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When the Rules Don’t Apply to You

I’m not quite sure what to make of this article in the School Library Journal. It’s explicitly about a librarian who got kicked off the Newbery Medal Committee because she very obviously broke a committee rule against posting about Newbery contenders on social media.

It’s implicitly about how she was right to do so, or at least the committee was wrong to have such a rule, or at the very least they were wrong to enforce the rule in this case.

For example, the opening paragraph: “Social media guidelines for Newbery Committee members went into play a few years ago to avoid controversy about how the prestigious book awards are determined. But the guidelines, it seems, have sparked contention of their own.”

They’ve certainly sparked contention from the ousted librarian, who, instead of being even remotely apologetic about obviously breaking a committee rule, focuses on how bad she feels about being kicked off the committee.

Or this passage: “But the rules, rather than clarify, have seemed to generate their own level of confusion. And that confusion has generated some irritation as well.”

But the rules haven’t generated any confusion. Blatantly ignoring rules isn’t a sign of confusion. Nobody even pretends to be confused but the librarian who got kicked off the committee.

What sounds confused is the irritation. For example, “What happened with…exposed how stupid these rules are, that she could be thrown off the Committee because she shared that a kid loved one book that’s eligible.”

Apparently she not only shared that a kid loved one book that’s eligible, but she also “tweeted the author and the publisher,” and she’d been warned about a similar issue before. But it’s easier to pretend people are inappropriately offended if you pretend that they’re offended at something different than what they’re offended at.

Or something like that. I think that sentence got away from me.

Another confused irritation: “[Using social media] was expressly okay before 2014, and now it isn’t and ALSC has not made a convincing case as to what’s the benefit [of the new guidelines] to the award.”

So even the irritated people acknowledge that using social media to discuss Newbery contenders is now very NOT expressly okay, and everybody on the committee knows it. ALA divisions don’t have to make the case for rule changes. They just have to vote them in, and everybody knows this, too.

Oh, but “social media…is a crucial modern tool in any librarian’s arsenal,” so that makes it okay, because it doesn’t matter if someone knew a social media blackout was involved in agreeing to serve on this committee, as long as a librarian REALLY wanted to tweet something.

Another librarian who’s “irritated” attempts the worst defense possible: “I’ve considered being on award committees before, but the restrictions on what I could say and write are the reason I have declined invitations to do so,” thus indicating that even she understands that there was a clear rule about this and the rule was broken.

She just wouldn’t have agreed to abide by the rule and then broken it, so she doesn’t join such committees. Her character in this regard is to be commended.

It’s also okay, according to the librarian in question, because, in her opinion, she “hadn’t said anything about the content of this title,” even though she knew she wasn’t supposed to tweet anything about a Newbery contender and then tweeted about a Newbery contender. 

So people know the author and publisher of a Newbery contender, but that doesn’t count as Tweeting about the book because there wasn’t a description involved? Um, okay.

Those three dissenting voices are the only ones “confused” or “irritated” about the Newbery Committee enforcing clearly defined rules that everyone on the committee knew about.

What exactly is the controversy here? A librarian really hates it that she was booted off a committee. That makes complete sense.

That she claims she didn’t understand that what she did broke the committee rules and thinks this is all so unfair and makes the situation all about how bad she feels for getting kicked off the committee? Also makes sense.

She doesn’t seem to feel bad about breaking an obvious rule. She just feels bad she was caught and kicked off the committee. None of us go a day without a rationalization.

But why would anyone else be sympathetic? The librarian pretends not to understand that she broke a rule that even her defenders implicitly acknowledge was obvious.

The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) now has a task force to evaluate the rules, which is a great way to make sure nothing gets done. And in this case, that’s fine.

Because any change to the current social media rules would make only one thing clear: it doesn’t matter if you’re a hard-working member of the Newbery Committee trying to do your work according to the rules, because if you protest loudly enough and have a big enough social media following the rules don’t apply to you anyway.

The Newbery people take this stuff very seriously. Is that the message to send? That if you’re on the Newbery Committee don’t share information about contenders…unless you have a big social media following and really want to and don’t think it’s that big a deal anyway because rules can always be interpreted in ways sympathetic to you?

That’s a fine way to build morale.

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Comments

  1. Frumious Bandersnatch says:

    Am I the only little worker-bee in Library Land that equates “enjoys being on committees” with “has too much free time”?

  2. Angie also mentions in her blog that she had already received a warning from the committee in March for posting a link to a Kirkus review of a book that is Newbery eligible.

    I, too, served on a committee, and yes, sometimes it was hard not to talk about the books we were reading and discussing, but it’s not like I didn’t know about that beforehand. It is completely possible to do one’s job as a librarian and leave the committee stuff behind closed doors.

  3. It’s like saying that I have to be allowed to text while driving because my texting life is essential to my existence.

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