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IndyKids Overcomes NY Library Ban

Amanda Vender Apr 4, 2006

A new project of NYC Indymedia, IndyKids, has been censored by the Queens Public Library. After distributing more
than 3,000 copies of the second issue of IndyKids to all 63 branch libraries, the Queens Public Library now refuses to distribute the paper. The library says the reason for its decision is that IndyKids is not balanced. Similarly, the New York Public Library refused to distribute IndyKids’ second issue. Perhaps influenced by several letters it received from parents and teachers, the New York Public Library says it will now distribute the current issue to a total of ten branches in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island. There has still not been a response from the Brooklyn Public Library on whether it will distribute IndyKids.

While both the Queens and New York Public Libraries complained of IndyKids’ lack of balance, a look at the periodicals offered at the area libraries shows a striking bias. For example, Faces: People, Places and Cultures has a special March 2006 issue devoted to Afghanistan. The glowing description of the situation there defies all media and government reports indicating growing attacks, suicide bombings and drug trafficking. The publication states: “The United States military trained more than 25,000 Afghan troops so that the Afghans could better protect their
own country. Schools, hospitals, roads and towns are being rebuilt. Girls are allowed to attend schools, and people are
free to do their business. Today, Afghanistan is a relatively stable country.”

Another, Biography Today-Profiles of People of Interest to Young Readers September 2005 issue, calls Pope John Paul II “the charismatic ‘people’s pope’ who helped topple Communism while championing Catholic values and a culture of peace.”

The O’Reilly Factor for Kids, by the extreme right-wing Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly, can be found at a number of branches. In addition, the libraries’ periodicals for children feature numerous ads for video games, candy and sports wear, and generally carry the message: “life is good, have fun and play sports.”

IndyKids believes that it is fine for the library to carry publications with a particular point of view, but the library should not pretend that these are balanced and exclude other points of view. As a public institution supported with taxpayer dollars, the libraries have the responsibility to distribute all kinds of publications from a variety of perspectives.

The American Library Association’s “Library Bill of Rights” states: “Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.”

IndyKids is a free current events newspaper for kids in grades 4 to 8. It is currently distributed to over 40 schools and community organizations in New York City. IndyKids encourages kids to form their own opinions and to engage in politics. In its first five months, IndyKids has received praise from many teachers who lack materials on current events to use in the classroom.

“I have been teaching current events for years, and always had to face the fact that ‘regular’ newspapers are difficult for 11 and 12 year olds to read,” said John Yanno, a sixth-grade teacher at John Jay High Schoo in Brooklyn. “IndyKids has really made teaching current events a lot easier. The kids are finally motivated to read, and more importantly,
to discuss and get active.”

Amanda Vender is co-editor of IndyKids.