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Friday, September 28, 2018

Banned Books Week!

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It's Banned Books Week, which means that schools, bookstores, and libraries all across the nation are rallying against censorship and celebrating diversity of thought.  Here's what you need to know about this annual tradition:

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Slaughterhouse Five was among the
books banned by Pico's school district.
The story of Banned Books Week began in 1976 when the Island Trees Union Free School District removed eleven books off of their classroom and library shelves, including Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five.  The school board acted against the wishes of parents and students, insisting that the censored books were "anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, and just plain filthy."  Most of the books were written by minority authors.
Steven Pico, a high school student in the Island Trees school district, decided to take the issue to the courts.  With the help of the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), the Board of Education, Island Trees v. Pico case made it to the Supreme Court in 1982, where the Court ruled 5-4 in favor of Pico.

Since 1982, the U.S. and other countries have celebrated Banned Books Week every year in the last week of September.  There is a theme each year, with this year's being "Banning Books Silences Stories."

Reasons books are banned:
While people of all demographics challenge books for all sorts of reasons, the most common reasons include objections to portrayals of violence, sexual content, and minority viewpoints such as LGBT characters.  Here are a few examples:

Image result for to kill a mockingbirdHarper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird has been a frequent victim of censorship, with reasons ranging from strong language and its focus on rape, to a recent assertion by a Mississippi middle school that it just "makes people uncomfortable."  Narrated by a young girl, To Kill A Mockingbird tells the story of a rape accusation involving a white woman and a black man in the 1930s Deep South.  The Pulitzer Prize-winning book remains one of the most commonly banned books in the U.S., despite or perhaps because of its popularity in school curriculums.

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 John Green's Looking for Alaska is a coming-of-age story about a high school boy's experiences with friends and romance at a small boarding school.  Upon experiencing a surge of popularity several years after its publication, the book was banned or challenged in many schools and libraries for sexual content and explicit language.  In earlier editions of the novel, the cover was edited so that the puff of smoke on the cover (which is intended to be cigarette smoke) seemed to come from a candle.

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Despite its fairly recent release in February of 2017, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas has already been pulled off shelves all around the nation.  The book deals with controversial and complex topics regarding race relations in America, and many people have reacted against its message by claiming the book is too vulgar.

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Published in 2014, I Am Jazz by Jazz Jennings tells the true story of the author's childhood and her early transition in a way that is straightforward to young readers.  While many have praised its clear approach to the topic of gender identity, it has also faced backlash and censorship from those who feel that the topic of transgender identity is not "appropriate" for children.

If you'd like to learn more about Banned Books Week and the censorship of books in America, come check out our Banned Books Week display in the Teen Zone!

Written by Coral C., Homework Assistant
Sources: (American Library Association)
NCAC (National Coalition Against Censorship)

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Compare and Contrast: Traditional books, E-books, and Audiobooks

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Unless you reside under a rock, you've probably heard someone or another claim that we live in the "digital age."  More and more aspects of life are moving to intangible spaces.  With this shift comes the rise of e-books and audiobooks that promise to make reading more popular and accessible to the general population.  Companies like Overdrive and Audible have sprung up, making these new formats easily available.  (Pssst!  MVPL also offers both e-books and audiobooks!)

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With so many options, which one should you choose?  Instead of considering the practical benefits of each, let's take a look at what really matters.

Traditional paper books
Or as snobby people call them, "real books."

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Carrying a good old-fashioned paper book around town is a subtle signal of intelligence and class.  A paper book says, "Look at me, a true scholar amidst the chaotic backdrop of the 21st century, seeking to further my knowledge instead of succumbing to our current culture of instant gratification."  Plus, the intensely satisfying feeling of turning book pages simply cannot be replicated by any other medium.

Cons:  People will think that it is entirely acceptable to interrupt you during an intense action scene or heartbreaking death scene to ask what you're reading, what it's about, how you're liking it, and whether you've gotten to the part where [MAJOR SPOILER].  Also, the fear of judgment for reading mindlessly romantic YA novels (ugh, but they're so much fun!).

Remember when Kindles first came out and everyone was obsessed with them?

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Pros:  Perfect for sneaky reading during work or in class.  If you were one of those kids who hid books in those roomy elementary school desks, you know what I'm talking about.  E-books are practically perfect for covert entertainment.  Although it might be a bit suspicious if you start sobbing while "doing Quizlet practice."

Cons:  The feeling when you flip to the next page and you get the loading bar.  It's also impossible to find page numbers for book reports.


Image result for audiobooksBedtime stories for adults.

Pros:  The Golden Rule: Never talk to someone with earbuds in.  If you're listening to an audiobook, you're almost guaranteed peace and quiet.  Perfect for people who hate people.  Plus, you get all the fun of reading without actually having to read.

Cons:  It's super easy to get distracted and miss entire chunks of the story, which means you have to try and go back to find where you spaced out, but then you'll probably go too far back, and then you'll have to go forward again, but then you might overshoot, and then you'll be stuck in an infinite loop.

The decision is now yours.  The fate of the world is in your hands.  Happy reading!

Written by Coral C., Homework Assistant

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Welcome Back!

