Boy Scouts cover

Story of the Boy Scouts

Story of the Boy Scouts
Blassingame
1968

Submitter: Quaint Hardy Boys style illustrations and historical black and white photos accompany this book  about the history of the Boy Scouts. While there are a few pictures of African American children and a boy  with a turban on the cover, included also are some stories about the boys “howling like Indians” and “playing Indian” as they set up camp. One boy is described as a “cripple” who doesn’t look like “a man to lead” and grew up having to work with the girls in the sewing room rather than be outdoors with the boys. It’s a  snapshot of the times, but there’s a lot that has happened in the 50+ years that have passed since this book was published. The kids in our library need more up to date info on scouting, and more culturally sensitive language. Girls can now join the Boy Scouts in their activities, and are no longer confined to the sewing room.

Holly: WorldCat’s description of this book says: “Discusses the origin and continuing growth of the Boy Scouts, relates true stories of Scouting heroism and adventure, and describes the many activities of Scouting.” I’m all for a history of the Boy Scouts, but respectful language is a must. Kids interested in scouting activities can definitely do better than this!

Amos Fortune

Friday Fiction: Amos Fortune: Free Man

Amos Fortune: Free Man
Yates
1951

Submitter: Somehow this book from 1951 was still on the shelf, maybe because of that shiny Newbery sticker on the cover. Or maybe it just got overlooked. Either way, a story of a slave written in the 50s is likely going to be questionable today, and I would say this one is. Descriptions comparing Black characters to dogs and untamed animals are jarring. The idea that Africans needed to be civilized before they could handle freedom seems to be presented not as something that many people wrongly believed at the time but as actually being true. At one point it is spoken directly from the still-enslaved main character himself. With some guidance and discussion, this book could be instructive of assorted historical and current trends in racist thought and language, but the public library kids biography section isn’t the place for that.

Holly: No, it isn’t. Just because a book is an award winner does not mean it should be kept forever. Either put it in a special Newbery reference collection or weed it.

Mary: This was pretty much the only slavery discussion that was around when I was a child in the 1960s. I remember liking the story. However, it was written in the 1950s for a white audience and of course it sanitized the evil of slavery for said audience. Although Amos Fortune was based on a real person, it really is a biographical novel. I think this article can give people more to chew on if they are second guessing weeding a Newbery.

Games the Indians Played cover

Games the Indians Played

The Games the Indians Played
Lavine
1974

Submitter: This book uses outdated and culturally insensitive terms like “redskin.” It contains a decent amount of research from when the author was a teacher on a reservation. He interviewed many of the indigenous people there and I’m sure meant this to be a teaching tool about the culture, but it is a really old book that is now falling apart. Plus, it just gives off vibes of “oh, let’s look at the white man’s view of the savages’ primitive games.”

Holly: I’ve been learning a lot about collection diversity audits recently. While libraries may solely be looking for the percentage of materials about and by BIPOC, they need to use the opportunity to weed inappropriate materials like these. Please, please, don’t just count it as “diverse” and leave it in the collection! Look at the materials closely and audit the content while you’re at it.

Slavery Defended cover

Defending Slavery

Slavery Defended: The Views of the Old South
McKitrick (Ed.)
1963

Submitter: We are going through a massive weeding project at our small academic library, and this title came up (thankfully in the titles to be weeded!). Now, granted, I wasn’t alive in the 1960s, but I would have hoped a title like this would have been problematic even then. The judgment call in the title is completely unnecessary – the collection of essays could easily have been called Views of Slavery in the Old South and conveyed the same information. Now, however, the phrasing of the title is not merely problematic but downright offensive, particularly to our students and faculty of color. I’m glad we’re getting it out of the building! As for the content, someone actually wrote an epic-length poem called “The Hireling and the Slave”, which is excerpted (my mind is still blown that 11 pages is just an excerpt) in this volume. I scanned a sample.

Holly: It may have value to historical researchers, but the title is definitely pretty awful!

soviet union opposing viewpoints

Pros and Cons of the Soviet Life

The Soviet Union
Opposing Viewpoints
Bender and Leone, ed.
1988

All of a sudden I have a bunch of Soviet Union material from the 1980s. The Opposing Viewpoints series of books is practically a staple of youth/teen nonfiction collections. In 1988, this would have been a great choice. The Cold War dominated news of the 1970s and 1980s. Brezhnev’s death in 1982 marked the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union. So this little book was published at one the most interesting times in history. For the most part, there is a discussion on policies such as human rights, women’s equality, and government.

air force officer's guide

The Air Officer’s Guide

The Air Officer’s Guide
The Military Service Publishing Co.
1957

Another Swedish Death Cleaning Find

My dad was a ROTC during college and grad school, around 1958 to 1964 or so. This was one of those items from my mom that was in a pile of other stuff. Why it is in my personal library is a mystery. Part of this is my mother can’t abide throwing things out. I have a feeling there is “Mary is a librarian, she would probably want this” assumption. I’m not so sure my sisters have similar random books in their library.

western civilization

College Memories

The Western Experience to 1715
Chambers, Grew, Herlihy, Rabb, Woloch
1974

Another Swedish Death Cleaning Find…

This time we have a college history textbook. The only reason I know it was a textbook from college was the used book price from IUB also known as the Illini Union Bookstore. (Both my husband and I graduated from Illinois way back in 1982.) My husband recognized this book as his text from his Intro to Classical Civilization class. Professor Richard Scanlan’s class was arguably the most popular class at the university during our tenure. My husband, an engineering student and a guy who would take math classes for fun, absolutely loved this class. I am quite sure that is why this book is still sitting on our shelf. Scanlan died in 2009.

The book itself is nothing particularly special. The content probably can be found in many more current published books. Although we get to make our own rules with a personal library, this sentimental feeling about particular titles or even editions, can also plague librarians trying to weed a collection. It is easy to get caught up in what the book means to us personally. No one is immune to this.