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Letters to LLLI:
Tapes and Topics in Group Libraries

Diane Beckman, Chairman
LLLI Book Evaluation Committee
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 35 No. 4, August-September 1999, pp. 82-83

Dear LLLI,

The December 1997/January 1998 LEAVEN article "Using Conference Tapes in the Group Library," page 131, is about a Leader from Missouri and her experience including LLLI Conference audio tape cassettes (labeled with a disclaimer note) in the Group Library.

I did not find this option mentioned in the LEADER'S HANDBOOK. I've never seen a published list of which tapes are appropriate for placing in a Group Library.

Author Debbi Heffem included her own personal, well thought-out guidelines in the article and it made me wonder if there were other established written guidelines or procedures that a Leader follows. Is this practice something that is determined by individual Group Leaders, or is it a decision made by an Area, Division, Affiliate or LLLI?

For many years I've been a regular listener of LLLI Conference tapes and I have found them to be a valuable resource. For this reason I'm especially interested in learning all I can about their use in Group Libraries. Thank you for your help.

Sylvia Mitchell
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Dear Sylvia,

We are glad you asked this question because the article on using LLLI Conference tapes in Group Libraries may have been confusing to other Leaders as well.

As you pointed out, there are no written guidelines on this and no official list of "approved" tapes. When the Board passed new guidelines for the LLLI Book Evaluation Committee in evaluating books for Group Libraries, they did not include a specific process for reviewing audio tapes.

It is up to individual Leaders to determine the suitability of LLLI Conference tapes for their Group Library. Perhaps because there are no LLLI guidelines, some Leaders have assumed that LLLI Conference tapes could not be included in Group Libraries. There are no such LLLI restrictions.

As Debbi Heffern pointed out in the original article, sharing these tapes with mothers in the Group can help bring them information as well as some of the excitement of an LLLI Conference. If Group fundraising helped send the Leader to the conference, the availability of tapes can be important feedback as well as a way to say "thank you" for the Group's efforts.

Debbi's article also gave good reminders about selecting tapes as well as marking each tape with the disclaimer from the LLLI Conference program that says, "LLL is not necessarily in agreement with or responsible for the statements made by the speakers at this conference." This can help clarify matters if a mother hears something on a conference tape that differs from what a Leader has told her.

When purchasing conference tapes, a Leader will want to be selective, choosing topics and speakers that will suit the needs of the mothers in her Group. If the Leader did not attend a conference session, she will want to listen to the tape first before circulating it to mothers in the Group Library.

Although no one can be absolutely sure what an individual speaker will say at a conference session, Leaders can be assured that much thought and evaluation are used in selecting LLLI Conference speakers. Experienced Leaders are often used as moderators they can integrate comments that will clarify so LLLI recommendations when needed. A Leader who is concerned about information included in a conference tape could decide to use that tape for Leaders only and not include it in the Group Library.

Of course, an individual Area, Division or Affiliate may have specific guidelines about the use of LLLI Conference tapes in Group Libraries, but LLLI does not restrict their use. If an LLL entity has a different policy from LLLI regarding tapes, it should be stated clearly that this is a local policy. Thank you again for writing.

Judy Torgus
LLLI Publications Director

Dear LLLI,

I am writing in response to the LEAVEN (Oct/Nov 1998, page 105) book review of The Homeschooling Handbook. My concern is not the merits or dangers of homeschooling versus the alternatives, but rather the inclusion of such a book in Group libraries. Simply put, I am concerned about a new mother at a Series Meeting, in the early weeks of breastfeeding, who sees a book about homeschooling and consequently feels that she doesn't belong.

Helen Roth
Cape May, New Jersey, USA

Dear editors of LEAVEN,

What a waste of precious magazine space in an international periodical on breastfeeding counseling! First, homeschooling seems to me to be a real USA topic, useless to large parts of the rest of the world. Second, and maybe more important, it is a mixing of causes to spend so much attention on a non-LLL item. Homeschooling has nothing to do with breastfeeding or mothering through breastfeeding.

Gonneke van Velhuizen
Moresnet-Chapelle, Belgium

Dear Helen and Gonneke,

Thank you for your letters which were forwarded to me, the LLLI Book Evaluation Committee (BEC) Chairman.

Clearly, the topic of homeschooling has struck a nerve! I appreciate your concerns about the appropriateness of a book on homeschooling being included in the LLLI Bibliography and a review featured in LEAVEN. There is concern that this subject is mixing causes. Some think the topic is primarily of interest to USA Leaders. I would like to address these concerns, as well as clarify the policies and procedures governing the LLLI BEC.

Breastfeeding is the primary focus of La Leche League. However, our purpose as stated in the LLLI Bylaws, adds several related areas: "to promote a better understanding of the values of breastfeeding, parenting, childbirth and related subjects." The BEC is responsible for reviewing books on all these topics. The results of our positive evaluations of books, according to established criteria recently established by the LLLI Board of Directors, is published annually in the LLLI Bibliography (No. 460). A discussion of the guideline criteria can be found in the LEADER'S HANDBOOK, 1998 edition, pages 173-5, and in the LLLI Policies and Standing Rules (PSR), Appendix 36.