Happy Back to School!  'Tis the season of shiny new stationery, overly enthusiastic teachers, and resolutions that THIS is the year we turn in all of our assignments on time.  Hopefully you've had a fun-filled summer and now you're ready to tackle another year of work and play.

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If you ever want a place to study and do homework alone or with buddies, drop by the Teen Zone here at the library!  You can even get free help from homework assistants such as yours truly ;)

On another note, if you're interested in applying for the homework assistant position, we're hiring!  Keep an eye out for our flyers in your school's career center, or on our Teen Zone bulletin.  It's a great job.  I highly recommend it.

Here's to hoping that we all have a great school year!

Written by Coral C., Homework Assistant

Thursday, August 16, 2018

An Unlikely Hero to the Bee Crisis

Commercial honeybees pollinate  $15 billion worth of crops in the United States annually. Without the pollination essential to plant reproduction, one-third of the staples key to our diet would be lost. Colony Collapse Disorder is the culmination of 60 different environmental factors, including pesticides, disease, malnutrition, loss of habitat and climate change. 

Scientists have been focusing on the deadliest threat, a virus-carrying parasite, the varroa mite. This mite invades colonies and multiplies rapidly, quickly developing resistance to chemical pesticides. As an invasive species, they easily out-compete native populations. Steve Sheppard, head of the Department of Entomology at Washington State University, suggests an unconventional defense against the varroa mite: mushrooms.

The rare fungi are found in western Washington. It not only provides defense against diseases like tuberculosis and smallpox but also can be effective against viruses to honeybees as well. Bees are naturally attracted to the sugar-rich mushrooms. The bees exposed to this mushroom extract survived, but the mites quickly died. By expanding on this experiment, scientists hope to use this mushroom as a solution to Colony Collapse Disorder.

Post by Swathi P., Homework Assistant

Monday, August 13, 2018

Small Living Spaces

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Like many other cities, Mountain View is growing. With the population increase comes a crucial question: where are we going to put all the people?

Our city is far from alone in this issue.  Many major cities are running into a housing crisis, including Hong Kong, Tokyo, and London.  Sometimes, it seems that there simply isn't enough space for everyone.

Instead of cutting back on the people, however, many designers are proposing innovative housing solutions that provide people with a comfortable living space without taking up too much, well, space.  Here are just a few.

Tiny Houses
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These are the cute little cottages that have been trending on Pinterest - and in real life. While they are most often featured in forest settings with a wilderness backdrop, many are looking to tiny houses as a way of squeezing in that much more housing into densely-packed cities.  Many different companies offer plans, such as Tumbleweed Tiny Houses, New Frontier Tiny Homes, and many more.

Opod Tube House by James Law Cybertecture
Image result for opod tube houseIf you think New York is too crowded, try visiting Hong Kong! Due to the island nature of the city and its gigantic population, Hong Kong is jam-packed.  Some people have to resort to sleeping in tiny individual cubbies!  This potential solution to HK's housing problem is built out of an "upcycled" concrete pipe, and it functions as a completely livable residence.  The designers propose stacking the units in the leftover bits of space in the city.

Shipping Container Homes
This is, surprisingly, a pretty popular housing option!  As the name suggests, shipping container houses are made out of old shipping containers, which can either be kept as is or welded together to create a larger space.  Some are up to 1400 square feet in space!  While many favor them for their trendy industrial look, these houses also have the potential to be a cost-effective and practical form of compact housing due to their stackability.

Stackable Apartments
Above: Stormy Adams (left), Mary Stackiewicz and Onynex Johnson touch up a tiny-home prototype in Berkeley.  Photo: Paul Kuroda, Special To The Chronicle The idea for stackable apartments has been floating around for a while: basically, they are inexpensive modular housing units that can be easily assembled or disassembled according to need.  Many praise them as the solution to affordable housing crises worldwide.  They come in many different forms, but the one pictured to the left is a prototype for potential developments in San Francisco, which authorities hope can be used to combat homelessness.

Those are just a few examples of how innovative designers are trying to create space for our ever-growing cities.  As the world population continues to grow, the scramble for housing solutions may soon turn these quirky homes into a fact of city life.

Written by Coral C., Homework Assistant
San Francisco Chronicle
New Atlas
Rise Home Design

Monday, August 6, 2018

Teen Advisory Group

Despite all of the cringe-inducing articles and books written by all sorts of people, the people who know teens best are ultimately other teens.  That's why we have the Teen Advisory Group, which is a group of middle and high school students that gather every month to discuss how we can make the Mountain View Library and the Teen Zone a more welcoming place for teens.  The TAG meets once a month to come up with activities and work on projects aimed at improving the library's teen resources.  Members also get community service hours, and more importantly, COOKIES!

If you're considering joining the team, please come to our info session on August 13 at 6:30 in the Teen Zone.  Returning TAG members will be there to talk, and we'll also have snacks!

To attend, please Click here to register!
(If that link doesn't work, try this:

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Teen Summer Reading Winners

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Teen Summer Reading Program!  

If you remember, we were raffling off six $25 Amazon gift cards to those who completed the Teen Summer Reading Program.  The winners have been chosen and contacted.  Please check your email to see if you're a winner!  Thank you again for participating and reading!!!

-signed the Teen Librarians