Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – December 15, 2023

Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – December 15, 2023

It was great to see all the tributes to Greg Bassett this week.

When I first heard of Greg Bassett’s passing Sunday, I immediately thought of Shawn Soper, who was a reporter and editor for this newspaper for 20 years before his passing in February. Like Soper, Bassett worked right up until his death. He had a page one story last week headlined, “Did judge read the wrong charter?” Newspaper people are just different and a tremendous work ethic and dedication to the job are usually the hallmark qualities.

As was said in this space about Soper, Bassett was everything a community journalist should be. It’s said journalists know a little bit about a lot of subjects because of all the different stories and experiences we cover. In Greg’s case, he knew a lot about a lot. He possessed tremendous retention of past news and happenings. It’s this perspective and knowledge that served him so well as a respected community newspaper editor. A tribute piece in the Salisbury Independent this week by Darel La Prade, who cofounded the paper with Greg, said, “no one had a deeper store of knowledge about Salisbury, Wicomico and Worcester counties.” It’s tough to argue with that statement.

I had the privilege of doing many radio segments with Bassett with Bryan Russo and Don Rush. It was a privilege to share time with Bassett and we almost always laughed hard at some point. While Bassett spent most of his professional career covering Salisbury and Wicomico County, he loved Worcester County and Ocean City. His family roots went deep on the lower shore, and he had accumulated a tremendous historical knowledge base that deepened his writing. He was a good guy who will be missed. Heaven surely has two solid, dedicated journalists and I sure hope they are watching football games and drinking beers together. Soper rooting on his Ravens, while Bassett cheers his Chargers.

The concept of book bans continues to be a hot button issue in the community, as evidenced by this week’s letters to the editor section. I read with interest a blog by local high school librarian Brittany Tignor about the process behind how a book is placed for circulation in a school. The blog was featured on the website of the Maryland Association of School Libraries (MASL), which Tignor serves as a treasurer. The procedures are important to highlight due to these recent efforts and requests for books to be removed by individuals across the nation. The full blog is available on the MASL website, but I found some excerpts worth sharing here.

“For each title, I review the publisher’s suggested audience and interest level and read available reviews. To order a book, the title has to have at least 2 positive reviews, unless it meets the Principles of Selection in Specific Areas. School Library Journal (SLJ) is the gold standard of reviews for school libraries, so I usually ensure that there is an SLJ review before even adding it to the list. Some titles have 5 or more reviews, but others have none. I read every available review for every book I order. If the review suggests that there are other titles that do a better job covering the topic or if the title is not well written, then I will remove it from the list.

If the book didn’t have 2 reviews, there are specific criteria to follow. Often nonfiction books do not have 2 reviews and some topics have few if any titles written for school aged children. In this case, the book can be purchased, “based on student interest, curricular and content standards connections, grade-level recommendations, and/or professional recommendations in addition to the general selection criteria.” At times, only the first book in a fiction series will be reviewed; in this case a title, “may still be approved for selection based on student interest, curricular connections, and grade-level recommendations in addition to the general selection criteria.” Due to the visual nature of graphic novels, our selection criteria requires that every graphic novel should be reviewed page by page before adding it to the collection. If a specific title has been requested and another titles can’t meet the need, the title might be approved once the material is, “reviewed in its entirety by at least two certificated individuals in the school system (i.e.- school librarian, English teacher, administrator, coordinator, etc.) and deemed appropriate for the collection based on the general selection criteria.”

Depending on how many books were added or removed from the list and what the budget needs are, sometimes I have to go back through the list and remove or add more titles. I continue to approve titles and adjust the list until the budget is satisfied. When the list is finalized, I send it to the principal and school library coordinator for approval. When I send in my list, I also send a justification for any books that were approved using the Principles of Selection in Specific Areas. Once my order has been approved by both the principal and the school library coordinator, I generate a PO and monitor my vendor account for shipping notifications.

When the books come in, I check the packing slip against my original order and ensure that the processing was done correctly (barcodes and spine labels added, book jackets taped on). If any book needed to be physically reviewed (graphic novels, nonfiction titles, etc.) before adding to the collection, I do it at this time. Finally, I import the MARC records into my system and shelve the books.

So, when someone questions why a book has been chosen, school librarians have a very good answer for why it was ordered.”

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.