities including but not limited to internships, labs, clinical practica. Other course structures will have equivalent workload expectations as described in the syllabus.

Instructional time may include but is not limited to:
Working on posted modules or lessons prepared by the instructor; discussion forum interactions with the instructor and/or other students; making presentations and getting feedback from the instructor; attending office hours or other synchronous sessions with the instructor.

Student time outside of class:
In any seven-day period, a student is expected to be academically engaged through submitting an academic assignment; taking an exam or an interactive tutorial, or computer-assisted instruction; building websites, blogs, databases, social media presentations; attending a study group;contributing to an academic online discussion; writing papers; reading articles; conducting research; engaging in small group work.

Course Prerequisites

INFO 267 has no prequisite requirements.

Course Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Identify reasons why YA literature is inherently controversial.
  2. Identify the characteristics that make a book controversial.
  3. List the reasons why controversial titles are important.
  4. Explain why controversial literature can be a positive influence on the social, intellectual, and ethical development of teens.
  5. Develop strategies for explaining the value of edgy and difficult YA literature to teachers, parents, and other interested adults.
  6. Present their own philosophy of intellectual freedom.
  7. Recognize, evaluate, and take into account self censorship tendencies in order to objectively evaluate materials in the light of community standards.
  8. Explain why novels currently being published for teens are more graphic and intense than those of previous generations.
  9. Explain the bibliotherapeutic value of controversial titles.
  10. Identify print and online resources that will be helpful before and during a challenge situation.
  11. Prepare bibliographies on a variety of controversial subjects or situations.
  12. Write a YA selection policy and reconsideration procedure.
  13. Write a rationale for a challenged title.
  14. Explain the steps to take to defend library materials before and after a challenge occurs.
  15. Demonstrate familiarity with the steps to take when interacting with an angry customer making a challenge.
  16. Identify organizations and the services that they offer that can be of assistance in a challenge situation.

Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes)

INFO 267 supports the following core competencies:

  1. D Apply the fundamental principles of planning, management, marketing, and advocacy.
  2. I Use service concepts, principles, and techniques to connect individuals or groups with accurate, relevant, and appropriate information.
  3. M Demonstrate oral and written communication skills necessary for professional work including collaboration and presentations.
  4. N Evaluate programs and services using measurable criteria.


Required Textbooks:

  • Aronson, M. (2001). Exploding the Myths. Scarecrow Press. Available through Amazon: 0810839040. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Auguste, M. (2013). Voya's guide to intellectual freedom for teens. Voya Press. Available through Amazon: 1617510076arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Bodart, J. R. (2012). They suck, they bite, they eat, they kill: The psychological meaning of supernatural monsters in young adult literature. Scarecrow Press. Available through Amazon: 0810882272arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Bodart, J.R. (2016). They hurt, they scar, they shoot, they kill: Toxic characters in young adult fiction. Rowman & Littlefield. Available through Amazon: 1442230819arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Office for Intellectual Freedom (2015). Intellectual freedom manual (9th ed.). (Magi T., & Garnar M., Eds.). ALA. Available through Amazon: 0838912923arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain

Recommended Textbooks:

  • 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. (2011). Defusing the angry patron: A how-to-do-it manual for librarians (2nd ed.). Neal-Schuman. Available from Amazon: 1555707319. 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 or undergraduate (for BS-ISDA);
    For core courses in the MLIS program (not MARA, Informatics, BS-ISDA) — 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 if you wish to stay in the program. 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.

Graduate Students are advised that it is their responsibility to maintain a 3.0 Grade Point Average (GPA). Undergraduates must maintain a 2.0 Grade Point Average (GPA).

University Policies

Per University Policy S16-9, university-wide policy information relevant to all courses, such as academic integrity, accommodations, etc. will be available on Office of Graduate and Undergraduate Programs' Syllabus Information web page at: Make sure to visit this page, review and be familiar with these university policies and resources.

In order to request an accommodation in a class please contact the Accessible Education Center and register via the MyAEC portal.

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