The Day of Rest: Catching our breaths in the aftermath of VOYA
So. How was your Sunday? Mine was great because 1) I didn’t look at social media until late in the evening on Sunday and 2) VOYA didn’t say or do anything offensive and irrational all day Sunday. So kudos to all of us on that.
Which isn’t to say there aren’t ongoing developments. As usual, for those who need to catch up here is our VOYA tag, but let’s hop to the latest.
So the big news is that bisexual authors Hannah Moskowitz and Anna Elizabeth Mitchell have called for an organized boycott of VOYA within the publishing, literary, and library world. They are using #boycottvoya to organize.
They are calling on advertisers and those with financial ties to VOYA to divest. To my knowledge right now Barry Goldblatt is the only advertiser to make any kind of commitment, but I’ll keep you informed as I hear more.
Now the biggest backer of VOYA is probably the American Library Association (ALA). Namely ALA is in bed with VOYA on something called the Frances Henne Voice of Youth Advocates Research Grant. It provides $1,000 researchers whose work affirms the mission of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). VOYA has also had booth and speaker presence at past and presumably present ALA Conferences and Midwinter Meetings. I have already seen people lobbying hard at ALA on twitter to cut those ties.
They have also set up a petition at change.org and as of right now it has 130 signatures. It reads in part:
The information industry can no longer trust VOYA or the Kurdyla publishing company. This marginalization and bigotry must end.
We are calling on libraries, librarians, library expos, YA authors, YA publishers, and freelance book reviewers to cut all ties with VOYA Magazine and their sister publication Teacher Librarian until RoseMary Ludt, Edward Kurdyla and Lisa Frueh Kurdyla no longer have any professional connection to the magazines.
At this time, I’m still not sure what I want to do.
I want to make clear that Hannah and Anna have my complete and utter respect and support in this. My reticence to sign this petition shouldn’t be interpreted as a lack of support. IF YOU FEEL COMPELLED TO SIGN, PLEASE SIGN! Please share, please talk about this among other book people in your life. This is important and I hope they gain traction with this.
But like a lot of librarians who have made teen services my career, I have complex feelings about VOYA. Yes VOYA does book reviews, but they also do a LOT more. Even now in the booming age of YA lit, Teen Services librarians within the profession are often the weakest link in the library chain. There are still a lot of librarians and library directors that hate teens and hire teen librarians to be babysitters to deal with a problem. There are others that want to serve teens, but struggle with how. Most MLS programs don’t have dedicated classwork for teen services, most teen services librarians work as the only person in their library serving teens or juggle multiple branches with little support, and there is almost no opportunity for advancement. You advance in Teen Services by getting out of Teen Services.
Right now the point of this boycott seems to be to force the current owners, Lisa and Edward Kurdyla out. I can’t say I disagree with that. Lisa in particular was HORRIBLE to people on facebook. VOYA is definitely better off without her. Boycotts are a great tactic to hit people where it hurts (in the $$$) and force change. A boycott in the literary/library world could force them out or at the very least force a new direction. Clearly they don’t listen to well-reasoned internet comments so maybe force is necessary.
But VOYA serves such a valuable position in the ecosystem, informing and connecting Teen Services librarians. Should VOYA lose their current funders, what happens to them? What happens to the librarians that rely on them? And RoseMary Ludt seems to really be trying. I don’t know that I want her resignation when she is the only one at VOYA who is actually trying. I came down on her really hard in my first few posts, but she actually seems to (mostly) be listening and doing the work we asked her to do. Then again, how much could she actually accomplish with the Kurdyla’s holding the pursestrings? I don’t know.
Or maybe I just have a soft spot for VOYA. Not the VOYA that is now, full of reactionary awfulness and biphobia, but the VOYA I remember discovering like Heather Booth did. She writes:
Did you know? I asked, Did you know there’s a journal called Voice of Youth Advocates and it’s all about teen services?”
I pored over the articles. In those months overwhelmed by reading assignments, I checked out back issues and read just because. I saw names that I committed to memory. Names of authors to seek out when considering collections. Names of librarians doing good work. Names of libraries with vibrant teen services and spaces. Though I never wrote for VOYA, it felt like it was mine. It was a journal that was solely concerned with the field of librarianship in which I worked. Unlike Booklist or School Library Journal which reviewed YA titles and included some content pertaining to YA librarianship, or the YALSA journal which was connected to ALA and had to hove to the priorities of a larger organization, it had a singular and piercing focus.
It felt a little bit radical.
That VOYA that was a godsend my first few years in the field. I don’t know this VOYA. And I honestly don’t know what I want it’s future to be.
So I’m going to be navel gazing on this for a few days, and talking to my bisexual activist friends once they get back from the White House Summit tomorrow. (Remember my turd in the punchbowl comment? Yeah, Bi Week is over but most bi activists are still fucking busy til at least Wednesday). And the last few days have been such an onslaught that I have barely had time to think.
I didn’t expect any of this when I made my first snarky post. I really thought VOYA might act like an ass, issue an apology, some people would forgive and others wouldn’t, and honestly we would all just move on. I didn’t anticipate VOYA screwing up THIS bad. I’ve never seen anyone or any organization screw up this bad.