Thank you to ALSC Intellectual Freedom committee, particularly Chair Heather Acerro, for arranging for Susan Linn to speak at ALA Annual in June. Susan’s presentation was welcome inspiration in the uphill struggle we librarians face in protecting our patron’s intellectual freedom. Susan spoke in particular on the thorny subject of sponsorship.
The audience heard that research into child brain development points to creative play being vital for proper brain development. However, the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood (which was cofounded by Susan) calls into question whether the ubiquitousness of the likes of Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob Squarepants in the lives of children, even on our bookshelves, is hindering creativity. Susan explained that when children’s play involves these characters, instead of say, a sock puppet, creative play is inevitably stymied. When play elements are less defined, less pre-conceived, and open to choice, children have the opportunity to create wonderful worlds inhabited by fabulous creatures, like the pickle buck. What’s a pickle buck, you ask? Ah well, you should have been there, but essentially, a pickle buck is whatever you want it to be! The CCFC calls for a change in children’s environments and a change in how children spend their time. We as librarians should be listening to these recommendations and providing commercial-free time and space for children through programming choices and thoughtful sponsorships. It can be done! A great example is being set by the Georgetown branch of the Allen County Public Library.
What do you think? Is this something you agree with? What measures do you think you could take at your libraries? How do you feel about corporate sponsorship in library spaces?
And as I left the presentation and returned to the exhibit hall in search of more sponsored swag, the irony was not completely lost on me.
Claire Davies, ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee