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Cook Memorial Public Library District. Materials Challenge: Angels in America. Cook Memorial Public Library. Approximately 35 miles north of Chicago District serves Libertyville, Vernon Hills, Green Oaks and part of Mundelein Main library in Libertyville

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Cook Memorial Public Library District

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    1. Cook Memorial Public Library District Materials Challenge: Angels in America

    2. Cook Memorial Public Library • Approximately 35 miles north of Chicago • District serves Libertyville, Vernon Hills, Green Oaks and part of Mundelein • Main library in Libertyville • Branch location in Vernon Hills • Bookmobile • District population 60,069 • Annual circulation 1,685,000 • Collection size 287,102 • Registered cardholders 50,502

    3. Angels in America “…the most thrilling American play in years…” The New York Times May 5, 1993

    4. Angels in America Play in two parts by Tony Kushner • Part One: Millennium Approaches • Part Two: Perestroika First produced on Broadway in 1993 Opened to critical acclaim; performed in repertory through 1994 Multitude of awards, including: • 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Drama (Millennium Approaches) • 1993 and 1994 Tony Awards for Best Play

    5. Angels in America Six-hour HBO film version released 2003 Director: Mike Nichols Stars: Meryl Streep, Al Pacino and Emma Thompson Critical success: 5 Golden Globes 11 Emmys: Outstanding Miniseries DVD released in 2004

    6. Angels in America Setting: New York City, 1985-1986 Salt Lake City Antarctica Heaven(San Francisco) Three interconnecting stories: • Gay couple; one of whom has been recently diagnosed with AIDS • Young Mormon lawyer coming to terms with his sexuality and its impact on his marriage • Fictionalized portrayal of controversial attorney Roy Cohn, who died of AIDS in 1986

    7. Angels in America Dramedy contains a host of mature themes: Ignorance of the seriousness of the AIDS epidemic Politics: McCarthyism, Conservatism Frank language Drug addiction Cowardice/Betrayal • Homosexuality/Sexual Identity • Religion: WASP’s, Jews, Mormons • Racism • Nudity/Sexual situations • Greed/Abuse of power

    8. Angels in America • Play debuted (and published) in 1993 • Film released 2003 • Combined paperback edition of the plays published in 2003. Today, it is in its 11th printing. • Plays continue to be produced around the world • Works enter pantheon of American classics

    9. Angels in America So – why a challenge in 2008?

    10. Prelude to The Challenge Deerfield High School, March 2008: • The play Angels in America was listed as required reading in AP literature class offered to Seniors • Inclusion of the play in the curriculum protested by Christian group North Shore Student Advocacy (NSSA) • Believed profanity, sexual situations, overt racism, etc., made it inappropriate for children • Play dropped as required reading in AP course; retained as optional reading • Group’s challenge attracted local media attention

    11. Prelude to The Challenge “This isn’t a First Amendment issue. This is about school officials betraying the community trust. Heads need to roll here. Assigning this racist, pornographic smut to high school kids is nothing short of child abuse.” Matthew Barber Concerned Women for America Source: News Sun, March 7, 2008

    12. The Challenge – April 2008 Patron approaches circulation staff at CMPLD with NSSA literature from Deerfield H.S. challenge CMPLD Director receives a letter from patron requesting removal of the play and the DVD Angels in America from the District’s collection Patron identified • Not a regular library user • Known to library staff and admins as community activist • Sensitivity re: circumstances surrounding challenge After initial contact, patron submits formal challenge

    13. The Challenge – April 2008 Patron complaints about the play and film: • Vulgar and offensive • Depicts men as less than human • Obscene Specific references to content not made Unclear as to whether patron had seen or read the play or watched the film

    14. The Challenge – April 2008 Director review vs. Materials Review Committee Materials Review Committee formed • Careful consideration given to make-up of committee • Four librarians, two Trustees Formal review process begins

    15. Review – April/May 2008 Each member of Committee read the play and watched the film Collection Development Policy ideals/criteria reviewed Additional materials reviewed by the Committee: • Publication history • Professional reviews • Award history • Library holdings/circulation stats • Review of obscenity statutes • Conference with Illinois State’s Attorney

    16. Decision – June 2008 Were materials acquired in accordance with Policy? Materials selection criteria applied: • Considered by theater scholars to be notable work • Vitality and originality • Artistic presentation • Unique style • Articulates a challenging point of view • Serves as historic document

    17. Decision – June 2008 Are the materials vulgar and offensive? • No doubt that materials contain frank language and mature themes with potential to offend • “Frankness of language and/or subject are considered [when adding titles to the collection] but will not in and of themselves disqualify a work from being selected.”

    18. Decision – June 2008 Are materials obscene? • Patron’s claim based on News Sun article: • NSSA spokesperson claimed that Lake County State’s Attorney said that the materials violated the State’s obscenity statutes • Unable to corroborate statement/findings • Contradictory statements in article • Review of obscenity statutes • Conversation with Illinois State’s Attorney • Reassurance that the works “did not violate any criminal statutes.”

    19. Decision – June 2008 Committee reached a unanimous decision to retain both the play and the film in the library’s collection Committee’s findings: • “…obligation that librarians have to select and support access to materials that meet the needs and interests of all persons in a library district.” • District’s Collection Development Policy supports both the acquisition and retention of the works in question

    20. Decision – June 2008 • Final report prepared • Director supplied copies to patron and Board of Trustees • Patron did not request hearing before Board of Trustees • Matter considered resolved

    21. Additional Comments • Assistant Director believes Policy served Committee well • No changes or refinements were made to the Policy as a result of the challenge • Assistant Director believes requirement that objections to material be submitted in a letter vs. a standard form makes formal challenges less likely

    22. Angels in America

    23. CMPLD Collection Development Policy Link to CMPLD’s Collection Development Policy: