The First App to “Help” Libraries and Schools With Book Bans Has Arrived–It’s Not What It Seems

From Bookriot:

In response to a manufactured panic over books, there comes a capitalist solution to eliminate the professional knowledge and expertise of those who work at the intersections of education and literacy. Last week, a new program was launched, marketing itself as a means to help schools, libraries, and parents navigate the new reality of life with book bans. BookmarkED, who soft launched their product during a Texas State Senate Committee on Education meeting March 30, 20023, is “a solution to the ongoing challenge of banned and challenged books in school libraries across North America, with Texas being the fastest growing in this space, followed closely by Florida.” The soft launch occurred two and a half months before Texas passed the READER Act.

Founded by Steve Wandler, who works in the education technology space, BookmarkED aims to “empower parents to personalize school libraries.” The purpose is to ensure that parents get to decide the “individual literary journey for their children, based on their personal values and interests,” while teachers and librarians can keep “confidently recommending and providing more personalized books to their students, knowing precisely the learning outcomes they will achieve.” As a bonus, the technology will help libraries “simply and efficiently navigate the ever-changing challenged books landscape.” BookmarkED’s website states the idea was conceptualized by a Texas superintendent.

In the press release for the technology, Wandler noted that library workers rely on year-old data on book bans and that BookmarkED would provide current data on the books being banned across the country. He notes that “we equip schools with real-time data at the state and national level for challenged books, which no other solution in the market is capable of.” The press release cites data on book bans from the American Library Association’s report earlier this year.

Parents would be able to decide which books their kids have access to at the school library and have “real time” access to what their students are checking out. School libraries would know which books are being challenged statewide, ostensibly so they can take part in the mass censorship or prepare for challenges to those titles in their own collection. The website for BookmarkED purports this would save districts money around the book challenge process and ensure educators can make “informed selections for materials that support curriculum.” In a lengthier explanation at his blog, Wandler notes that such information would protect librarians and educators from liability. Again citing American Library Association figures, he writes that “with more and more books being challenged, school districts need a solution to track the latest challenges to ensure compliance.”

As if developing an app that creates a “personalized reading experience” for parents to control for their students in public institutions weren’t enough of a claim, things get muddier as Wandler notes that there currently exist no tools to help educators and librarians know what books are being challenged. In the same blog post, he writes:

“Libraries currently rely on challenged book data from the previous year, which is immediately out of date as more books become challenged. This is a skyrocketing expense as challenged book reviews and duplicate requests must be checked and updated manually. The ALA estimates these challenged book reviews cost $20 thousand per challenge, which is upwards of $32 million total.”

He fails to include a citation to the information provided here, wherein ALA estimates book challenges at $20,000 per challenge — a staggering and, most likely, incorrect figure all together. I’ve conservatively estimated about $800 per book challenge previously, and there seems to be no data on ALA’s website to provide evidence of the $20,000 cost. That said, in some Texas districts such as Spring Branch Independent School District, officials have cited a $30,000 cost for a single book challenge.

Moreover, the press around the app claims that there is no resource out there tracking book challenges beyond ALA’s annual list. This is patently untrue. Dr. Tasslyn Magnusson began tracking book challenges in October 2021, and her work was later picked up by EveryLibrary (January 2022) and PEN America (February 2022).

Link to the rest at Bookriot

PG is of two minds regarding the legislation described in the OP.

  1. This law seems to be a very expensive way of dealing with the problems it purports to solve.
  2. If teachers are assigning or making available books, etc., that parents reasonably believe will be harmful to their children, PG believes that parents have a reasonable interest in helping their children avoid such books.

PG has noted a tendency in some areas of contemporary American civilization for those in public education to assume they know more than parents do about what their children should be taught, including what children should be reading.

Some parents are rightly concerned that some educators will encourage their children to read books that the parents believe will be harmful to the children’s welfare – personal, emotional, social and spiritual. Some parents believe their children are too young or too emotionally or socially immature to handle some of the books that some educators believe will be good for their children to read.

In saying this, PG acknowledges that there are always some crazies in any community who will exaggerate or overreact to things or practices they believe will be detrimental to some aspect of their children’s well-being.

Unfortunately, some teaching in higher educational institutions believe that one of their most important tasks involve inculcating their students with the latest in social justice theory and beliefs. In some cases, colleges and universities are graduating a significant number of social justice warriors who are anxious to use whatever influence or position they may hold to spread the social justice gospel to any who will listen to them.

And, of course, children are required to listen to their teachers. Parents are required to see that their children are properly educated, almost always in the public school system. The consequences for failing to carry out this obligation can result in the children being taken out of their custody and placed with foster parents or in various government institutions.

In a prior life, PG acted as the attorney for parents who were trying to keep custody of their children as well as juvenile justice authorities who were attempting to remove children from a horrible and dangerous home situation.

He has seen both sides of these sorts of legal proceedings and can say that, in some cases, the juvenile authorities were on the right side and in other cases, the juvenile justice authorities were acting improperly and not entitled to take custody to the children.

As an older attorney friend once commented to PG, “Thank goodness for human nature. Without it, lawyers wouldn’t have anything to do.” Parents, children, judges and government officers and everyone else (including PG) are all full to the brim with human nature.

In years past, PG has known a few families who adopted the unconventional practice of home-schooling their many children with extremely successful outcomes. The relevant state laws at the time required that the parents keep detailed records of their home-schooling activities and file periodic reports with local authorities describing the education of their children.

One such home-schooling family included a couple of children who became Medical Doctors when they grew up. To the best of PG’s knowledge, each of the many children in this family graduated from an accredited four-year college or university.

3 thoughts on “The First App to “Help” Libraries and Schools With Book Bans Has Arrived–It’s Not What It Seems”

  1. My thoughts exactly, PG. There’s a lot of room to negotiate and talk about this stuff, but no one seems to actually want to do it.

    On the one side, you have groups like Moms for Liberty, who seem to think that juveniles knowing that sexual minorities exist will cause them to not be straight and that knowing that America has done bad things will make them liberals, and because of that are counterproductively trying to conceal the knowledge of either from them.

    On the other hand, you have the teachers, authors, librarians, and book publishers, who seem to be under the impression that their opinions on what is and is not appropriate for children are infallible and must not be questioned by the uncultured masses whose children they are unabashedly trying to influence towards certain beliefs.

  2. The problem lies not with the kind of books that teachers and librarians nowadays often purvey to children, but rather with the sort of teachers and librarians who currently possess access to children.

  3. in some Texas districts such as Spring Branch Independent School District, officials have cited a $30,000 cost for a single book challenge.

    Well, this makes it easy. Just challenge 100 books.

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