The LLLI Bibliography is a comprehensive listing of books, audio and video tapes that have been found to be useful to parents, Leaders and health professionals. No book can be included in a Group Library or the LLLI Catalogue unless it is approved for inclusion in the LLLI Bibliography.

You may notice that the same topics that define our purpose-breastfeeding, pregnancy and childbirth, parenting and nutrition-are the basis for the major sections of the Bibliography. In addition, there are sections covering children's books, special situations, women's issues and professional and technical books.

When the LLLI Board of Directors passed Book Evaluation Criteria in October 1997, guidelines were established as to the appropriate subject matter for the BEC to consider. These guidelines are even broader than those delineated in the Bylaws:

Books dealing directly with breastfeeding and/or relationships impacting breastfeeding are generally of greatest potential interest to LLL members and will be given priority for review and possible inclusion in the LLLI Bibliography.

Professional books substantially dealing with breastfeeding are usually of interest primarily for LLLI Catalogue sales and for Leader reference. Leaders may share these with Group members as appropriate.

Books that include information beyond the LLLI mission, purpose and philosophy (e.g., preschool options, vaccination, teaching children how to handle money, etc.) may be acceptable if: the author maintains an objective stance in describing a variety of perspectives, and does not promote an idea that is inconsistent with the LLLI mission, purpose, and philosophy.

Books focusing on topics that may go beyond the concerns of the mother currently breastfeeding (e.g., school age/teenage/adult children, education, caring for elderly parents, marriage enrichment, grieving) may be included in the LLLI Bibliography when the topic is of potential interest to LLL members and the author's approach is congruent with LLLI philosophy.

Appendix 36.1 November 3, 1997

Thus, the BEC is responsible for evaluating books on many topics in addition to breastfeeding. The BEC is also charged with writing summaries of each book and communicating the information about new books to LLLI Administrators, Leaders and members. LEAVEN and NEW BEGINNINGS are the appropriate vehicles for communicating this information. We communicate through the publications page at the back of each magazine, as well as through book reviews and articles specifically about the BEC.

We do not expect each book, audio or video to be appropriate for all parents, Leaders and health professionals who consult our resources. Nor would we expect all of these books to be priority purchases for Group Libraries. Each Leader or Group Librarian should consult the summaries published about each approved item before purchasing it for the Group, deciding whether it is suitable for the Group in question. The purpose of publishing longer reviews in LEAVEN and NEW BEGINNINGS is to help Leaders and members make these choices. Over the years, we have published reviews on books in the major categories of the LLLI Bibliography. While it would not be appropriate to review a book about education in every issue of our magazines, it is fitting from time to time to publish a review on this subject.

Books about children's education have a long tradition in the LLLI Bibliography. We look for books on education that are compatible with the philosophy expressed in our concept on loving guidance. In the 1980s for example, the LLLI Bibliography included such titles as PLAYFUL LEARNING, Maria Montessori's The Secret of Childhood, John Holt's Teach Your Own and Nancy Wallace's Better than School.

The interest in topics related to education among LLL Leaders and members through the 1990s is clearly demonstrated by the demand for Area Conference sessions on different approaches to schooling and steady sales through the LLLI Catalogue Of PLAYFUL LEARNING and LLL Leader Agnes Leistico's I Learn Better by Teaching Myself. There is even an email group of LLL active and retired Leaders interested in homeschooling. Although the majority of these Leaders are North American (USA and Canada), there are Leaders in other parts of the world who participate. The review and article in LEAVEN were written by an American Leader who was living in Japan at the time.

This is not to say that LLLI promotes any single parenting or educational system. We want parents to have information that will help them choose the option that is best suited for their family and child. The Book Evaluation Guidelines in the PSR specify the tone we look for in a book on education as on any topic: "LLLI's goal is to provide materials that aid readers in making informed decisions. Books that present a balanced and informative case for the advantages of a particular attitude or practice are preferred."

It was precisely the balanced and informative nature of the Homeschooling Handbook that led me to consider publishing a review of that book in LEAVEN as a companion piece to the article on how Leaders balance their Leader responsibilities with the needs of their young or homeschooled children. Homeschooling would not be an appropriate subject for a Series Meeting; that would indeed be mixing causes. On the other hand, discussing the same subject in our Leader's magazine, as it pertains to a Leader's responsibilities, is not.

Each Group Library contains books that meet the needs of first-time mothers and those new to LLL. I hope that a Leader or Group Librarian would direct a mother toward the books that are of special interest to her. Some Groups choose not to display their entire library collection at each meeting.

In my Group, I find that mothers surprise me with their interest in books on particular topics. For example, I had been unaware that someone had a miscarriage until she checked out a book on that topic. We recently had a request by the mothers of toddlers for an enrichment session on homeschooling. I am happy to have books in the Group Library that are useful to mothers with such interests. Even if we didn't have a book in our Group Library, I would be reassured to know that there is a book that other Leaders have found useful.

We count on Leaders to let us know when they find books inappropriate or objectionable. In 1997, the Board of Directors also provided a formal method of appeal for Leaders to register their disagreement with decisions of the Book Evaluation Committee. The appeals process is discussed in the LEADER'S HANDBOOK, pages 221-4, and in detail in PSR, Appendix 37, Book Evaluation: Appeals and Review. For further discussion or more information, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Diane Beckman,
Chairman LLLI Book Evaluation Committee

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