[library-media] Common Sense Media

Fawn Morgan fmorgan at dsdmail.net
Thu Nov 18 14:56:55 MST 2010

I had a reply to the posting about Common Sense Media which I would like to share. The question was a legitimate one regarding the use of quality reviews from professional sources. While I feel that professional librarians would - and should - favor professional reviews, sometimes other sources provide additional, valuable insights as secondary sources.  What I like about Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Common Sense Media, and other online review sites are exactly those non-professional points of view. 
While I wouldn't advise purchasing based on this type of source alone, it might be considered a valuable tool to assess actual content.  What I value most in Common Sense Media are the descriptions of the books, not the reviews. I think that the usual publisher's comments are often too bland in the description, often eliminating critical aspects in an attempt to be non-biased and to promote the book. Even in an online library catalog the summary notes are often taken directly from the publisher's description. Publishers have their own agenda. The more information I have, the better to judge whether I need to actually read the book myself before recommending it to a student. If I find no iffy descriptions anywhere I may not spend the time to read it since my speed reading skills are not exactly top of the charts and one librarian can only read so much while having a personal life.
A librarian friend in Davis District sent the link to the article Sarah referenced: http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/slj/printissuecurrentissue/887263-427/dirty_minds.html.csp  Frankly, it's usually fairly easy to identify the intelligent reviewer and weed out the unqualified by the use of grammar alone, don't you think? In the case of the CSM review referenced in the article, be aware that the author, Todd Strasser, questions the reviewer's definition of objectionable language content. 
Thanks for the discussion. Lanell asks how we keep on top of current webinars. I, personally, don't keep up, but I doggedly paddle along behind in the wake of those more energetic, with more staff helpers, or more organized.
Layton High

>>> Sarah Herron <Sarah.Herron at slcschools.org> 11/18/2010 10:28 AM >>>

Using the ratings from Common Sense has started several discussions about censorship. In this fall*s ALA Banned Book Week presentation/webinar, this website was specifically mentioned. Speak*s ratings page was shown, pointing out that it could be a possible deterrent for students to read this powerful book. An anecdotal example in the webinar mentioned a father following their child around the library stacks, checking out the titles on the website on his phone, and then recommending to his child to put the books back. The point was to watch out for adults using this website with books in your stacks since it may lead to a possible book challenge. Most recently, in November*s School Library Journal, Todd Strasser wrote a letter to the SLJ editor entitled *Dirty Minds?* describing his struggle to understand the Common Sense rating of his book, Give a Boy a Gun.
I am not saying that the Common Sense ratings are invalid or suspect; I think that it is good for us as library media specialists to be aware of what sources our parents may rely on as content filters. I am saying is that it is important for us to use multiple sources for book ratings/reviews so we can respond to their questions and/or challenges.
Sarah G. Herron
Library Technology Teacher
WHS Technology Coordinator
West High School
241 N. 300 West
Salt Lake City, UT 84105
**Please note my address change: sarah.herron at slcschools.org **
sarah.herron at slcschools.org
801-578-8500 X271 Telephone
801-578-8524 Fax
"I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book."   Groucho Marx
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