Chapter by Julie Stivers, Stephanie Powell, and Nancy Jo Lambert|
Blog post by Judi Moreillon
Chapter 2: Diversity Co-authors
Since I, Judi Moreillon, have the privilege of writing this post, I am beginning by introducing Core Values in School Librarianship readers to the co-authors of the “Diversity” chapter.
Julie Stivers, MLIS, (she/her) is the librarian at Mount Vernon Middle, an alternative public school in Raleigh, North Carolina. As a 2018 ALA Emerging Leader, Julie helped develop AASL’s Defending Intellectual Freedom: LGBTQ+ Materials in School Libraries and she is the author/editor of Include (ALA, 2021). Julie’s research and practical interests include culturally sustaining pedagogy, building inclusive library spaces, and exploring the power of manga and anime with her students. She connects on Twitter at @BespokeLib.
Stephanie Powell, MEITE, is a librarian at Green Level High School in Wake County, North Carolina. A National Board-Certified Teacher and lifelong learner, she has been a classroom teacher and now librarian for nearly 28 years. She earned a Master’s in Instructional Technology from UNC-Chapel Hill and her Master’s in Library and Information Science from UNC-Greensboro. Stephanie is invested in promoting equity and being an advocate for underrepresented voices through library services. Connect with Stephanie on Twitter @spowel15.
Nancy Jo Lambert, MLS, is a Google Certified Trainer with friEdtechnology and high school teacher-librarian at Reedy High School in Frisco, Texas. She advocates for libraries by telling the story of the learning happening in her library. Named TCEA Library Media Specialist of the Year, Nancy Jo was AASL Social Media Superstar Curriculum Champion in 2019. She is a cisgender, white, bisexual educator and co-founder of #TeachPride and EduPrideAlliance. Connect with her on Twitter @NancyJoLambert and on her websites: reedylibrary.com and nancyjolambert.com.
Culturally Responsive Educators
The co-authors make many references to culturally responsive collection development, maintenance, promotion, and teaching throughout this chapter. As Stephanie notes, “Through (their) three points of view, the lenses of our varied perspectives allow (them) to better understand how librarianship plays an important role in meeting those who we serve where they are and what they need” (20). Bringing their individual experiences as well as their collective thoughts together in this chapter makes it an especially powerful read.
One point all three co-authors make is that school library collections must reflect the multiple identity markers of school populations as well as reflect the diversity of experience and perspectives across the country and around the globe. As Julie notes: “Even if—especially if—your school population is mostly or solely White, you should build a collection that is racially diverse and not restrict students to a single lens” (21). This can be a particular challenge because our predominantly White and female profession must have self-knowledge and engage in critical reflection that causes school librarians to take action to diversify the library collection and ensure its use to normalize diversity in all of its manifestations.
This challenge also calls on librarians to consider authors from underrepresented groups and texts with diverse characters in books published for youth. As Julie points out, statistics from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center continue to spotlight the fact that the number of books featuring animals and inanimate objects are more commonly published and even exceed the sum of the number of books featuring all underrepresented groups combined. (See the 2019 stats at https://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/the-numbers-are-in-2019-ccbc-diversity-statistics.)
Commitment to Diversity
Readers will find support for their own self-education about various lenses for examining texts. The co-authors cite and describe five frameworks that can help school librarians deepen their knowledge regarding diversity:
- Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors—Rudine Sims Bishop
- #OwnVoices—Corinne Duyvis
- Danger of a Single Voice—Chimananda Adichie
- Plot-Driven Adventures across Identities—Malinda Lo
- Black Joy—Many Writers!
The value of auditing the library collection using each of these frameworks is discussed in this chapter.
One way librarians’ values are manifest in the library collection is the understanding that the library is not a neutral space; what is included in or excluded from the collection makes a “political” statement. As co-author Nancy Jo notes: “By offering youth a free, public education where they have access to information and all sides of issues, we equip them with the skills they need to navigate learning and to form opinions of their own” (24). In the process, issues related to prejudice, discrimination, and injustice will arise.
In order to build a collection and library program that is relevant to students and that prompts their critical thinking, school librarians can use diversity audits to evaluate the inclusiveness of the collection. This requires librarians to use an equity and diversity lens. Initial audits may focus on aligning the collection with the school’s demographics. Additional analysis of the collection involves searching for gaps related to additional identity markers as well as taking a more global perspective on ideas and information.
Audits are not simple nor are they a one-time exercise. In order to maintain a culturally responsive, inclusive collection, librarians must continuously assess both the fiction and informational texts available to students, classroom teachers, and families. Involving students and other educators in developing, auditing, and maintaining the collection not only builds a stronger more useful collection, it also builds relationships. And relationships are key to a successful school library program that ensures that the collection is used in the service of student learning.
“How as your own cultural context influenced the books you’ve read—both within school and personally? How has this shaped your collection development framework as a school librarian?” (34)
Access to Joyce Valenza’s Toolkit: Inclusive Collection Collections and Diversity Audits.
Stivers, Julie, Stephanie Powell, and Nancy Jo Lambert. 2021. “Diversity.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 19-36. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.